January 2012 Archives
Great news from the University of Birmingham this week. They've appointed their first Professor of Public Engagement with Science (good news indeed), and it's Dr Alice Roberts (even better news).
Welcome to Brum, Dr Alice Roberts!
In the University PR blurb accompanying the announcement of her appointment, she's quoted as saying:
"I am very excited about this appointment. This new professorship emphasises Birmingham's commitment to public engagement in science, to a dialogue between scientists and the wider public. Science is so important to our economy, to politics and education, but perhaps more than anything, I'm keen to promote science as a integral part of our culture."
Integral part of the city's culture. Yes!
Imagine knowing that you can get across Birmingham anytime of day within 40-45 minutes maximum by public transport, and journeys half-way across within 20 or so minutes.
How would that change your travel patterns? And how, do you suppose it'd affect communities in this city? That's what Londoners have . . .
Looking at these two maps, one of Brum, t'other of London (courtesy of the brilliant crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap), and you can begin to grasp some of the social impact that connectivity has.
See the circles? Their diameters represent 10km.
About 90% of you isn't actually "you". In terms of cell count, a typical human being is outnumbered roughly 10 to one by the microbes that reside in and on their body. You and the microscopic beasts inside you are a complex ecology; mess about with one part, and unexpected things might happen.
When we take antibiotics, we're hammering that ecology, sometimes not for the long-term good of us or the beasts.
There was a truly remarkable article on just this topic in Nature a couple of months ago: "Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria" by Martin Blaser of New York University (Nature 476 pp 393-4; see also article about it in the New York Times.).