Monday, September 18, 2017

megadams march on

Open Archive Day

A year ago, I reported how the inflationary spread of megadam projects in tropical countries may do the environment more harm than good. The thing is that submerged vegetation in large reservoirs in the tropics can release enough greenhouse gases to wipe out the climate benefits from the hydroelectric plant in comparison to a modern gas-fired power station.

However, the megadam mania has marched on regardless. Earlier this year, for instance, the Guardian asked:

Why is Latin America so obsessed with mega dams?

and concluded that other renewable energies may be preferable in many cases. Some projects have in fact been stopped by protests and environmental concerns, but in many places, the mania continues.

My feature is now on open access:

A global megadam mania

Thursday, September 14, 2017

galician news

It looks like I have inherited the admin side of Oxford's Galician session, after the founder and all-round musical genius Mano has left town. At the same time I realised that I had a WordPress account that I haven't used in 10 years, so I will now advertise the sessions and generally rave about Galician music there as well as in the Facebook Group which I've just set up.

So, you choose:

Galician Session Oxford (WordPress blog)

Galician Session Oxford (Facebook group)

Oh, and I'm also running an email list, but that will only involve one mail per month, just the reminder I'll send one week ahead of the session. Drop me a note if you want to get on that list.

The sessions will continue to happen at the James Street Tavern, last Wednesday of every month, 8:30pm.

I will never get bored of the illustrations from the Cantigas de Santa Maria.

Monday, September 11, 2017

becoming a plant

Today's issue of Current Biology has a special section called

The making of a plant

with lots of fascinating stuff on everything plant related from cell biology to agriculture.

My contribution is a feature rounding up various ways in which mimicking plants can be useful for us, from architecture through to ecology and behaviour of pollinators:

Reinventing the plant

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 17, 11 September 2017, Pages R855–R858

access to full text and PDF download
(open now, may be paywalled when next issue appears, but will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access

(first seven weeks only)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

a flood of floods

Open Archive Day

With the recent "unprecedented" floods in Texas and India, we have gained further examples demonstrating what catastrophic climate change will look like on a regular basis. For most people a warmer climate will not mean relaxing by the pool, but fleeing floods and other disasters.

The connection is quite simple really. Warmer sea surface water allows storms to pick up more water vapour and more energy, both of which make them more devastating. I've discussed all this in a feature published early last year, which is now on open access:

World under water

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nicaragua's struggles

Open Archive Day

The project to build a ginormous canal across Nicaragua has divided opinion. It is likely to spell ecological disaster in a number of ways, but then again, it is hard to deny one of the poorest countries in the Americas the opportunity to capitalise on its geographic location.

I reported on the project in November 2014 in a feature which is now in the open archives:

Will the Nicaragua Canal connect or divide?

Now it looks like it is definitely going to be built, even though not all Nicaraguans are happy with it. Recent press reports suggest that conflicts with protestors may be escalating, answering my title question by reminding us that the canal not only connects two oceans but also divides the country, although these letters suggest the majority is still behind the project.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

life and her children

Life and her children:

Glimpses of animal life - From the amoeba to the insects.

By Arabella B. Buckley.

With upwards of 100 illustrations

This is a popular science book from 1885. As the author states in the preface: "Its main object is to acquaint young people with the structures and habits of the lower forms of life; and to do this in a more systematic way than is usual in ordinary works on Natural History, and more simply than in text-books on Zoology."

I bought this one from an Oxfam shop - more expensive than what I usually buy, but still under £10. I could almost claim I need it for my work. The writing and the animals are embossed and gilded, which doesn't show very well in my photos but looks lovely in real life. Also, the lower parts of the letters have a horizontal stripe pattern, presumably suggesting they emerge from the water, as life did.

It turns out Arabella Buckley (1840-1929) was Charles Lyell’s secretary and started writing and lecturing about science after Lyell’s death (1875), see her short Wikipedia entry. And it seems to have worked out well for her, considering this impressive list of titles published:

A short history of natural science and of the progress of discovery from the time of the Greeks to the present day. For the use of schools and young persons (1876)
Botanical Tables for the use of Junior Students (1877)
The Fairy-Land of Science (1879)
Life and Her Children (1880) with illustrations by John James Wild
Winners in Life's Race or the Great Backboned Family (1883)
History of England for Beginners (1887)
Through magic glasses and other lectures : a sequel to The fairyland of science (1890)
High School History of England (1891) co-authored by W.J. Robertson.
Moral Teachings of Science (1892)
Insect Life (1901)
Birds of the Air (1901)
By Pond and River (1901)
Wild Life in Woods and Field (1901)
Trees and Shrubs (1901)
Plant Life in Field and Garden (1901)
Eyes and No Eyes (1903)

additional photos are in my tumblr post about the book.

Monday, August 21, 2017

plastic planet

I have covered the catastrophic accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans a couple of times before, but a recent analysis of all the plastic ever produced suggested that this is only the beginning of the problem. Production keeps growing exponentially and faster than the global economy, and the waste produced will follow that curve with only a short delay.

So, time for another feature on the horrible things we're inflicting on our home planet:

Our planet wrapped in plastic

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 16, 21 August 2017, Pages R785–R788

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Beaches even on remote and uninhabited islands can accumulate large quantities of plastic waste delivered by the ocean gyres. This picture was taken on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Susan White/USFWS.)

