The crater, made by the asteroid that killed of dinosaurs millions of years ago, is giving clues to the origin of Life which began on Earth. Scientists have buried into the 200km long crated, buried under the Gulf of Mexico, and have found some remarkable discoveries.
They say that the rocks show evidence of having been home of a large “hydrothermal system”, which is where hot fluid flowed through cracks. Similar impacts could have helped kickstart the first lifeforms on Earth. This hydrothermal system at the Chicxulub crater could have been active for two million years or more.
829m of Chicxulub core material was drilled between May and June of last year, with team members been hard at work examining the rocks from the crater which was punched in the crust by a 15 km wide space objects 66 million years ago. The drillers targeted an area called the peak ring, containing rocks that moved the greatest distance in the impact.
The direction of the Earth’s magnetic field flips every few hundred thousand years, and when the event occurred, it had reverse the polarity to today. The whole system may have been too hot for even the most heat tolerant microorganisms to cope with, however as time went on, the peak ring must have cooled to allow any lifeforms to exploit the chemicals that were dissolved in the fluids for fuel.
When they got cool enough, they supported thermophilic and hyperthermophilic organisms which would have lived within the fractures and the veins of this subsurface crater. The asteroid impact killed of 75% of the species on Earth at the time, including all dinosaurs. Debris thrown into the atmosphere probably saw skies darken and the global climate to decrease dramatically. It may have also triggered raging wildfires, burning down trees, increasing the carbon dioxide percentage in the atmosphere.
However, the question that is puzzling scientists is: How did this environmental cataclysms kill off some groups such as dinosaurs, but allowed birds and mammals to survive? The question still remains unclear, however further discoveries can be made with the mission still ongoing and rocks still being examined. Once the study comes to an end, more answers should spring to light.
Scientists from around the world have become embroiled in a war of words over energy created from burning trees. A recent report claimed that burning wood for electricity if worse for the climate than using coal, prompting major questions and enquiries over how we should generate electricity whilst preserving our environment.
Producing electricity from burning biomass such as trees has boomed in recent years, with the amount of energy generated doubling between 2005 and 2015. Many energy firms around the world have seen it as a more reliable green power source compared to using wind or solar power. The EU, the world’s biggest consumer of biomass, with some imported as wood pellets from Southern USA. At the current rate, bio-energy is expected to contribute more than half of the EU’s renewable energy by 2020.
Burning down trees also costs a lot of money, with subsidies worth £800m paid by the UK government for biomass electricity in 2015.
The study also showed that the amount of time it would take to re-absorb the carbon produced from burning of pellets was critically important. With scientific concern over the world, the world only has a few more years to make significant cuts in carbon dioxide levels, opting for a policy that would also take many decades to achieve carbon payback was dubious.
The idea that burning wood released more carbon dioxide than coal has enraged those who work in the biomass industry and people who carry out research. Many of them described it as “it gives an inaccurate interpretation of the impact of harvesting on the forest carbon stock”. The author argued that there is no accounting for the sole carbon lost during the harvesting of these trees and that older trees used for burning can sequester far more carbon than younger ones planted in their stead.
Whatever may happen in the coming decades, the fact that we need trees to survive does not go away from us, therefore a global limit should be put in place stating the number of trees than can be used to generate energy. With growing levels of deforestation globally, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, which if increased could cause serious health problems and create an unpleasant environment for us to live in…
Have you ever sat down and wondered who am I? Why do I have the ability to question myself upon my own existence? What allows me to question myself, and then in turn question the reality of that question? Is this not a paradox?
Consciousness, has been from the start, since the first philosophers, an unanswered question, that has been an almost impossible task to fully understand and grasp the concept of consciousness. Therefore to define consciousness it is challenging and difficult. For the purpose of this article we could define consciousness as the realisation of self being, the fact that we know that we alone exist. If we go by this definition, then we already see the limitations of it. If only you know you are conscious then what about the rest of humanity, and the animal kingdom? Are they consciousness even though you cannot fully tell whether they are.
Throughout history, consciousness has been affiliated with the human soul. Religions such as Islam and christianity see this as the only thing about the human body that shall transcend through time and dimensions, where the human spirit, its ability to tell right from wrong, its ability to conclude the difference between evil and pure resides, thus the philosophical values of religion are all based upon the actions of your consciousness.
We have still not learn what causes consciousness, and why do we have it. But study in neuroscience and neuropsychology, is allowing us to get closer to the answer. The primary focus is on understanding what it means to biologically and physically for information to be present in consciousness. Due to the rise in AI (artificial intelligence) sooner or later, humans will be posed with the question of artificial consciousness, will it be possible to artificially create consciousness, and how will it differ.
