Entries from blogs tagged with “The Sciences”
I started this with the idea of mentioning the production of "Mere Mortals" by the the E.M.U. Theatre, a fund-raiser to support the EMU and Ecumenical Christian Ministries. Before I go farther, I hope you consider supporting both the EMU and the ECM.And the title "We Don't Have to Like it" is NOT about the production. It's about other things. But if you just want to support the EMU and ECM, you can stop right here, go to the link, find out when and where it is, and just go.Anyway, if you're still with me.....as I did a little searching so that I could write something without appearing as clueless as I actually am, I found a few things. One of them was the link in the first paragraph.......and that got me to thinking....and that usually means trouble.I've heard a lot of the same stuff you've heard about the Oread Inn development and I realize that I don't really know that much about it. Or the neighborhood. Or the economic benefits to Lawrence. Or maybe a whole lot more...Even if I did know more, I don't believe everything I read or hear.There are, however, a couple of things I do know. I've been through that area and I sort of know what it's like. I just kind of like it. From what I can tell the E.C.M. does more good than harm. Maybe a lot more... But it seems to me to be a benefit to the community.The other thing I know is I just don't like the idea of an eight story building there. Even if it is a modern, attractive building. Especially if it's a hotel that will probably cost more than I'll ever be willing to spend to stay there. No, I just don't like it. And I don't think I "have" to like it. And I don't think I need to know any more about it to not like it.If someone were to tell me that I don't know enough, that it will help care for sick and hungry children, then I would admit that I'm wrong and I don't know enough.But I don't think that is the case. So I think I know enough. And I am not for it. And it will take someone with a lot of important reasons for me to change my mind.Now...I don't really like to be "against" things, my personal philosophy is to be "for" things. So I could say that I'm "for" the E.C.M. or "for" preserving that community. But, in this case, I have to be honest with myself and just admit that I'm against the Oread Inn development.Oh, I realize it will probably be built. And it may even end up getting the land where the E.C.M is now. Twenty years from now it may well be a landmark of our community.Maybe I won't even mind it so much then, if I'm around.But I don't like it now. And I don't have to, and the reasons I have are good enough. I hear you asking, "What's the point of all this?" I know you are, because that's what my wife asked me.It's not that I'm against the Oread Inn (although I am).It is that we can't understand everything. Even I can't and my mom says I'm the smartest guy in the world. So I'm suggesting that we do the best we can and that we try to be fair and unbiased while trying not to oversimplify things.In the end, though, I don't want to feel bad because I can't understand everything about everything. I don't think you should either.And even though I have limitations, my opinion is still important. It might even be valid. But regardless, it is still all right to express it.
Here is this week's first picture. It might be anywhere (in Lawrence). It might be anything. Guess if you think you know it.No hints this time, in a day or so I'll add an ever so slightly larger image.
OK, here is a slightly bigger picture.
Obviously the first small image wasn't hard enough. Here is a still larger one.
Come on. I know you can't wait. Here is an even larger portion of the picture. Only one more to go.
And the complete picture, of Hobbs field:
The other day there was a report that scientists have been able to simulate the development of snowflakes with a relatively simple computer model based on our understanding of the physics of water. The report noted that the model works but that scientists still don't understand why it works so well. So notice, the underlying principles are understood pretty well- but the model suggests that at some higher level of snowflake organization there are interactions going on that we still don't understand.
Now what does this have to do with abortion and cloning? It suggests that if we are going to talk about these issues related to human existence we need to think carefully about reasoning behind our positions. For instance, on the abortion issue, and the same thing applies to human cloning, we hear phrases such as "Life begins at conception". Sounds nice but conception simply is the formation of a zygote from the egg and sperm. Of course the egg and sperm are cells and alive themselves and yet we don't worry too much about the fate of millions of unfertilized eggs and all those unlucky sperm that don't find an egg.
Oh then but I mean "Human life begins at conception". But here is a little thought experiment. Consider a cow. Is a cow zygote a cow? If you think a human zygote is a human then perhaps a cow zygote is a cow. Ask your self does that make sense? I haven't tried this but I think that most people upon thinking about it would agree with me that a cow zygote is not a cow, anymore than a water molecule is a snowflake. "Snow flakiness" is really a set of emergent properties that arise because of the way that water molecules interact given conditions conducive to snow flake formation.
