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.
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):
Donna is the first Michael Aiken Chair, Director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and Director of the Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute. She is a recognized pioneer in Renaissance Teams and digital supercomputer visualizations called Visaphors. She and collaborators have thrilled millions with cinematic virtual tours through astrophysics, tornados, hurricanes, and other science domains to support story-telling through digital Visaphors in digital museum exhibits, high-definition television, and IMAX movies. She’s been nominated for Academy Award 1996 and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry selected Donna Cox as one of 40 modern Leonardo Da Vinci’s.
Artist and visualization expert Donna Cox talks about the power of “visiphors” — powerful renderings of complex systems which make the previously unknowable explainable.
Through extensive archival research, Oreskes and Conway have managed to connect the dots between a large number of seemingly separate anti-science campaigns that have unfolded over the years. It all began with Big Tobacco, and the famous internal memo declaring, “Doubt is our Product.”
Then came the attacks on the science of acid rain and ozone depletion, and the flimsy defenses of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” program. And the same strategies have continued up to the present, with the battle over climate change.
Throughout this saga, several key scientific actors appear repeatedly—leaping across issues, fighting against the facts again and again. Now, Oreskes and Conway have given us a new and unprecedented glimpse behind the anti-science curtain.
Naomi Oreskes (Ph.D., Stanford, 1990) is Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her research focuses on the historical development of scientific knowledge, methods, and practices in the earth and environmental sciences, and on understanding scientific consensus and dissent. She is the author of numerous noted books and papers, including a 2004 essay in Science entitled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” which was widely cited, debated, and referenced in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
The first time I saw her speak was on one of the videos of the Beyond Belief conference where she gave a similarly themed presentation as the new book. There’s also a similar and interesting video called The American Denial of Global Warming from UCTV:
Polls show that between one-third and one-half of Americans still believe that there is “no solid” evidence of global warming, or that if warming is happening it can be attributed to natural variability. Others believe that scientists are still debating the point. Join scientist and renowned historian Naomi Oreskes as she describes her investigation into the reasons for such widespread mistrust and misunderstanding of scientific consensus and probes the history of organized campaigns designed to create public doubt and confusion about science.
These lectures are on the issues surrounding climate change from the scientific, sociological, and the political perspectives. Below the embedded video (of the playlist) are the descriptions and direct links to the individual lectures/talks as contained in the playlist.
Interestingly the lectures themselves show (as well as talk about) some of the stress that is involved around both the science and moving forward from a political standpoint (by lecturers becoming unavailable and last minute changes to the lecture program due to the Copenhagen summit taking place). The last lecture gives an insider perspective of the summit itself and its organizational challenges (which were not met).
Ben Santer, a research scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, discusses the recent problems with the use of the freedom of information act for non-US citizens to demand complete records, including emails, on scientific research projects. Santer posits that this is a dangerous dilemma that will ultimately inhibit scientific research.
Terri Root, Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, discusses her meta-analysis of scientific research on animals affected by temperature change and she states that the time has come for scientists to do more than research and write papers, but to also start proposing creative and innovative solutions.
Meg Caldwell, Stanford Director of Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program, discusses the results of the Copenhagen negotiations as well as explaining the troubles facing the oceans and their inhabitants.
Kristie Ebi, Executive Director for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), discusses the complexity of environmental and governmental difficulties in creating a multinational climate adaptation agreement.
New analysis reveals clearer picture of brain’s language areas
Language is a defining aspect of what makes us human. Although some brain regions are known to be associated with language, neuroscientists have had a surprisingly difficult time using brain imaging technology to understand exactly what these ‘language areas’ are doing. Neuroscientists now report on a new method to analyze brain imaging data — one that may paint a clearer picture of how our brain produces and understands language.
Azendohsaurus madagaskarensis gets demoted from dinosaur status
Azendohsaurus just shed its dinosaur affiliation. A careful new analysis of A. madagaskarensis—this time based on the entire skull rather than on just teeth and jaws—aligns this 230-million-year-old animal with a different and very early branch on the reptile evolutionary tree.
New study reveals link between ‘climate footprints’ and mass mammal
An international team of scientists have discovered that climate change played a major role in causing mass extinction of mammals in the late quaternary era, 50,000 years ago. Their study, published in Evolution, takes a new approach to this hotly debated topic by using global data modelling to build continental ‘climate footprints.’
New nanoscale electrical phenomenon discovered
At the scale of the very small, physics can get peculiar. A University of Michigan biomedical engineering professor has discovered a new instance of such a nanoscale phenomenon — one that could lead to faster, less expensive portable diagnostic devices and push back frontiers in building micro-mechanical and “lab on a chip” devices.
Greenland rapidly rising as ice melt continues
Greenland is situated in the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast of Canada. It has stunning fjords on its rocky coast formed by moving glaciers, and a dense icecap up to 2 km thick that covers much of the island–pressing down the land beneath and lowering its elevation. Now, scientists at the University of Miami say Greenland’s ice is melting so quickly that the land underneath is rising at an accelerated pace.
3 new monitor lizards from the Philippines identified
German scientist Andre Koch from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn together with his supervisor Dr. Wolfgang Boehme and another colleague have described two new monitor lizard species and one new subspecies from the Philippines in a recent article. The species descriptions were published in Zootaxa, the world’s foremost journal for taxonomic zoology.
Climate threatens trout and salmon
Trout and salmon are among the world’s most familiar freshwater fishes, but numbers have fallen over recent decades — in some areas, dramatically.
Pistachios: A handful a day may keep the cardiologist away
A study published last week in Archives of Internal Medicine found that a diet containing nuts, including pistachios, significantly lowered total and LDL-cholesterol levels, in addition to triglycerides. The 600-subject, 25-clinical-trial study, conducted in seven counties, is the most comprehensive study of its kind and further substantiates the evidence that nuts can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.