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.
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.
Ferguson reveals the killer apps of the West’s success – competition, science, the property owning democracy, modern medicine, the consumer society and the Protestant work ethic – the real explanation of how, for five centuries, a clear minority of mankind managed to secure the lion’s share of the earth’s resources.
Competition: The first programme in the series begins in 1420 when Ming China had a credible claim to be the most advanced civilization in the world: ‘All Under Heaven’. England on the eve of the Wars of the Roses would have seemed quite primitive by contrast.
Science: In 1683 the Ottoman army laid siege to Vienna, the capital of Europe’s most powerful empire. Domination of West by East was an alarmingly plausible scenario. But Islam was defeated: not so much by firepower as by science.
Property: Professor Ferguson asks why North America succeeded while South America for so many centuries lagged behind. The two had much in common (not least the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the use of slavery by European immigrants), but they differed profoundly on individual property rights, the rule of law and representative government.
Medicine: The French Empire consciously set out to civilize West Africa by improving public health as well as building a modern infrastructure. Yet in other European empires – notably Germany’s in southwest Africa – colonial rule led to genocide. What was the link from medical science to racial pseudo-science?
Consumerism: Today the world is becoming more homogenous and, with increasingly few exceptions, big-name brands dominate main streets, high streets and shopping malls all over the globe.
Work: The sixth element that enabled the West to dominate the rest was the work ethic. Max Weber famously linked it to Protestantism, but the reality is that any culture, regardless of religion, is capable of embracing the spirit of capitalism by working hard, saving, and accumulating capital.
Many people see their fate as rather like a cake, which can be sliced into a piece called Nature – what you are born with: your DNA – and another known as Nurture – the way you live. Life – genetics – alas, is not so simple; to separate those ingredients one would have to unbake the cake, which is impossible.
The UK’s Professor Steve Jones is keenly interested in understanding diversity, the role of natural selection and the nature of genetic differences between species. His research has led him to study the ecological genetics of snails, fruit flies and humans. In more recent years however, with information on the genetics of human populations expanding, Jones’ interests have moved more towards human genetics.
In this talk, the award-winning science writer discusses everything from the genetics of the royal family and the Siamese cat to what happens to those who eat too much cake and whether genes might indeed influence our chance of becoming obese.
The Sir David Rivett Memorial Lecture is in honour of an Australian chemist and Chief Executive Officer of CSIR (1927-1945). He died in 1961. The lectures are delivered by distinguished scientists on current and significant new research, with the first David Rivett Lecture delivered in Melbourne in 1963 by Lord Florey on the topic ‘The Development of Modern Science’.
Professor Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics at the University College London. He has written a number of popular books on genetics and evolution, including “The Language of the Genes”, “Y: The Descent of Men” and “Darwin’s island”. Jones has won the Rhone-Poulenc book prize and the Yorkshire Post first book prize in 1994; and the BP Natural World Book Prize in 1999. He was awarded the Royal Society Faraday Medal for public understanding of science in 1997 and the Institute of Biology Charter medal in 2003. More recently, he won the 2009 Zoological Society of London/Thomson Reuters Award for Communicating Zoology, for his book – “Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise”. In 2011, he was elected President of the UK Association for Science Education.
You can participate by signing up directly at the site or linking through facebook (and setting your profile on the EteRNA site).
The game comes with a tutorial to get you familiar with the building blocks of RNA and how to manipulate them to get the desired folding shape. After the tutorial one can try to solve a number of increasingly difficult puzzles.
Scores are kept and displayed in a leaderboard. The game auto-saves the progress on the latest puzzle you might have been working on.
For more expert knowledge on how to solve the puzzles, a number of strategy guides can be found through the community which help in solving and further optimizing the RNA folds.
Scoring 10,000 points or more, by solving the tutorials and a bunch of the challenges, gives you access to the RNA Lab where a real version of some version of RNA can be designed and proposed, which after voting, will then be tested in the real lab.
You can get an idea of what it looks like through an embedded version, as below:
Richard H. Thaler, Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, is the father of Behavioral Economics. In preparation for a new book he asked EDGE contributors to answer this question:
The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods. Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?
As of today, there are 61 responses which make for fascinating reading on how science has corrected itself and our views of nature.
Topics (with comments on both bad and correct science or beliefs) include: plate tectonics, cosmic inflation, prions, quantum entanglement, the force of gravity, the great chain of being, bird intelligence, the four humours of human physiology, luminiferous aether, bad air disease theory, Peripatetic Mechanics of Aristotle, stress theory of ulcers, intelligent design/creationism, the age of the Earth, cell regeneration, spontaneous generation of life, vitalism, unifunctional components of the brain, security by obscurity, whales as fishes, group selection, unilinear cultural evolution, static universe, Lamarckism, nature/nurture, the existence of a vacuum, the human brain vs. the heart, and more…
The world’s population will grow to 9 billion over the next 50 years — and only by raising the living standards of the poorest can we check population growth. This is the paradoxical answer that Hans Rosling unveils at TED@Cannes using colorful new data display technology (you’ll see).