PS other recent news on plastic waste:

Fish mistaking plastic particles for food (16.8.2017)

Monday, August 14, 2017

vanishing wilderness

Open Archive Day

A year ago I wrote about the threats to one of the last true wilderness areas in Europe, the Białowieża forest, on the border of Poland and Belarus. It appears that the risks we worried about then are now becoming a harsh reality, as the Guardian has reported earlier this year:

'My worst nightmares are coming true': last major primeval forest in Europe on 'brink of collapse'

(The Guardian, 23.5.2017)

My feature is now on open access:

Europe’s last wilderness threatened

Friday, August 11, 2017

very hungry caterpillars

the roundup of German pieces published in July and August includes my take on the plastic-degrading caterpillars, along with the surprising regulatory role of ribosomal proteins, the quest for better fertilisers, and musings on a ban of concentrated hydrogen peroxide.

Raupen zerlegen PE
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 51, Issue 4, August 2017, Page 223
Access via Wiley Online Library

Netzwerk Leben: Die Proteinfabrik reguliert sich selbst
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 51, Issue 4, August 2017, Pages 282-283
Access via Wiley Online Library

Besser düngen
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 65, Issue 7-8, Juli - August 2017, Pages 764-765
Access via Wiley Online Library

Jäger und Sammler
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 65, Issue 7-8, Juli - August 2017, Page 859
Access via Wiley Online Library

Monday, August 07, 2017

seafood genes

long chain omega 3 fatty acids, as found in fatty fish, are important for our health - this much is clear. But from this, one cannot conclude that everybody should eat more fish.

In fact they are so important that human evolution has adapted our metabolism to the availability or lack of the fish oil compounds. Thus people from a fish-eating genetic heritage may need the fish oils, while others from a long vegetarian tradition have evolved their own ways of producing the compounds in their body.

Thus, the answer is complicated, as I have explained in my latest feature which is out now in Current Biology:

How our diet changed our evolution

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 15, 7 August 2017, Pages R731–R733

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access

(first seven weeks only)

In Inuit and other populations traditionally relying on seafood, researchers have found gene variants that weaken the endogenous synthesis of the fatty acids that these people take up with their regular doses of fish. (Photo: Louise Murray/Science Photo Library.)

Friday, August 04, 2017

old tunes

reviving the series of antiquarian books from my shelves, here are some musical titles I bought from the book stall at the Oxford Music Festival this year:

Giesbert, F.J. (Hrsg.):
Deutsche Volkstänze. Eine Sammlung der schönsten Volkstänze und Reigenlieder für 1 oder 2 Blockflöten oder andere beliebige Melodieinstrumente nach Belieben mit einer Laute. Hefte 1 und 2.

My edition is undated but the internet ventures all sorts of guesses ranging from 1910s to 1940s. The serial numbers 2361 and 2362 are not that far away from the Rohr-Lehn recorder book for schools (2661) which is ancient, but was still in use in the 1970s. In fact, you can still get these from Schott Music today, apparently, but they don't reveal the publication date either. The editor, Franz Julius Giesbert, lived 1896-1972, so that narrows it down a bit ...

Der Flötenmusikant - Volkslieder und Tänze für 1 oder 2 Blockflöten gleicher Stimmung edition Schott, Band I-III.

These are also from Schott, and a different version under the same title is still available today, presumably the three booklets merged into one. My three little books have numbers on the back cover and month of printing, reading:

158 XII.61 on the first two volumes, and then 158 VII.63 on the third.

Funnily enough, Giesbert No 1 also has 158 in the same place (but no date) and No. 2 has the number 33 - I think these numbers specify the lists of other works available, but the dates are still likely to be close to the date of printing, right?

Monday, July 31, 2017

nature on fire

Open Archive Day

It's wildfire season in the Northern hemisphere, so a good time to re-consider my feature from two years ago on how nature can live with fire, but humans have managed to turn it into a problem - partly by stopping it from happening.

My feature is on open access here:

Learning to live with landscape fires

A forest fire near Sydney, Australia, dwarfs a fire truck sent to contain it. (Photo: Stefan Doerr, Swansea University.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

what is life

the latest issue of C&I contains my review of a book called "What is life?" - sadly not Schrödinger's take on the matter though.

Free access.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

fragmented forests

Brazil hosts a pioneering experiment designed to study the ecological damage done by forest fragmentation. After making some real progress in slowing down deforestation, however, the country is now once again speeding up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The lessons learned in decades of research in the Amazon clearly haven't made much of an impact on the people now in power.

Read all about it in my latest feature, which is now out:

Brazil's fragmented forests

Current Biology volume 27, Issue 14, 24 July 2017, Pages R681–R684

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Oh, and I think this must be the 150th contribution in the series of features started in February 2011.

Research at the BDFFP has shown that forest fragmentation and edge effects significantly alter the abundance of bats. (Photo: Oriol Massana and Adrià López-Baucells.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

climate canaries

So I came across a story about albatrosses and how they are affected by ocean warming, and I wanted to do effects of warming more widely (other than corals), but all roads led to birds. Ocean warmings leads to more frequent extreme climate events, and it turns out that birds with their complex life cycles including migration, nest-building and parental care routines, are often quite vulnerable to these events. So they are our modern day coalmine canaries in a way.