I think you see where I am going. If a cow zygote is not a cow then "cowness" must emerge from the genetic, developmental and environmental influences on the developing embryo. There is no mystical essence of cow. Since humans are animals-as I tell my students special animals but still animals- what Daniel Dennett calls a euprimate- then a human zygote is not a human being. "Humanness" emerges just as "cowness" does. There is no mystical essence of human.
Now conduct the converse experiment. Start with a new born baby. Is the baby human in the sense of a person having rights? Sure, at least some basic rights. Does a woman have a right to kill it? I think most of us my self included would agree-not under most circumstances. Suppose the baby is one week from full term...here you get some disagreement but I suspect just about everyone would agree this is not something that ought to be done lightly. It offends our sense of person hood.
But here we see the germ of the obvious conflict-what about medical necessity to save the life of the mother? A fetus though is not an embryo-so that slogan "abortion stops a beating heart" is only true some of the time. But the closer and closer we get to full term the more the fetus becomes invested in our minds with "humanness".
Calling a zygote a cow does not make sense at all-calling a cow fetus a cow (OK a calf) doesn't make sense either, but I think lots of us start to get a bit uncomfortable even about cow fetuses. "Do they suffer?" "Could it survive?" We at least begin to have empathy toward it. We can clearly see the future cow in the cow fetus. And we do for humans, hence the proposals to make women going for late term abortions see sonograms. And hence the appeal to empathy embedded in the partial truth of the beating heart slogan.
Well what about cloning to produce embryonic stem cells for therapy or research? Consider the following. Is harvesting an early stage embryo from a mother to get embryonic stem cells wrong? Is harvesting an early stage embryo fertilized and cultured in a "test tube" wrong? How about, as was just allegedly done, removing a human skin cell nucleus, placing it in a zygote which has had its nucleus removed, treating and culturing the resulting cell, letting it divide into a little ball of embryonic cells and harvesting stem cells- does that really strike you with the same sense of wrongness- or wrong at all?
Or how about this which by the way has been done, I believe in mice- a cell from the body is coaxed into dividing into a little ball of cells that behave like embryonic cells. Let's take one more scenario, we take a cell from the body treat it to effectively deprogram it to form a stem cell useful for therapy. By the way in all these cases from the third one on we are technically dealing with cloning! But we are not making a human being, and I think even abortion absolutists would have a hard time finding much wrong with the last scenario even though it conflicts with the idea that abortion is wrong because it kills a potential human.
However, we as a species love to draw lines. That's what Roe v. Wade tried to do with abortion. It put that line where abortions are allowable at the point when a fetus (which by the way is not the same thing as an embryo) is viable and of course that line is a moving target as technology improves. Roe v. Wade was also dealing with another line-the line at which a person's right to make their own reproductive decisions conflicts with society's stake in the developing fetus. From my perspective Roe v. Wade was not as Cal Thomas claims "a reflection of our decadence and deviancy" but an attempt to find a balance between these two conflicting lines and an attempt to resolve a conflict heightened by changes in reproductive technology such as the pill.
Maybe we do want as a society to draw the abortion line at conception. But many of the arguments are based merely on slogans-"right to life" "woman's right to choose". Perhaps we will get further if we scrap these extremes and the name calling and the absolutism that goes along with them and think about how we as persons emerge from zygotes and realize that people of good faith might draw their lines in different places. Likewise with cloning, we need to consider the conflicts involved and realize that people of good faith can disagree just as they can about where to draw the lines about abortion.
