ABC: Jane Goodall grew up with chimps from a young age and has been studying them, in her unique and unorthodox manner, since the early 60s. Because she was not scientifically-trained, Goodall observed things that others may have overlooked.
Instead of numbers, she used nicknames for her favourite chimps. Fifi and David Greybeard, she believed, displayed unique and individual personalities. This unconventional idea became the foundation of our present-day understanding that it isn’t only human beings who have personality, rational thought, and emotions like joy and sorrow.
Goodall now travels around the world, speaking on the threats facing chimpanzees, as well as the environmental challenges facing humankind. She continually urges her audiences to recognize their personal responsibility and ability to effect change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism.
Facing the challenge of creating a happier world, she advocates learning lessons from our evolutionary past. Once we understand the emotions, communication and relationships we share with animals like chimpanzees, we may also learn lessons from them about human happiness and wellbeing.
The legendary primatologist shares her insights at the Happiness & Its Causes Conference.
An episode of the Al Jazeera documentary series Witness called To The Last Drop:
The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta is facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the Tar Sands project, which may be the tipping point for oil development in Canada.
The local community has experienced a spike in cancer cases and dire studies have revealed the true consequences of “dirty oil”.
Gripped in a Faustian pact with the American energy consumer, the Canadian government is doing everything it can to protect the dirtiest oil project ever known. In the following account, filmmaker Tom Radford describes witnessing a David and Goliath struggle.
The frontier of biology these days is the genetics and ecology of bacteria, and the frontier of THAT is what’s being learned about viruses. “The science of virology is still in its early, wild days,” writes Carl Zimmer. “Scientists are discovering viruses faster than they can make sense of them.”
The Earth’s atmosphere is determined in large part by ocean bacteria; every day viruses kill half of them. Every year in the oceans, viruses transfer a trillion trillion genes between host organisms. They evolve faster than anything else, and they are a major engine of the evolution of the rest of life. Our own bodies are made up of 10 trillion human cells, 100 trillion bacteria, and 4 trillion very busy viruses. Some of them kill us. Many of them help us. Some of them are us. Viral time is ancient and blindingly fast.
Science journalist Carl Zimmer’s new book, A Planet of Viruses, is the best introduction to the subject. His previous books include Parasite Rex and Microcosm.
The first ten minutes below. Switch to fora.tv afterwards to see the rest.
Michael Mosley takes an informative and ambitious journey exploring how the evolution of scientific understanding is intimately interwoven with society’s historical path.
We now know that the brain – the organ that more than any other makes us human – is one of the wonders of the universe, and yet until the 17th century it was barely studied.
The twin sciences of brain anatomy and psychology have offered different visions of who we are. Now these sciences are coming together and in the process have revealed some surprising and uncomfortable truths about what really shapes our thoughts, feelings and desires.
And the search to understand how our brains work has also revealed that we are all – whether we realise it or not – carrying out science from the moment we are born.
ABC: For many, the arguments surrounding global warming and the ways to combat it can be convoluted and confusing. Delivering the first of the Sydney Ideas lectures for 2010, world renowned climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer outlined the evidence for global warming and explained how it was gathered.
Michael Oppenheimer is a Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University. He was the Lead Author on the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2001 and 2007 respectively. Before joining the faculty at Princeton, he spent 20 years as chief scientist at The Environmental Defence Fund.
Also available on fora.tv. Length: 95 minutes 31 seconds (intro until 6:40, Q&A starts around 70 minutes).
Mike Hulme is a UK Professor of Climate Change who thinks we’ve mistaken the means for the end when it comes to climate change action. On a visit to Australia, he gives an impassioned lecture about why it’s such a hard sell in such a “partisan era”.
We should stop focusing, he says, on the goal of trying to “stop climate change”, or identifying which risks are natural or not. Instead, Hulme says we should focus on ensuring that the basic needs of the world’s growing population are adequately met. It’s a very plain argument, which is also hopeful about the future.
Amongst Hulme’s “good news” stories is India’s considerable solar power production. His lecture at TAFE NSW Sydney Institute was given in conjunction with the Hot Science Global Citizens symposium. He was introduced by Australian climate scientist David Karoly.