All will be explained in my latest feature out now:

Volatile climate stirs bird life cycle

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 13, pR623–R625, 10 July 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Sea birds like albatrosses are sensitive to changes in ocean temperatures. In one recent study, a well-studied population was shown to suffer from the increasing temperature variations but to benefit from recent warming bringing it closer to its temperature optimum. (Photo: Lieutenant Elizabeth Crapo/NOAA Corps. (CC BY 2.0).)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

dvořák sonatina

I've just finished off the Dvořák sonatina op 100, having played all four movements over the last few months. I love it mainly for its echoes of the other "American" works, including the cello concerto and the New World symphony, which Dvořák wrote around the same time.

I started this adventure by buying a flute arrangement by James Galway, but soon realised he needlessly transposed the entire work as high up as physically possible, which in my ears doesn't sound very nice even if it is played competently, never mind when I try it. So I went back to the violin version (which is free online) and started from that, made it a bit more flutey with my teacher's help, looking at Galway's version for inspiration only where changes were necessary.

You can find a version that follows similar lines and uses the richer colours of the lower register here, played by Julien Beaudiment.

Next up: Albert Einstein's favourite Mozart sonata.

Monday, July 03, 2017

ecosystem service update

Open Archive Day

The ecosystem services concept aims to quantify the commercial value of all the natural resources we generally use without thinking, from the air that we breathe to the rain that waters our plants. The idea is that businesses have so far failed to protect these natural resources because they don't show up on balance sheets, and they appeared to be in unlimited supply, although we now know that they aren't and that in some respects we have already exceeded the capacity of our planet.

I learned about these things in 2011 and wrote a feature about them which is now openly accessible:

Valuing nature

The ideas have become more widely known since then but haven't quite managed to save the world as yet. It has also been criticised by some environmentalists, eg George Monbiot, on the grounds of turning nature into just another commodity.

Monday, June 26, 2017

coral conundrum

Open Archive Day

After several features on threats to coral reefs, including ocean acidification, warming, El Niño, and overfishing, I wrote one last June on what if anything can be done to save them.

Still, the threats keep coming and the solutions don't seem to be moving quite as fast as the problems.

This feature (like the earlier features it references) is now on open access:

Can science rescue coral reefs?

Aerial view of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island, which is surrounded by coral reefs that provide study material for research into the stress resilience of corals. (Photo: Doug Peebles.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

primate problems

There are around 500 primate species on our planet. Two thirds of them are threatened with extinction, because one, Homo sapiens, isn't quite as wise as the binomial name suggests. In my latest feature I have discussed some of the threatened species and the problems they are facing:

Primates in peril

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 12, pR573–R576, 19 June 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access

(first seven weeks only)

Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) at Berenty Private Reserve in Madagascar. Source: Wikimedia

Friday, June 16, 2017

strings attached

In the round-up of German pieces published in May and June we have 3D-printed aliens, tattooed cucumbers, as well as entanglements of DNA and shoelaces (which, of course stand in for DNA as well):

Netzwerk Leben: Verwicklungen der Schnürsenkel
Chemie in unserer Zeit 51, 154-155
restricted access

Ausgeforscht: Tätowierung für Gurken
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65, no. 5, p619
restricted access

Ausgeforscht: E.T. aus dem 3-D-Drucker
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65, no. 6, p751
restricted access

Medizin: Gefaltete DNA für Diagnose und Therapie
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65, no. 6, pp636-639
restricted access

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

20000 leagues under the sea

Open Archive Day

A year ago, I enjoyed reading up about the late 19th / early 20th century pioneers of bathymetry, or the measurement of ocean depth (or sea floor topography, depending on whether you prefer your glass half full or half empty). Much of it sounded like a Jules Verne novel, with the sense of awe for the as yet unexplored which we appear to have forgotten, even though the sea floor remains poorly described to this day. So the vague memory I retain of the feature I wrote is that it was all about Captain Nemo, although in truth it probably wasn't.

The feature is now on open access so you can check for yourself:

How deep are the oceans?

Friday, June 09, 2017

cellular computation

as I have been saying since I wrote a book chapter on Molecular Computation (1998), the fundamental processes in a living cell are essentially computation. This could potentially be used in two ways - building computers based on molecules and cells, or manipulating important biological processes (eg in medical or agricultural context) using computational tools.

Back in the 1990s, the molecular computer was a promising avenue, but it never quite took off. Now the other way round, programming biology, seems the more exciting prospect. This has given a major boost by the recent invention of a compiler that can translate computer code into DNA regulatory networks, which in most cases even work in the cell.

As we are increasingly becoming aware that complex regulatory networks (rather than single genes and enzymes) are the things that we need to understand and control if we want to change biological processes, this development could very well revolutionise several areas where we interfere with living beings, from agriculture to medicine.