A couple of reports hold bad news for some of us with high cholesterol. According to the New York Times, Zetia a cholesterol lowering drug that acts on cholesterol from food may not be effective. Zetia is probably best known as one of two cholesterol lowering medicines in Vytorin. The other cholesterol medicine in Vytorin , the statin Zocor is believed to be both relative safe and effective.What is interesting is that Merck and Shering-Plough, the companies that make these drugs repeatedly missed deadlines in reporting these these clinical trial results, meanwhile heavily marketing Vytorin. This trial, a small scale clinical trial involving 720 patients, was designed to see if the combination of Zocor and Zetia would have an enhanced cholesterol lowering effect and reduce the build up of plaques in arterial walls that lead to heart attacks.Zetia did lower cholesterol but unexpectedly increased plaque formation, raising concerns about its safety. Merck and Shering-Plough are conducting longer term clinical studies to examine of Zetia on the rate of heart attacks. The hope of the drug companies of course is that Zetia will be shown to lower the risk of heart attacks. But the the small scale clinical results related must have drug company executives sweating.Also, Merck and Shering-Plough are being investigated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as to reasoning for the company's suspicious delay in reporting the clinical results.The finding that Zetia lowered cholesterol but seemed to increase the rate of plaque formation has led a few scientists to wonder if the link between cholesterol levels, specifically Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL, and heart disease is as simple as we currently believe. This concern is discussed in a second Times article here. This link is so well accepted that the FDA typically approves LDL lowering drugs if they are safe and lower LDL levels in the absence of completed long term clinical trials, on the drug's effectiveness at actually reducing heart attacks.Meanwhile large scale clinical trials on the experimental cholesterol lowering drug, torcetrapib, produced by Pfizer, were halted when scientists found that while the drug raised high density lipoproteins (HDL) and lowered LDL levels, contrary to expectations the drug increased the rate of heart attacks. This was bad news for Pfizer which desperately needs a new drug to replace Lipitor which is due to loose patent protection in 2010. Possibly, Pfizer went right away to long term clinical trials to save time. If so it probably was a wise decision in retrospect.Clearly lowering LDL levels and overall cholesterol level is a good thing, but there is a lot we don't understand about the details connecting cholesterol levels to build up of plaques and heart disease. Personally, I am on a statin (a generic of Zocor) and see no reason to stop taking it-it does lower LDL levels, unlike the pizza I just ate.These results do call into question again the way in which drugs are tested. The current system creates a clear conflict of interest between the ethical responsibilities of clinicians and scientists involved in drug testing and the high economic stakes for the drug companies. So how should we test drugs, and what should the role of drug companies be in drug testing? Can government's ability to oversee drug testing be enhanced? If so who will pay?
Do computers make you more productive, or do you spend so much time struggling that sometimes you wonder if they are worth the trouble?Do you have a questions about computers or the internet and how they work? Post your questions and I'll try to answer some in future posts.
Where is it? What is it?This is visible from one of the main streets of town (as defined by me).Each day or so I'll add a larger image or hint.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...:
1. Not on the west side of town.
2. Slightly larger image
http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... the answer is:
East Heights Early Childhood and Family Center (formerly East Heights Elementary)
A month or so ago, I happened to notice
the highway construction for the new 59 highway the path for utility lines south of Lawrence. Recently, I drove around the area east of "old" 59 between N650 and N1100 Rd. Based on my travels, I did this ROUGH map of what the path into town appears to be. Note that this map only shows the highway starting from N600/650 Rd (1.5 miles east of Zarco south of town).Well, it appears this is actually the path for utility lines into town. Well, it was fun creating the map and taking the pictures. I recently posted on the subject of making mistakes and tolerance. In light of that, this is an interesting turn of events.
View Larger Map
The blue balloon is near where E1450 connects to N600/650. This following image shows the road north (towards Lawrence).
The yellow balloon marks where the highway crosses N800 Rd. The image below looks north towards town.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0685a.JPGThe red balloon identifies where the highway crosses N1000 Rd (Wells Overlook Rd). The next image looks north.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0691b.JPGAnd finally, this image looks the other way, back south across Wells Overlook Rd.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0694a.JPG
The road continues on past N1100 Rd, but sorry, no pictures yet.