Consciousness—Philosophers have used the term 'consciousness' for four main topics: knowledge in general, intentionality, introspection (and the knowledge it specifically generates) and phenomenal experience... Something within one's mind is 'introspectively conscious' just in case one introspects it (or is poised to do so). Introspection is often thought to deliver one's primary knowledge of one's mental life. An experience or other mental entity is 'phenomenally conscious' just in case there is 'something it is like' for one to have it. The clearest examples are: perceptual experience, such as tastings and seeings; bodily-sensational experiences, such as those of pains, tickles and itches; imaginative experiences, such as those of one's own actions or perceptions; and streams of thought, as in the experience of thinking 'in words' or 'in images'. Introspection and phenomenality seem independent, or dissociable, although this is controversial
One of the following factors of consciousness is that are the decisions we make truly our decisions? In a game, the character is told to move forward, in terms of game play we humans told it to go forward, but from the perspective of the player, it moved on its own. Similarly, are we just another simulation of an advanced race, where all our thoughts, processes, emotions, decisions just pre programmed algorithms on a supercomputer of un imaginable computational power?
One day we shall get the answers. Ground breaking research into neuroscience, shall one day reveal answers, as everyday we get closer and closer into finding the truth..
Birth asphyxia (specifically known as perinatal asphyxia) is a medical condition that arises when there is a lack of oxygen to a new-born infant that lasts long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm, usually to the brain. Hypoxic (a region of the body that is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level) damage can occur to most of the infant's organs (heart, lungs, liver, gut, kidneys), but brain damage is of most concern and perhaps the least likely to quickly or completely heal. One million babies die every year suffering from brain asphyxia, however this figure will soon decline dramatically due to the new introduction to the treatments available include cooling, which was thought of after 15 years of medical research.
Neonatal encephalopathy is the state the baby is in when abnormal neurological function in the first few days of life as an infant (commonly caused by birth asphyxia) show up with signs such as reduced level of consciousness, seizures, difficulty initiating and maintaining respiration, depression of tone and reflexes. During the 1950s, a system known as SARNAT staging was used to measure the level of consciousness of the a patient (in this instance, a baby) to determine whether the baby was showing signs of neonatal encephalopathy. Today, we use an EEG (an electroencephalogram) which provides health professionals a very accurate representation (in comparison to the SARNAT) of the activity in the brain so that it is clearer for them to come up with a solution to relieve the symptoms as soon as it arises to decrease the amount of potential damage to the brain.
By cooling the baby by 3℃ for 6 hours for 3 consecutive days, it has proven to:
Gases such as Xenon and Argon have been proven to be neuroprotective agents to protect the brain while acting on the mitochondria of the cells to reduce the metabolic rate and reducing cell death while the baby is healing from the damage caused from a lack of oxygen to the brain. These gases are inhaled by the baby along with other gases while being treated. However, Argon is much better as an agent than Xenon as it is seen as too expensive and too toxic if too much has been inhaled. Along with this, health professionals inject a hormone called erythropoietin (after the use of the noble gases) into the baby’s veins as it increases the rate of production of red blood cells in response to falling levels of oxygen in the tissues.
Air pollution is a major contributor to ill health in the UK. Dirty air does not directly kill people; it cannot. However, it is estimated in the UK to contribute to the shortening of the lives of around 40,000 people a year, undermining the health of people with heart/lung problems.
In cities worldwide, pollution is increasing. Although, in the UK, air pollution levels have been generally decreasing. In many big UK cities safe limits on harmful particulates and oxides of nitrogen - NOx - are still regularly breached.
Experts in air pollution have argued that it has been under reported for decades and the issue has been thrust into the news because the UK government lost court cases over illegally dirty air and car makers were found to be cheating tests on car emissions. Scientists are also more confident now about the ways that air pollution harms people. It has recently been linked with dementia although that link remains debatable.
Diesel car manufacturers drew fire by cheating emissions tests. Diesel is much more polluting than petrol on a local scale, and the biggest proportion of pollution in the UK cities comes from road transport. However, in Greater London, private diesel cars contribute 11% of NOx - less than what people might have thought. Lorries - with far fewer on the roads produce the same amount. In Central London, just 5% of NOx comes from private diesel cars, compared to the 38% from gas for heating homes and offices.
Solving air pollution needs a many sided approach. The best value for money comes from targeting the really big individual polluters such as old buses and lorries. Insulating homes so they don’t burn as much gas would also save pollution. Furthermore, stopping the spread of wood burning stoves in cities might help and cutting pollution from ships would be a good port in cities. Reducing use of chemicals in the home would help a little bit. Ministers are also under pressure to offer a £3500 incentive for drivers to scrap old diesel cars, and politicians are nervous upsetting drivers.
On March 2nd 2016, the biomedical world took a giant leap forward in the progress of embryonic stem cells, with a group of scientists successfully producing an artificial embryo of a mouse, purely from embryonic stem cells. This is the first time in history that a full scale embryo has been made from stem cells, opening doors for scientists to go and discover more potential benefits of the cells.