Professor Mike Hulme is a Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Hulme was, for 12 years, a senior researcher in the Climatic Research Unit, part of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. In 2000, he founded the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a distributed virtual network organisation headquartered at UEA, which he directed until July 2007. Hulme is the author of “Why We Disagree About Climate Change”, and co-author of The Hartwell Paper.
Stream the video below (75m 25s, ~50 mins of lecture, the rest Q&A):
Via ABC’s Big Ideas, a lecture on where humans are the same as, and different from, other animals:
Dr Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University who has spent much of his working life studying chimpanzees in Kenya.
His enviable gift for storytelling led the New York Times to describe his latest book like this: “If you crossed Jane Goodall with a borscht-belt comedian, she might have written a book like ‘A Primate’s Memoir’.” Dr. Sapolsky’s account of his early years as a field biologist and his findings as a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya. He is sure to dazzle and delight with tales of what it means to be human.
His Pritzer Lecture, “Are Humans Just Another Primate?“, was delivered to the California Academy of Sciences in February 2011.
Dr Robert Sapolsky is a professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University and a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya. He is the author of several works of non-fiction, including “A Primate’s Memoir”, “The Trouble with Testosterone”, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” and “Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals”.
Watch below (76m 16s, 283 MB mp4 from ABC) or on fora.tv.
All watched over by machines of loving grace is Adam Curtis’ latest three-part documentary series. The introduction to the series reads:
This series of films investigates how people have been colonised by the machines they have built.
Although they may not realise it, the way many people see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. Not just politics and the economy — but also in the way bodies, minds, and even the whole of the natural world are perceived.
The underlying argument is that people have given up a dynamic political model of the world — the dream of changing things for the better — for a static machine ideology that says everyone is a component in a system, and that the aim is to manage these systems and keep them stable.
From the utopian visions of the worldwide web to the idea of an interconnected global economic system, to the dream of balanced ecosystems, all these ideas share an underlying machine vision of organisation and order.
The films tell an extraordinary range of stories: from novelist Ayn Rand and her tragic love affairs to the dreams and the frightening reality of the hippie communes; from the brutal politics of the Belgian Congo to the doomsday computer model behind the rise of modern environmentalism; from the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory to Alan Greenspan and his faith in a new kind of global economic system. And there’s also the computer model of the eating habits of the Pronghorn antelope.
The series argues that by embracing this new machine ideology something very precious has been given up: the idea of progress and political struggle to change the world for the better.
Some of the people included in this story: Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden, Larry Ellison, John McCaskey, Kevin O’Connor, Loren Carpenter, Kevin Kelly, Stewart Brand, Alvin Toffler, Keniche Ohmae, Peter Schwartz, Bill Clinton, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, Joan Mitchell, Stephen Roach, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Rubin, Carmen Hermosillo, Monica Lewinsky, Suharto, Mahatir Mohamad, Arthur Tansley, Sigmund Freud, Peder Anker, Jay Wright Forrester, Norbert Wiener, Fred Turner, Howard Odum, Eugene Odum, Peter J Taylor, Daniel Botkin, Buckminster Fuller, Randall Gibson, Molly Hollenbach, Richard Brautigan, Alexander King, Jan Smuts, Tord Björk, Steward Pickett, George Van Dyne, Al Gore, (W.D.) Bill Hamilton, Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu Sese Seko, Michael Ruse, George R. Price, Kathleen Price, Edward Teller, John von Neumann, James Schwartz, Diane Fossey, Richard Dawkins.
The episodes are titled: Love and Power, The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts, and The Monkey In The Machine and the Machine in the Monkey. The three parts, each lasting ~55 minutes, in a YouTube playlist:
Curtis in the The Guardian: How the ‘ecosystem’ myth has been used for sinister means When, in the 1920s, a botanist and a field marshal dreamed up rival theories of nature and society, no one could have guessed their ideas would influence the worldview of 70s hippies and 21st-century protest movements. But their faith in self-regulating systems has a sinister history
Also check out Curtis’ blog over at the BBC. The post of the trailer to this series has a bunch of interesting comments, including some that gather most of the music used. It includes the following tracks: