Recently in Science Category
Whilst it's slightly early for the prediction season, I thought I'd put forward a few possibilities, based on some digital crystal gazing, some wistful looking off into space, a finger in the air and some personal perspective. Some of these may even come true.
When I was a research biochemist, I used to enjoy the occasions when I would meet someone new, perhaps in the pub, and they would ask me what I do for a living. Upon hearing the word 'biochemist', you could see their face turn to stone and the panic come over them in a wave as they tried to think of a follow up line that did not involve having to ask what a biochemist is or does. More often than not, this thinking time would rapidly become a tumbleweed moment and I wish I had never said the dreaded B word. Apparently though, if you are a genetic counsellor, rather than a tumbleweed moment, one of the common responses you get is, "so you tell people not to have children then?". And this is how the October Birmingham Café Scientifique started.
Organ donation is always an interesting discussion because it is one of those things that most people, if you were to ask them, do not seem to have an issue with and are generally very supportive of in the UK. And yet we have one of the lowest rates of organ donation in Europe. Why is this? To start to discuss these points, the first thing you need is someone who knows a thing or two about organ donation and the second is a suitable environment for honest and open discussion - welcome to the Birmingham Café Scientifique.
Facebook was offered to investors at $38/share - and at the time, I commented that I'd love to be able to short the stock. It's now at about $21, so I'd have made a killing. Mind you, I'd have made a killing if I'd have sold my shares in Psion years ago when I'd bought them for pence and they reached the heights of pounds. I event told my sister to sell when she asked for my view - but I didn't follow it myself, and now they're worth.....less.
Reports suggest that many investors who got in early enough can still make a lot from selling Facebook shares now that they are able to, but for the standard investor, it's not an obvious share to make a quick buck on.
Fusion Reactors are about 40 years away! When I first heard this, I thought it was a reasonable and uncharacteristically honest estimate of the time it will take to develop an as yet untested technology into a reliable energy source for the future. As the discussion developed though, it became apparent that this was an in-joke amongst fusion scientists - the joke being that fusion reactors have always been and will always continue to be 40 years away!
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, warned at the beginning of this week's Earth Summit in Rio, "if we really do not take firm actions [on climate change], we may be heading towards the end - the end of our future".
It shouldn't surprise us that hundreds of bigwigs and politicians from around the world cannot agree on anything. Radical change doesn't happen through consensus, it happens through a few informed very smart people deciding to do something different.
It has been a strange week here at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum. Without necessarily planning it this way, I seem to have spent a significant amount of time working with neuroscientists and psychologists, which inevitably leads to lots of discussions about the human brain. I have also been electrocuted and attacked by a giant millipede but it is the neuroscience that is actually more interesting.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, on a heavy diet of carefully crafted and thoughtfully produced educational tv programmes that even Lord Reith would've been proud of; from The Ascent of Man through to Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. Last year, I bumped into the tv presenter Johnny Ball (oh, how even his name evokes fond memories in seventies-kids like me) on a cruise ship, where he told me how he had liked my lectures. I gushed in response, that the educational programmes he made during my childhood where the reasons why and how I became an academic who enjoys a good lecture. How quickly then, that the conversation turned to the demise of good "educational science" on tv. As a result of the impressive nature of educational tv in my childhood, I grew up firmly believing that tv should always be made by people who are cleverer than me. There's a lot to be said for that - although some will no doubt debate what "cleverer" really means.
Recent rulings by a US Judge that Apple's approach to keeping its software locked onto its hardware are not actually secrets have taken an unexpected turn. Recent prototypes by a French company show the iPhone OS running on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
The Digital Economy is our saviour, according to the government. It's not just them: the Boston Consulting Group said, in 2010, that the UK internet economy is larger, per head, than in any other country, and is forecast to grow by 10% a year.