Archives: The Conversation

Being big – larger than a dog – increases the risk of being wiped out in a mass extinction.

The existence of parallel universes may seem like something cooked up by science fiction writers, with little relevance to modern theoretical physics. But the idea that we live in a “multiverse” made up of an infinite number of parallel universes has long been considered a scientific possibility – although it is still a matter of vigorous debate among physicists. The race is now on to find a way to test the theory, including searching the sky for signs of collisions with other universes.

Scientists and policymakers are simultaneously looking for new ways to feed the world and save the oceans. Global seafood demands are increasing, and fisheries and aquaculture already have large impacts on marine ecosystems. The concept of “balanced harvesting” aims to address both of these issues.

In the science fiction movie Inception, Leonardo Di Caprio and his gang set out to implant specific memories into individuals’ brains in order to pull off the perfect crime. But in the real world of science implanting memories is actually quite easy – the challenge is tracking the brain cells involved in the process. Our research has now started to unveil some of the basic mechanisms of how new memories are encoded in the brain, simply using selfies to implant the memories.

Two recent papers throw some light on how the revolutionary development of smaller and more fine-boned humans influenced the growth of cooperative culture, the birth of agriculture and human dominance of the planet.

To understand how Darwin arrived at these conclusions it is necessary to turn to the manuscripts from the first half of his life. They reveal something that is not nearly so well known about Darwin: he was also a great geologist. Not only that, his geological work was essential to developing his great insight into evolution.

From Star Wars to Futurama to Alien, the idea that humans can be frozen in time in order to be awoken later is a well-established sci-fi trope. While stopping biological time or inducing long-term hibernation is still as far off as the long-distance space travel that it’s associated with in fiction, we can freeze and store cells, tissues and organs, and this is of huge scientific and medical importance.

“Birds of a feather flock together” is a saying that exists in a number of different languages. “Gambá cheira gambá” (opossums smell other opossums) in Brazilian Portuguese is a particularly colourful example. The reason is that like-minded people like to hang out together across many cultures. And it seems the same is true of baboons.

The research, which analysed DNA from 21,566 men convicted of sex offences in Sweden between 1973 and 2009, found that sons and brothers of convicted sex offenders were four to five times more likely to be convicted of sex crimes than men in the general population.

The world’s largest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, has potentially delivered one of physics’ “Holy Grails” in the form of the Higgs boson. Much of the science came down to one number – 126, the Higgs boson’s mass as measured in gigaelectronvolts. But this three-digit number rested upon something very much larger and more complicated: the more than 60,000 trillion bytes (60 petabytes) of data produced by colliding subatomic particles in four years of experiments, and the enormous computer power needed to make sense of it all.