There is a wonderful article in the NY Times science section reporting on some work by Todd Palmer, an ecologist at the University of Florida. Dr. Palmer's work is good illustration of how very different groups of organisms can be connected in very subtle and counter intuitive ways. Dr. Palmer studies the role of certain species of aggressive ants which in part protect Acacia trees from large herbivores including elephants. Acacia trees are one of the dominant types of trees in many parts of Africa so this is a very important study.Dr. Palmer and his associates tested the hypothesis that the trees would grow better long term in the absence of elephants and other large herbivores. For 10 years they followed the fate of Acacias in control plots and experimental plots which excluded the herbivores.They found something quite unexpected. Over time, in the absence of the elephants, the Acacias produced less sap for the ants, and other species of insects, harmful to the Acacias, invaded the trees. The net result was that over time the Acacias actually did worse when there were no elephants to feed on them.Given the threat that large mammals in Africa are under, this study should remind us of the complex and subtle interdependencies that have evolved in natural systems. Removing certain keystone species such from an ecosystem can have, what Palmer terms, a cascading effect on the rest of the ecosystem.The other thing is that when we focus on conserving a single species, say in a zoo or greenhouse, we lose the context in which the species evolved. This diminishes our understanding of that species and the sorts of adaptations it evolved to its original environment. For instance many orchids produce lots of extra sap. In some orchids, the sap is actually secreted from the leaves. I have tasted the sap produced by some of my orchids and it is very sweet. If you grow certain species of orchid at home the leaves get sticky an often will get a fungus. So why the sap?At least part of the answer again, is perhaps to attract certain species of aggressive ants for protection. So what might the implication be? Consider that orchid species. We take that species out the community in which it evolved, grow it in a green house. Over a number of generations it becomes just another domesticated species. A pretty flower perhaps but one that has lost its context, like an artifact in a museum.By the way, there is a Kansas connection to this story since much of the now classic work on ant - Acacia interactions was done by Dr. Dan Janzen who taught at KU from 1965-68.
One WordI don't know Kelly Tilghman except that she is a sports broadcaster and she is friends with Tiger Woods.During coverage last week, she inadvertently used the word "lynch" when jokingly suggesting that the only way other players could beat him was by removing him from the competition. It was unfortunate, and she apologized to the audience and to Tiger. Tiger released a statement that he understood that there was no ill intent.But that was not enough. Al Sharpton has called for her dismissal. The Golf Channel, who initially supported her, has suspended her for two weeks and her future is unclear.People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are careless and intolerable. Sometimes the consequences are serious and we should do something about it. That is the case here.The mistake, however, is being made by those who are looking for publicity at the expense of others. Racism still exists in this country, but this episode is not really about that problem.The problem is that there are some who spread fear to increase their own power and influence. The fear that they spread makes me concerned that I might say something that people construe differently than I'd intended. It happened to her. It could happen to me and, no matter what your color or religion, it might even happen to you. That is the fear that I am left with. And to be honest, the thought that speaking out against this will cause me to be labeled a racist leaves me just a touch nervous.There are a lot of words that bring back memories of troubled times. One single word can have tremendous consequences.Sometimes, when people make mistakes, we should consider one word as our response:Tolerance.
According to a study cited in Science Daily, roughly 45% of internists responding to a survey about the use of placebos said that they had given placebos to their patients at least on occasion. Placebos are sometimes used to determine if the symptoms exhibited by a patient are in the mind or physical and controlling for the placebo effect is an important design issue in drug tests.The therapeutic use of placebos is controversial and given the notion of informed consent in medicine, perhaps unethical. But there is no doubt that the placebo effect is real and perhaps behind why many alternative therapies of dubious scientific standing such as "energy work" or homeopathy appear to work.Many of the physicians put a more benign spin on placebos. The physicians often defined placebos as being interventions "not expected to work" through any sort of known mechanism. Personally I would not want my physician to give me a placebo and strangely enough for the very reason that I believe in the mind body connection that alternative therapists often times misuse to justify their treatments. For instance, I got dragged to a workshop on "energy work" and "auras" last year and as you might guess I had to bite my tongue repeatedly to maintain some level of politeness at the drivel the speaker was feeding us. And yet the exercises did work. When asked to feel the boundaries of someone else's energy field, indeed I could feel SOMETHING.Of course the hard headed side of my was designing little experiments that could test whether or not there was any objective reality to this feeling. After all I ought to be able to measure some sort of energy and manipulate it experimentally. My suspicion is that what I felt was due to the power of suggestibility.I also do Yoga and when the instructor tells me to visualize my chakras, I know that chakras don't have any serious anatomical basis. I don't really have a third eye for instance- unless it is the imagination. I am suspending belief and harnessing that suspension to bring about physiological changes.Physician's use of placebos may well be justified in spite of the notion of informed consent. But wouldn't it be better if people could learn to harness their own powers of suggestion rather than be tricked into it either by well meaning physicians or by snake oil sellers of alternative therapies?
