Today it was announced that two scientists at Manchester University were awarded the Nobel prize for Physics (see Materials breakthrough wins Nobel). Meanwhile, the Coalition Government are threatening cuts to the very lifeblood of this country, by cutting funding to science research. Such short-sightedness fair takes your breath away. As it says at Science is Vital:
“Investing in research enriches society and helps drive the economy. It led to our preeminent position in the 20th century, and will be vital in meeting the challenges of the 21st century whether they be in energy, medicine, infrastructure, computing, or simply humanity’s primal desire for discovery.”
If you want a simple analogy, if a farmer sells his fields, where does he grow is crops and what does he eat next year?
Of all the threatened cuts, reducing funding to science makes no sense whatsoever.
If you feel the same as me, please go to the Science is Vital website and sign the petition, write to your MP.
In the small hours of tomorrow morning, NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft will crash land on the moon. The craft will be deliberately hard-landed in two sections providing data about the composition of the lunar surface. NASA TV will provide live coverage and you can find out more on the Spaceweather site.
[caption id="attachment_243" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Prince Charles gives us 96 months to save our world from global warming. Giving this year’s Dimbleby Lecture, the Prince of Wales said, ”If we fail the Earth, we fail humanity.” Placing the blame squarely on the unfairness in the world economy, he went on to say, ”We are standing at a moment of substantial transition where we face the dual challenges of a world view and an economic system that seem to have enormous shortcomings, together with an environmental crisis – including that of climate change – which threatens to engulf us all.”
More from the Press Association …
Centre for Human Ecology graduate Helen Jeans has been running an exciting new project which needs participants! Would you like to get involved?
Helen writes: “The Open University is developing a new Internet site to support collaborative learning called SocialLearn. The pilot version of SocialLearn is focused on climate change as part of the Open University’s Learning to Live with Climate Change Programme which facilitates social learning processes as a way of building understanding, consensus and concerted action on climate change. Both SocialLearn and Learning to Live with Climate Change are global programmes.”
Learn more at the Centre for Human Ecology.
The celebrations of forty years since the Apollo 11 moon landing are heating up and now we have a new moon mission on its way. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday and will photograph the lunar surface in higher resolution than ever before. Images with a resolution of 1 m should be able to pick out equipment left behind at the old Apollo sites, including the LEM descent stages. The conspiracy theorists can work out their own version of these images we’re sure.
The LRO will also laser map the Moon and look for signs of water ice in permanently shadowed craters. A companion spacecraft, launched on the same booster, called LCROSS, will crash land in one of those craters in an attempt to kick up some of the buried ice that may be buried there.
There is more information and regular updates at the LRO website.
The International Space Station crew is awaiting the arrival of three new members that will usher in an era of six-person crews aboard the orbiting laboratory. Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Bob Thirsk launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft Wednesday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz is scheduled to dock with the station today. The trio will join station Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Mike Barratt of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to form the Expedition 20 crew. It will mark the first time all five partner agencies are represented by astronauts on the station at the same time.
The expanded crew of the International Space Station will discuss the start of six-person operations in a news conference on Monday. The news conference will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the NASA Web site.
For full reports on the International Space Station, visit the ISS site.
Adult Learners’ Week runs from 9th to 15th May this year and NCS is doing its bit to support it. You can try some course snippets and a complete free course over at the NCS ALW page. Try a course on Archaeology, Health Care or Herbology. It’s all free for Adult Learners’ Week.
Researchers in Spain and Germany have developed a new type of maize that produces large amounts of beta carotene and precursors of vitamin C and folic acid. The team, centred on the University of Lleida, is trying to develop this as a food crop for people in sub-saharan Africa, where it could improve the basic diet for the very poor, providing around 20% of daily vitamin C and almost all required folic acid and vitamin A. Trials of the crop will begin in the US next year and animal tests to obtain efficacy and safety data will begin soon.
The human body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A which is an important nutrient for the skin, eyes, pregnant mothers and the immune system. Ascorbate is converted to vitamin C also necessary for healthy skin and a good immune system. The new maize would also provide higher levels of folic acid, important in the formation of red blood cells and foetal development.
Environmental campaigners are not so sure, claiming that the introduction of green plants to farmers in these areas would boost the local diet without having to introduce genetically modified crops. They cite the poor uptake of golden rice, modified to produce higher levels of vitamin A for communities in south-east Asia, as evidence that the basic idea is unsound. However, humanitarian aid organisations have yet to comment.
You can read more on the BBC News site. There is more information about the University of Lleida team and their work, including the development of maize that produces medicines, in Science Daily. Sacred Earth has a good ethnobotany article on maize. While there doesn’t appear to be a specific response to this result by an environmentalist group, Friends of the Earth has a general policy document on genetically modified foods. Opinions vary and the subject of genetic modification of food crops raises a lot of issues. Why not leave us a comment stating what you think?
A happy Easter to all our readers!
It also looks like the weather is improving; just the right time to be taking a course with an outdoors element. May we suggest getting out in the garden for some Herbal Remedies, or maybe the Ecology of Your Garden is of interest? Maybe travel beckons and an Introduction to Archaeology would be nice? There is still time to squeeze in one of our Astronomy courses before the lighter nights draw in.
We are aware that the southern hemisphere is moving into autumn and the longer nights are approaching, and for you we have plenty of other courses to while away the winter evenings.