Entries Tagged as 'Science'

Here We Go Again

Two recent New Scientist articles set me a-thinking. The first involved a law suit brought by James Joyce’s estate against renegade biologist, Craig Ventner, for using a Joyce passage without permission. Ventner had inscribed “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life” on the genome of his synthetic life-form. The second explored the possibility of sending bacterial colonists to other planets in the hope of seeding a world full of life like ours.

Surely, thought I, if we are considering sending forth an armada of bacterial pilgrims to infect new worlds, should we not equip them with, not just an apt bit of prose, but rather the sum total of all we know of the Earth, the heavens and ourselves, in some easily decipherable code, squirreled away in a nether corner of their genes? And, given that we have conceived, and very nearly have the capability, of such an undertaking, is it not possible that, millennia ago, residents of another world seeded our own planet in this same fashion and that in our genetic code may reside the truth about our genesis?

Being a living national treasure, my own genes were transcribed some years ago, and I fetched my copy out from under the bed the other day to see if there was anything intelligible therein. Code cracking not being my forte, it took several days to divine the key, but, lo and behold, the moment arrived when an impenetrable mass of random symbols dissolved into a discernible pattern, and before too long I was reading the very words of our progenitors.

I’m keeping them to myself of course, and have applied for a patent, effectively granting me exclusive license to exploit a tome that shall exceed in import any thousand texts one could name, sacred or profane, that have been said to change the course of civilisation. However, while not having read the entire epistle, I have skimmed and skipped through to the end and I feel I should inform you, and here I should issue a SPOILER ALERT, that our ancestors made their desperate gesture for immortality at a time when their world was entirely uninhabitable, from a space capsule orbiting their planet, by the last 5 beings of their civilisation in their last act before life support failed.

Birds, Bats and Beasties @ NMA

Community Detectives

Part of the Community Detectives Project. More info after the jump or click here for details

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National Science Week

National Science Week kicks off on Wednesday. Here’s some of the less geeky things you might want to attend.

Fringe @ The Front

Chorus of Women

Carbon Cops

The ABC’s Carbon Cops, an environmentally friendly version of the expert make-over genre, shows us that, not only is using less energy in the household fairly easy and inexpensive to achieve, it also has unexpected rewards.

For people that have always had an awareness of their own energy consumption, it is quite amazing to peer into the lives of ‘ordinary Australians’ and witness the thoughtlessness with which they squander energy. And even us self-righteous ‘aware’ types have learned a thing or two.

The remedies are many and varied, ranging from riding a pushbike to the shops, to installing an energy monitor to remind folks to turn off lights, to simple retrofit double glazing. Small to medium capital investment is sometimes required, making many changes more applicable to owners than renters, but every household can do something and, as last nights program illustrated, even a household of student renters could more than halve their carbon output while spending hardly a cent.

On the contrary, they will save money, as will those who invest in solar hot water, for example, once the device has paid for itself. If the ‘Plasma Bonus’ had become instead a ‘Solar Hot Water Bonus’, each Aussie birth would represent a slightly brighter future for all.

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No Place Like Home

They found a new planet somewhere around a distant star which has a bit of an atmosphere, such that it could sustain life. It’s five times the size of earth, however, making the stroll down to the shops, with an additional 60% body weight, a bit of a plod.

This puts paid to any suggestion of humans relocating there whilst hampered by these ghastly bodies. This seems to be the absurd object of many people’s interest in other habitable planets. Ignoring for the moment that it would take thousands of years to get there, have you ever wondered how much all the humans on the earth weigh collectively? At a conservative average body weight of 50 kilos, we’re looking at 300 billion kilos of human flesh to shift, roughly 10 million space shuttle payloads just to get us into orbit.

Of course, no-one thinks we’d all get to go. But who would go? A select few, selected, no doubt, on the basis of either genetic superiority or the display of thick wads of truckloads of cash. The rest of us schleps will be stuck here on earth (at least we’ll be able to smoke) so it’s amazing that we all support this star-gazing stuff.

But seriously, we’re never going to get even one person to another planet, at least not in this millenium (or space time continuum), so perhaps we should focus on trying to retain the habitability of this one (although if my genes were selected I might feel different… consigning my descendants to spend eternity with people like Dick Cheney could sour the deal however).

There is always the hope that, in finding another planet with an advanced civilisation, they could save us. It’s just as likely that, made aware of the Earth, they would scour the place of verminous humans before setting up shop themselves, but hope springs eternal when you’re swimming in your own faeces.