Today's Lawrence Journal World carried a report of a California study the says that autism is not related to mercury exposure from childhood vaccines. This study from my way of thinking is pretty convincing especially in light of independent studies that come to the same conclusion.For a number of years, some scientists and advocacy groups have been concerned that a mercury containing compound called thimerosal might be the cause of an increase in autism and perhaps other neurological disorders. What I found interesting in the Journal World's report was this comment by Geraldine Dawson from a group called Autism Speaks which advocates for autism research:"The bulk of the evidence thus far suggests that mercury is not involved, but I think parents still have many questions ... I think until parents are satisfied, we need to continue to examine the question."Now granted parents are generally the prime advocates for their children, as well they should be, but in terms of research Dawson's comments leads to a big question. Given the limits on research dollars, should we keep chasing after a hypothesized association between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism which the available epidemiological evidence says is weak at best given current vaccine protocols?How many parents do we have to satisfy? All of them? Some people will simply persist in not believing any amount of scientific research. Now don't get me wrong-mercury in the environment is an important issue and the effects of mercury on health are clear-but why should autism researchers be distracted because a few parents choose to discredit the science?Related Links:EPA mercury fact sheetCDC Mercury and Vaccine Fact SheetMercury Exposure and Child Development OutcomesMercury and Autism: A damaging delusionWhat parents should know about Thimersol and Vaccines
There is anger between factionsThere is no understanding Differences not always celebrated There is sadness across a countryPakistan has been hit, as Israel once wasGreat leaders of Peace fallThey are remembered and mournedBenazir Bhutto led a fightMade things different for the womenPushed for a change that was resistantBut never gave in, never lost her footingExiled and loss of powerDid not stop her from her fightThis is a great womanA loss for PakistanA loss for the Middle EastFor women everywhereThe loss will be feltjust as Rabin and othersThe fight for peace is often violentA single tear flows downSadness at this lossFollowed her since middle schoolI pray this day that her death Will not be in vain But that when others remember herThey will keep her spirit aliveAnd strive toward peace and understanding
This is a plant picture I took last month at Disney World. At first I thought the plant was some sort of viburnum, but while catching up with Jenn Forman-Orth's wonderful Invasive Species Web log, found this post showing a plant called Brazilian pepper, considered to be a highly invasive introduced species in Florida. So I sent the picture off to several plant identification groups on flickr and the ID came back... Schinus terebinthifolius AKA Brazilian Pepper or Christmas Berry.According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, this species is from South America and has been aggressively colonizing a wide range of habitats in South Florida, replacing native plants. As so many other plants, Brazilian Pepper was introduced as an ornamental. The orange berries are attractive to birds and mammals and this combined with a high germination rate under a range of conditions appears to be the main factor in it's spread.You might think that invasive species are just a major problem in places such as Florida but Kansas has it's own collection of problem introduced species. The USDA's list of Kansas invasive plants alone has 35 species on it and the list is very incomplete. Some of these species such as musk thistle are obvious pests, but others such as Russian Olive, Japanese Honeysuckle, Tree of Heaven and certain types of St. Johns wort are less well known invasives.An example of a potentially invasive ornamental, one that I have in my garden, is "Zebra grass", Miscanthus sinensis. This plant isn't in the same league as Kudzu but it is a plant to watch according to the Global Invasive Species Database.So think carefully before you buy that ornamental. Get the scientific name and find out if it is an invasive species-not all invasive species are officially banned so you can't rely on the plant being environmentally friendly just because it is at your local nursery.If you want a particular type of plant, often there are native or a least non invasive alternatives. One useful source for alternatives from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens also has tips on garden design and gardening for wildlife. Another useful site is the Global Invasive Species Database, mentioned earlier. This is a good site because it will clue you in to potential problems, such as zebra grass so you can do a little prevention. Also check out the Invasive Species Weblog for quick updates. Of course our local extension agents can help you as well.