Read all about it in my latest feature in Chemistry & Industry:

Cellular computer
Chemistry & Industry Volume 81, Issue 4, pages 26–29
DOI: 10.1002/cind.814_7.x
Full text (Wiley Online Library)

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

virtual gets real

I'm not a gamer so I've happily ignored a large part of the technology developments in recent years. However, they are now reaching the point where there is significant collateral benefit for science. Virtual reality tech combined with miniaturised cameras and autonomous vehicles for oceans, air and space now allows us to explore spaces where we cannot go ourselves. Similarly, in neuroscience, VR combines with imaging technology to record brain responses to experiences that would in real life be incompatible with the study.

Luckily, the Radcliffe Science Library did a demonstration workshop just at the right time so I could try out a bit of VR myself and get an impression. And then I rounded up a few of the examples of how VR is actually becoming useful for science.

The feature is out now:

Exploring virtual worlds

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 11, pR399–R402, 5 June 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

Greenpeace UK has recently launched a VR app enabling smartphone users to experience the Arctic from the safety of their homes. (Photo: Nick Cobbing/Greenpeace.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

homo migrans

Open Archive Day

Science magazine published a special issue on human migrations earlier this month, underlining the points that all humans have a migration background and movement is vital for science and progress (while also sticking out their tongue to the Drumpf administration).

Which reminds me that I had a feature on migrations published two years ago, which is now in the open archives:

Genetic traces of mankind’s migrations

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

armchair and time travels

A few months ago, I found the booklet about Colombia in a charity shop - but they didn’t have any other countries I was interested in.

Colombia - a booklet from the “Around the World Program” from the American Geographical Society. Copyright 1959, 1964.

printed in greyscale with green as additional colour throughout. At least 29 colour photos are glued in manually (numbered but not in order, so I may have overlooked one).

Now, at a fleas market, I’ve found a few more to start a collection. At the moment, I’m not quite sure if I’m collecting countries I’ve visited (neither Paraguay nor Uruguay) or Latin American ones, in which case Algeria would be the odd one out. Climate zones also vary - looks like I'll just have to schedule a trip to the 'guays.

I’ve actually read the Colombian one (a few more pics of it inside and out are here). I found it touching how the 1950s perspective is blissfully unaware of essentially all problems the country would face in the following decades. Will also read the other ones at some point.

I was wondering if this was based on some kind of subscription / collection model. Somebody on tumblr suggested they came as sets in slip cases, possibly a set for each of the continents that have several countries (wouldn't quite work for Australia, Antarctica).

Monday, May 22, 2017

recycling retroviruses

Last October I went to an epigenetics conference at the IMB Mainz, and one of the things I discovered there was the importance of KRAB zinc finger proteins. This sounds terribly technical and I probably ignored the relevant papers when I saw them in Nature or Science, but as two speakers explained at the conference, it offers a fascination way of understanding how evolution repurposes things. These proteins evolved as defence against retroviruses before our fish ancestors left the oceans, and over time they and the sequences descended from the former viruses became an integral part of our gene regulation.

Fascinating if slightly complex stuff, read all about it in my latest feature:

How our genome’s foes became its helpers

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 10, 22 May 2017, Pages R365–R368

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

The large family of KRAB zinc finger transcription factors goes back to a defence mechanism that originated in a common ancestor of humans and coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae). (Photo: Mordecai 1998, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

musical connections

At first glance, my great-grandfather Heinrich Groß (1882-1958), who played oboe and tuba in the military until 1918 and then the cello in an amateur string quartet until the mid 1930s, looks like a one-off on that side of the family tree. His only child, my grandfather, didn’t play anything (although he left a modest record collection including several recordings of Dvorak’s cello concerto). My father only found out about his grandfather’s musical past when another cellist turned up at Heinrich’s funeral to play the Ave Maria.

But stepping sidewise and looking at the (half-) siblings of both the cellist and his wife as well as their offspring, we find an astonishing number of people who played or worked with music in some form or shape. The cellist himself had one sister, with three great-grandchildren (ie my generation but younger), one of whom studied singing and early music and now works as a soprano and music educator.

Heinrich also had a half-brother from his mother’s previous marriage. His niece (the half-brother’s only child, I think) married into a dance school, a tradition which is now running in the fourth generation.

The cellist’s wife, Maria Pfersching (1881-1961; see also this entry on the origins of her paternal ancestors), was also from a relatively small patchwork family, with three half-siblings from her father’s subsequent marriage after the early death (in 1886) of her mother. Her two half-brothers, Heinrich and Fritz Pfersching, were amateur musicians who used to play for local dance events, although we’re not sure what instruments they played.

Among the descendants of her half-sister, Anna Pfersching, we have three professional musicians, with instruments including viola da gamba, bass trombone and cello. I understand they credit their talents to the Pfersching lineage, as the family of Anna’s husband reportedly had no musical inclinations.

Although, considering how Heinrich wrapped up his cello and never played again nor mentioned it to his grandchildren, I would argue that you can never know if you had some cryptic musicians in your family tree. I find this more shocking the more I find out and think about it. Surely, with the number of musical people on both sides and some variety of serious music-making happening in all five branches of the extended family, it is fair to assume that some kind of musical interest must have played a role when Heinrich and Maria got together. (They had a double wedding together with Heinrich's sister, and there are plenty of songs in the "wedding journal" of which I have a copy.) A musical family just falling into silence is a scary thought.

