A few years back I attended the annual conference of the British Society for Developmental Biology. There was a discussion session towards the end of the day concerning future developments and directions in our field of research, namely how one goes from the early embryo to, ultimately, the adult human (or other organism). Into a lull in the conversation, my then-boss, who was heavily pregnant with twins and very uncomfortable, interjected the following question: “I only want to know one thing right now: when are we going to be able to grow babies in artificial wombs?” Good question…
Following on from that Nature feature on human migration I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, is another interesting piece in Science provocatively titled: “Busting myths of origin.” It is, however, exactly as the title says: analysis of DNA and isotopes in bones and teeth is showing that most of the people of the world are the products of multiple migrations: there are no “pure” peoples of any kind, with the exception of a very few groups, notably the indigenous Australian Aborigines, who, largely through accidents of geography and circumstance, remained isolated from many other human groups for a relatively long time. Migration and mingling, it turns out, is the norm for our species.
How much of human violence is innate, and how much of it is shaped by our environments? Are we a uniquely violent species? These are questions philosophers and social scientists have tried to answer for centuries. Now researchers have done an evolutionary comparison – and conclude that the rate of lethal human violence is six times that of the average mammal…but about average for a great ape.
After my somewhat depressing previous post, I decided to comment on something a little more optimistic this time around, namely the success in getting treatments for some of world’s most underfunded diseases afflicting the world’s poorest people. And at a knockdown price, too… Continue reading
The news here in the UK has, of course, been dominated by “Brexit“, the advisory referendum vote that saw the UK populace vote by a narrow margin to leave the EU. There is absolutely no way I’m going into the politics or constitutionality of this, as many actual political commentators are far more equipped to do so, but, as a scientist, the expected effects of UK science are of great interest to me. There is an absolutely excellent blog post on this here – this is from evidence given to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology by Dr Mike Galsworthy and Dr Rob Davidson: Scientists (and others) will be pleased to note that is therefore full of facts, data and supported evidence. It is a long but worthwhile read. I will quote from a few highlights to illustrate the main points, and then I will indulge myself and speculate a little on what my experience of the international nature of science has made me feel about large-scale political entities such as the EU. Continue reading
Photo credit: Honda. I want me one of these, but better.
One of things that is always dragged up when people start discussing whether the science fiction of the past predicted the present at all accurately, is the old “Where’s my hovercar?” trope. Maybe it’s just that I don’t even like regular wheeled cars, but of all the many things I wanted in this so-called ‘Future’, a hovercar was pretty far down the list. A replicator would be a damn sight more useful. A robot butler even more so. I did like this golden vision a lot of 50s and 60s scifi presented though, where the future was bright and nobody had to work, or only at really interesting things they really wanted to do (never mind that they were often so hampered by their own prejudices that they utterly failed to advance gender equality, for example, but that’s another story). But, really, why are we still all working like dogs? And where are the futuristic, practical everyday inventions that would make life easier? Continue reading