Obama may look like the winning horse leading the pack at the beginning of this year's Presidential race, but he won't be able to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. He isn't seasoned. He isn't experienced.
Neither he or Edwards have the lineage behind them that would be required to go the distance.
Still, Obama is working the track and has picked his way from the back of the pack and moved into a key position to make a run for the final stretch. It hasn't been an easy task. He has been hit by dirt and mud as much as any of his opponents. He seems to be gaining speed. He is a full length ahead of Edwards and Edwards is a nose in front of Clinton.
I am glad I have my bet on Clinton though. She is saving herself for the finish line. She has great stamina, loves to be pushed for a grand finish and is well seasoned and confident. She stands head and shoulders above the competition because of her previous experiences in other races such as these - some of which she watched from the sidelines.
Obama has blinders on; he won't be able to see the filly passing him on the inside track until he begins to taste the dust that is stirred up as she leaves him far behind.
And she hasn't even begun to work up a lather.
The location of the piture posted in the previous installment was identified in the 5th comment. I was tempted to make this one impossibly hard, but I don't think I've done so.This time I won't give any hints except to say it is within the city limits of Lawrence.As before, I hope it causes you to be just a little more aware of the many interesting things there are to see here in town.Here is a small portion of the picture. Each day or so I'll post a version which shows a larger portion of the image.
This is visible from somewhere on the "T" route, so it is not in some hidden corner of town.
Here is the full image of one of the KU buildings on the south side of Bob Billings (15th St), west of Crestline. I'm not sure if this is the building with the pottery kiln.
A favorite online read is Edge which bills itself as representing the third culture. The third culture refers to those intellectuals who bridge the sciences and the humanities, what C.P. Snow referred to as the "Two Cultures". One feature of Edge is a series of contributed response to some important question of the year. This year's question is "What have you changed your mind about?" and the responses are quite fascinating. At least the scientist's responses should put to rest the notion often bandied about by non scientists that scientists are inflexible and dogmatic.Here are some mind changers worth checking out:Paul Davies used to be a committed Platonist. About time he came around to my type of thinking.Lera Boroditsky has decided that language can change our sensory perceptions after her experimental data contradicted her original and long held belief.William Calvin has changed his mind about global warming after visiting Greenland.Roger Bingham has given up evolutionary psychology..or at least what had been the prevailing notion of how the human mind worked.Finally on a pessimistic note but he may be right, Lee Silver concludes that in contrast with what intellectuals like to often believe:" While its mode of expression may change over cultures and time, irrationality and mysticism seem to be an integral part of normal human nature, even among highly educated people. No matter what scientific and technological advances are made in the future, I now doubt that supernatural beliefs will ever be eradicated from the human species."What have I changed my mind about? Over time I have gradually shifted my belief in the balance of nature, now believing that the biological world consists of populations opportunistically evolving and that the balance of nature, like design, is an illusion.What other mind changers are out there? How have your beliefs changed?