All’s well that ends well, though: Heinrich’s cello (now also known by the name of Heinrich) has seen a lot of excitement since the young musician in my family grew into it in 2009, including everything from quartets to barn dances. I will write up its adventures some other time.

Heinrich's string quartet, photo by his son who was a keen photographer. We still don't know who the other members were.

Monday, May 15, 2017

merian memories

Open Archive Day

Maria Sibylla Merian died 300 years ago, in January 1717. Ahead of the anniversary, I wrote a feature on the role of illustration in the life sciences using her hugely influential work as a prime example.

This feature is now on open access:

Putting biology in the picture

Image source: Wikipedia

Saturday, May 13, 2017

old books

My tumblr blog has a focus on everything bookish, and in this spirit I have also photographed and shared some of the antiquarian books on my shelves. As these photos are diluted with lots of other bookish stuff on tumblr, I decided to share photos of my collection here as well, under the antiquarian tag.

It isn't a very systematic collection, but I inherited some antiquarian books from my great-aunt many years ago, rescued some from a skip, and bought a few at charity shops and fleas markets, so over time, they have accumulated. Moreover, as the years clock, up, some of the books that I once bought new are also beginning to look a bit antiquarian.

To start the new series, here is a lovely appreciation of Oxford by D. Erskine Muir with watercolours by Jack Merriott, which I recently discovered at the antiques fair on Gloucester Green. A bit of googling revealed that the D. in the author’s name stands for Dorothy, and the book appears to date from the 1950s. I actually read it in its entirety, it was hilarious in a “plus ça change” kind of way.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

galician magic

I have been playing Galician folk music for nearly two years now, and (as Pablo Casals famously said about his cello practice in his 90s) I'm beginning to notice some improvement. In the last few weeks I have been spoilt with opportunities to improve further. There was a Galician session at the Folk Weekend, then the the regular monthly one, and a week later, advertised only by word of mouth, a special one, with a special guest. Only two days before the event I found out that the special guest was the most special one you could imagine.

If you read up about Galician folk anywhere, eg in this recent feature in the Economist, the one musician whose name will definitely appear is Carlos Núñez. So, well, he was around visiting friends in the UK, and he came to our special session to listen to us playing and then to join in, playing his whistles (not the bagpipes he's famous for), dancing, chatting and generally being amazing. People in attendance were a mixture of the regulars from the established sessions in Oxford and Cardiff, as well as a delegation from the newly launched Galician session in London, which also set the event apart from our regular sessions.

So, I think everybody (including the paella cook and a stray Morris dancer) felt it was a magical night, and rather than raving on, I'll link to my videos here:

0) Pablo Gonzalez sings Camariñas (before Carlos got involved - any wrong notes on the flute are mine)

1) some dancing

2) A rianxeira

3) Mazurca dos Areeiras (David, who played the whistles at the far side of the room in this video, also recorded a clip of this in which I appear, see embedded video below)

4) an Argentinian chamame, I am told

(These videos are "unlisted" meaning they can only be accessed via these specific links and will not show up in searches.)

Carlos Núñez talking to our group of pandeireteiras (tambourine players). The guy in white at the back is a stray Morris dancer - his side had a dance-out just before our event and he stayed on, playing the spoons.

Mazurca dos Areeiras, the view from the other side of the room:

PS more magic to follow soon. O Arame, the second ever opera to be written and performed in the Galician language will be premiered in Oxford in June, conducted by Tamara Lorenzo Gabeiras. You can see her dancing in my video no. 1). I spent the entire session standing close to her without realising who she was, even though I had seen her in a recital a year before.

Monday, May 08, 2017

microfluidics for all

There's no feature from me in today's issue of Current Biology - slight hiccup but normal service resumes in two weeks time.

Instead, here is one in the latest issue of Chemistry & Industry, on some amazing things that are being done with microfluidics these days, from counting molecules to building soft robots:

Microfluidics for all

Chemistry & Industry 2017, vol 81, no 3, pp 22-25
SCI members and subscribers access via SCI
Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

(NB issue 3 is dated 18.4., as there are only 10 issues spread through the year)

sneak preview of the first page (from Wiley Online Library)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

59th Galician session

Over a year ago, I raved about Galician folk and created a new tag for it, but then I didn't do much with the tag. So here, at last, are some videos from the April session, which was the 59th - from which I conclude the sessions may have started in spring 2012, but I only discovered them in 2015.

A glimpse of Muiñeira dancing

Muiñeira de Chantada

Pingacho performed by the Oxford Pandeireteiras

(These videos are "unlisted" meaning they can only be accessed via these specific links and will not show up in searches.)

Monday, May 01, 2017

curb car culture

Open Archive Day

A year ago I published a feature on the trend towards a world with 2 billion motor vehicles, predicted to be reached by 2030 - doubling the number of 2010.

Since then, we have learned more about how much damage Diesel fumes do, and how car manufacturers cheat to get away with toxic emissions, never mind their share of climate change. So, sadly the topic is still very much on the agenda. As far as I can see, there are only two movements opposing the ongoing fossil fuel madness, namely the indigenous land right activists in the Americas who are fighting pipeline project, fracking, and similar. And the World Naked Bike Ride (which in addition to environmental issues around cars also highlights a body positivity message). Which is as good an excuse as any to advertise this year's WNBR dates below and include one of my photos from last year's ride at Bristol.