The process involved the transformation of a fertilised egg into a tiny living embryo, ranking among nature’s most impressive feats. The cells, grown outside the body in a blob of gel, were shown to morph into embryos that replicated the internal structure that emerge during normal development inside a womb. The scientists let the artificial embryo culture in the lab for seven days and by this point the cells had organised two anatomical sections that would normally go on to form the placenta and the mouse.
‘Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz’, the development biologist who led the work at the University of Cambridge, described the process as a “miracle of nature”. The team to do aim to stop from here after however, with the goal not growing artificial babies; instead learning more about embryo development prior to implantation.
The cells were placed in a semi-solid gel which allowed the structure to grow in three dimensions. After five days, the cells had multiplied and self organised themselves into distinct cell populations. The embryonic cells had also begin to organise themselves into two populations: one division, the mesoderm, would give rise to the heart, muscles and bones. The other cluster contained the cells that would go on to become skin, eyes and the brain.
The team used cells from embryos rather than starting from a fertilised egg, which could potentially overcome the shortage of human embryos available for research. Currently, these eggs are donated through IVF (in vitro fertilisation) clinics, while the supply for embryonic stem cells is limitless.
While the artificial embryo closely resembled the real thing, the research team said it is unlikely to develop further into a healthy foetus, as it would require the addition of the yolk sac, which provides the embryo nourishment and within which a network of blood vessels would develop. However, the promising the development gives hopes to scientists all over the world.
Biology; currently the fastest advancing science in the 21st century. Stem cell research, robotics, DNA editing are amongst the leading areas of biological developments. The third world countries are in need of revolutionary technology to aid them in battling the diseases and infections that plague their survival. The largest problem that the world faces is the lack of affordable medical care with the NHS being a prime example of why a free medical health care system is the way forward. These biological advances in using technology to cure diseases or to replace limbs allow a rather viable solution for the modern day global society. More funding needs to be given to allow research in biology and potentially allow a cure to diseases that have remained incurable for the past century. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that has riddled scientists for many years and their victims are known to suffer from severe memory loss. The new technology of stem cell research has offered a surge of excitement for the scientific community as it could potentially help solve a disease that has been very dominant amongst elderly people. Gene editing is also an area that could lead to the removal of genetically inherited diseases however, it is currently banned in many countries until recently the UK allowed funded research into germline therapy.
Chemistry; is a science that falls in somewhere between Biology and Physics, it is a science that complements each of the other two and in such cases is an extremely useful science for both physicists and biologists. The findings of in chemistry have been the roots of our existence, materials are solely derived from chemical elements many take for granted. Chemistry has discovered ions that we can not live without, ions that fuel plants. Chemistry applies the findings in physics and creates the theory. Such as the discovery of lattices by physicists, allowed chemist to go ahead and create materials that use these properties to their advantage. Chemistry is also the reason why we are able to use transport, through fraction distillation, we are able to create fuel and medicine. Each aspect of chemistry further advances the work of biologists and physicists.
Physics; mother of all sciences, application of mathematics, and the foundation of medicine and chemistry. Physics, from the perspective of society, a subject that has unknown uses. This is utterly incorrect. In fact it is quite the opposite. It is like the composer of an orchestrating band, no one hears him, but his affect on the band is made precisely clear. The sounds, the beats, the flow of harmony, all orchestrated by a single entity. Such is physics in comparison to chemistry and biology. Physics has application all over the world, and without it, advances within the medical field would not be possible. The invention of the microscope, developed through the middle ages by physicist, wanting to learn more about the properties of light, finds it self an irreplaceable invention within medicine. The computational power needed to diagnose and improve healthcare, was due to the research of physics.
Physics has applications so deep rooted that without it, the whole structure would collapse. The valuable knowledge gained from experiments and theories alike, allow researchers to apply these new techniques and methods to better the advancements within the medical and chemical field. Research into astronomy, although irrelevant at the moment, due to difficulties with applying this knowledge, would someday path the way for the advancement of homosapiens, into a space faring civilisation, something humanity must do in order to escape a planet that is on the brink of being destroyed by its very own inhabitants.
The graph illustrates how the advancement in physics compares to that of the other sciences. The amount of papers published by physicists year is almost treble that of medical practitioners, thus showing the unprecedented advancement in physics.
To conclude, what the article clearly shows is that there is no such thing as an important science, but a science for that era. Each era has a science that defines it, where leaps and bounds are done in that field in order to further improve life as a whole. Yet we live in an era where not just one, but all the sciences are making progress at speeds before unheard of. such is the coalescing of all science, into improving each and every aspect of the other. Each science leaves it mark, whether biology, by tackling issues if today, or chemistry, the formation of new elements to not just have current use but more use in the future through different ways, or physics, paving a way for the future humanity. All we need to do know is support these advancements.
This is the 100th article on Queen's Economist!