The end of a year unavoidably brings various "top 10" or "Break through" lists and science is no exception. So much happens in science and technology that a single list may not be meaningful. So I decided instead to sample some of these science lists which you can look at for yourselves.Popular Science has a "Best of What's New" issue online. Their innovation of the year goes to a private company called Nanosolar which has found a way to cheaply produce a low cost coating that can convert solar energy to electricity. Popular Science is mainly oriented toward applied science and technology, so I am pleased to see that they also chose to recognize advances in detecting planets orbiting other stars. Some of their picks are potentially very disruptive technology. Take the Meraki Mini. This is a Wi Fi device with an important difference:"...add more Minis, and the network can blanket acres. So instead of all your neighbors paying an ISP, you could let them tap into your connection. To boost the whole network's bandwidth, just plug any of the Minis into another wired link."This could be very disruptive to local broadband companies. Heads up Sunflower!Science Magazine has a very different list in their Break Through Issue more oriented to basic science. The Break through of the year is not really a single break through per say but a recognition of how faster cheaper DNA sequencing methods are making it possible to really study genetic variation in humans. These methods have the potential to provide new insights into disease as well as human evolution, but also raise privacy and ethical concerns.Runners up include a new technique for reprogramming cells, new semi conductors and superconducting compounds, and strangely enough a brute force proof that checkers between players with perfect foresight leads to a draw. May seem almost intuitive but demonstrating this has involved new techniques in information processing and artificial intelligence that may be useful in other areas such as deciphering sequences of DNA.The Guardian has a biology laden list. The human genome is tops as it was in the Science list, but they also included the finding that skin cells and other sorts of cells in the body can be reprogrammed relatively easily to behave embryonic stem cells. If this discovery pans out, it could much of the ethical debate about harvesting stem cells from embryos to rest.Finally Scientific American has a "Top 25" list. Not presented in any particular order the list, has some overlap with the Guardian's list but also includes the spread of hospital infections caused by antibiotic resistant staph bacteria (Can you spell evolution?). Climate change received a lot of play on this list as it did on most of the other lists including a special report. One intriguing change that is often ignored in the popular press is the resurrection of nuclear power as a serious option including a proposal to build the first nuclear power plant in this country in 30 years. Nuclear technology has not stood still since the 1970's and reactor builders claim that today's designs are much more efficient and safe.As should be clear, many of the top stories of 2007 really are a recognition of technological or scientific trends that began before 2007. For instance, over at Space.com the big space events in their Top 10 list include planetary flybys, the successful Bigelow space station prototype, along with the privatization of space flight, and more space activity from Asian countries, especially China and Japan.It is hard to believe that the Space Age is 50 years old taking Sputnik as the starting point. Considering all the optimistic predictions made early in the Space Age, it may seem we haven't done much- remember the movie 2001. But given the cost of getting into space we have done pretty well. For instance, advances in robotics have taken us in directions and provided us with opportunities for exploration that we didn't envision in the late 1950's. Who would have thought that a pair of mechanical rovers would have allowed us to learn so much about Mars!I hope people enjoy looking at these lists...what is big in science in your mind? What trends are being ignored? What's coming up next?
Of course my wife is nothing like I portrayed her in my last post, and she got me a macro lens for Christmas so I can take even more pictures of critters only a biologist could love. After Church today I taken with this sedum in my garden peeking through the snow. By the way, I am addicted to flickr and clicking on the image will take you into my public photo stream.
http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... morning I received a call from my wife asking me if I had seen the footprints in the yard. She had noticed them when she was leaving for her job in Topeka."Definitely human footprints only the person was barefoot and my boss said that there could be a homeless person living in the woods.""Kay, that sounds really unlikely to me but this is Lawrence, and we've had other strange things happen such as the escaped cows in our backyard..so I will go look."So out I went and I did find some prints, but they were not very deep..."Hey Kay nope not human, I think rabbit""But they look like bare feet you can see the toes and everything.""Nope rabbit""Well how do you know? Were you there? After all you can't test anything that happened in the past""Kay, I have seen rabbit footprints before and these are rabbit.""Just because you are trained as a biologist doesn't mean I am wrong...you are just plain dogmatic. They looked human to me. You are being dogmatic.""This is just based on experience...Kay look at this picture. I wasn't about to freeze my toes off here but notice how much deeper my shoe print is than the the ones like you found."http://worldonline.media.clients.elli..."I still think they are human. Why do you always have to explain everything away as something ordinary? Just a rabbit...huh maybe they are that hobbit man or a gnome. A baby Sasquatch. There all kinds of strange sightings even in Kansas.""Kay I am a scientist and we look for the simplest explanations first.""That is silly, all you scientists think alike. It is some sort of liberal group think. You need to think outside the box. Maybe you should go work for the government.""What does that have to do with anything?""Well everyone knows those government scientists fake data..if you are told to think rabbit then you're going to think rabbit.""Besides that rabbit idea is just a theory and scientists deal with empirical facts-not interpretations."Sigh...fortunately at that point my cell phone died.Note: Any relationship to current public discussions about evolution or global warming is purely coincidental.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...