First though, freshly released from the paywall, here comes my feature:

A planet with two billion cars

WNBR 2017

As far as I know, 16 UK WNBR dates are now confirmed for this summer, in chronological order:

27.5. Canterbury (Sat)
2.6. Southampton (Fri 6pm)
4.6. Bristol (Sun)
9.6. Manchester (Fri 6pm)
10.6. London
11.6. Brighton
17.6. Cardiff
17.6. Cambridge
24.6. Exeter
24.6. Chelmsford (Essex)
25.6. York
1.7. Folkestone
1.7. Newcastle-Gateshead
2.7. Worthing (near Brighton)
8.7. Colchester (Essex)
9.7. Portsmouth
15.7. Clacton (Essex)

still to be confirmed:
Edinburgh, Hastings, Scarborough

(WNBR Wiki also including dates from other countries, but not always reliably up-to-date)

Monday, April 24, 2017

arthropods at work

Both insects and spiders tend to have a bad press, so I collected up some examples of how insects make positive contributions to our world, apart from the pollinators which I have covered on numerous other occasions. And to round it up I've thrown in the recent study estimating how many insects end up being eaten by spiders. The feature is out today:

How insects shape our world

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 8, pR283–R285, 24 April 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Fairy circles in Namibia have caused lively debates. Recent modelling suggests that both feedback regulation of plant growth and competition between insect states play a role in creating these patterns. I just love this photo from Jen Guyton, check her website for lots more amazing wildlife photography.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

crispr sensing

The revolutionary gene-editing technique known as Crispr-Cas has been embroiled in a patent dispute between two leading US research institutions. In one corner, the University of California at Berkeley, where Jennifer Doudna discovered it in collaboration with Emanuelle Charpentier, and in the other, MIT’s Broad Institute, where Feng Zhang’s group first demonstrated its use in living cells.

Now the two institutions are competing against each other again, as both recently demonstrated the usefulness of a different Crispr system for the detection of pathogens. Doudna’s and Zhang’s groups had shown in 2016 that a Crispr-type enzyme called C2c2, now renamed Cas13, targets single stranded RNA, unlike the ones used in gene editing, such as Cas9, which edit double-stranded DNA. Moreover, it doesn’t stop cutting once it has destroyed its target. It goes on to cleave thousands of other RNA molecules that happen to be nearby. This collateral damage provides a useful amplification step enabling the sensitive detection of the original target RNA, whose recognition can be programmed just as in the gene-editing method.

Aiming to turn this into a clinically usable sensor, Zhang teamed up with Jim Collins, also at MIT, who was involved in the race to develop practical methods for rapid detection of the Zika virus.

Read all about it in my latest news story in Chemistry World which is out now (free access if you haven't read any other CW stories this week, they have a free quota):

Crispr enables rapid disease detection

Monday, April 17, 2017

disorder turns 20

Open archives

Today I’ll exceptionally present a feature from the archives that was published in Chemistry World, not in Current Biology.

The occasion is that today is the 20th anniversary of one of my favourite and most impactful papers from my research career, even though it did not result from actual research I did.

What happened back in 1997 was that my friend and colleague Kevin Plaxco happened to know about a paper from molecular biologists coming out on a weird mechanism controlling the growth of the tail (flagella) that certain bacteria use to swim. The tail is a hollow tube, and while it is being built, a certain signalling protein escapes through the tunnel and is lost to the cell. When the tube is finished and closed, the protein accumulates in the cell and thereby signals that no more bricks are needed to extend the tunnel.

What Kevin noticed was an aspect that left the molecular biologist authors of the original paper gloriously uninterested – namely the fact that to carry out its biological signalling function this protein needed to be an unfolded, 1D thread, as opposed to a complex 3D structure as all functioning proteins were supposed to be according to the prevailing dogma that sequence determines structure determines function.

So Kevin told me about this and suggested to write a News & Views piece for Nature, which we did, and which came out 20 years ago today. At the time there were only two or three other examples of “intrinsically disordered” proteins that are functional while unstructured. Mostly the evidence relied on NMR spectroscopy, which invites the objection that maybe the researchers didn’t get the conditions quite right and maybe the protein would be more orderly if they did x instead of y.

The beauty of the system we discussed was that the biological function of the protein made it absolutely necessary to unfold, as it wouldn’t fit through the tube in its folded state.

Anyhow, this turned out to be the beginning of a whole new research field which grew quite impressively over the next years, so in 2010 I had the pleasure of attending a research conference at Barcelona that was all about intrinsically disordered proteins.

