Speciesism, as defined by Wikipedia, is the assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. It’s a behaviour or ideology which, in all probability, is used only by the human animal, both versus other species of organisms as well as with (undesirable) members within its own species.
In his riveting, game-changing book First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post science and space reporter, tells the incredible true story of science’s search for the beginnings of life on Earth and the likelihood of it existing elsewhere in our universe. He has received amazing praise, a sampling is below, and the book is being embraced by the science community from NASA to the Smithsonian and the Natural History Museum.
For decades, researchers assumed that the genesis of life was too delicate a process to exist anywhere other than Earth. But recent discoveries from microbes living in unimaginably inhospitable environments to new extra-solar planets point towards a day when the existence of extraterrestrial life will be confirmed. Kaufman takes readers around the globe, into space, and miles below Earth’s surface to show how the search for life on other planets is changing the way humans think about their own history, what it means to be human, and what, exactly, life is. It is a complicated quest made simple: First Contact is the first book to bring together cutting-edge developments across the many branches of science, from microbiology to geochemistry, physics, and astronomy, that are racing to verify what was once deemed impossible. Kaufman demystifies the rigorous science and advanced technology that is edging ever closer to the most important scientific discovery of our time.
Also see a related SETI Talk and panel discussion which features Kaufman, as well as Jill Tarter, Seth Shostak and Frank Drake:
The visual system has developed to allow us to navigate in a complex and dangerous world in order to find food and to avoid danger.
This survival system works by building a complex three-dimensional model based on two-dimensional data from the retina.
This model is tested against “reality” and checked with information from other senses and updated if needed. The brain suppresses the complexity of this processing and we believe that vision is instantaneous, real and effortless.
But is seeing just an illusion?
This is a part of Professor William Ayliffe‘s 2010/2011 series of lectures as Gresham Professor of Physics. The other lectures in this series include:
Molecules are really, really tiny … so small no-one can show them to you. That’s where Drew Berry comes in. He’s what’s known as a “biomedical animator”. His job is to build scientifically-accurate and aesthetically-rich computer graphics which reveal the microscopic world inside our bodies.
Berry brings a rigorous scientific approach to each project, immersing himself in relevant research to ensure current data are accurately represented. His animated renderings of key concepts such as cell death, tumour growth and DNA packaging show molecular shape, scale, behaviour, and spatio-temporal dynamics in action.
Berry’s animations, made to enlighten both scientists and the scientifically curious, have been exhibited at prestige venues like the Guggenheim and MOMA in New York and have won him an award for being a ‘Genius’. His illuminating TEDx Sydney show-and-tell includes wild graphics of DNA moving through the body and malaria infiltrating a baby’s vital organs after a mosquito bite.
Drew Berry trained as a cell biologist and microscopist, and has worked as a biomedical animator since 1995, most recently at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. Drew received his BSc and MSc degrees from the University of Melbourne. His animations have appeared in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Royal Institute of Great Britain, and the University of Geneva. In 2010, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Throughout his career Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and acclaimed author, whose book Awakenings was made into a Oscar-nominated feature film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, has encountered myriad patients who are struggling to cope with debilitating medical conditions.
While their ailments vary, many have one thing in common: an appreciation for the therapeutic effects of music.
NOVA follows four individuals — two of whom are Sacks’s case studies — and even peers into Sacks’s own brain, to investigate music’s strange, surprising, and still unexplained power over the human mind.
It is America of the 1950s and 1960s, when a woman’s most important contribution to society is generally considered to be her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children.
But for the mother whose child is diagnosed with autism, her life’s purpose will soon become a twisted nightmare. Looking for help and support, she encounters instead a medical establishment that pins the blame for her child’s bizarre behaviors on her supposedly frigid and detached mothering. Along with a heartbreaking label for her child, she receives a devastating label of her own. She is a “refrigerator mother”.
Refrigerator Mothers paints an intimate portrait of an entire generation of mothers, already laden with the challenge of raising profoundly disordered children, who lived for years under the dehumanizing shadow of professionally promoted “mother blame.”
Once isolated and unheard, these mothers have emerged with strong, resilient voices to share the details of their personal journeys. Through their poignant stories, Refrigerator Mothers puts a human face on what can happen when authority goes unquestioned and humanity is removed from the search for scientific answers.
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.
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.