The sun provides the warmth and light for life and earth, but, the solar wind is formed of very highly charged particles which would cause damage to the earth without suitable shielding. This is provided by the magnetosphere. Secondly, Voyager 1 was launched way back in September 1977. Its first and primary task was to fly by Jupiter and then Saturn, gathering information about the planets and their moons. It then set off towards Alpha Centauri on the second part of its mission, to examine the heliosphere, and it may have now left the solar system ........
Psychobiotics is a new field that studies the effect of bacteria (particularly in the gut) on the mind - it is easy to remember times when an upset tummy gave us a headache, and we “felt awful” and in a bad mood. Apparently the gut contains far more bacteria than the body contains cells, they weigh as much as the brain, and they have vast arrays of genes, producing many hundreds of different chemicals which are used in the body, and also many of the molecules used in brain signalling, such as dopamine and serotonin.
An American scientist has been collecting samples of H. flu. since 1994, and has found that there are tremendous differences between different strains of the bacteria – their genes can differ by as much as 20%. Some strains persist in the airways, while some strains are easily cleared, but it seems that a new strain comes round nearly every month, causing the symptoms to break out again.
Biofilms is another new area with great potential. Until recently, researchers grew microbes in colonies in dishes, and approached them as “single” entities, but new research has shown that they often form colonies, such as in the lungs or sinuses, or on medical instruments.
Bacteria and viruses are now being exploited for the production of chemicals and drugs, and one of the most surprising uses is that a researcher has found a small elongated virus that can be persuaded to coat itself in iron phosphates or cobalt oxides. In this way they have been able to grow nano-tubes which could be used in the production of the electrodes of bio-degradable batteries
Mini-bugs seem to evolve rapidly, perhaps because there are so many of them - 1 kg of soil (2.2 pounds) contains 2 trillion bacteria, 400 million fungus cells, 50 million algae, 30 million protozoa, and more than a thousand mites, insects and worms (and their eggs). This field is vitally important to us - the World Health Organisation has recently reported that resistance to antibiotics is ever more widespread, following on from a survey of all member states.. Worldwide, between 25 and 90% of all Staphylococcus infections are now in the superbug form, MRSA, which is resistant to one or more antibiotics, although only 114 of the 194 member states have national data on this.
This is about the work of a remarkable scientist called Bruce Bradley, who lived in Arizona as a child, and was fascinated by the Native American flint tools and arrowheads that are common there. So, he started to try to copy them. He is now at the University of Exeter, and is a master flint-knapper, and he teaches this to some of his students.
The Bengalese finch is a very interesting little bird. We know that it was only domesticated 250 years ago (from the wild white-rumped munia), but while the breeders have been developing its plumage, the birds themselves have been developing their songs, so that they now have a complex and beautiful song, compared to the munia’s plain and simple calls. Only the males sing, and it seems that the females select their mates on the basis of the quality of their song and tone, and the nicer the song, the more young they produce.
There have been some great advances in understanding human evolution recently. 1. the Bengalese Finch has been domesticated for only 300 years ago - in captivity it has developed a very different and more beautiful song compared to its wild antecedents. The article then looks at how domestication has affected other species (eg dogs) and concludes that humans ourselves have been domesticated at some point in the past 2. by studying flints, an academic has drawn conclusions about the evolution of human consciousness
This section includes academic work in the social sciences, etc. (i.e. not Science or Arts). Some of this is really interesting and relatively unknown, and I hope to liberate it from the University departments where it currently seems locked away. I have written other material myself on the basis of personal experience and observation.