And summarising what I learned at this conference, I wrote a feature about the topic which appeared in 2011, and which is freely accessible:

Anarchy in the proteome
Chemistry World, August 2011, pp 42-45
FREE access to PDF file

screenshot of our 1997 News & Views (PDF - if you hit the paywall, try this)

Friday, April 14, 2017

dulci tunes

our home-built hammered dulcimer is a year old now, and while I'm still struggling with the hand alternations, the young musician has performed some lovely music on it, so here are a couple of videos to prove it:

Blossom by Bob Pasquarello & New Year's Waltz by John Dipper

Duo: The sliding dulcimer (by Ed Pritchard, who also plays the other dulcimer and recorded the video)

... and a photo of dulci in action at the French session, James Street Tavern:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

smelly socks

here comes the round-up of German pieces published in March and April, including serious science on zinc fingers and f-group chemistry, and slightly less serious stuff on champagne and smelly socks.

f-Gruppen-Chemie: Opposition erwünscht
Chemie in unserer Zeit 51, 138-139
restricted access

Netzwerk Leben: Zinkfinger gegen Fremd-DNA
Chemie in unserer Zeit 51, 82
restricted access

Ausgeforscht: Große Blasen, kleine Blasen

Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65, p411
restricted access

Ausgeforscht: Socken mit Katalysator
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65, 511
restricted access

Monday, April 10, 2017

secret life of trees

Open Archive Day

A year ago, I wrote a feature on communication and (almost) cognitive abilities of plants, citing the extremely successful popular science book by German forest ranger Peter Wohlleben Das geheime Leben der Bäume (The Secret Life of Trees) as evidence for the observation that this topic appears to resonate with the zeitgeist.

Since then, his book has been published in English (The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate-Discoveries from a Secret World; Greystone Books,Canada; Sept. 2016) and French (La Vie secrète des arbres; Les Arènes; March 2017) translations, I've seen the main evening news on France 2 running a major report based on the book and conjuring up holographic trees in the studio, and the original is still in the bestsellers list in Germany, so I'm guessing it still resonates.

As the feature is now in the open archives, here's a chance to read it for free:

Could plants have cognitive abilities?

The French edition of Wohlleben's book, published March 2017.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

highly charged

I have half a cover story in the new issue of Chemistry & Industry - as the cover is about future means to power transport, including biofuel and batteries. My feature is the one about batteries:

Highly charged
Chemistry & Industry vol 81, issue 2, pp 22-25

Open access to full text (HTML) via SCI website

Restricted access to PDF files via Wiley Online Library

Chemistry & Industry issue 2 / 2017

Monday, April 03, 2017

eastern evolution

Homo sapiens came out of Africa and conquered the world, more or less in one sweep, or so we used to think. Exciting new finds from China, however, suggest that a significant movement to the East - convenient inasmuch as it allowed people to stay broadly in the same climate and vegetation zone - happened much earlier than previously thought, and much earlier than the expansion into Europe.

I've discussed the latest discoveries from China, also including two archaic human skulls that have been speculatively linked to the Denisovans so far only known by their DNA, in my feature which is out now:

A new continent for human evolution
Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 7, pR243–R245, 3 April 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

The Xuchang 1 (A, superior view) and 2 (B, posterior view) crania discovered at the Lingjing site. (Photo: Xiu-jie Wu.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

coming out

Open Archive Day

my gender transitions feature from last year has come out of the paywalled closet and is now freely accessible to all people of all genders and orientations, enjoy:

Transitions to new concepts of gender

Orange is the new something or other - gender divisions at the Science Museum, London (own photo).

Monday, March 20, 2017

robot ecology

robots are beginning to take over our planet, so it's time to start worrying what they will do to the existing systems, from ecology to economy. Which was a sufficient excuse for me to write a third robot feature (previous attempts date from 2015 and 2013), which is out now:

How will robots integrate into our world?
Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 6, pR199–R201, 20 March 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

The robot exhibition at the Science Museum, London (own photo). I'll also add some of my pics from that exhibition to my flickr photostream.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

misa campesina

As part of Oxford twinning link with León, Nicaragua, it has become a tradition that the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense, a folk mass emphasising workers rights and their suffering under capitalism, is sung here once a year (although the most recent press report appears to be from 2011). To give an impression of the music, here's a 3-minute potpourri of the misa performed by Nicaraguan singer Katia Cardenal.

I managed to miss this in the last 22 instalments, but this year there was an official call for people to join the band and choir, which the young musician forwarded to me, so I got to play the lovely tunes on the flute, plus a few bars worth on the guitar.

There were a few people from Nicaragua in the audience, including a woman in the first row who watched us (the band) very closely. Before the last piece she got up to make a speech - turned out she is Guisell Morales, the Nicaraguan ambassador to the UK.

The choir warming up (own photo). The Nicaraguan embassy has shared some photos (of me even) on twitter.

Related to this, the Oxford Leon Link has an exhibition on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the town partnership. This is at the South Oxford Community Centre in Lake Street, although I'm not sure about times and dates.

We also had a visit from a coffee farmer from Nicaragua who gave a talk during Fairtrade Fortnight.

Monday, March 13, 2017

dances with science

Open Archive Day

I hear Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company) are on tour and perform at the New Theatre Oxford this week (Wed-Fri), so it's a good excuse to dig up a feature I wrote in 2011 about their work with scientist in residence Nicola Clayton (whose research field is corvid intelligence, hence the title):

Dances with magpies

image source

Monday, March 06, 2017

losing ground

Even after the international year of soils (which was in 2015, in case you missed it), the world cares too little about the ground we stand on and which actually feeds us. On current trends, most fertile soils may disappear well within this century, and food security with them. It's a global problem that political leaders could fix with sensible regulations, if they weren't so busy deregulating everything.

