Archivo: The Conversation

Scientific publishing has undergone a revolution in recent years – largely due to the internet. And it shows no sign of letting up as a growing number of countries attempt to ensure that research papers are made freely available. Publishers are struggling to adapt their business models to the new challenges. But it is not just the publishers who struggle.

The crowd crush at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has claimed the lives of more than 700 people and injured at least 850 more. Sadly this is not the first such tragedy to affect the event. The Hajj attracts millions of pilgrims from across the world every year and involves several complex rituals, which means it is always a potentially dangerous event.

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.