My feature on the state of our soils is out now:

Losing the soils that feed us
Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 5, pR163–R166, 6 March 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

We often dismiss soil as the dirt below our feet, yet it is a vital resource for food production as well as a highly complex and insufficiently understood ecosystem. The image shows farmers in Kyuso, Kenya terracing part of their land in order to minimise erosion losses. (Photo: ©FAO/Thomas Hug.)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

prepare for brexodus

Like many other non-British EU citizens in the UK, I am sensing a strong vibe that foreigners from continental Europe will be made to feel unwelcome here (not by all, of course, but by the UKIP-inspired government and its supporters) in the near future. I have lived in the country for nearly 24 years now, but as things are going now, I may be out before the end of the 26th year.

The parliamentary debate over the Brexit Bill has shown that there is no efficient opposition that would moderate the government’s worst efforts leading us towards a traincrash Brexit and aligning the country with Trumpism. Even our local MP Andrew Smith, Labour, representing Oxford which voted 70% remain, voted with the government on the brexit bill, which was kind of the last nail in the coffin.

So far the government has resisted all calls, including the one from the majority in the House of Lords, to offer the 3 million non-British EU citizens living here any kind of reassurance that we will still be allowed to stay. My guess is that they will eventually come up with some conditional thing which will be tailored for people who have highly-paid jobs, maybe tacking on an exception for nurses once they realise that the health provision would collapse without them. But if resident foreigners ever lose their job, or happen to be freelancers or unpaid carers, it’s too bad and they’ll just have to go.

Specifically, there is the £35k rule currently in force for non-EU citizens, meaning that a work permit renewal after the first five years of residence requires you to earn more than £35k per year (see Stop35k).

Second, there have been cases of EU people applying for permanent residence permits (which we don't need yet, but they did so either as a precaution, or as a first step towards applying for British citizenship) and being rejected on the grounds that they should have had private health insurance rather than relying on NHS during their stay so far. Essentially this means that the home office doesn't recognise the NHS as a health insurance. This may sound crazy, but it happened to several people.

Not to mention that the residence permit application is a form with more than 80 pages to fill in (I am told it's five pages in Ireland, two in Germany), and additionally requiring you to document every time you left he country and returned (for me that would be over 100 trips to document) _and_ to send in your passport with the application, so being unable to travel while it is being processed. And if hundreds of thousands of people are having to go through this at the same time, the administration will by swamped with applications and who knows how long it could take. In the meantime, people have neither passport nor residence permit and may end up in the immigration detention centres.

I do appreciate that it is a huge privilege that we have been enjoying over the past 23 years thanks to the EU free movement policy, and that many people from other parts of the world have had it a lot harder. We regularly get examples in the news of how the Home Office treats people who don’t have that privilege (see the recent case of Irene Clennell, deported although she has been married to a British citizen for 27 years) and we’re not keen on getting a taste of that treatment when our privilege expires.

Moreover, apart from quite possibly not being allowed to stay, I am not really sure whether it will be safe to stay once the word spreads among racists and other fringe lunatics that Trump's attitudes to foreigners and other minorities (and women, obv.) are now ok, even in the UK.

There will be a Brexodus of people the UK can't afford to lose. According to a recent survey, a majority of doctors from the continent are already considering to leave, and BMW may decide to build the electric version of the Mini on the continent rather than in Oxford. As people leave, the international atmosphere of places like Oxford will disappear as well, so, well, sorry for the rant, back to packing ...


Monday, February 27, 2017

fairer food

Open Archive Day

Today marks the start of Fairtrade Fortnight in the UK and a few other countries, so I'll combine this with my regular archive dip and dig up a feature from 2014 on threats to coffee and chocolate, which happen to be two of the fairtrade products which I buy regularly:

Coffee and chocolate in danger

enjoy, while you can ...

No coffee left (own photo)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

a mixed bag

My round-up of German pieces published in February (none in January) includes Trumpian chemistry, CRISPR in agriculture, enzymatic Si-C bonding, and cancer stem cells:

Organosiliciumverbindungen leicht gemacht
Chemie in unserer Zeit vol 51, p 9
open access (apparently, don't know why)

Netzwerk Leben: Die Stellknöpfe der Entwicklungsuhr
Chemie in unserer Zeit vol 51, pp 68–69
open access (apparently, don't know why)

Genetisches Tipp-Ex für die Landwirtschaft
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65 , pp 128-130
abstract and restricted access to full text

Chemie ist Trumpf
Nachrichten aus der Chemie vol 65 , p 215
open access

Monday, February 20, 2017

caring about victims

Lives lost are met with dramatically different responses in the media and in the general public. One child abducted and killed in a wealthy country can keep the front pages for weeks, while tens of thousands of children perish in humanitarian crises without much notice. Many of the political conflicts dramatically enhanced by the recent US elections boil down to which lives people care more about and which ones less. The unborn vs. the already born, the black youth vs the white policeman, the European native vs the Syrian refugee.

Racism fuelled by vicious scapegoating favoured by certain politicians and media outlets is one obvious reason for distributing empathy inequally. However, there are also some other, more surprising mechanisms at work, like the identified victim effect, which is measurable in that people donate more money to help a single identified victim of crisis than they would if there are several in the same situation. This effect is also one of the reasons why empathy is not always a good guide to sensible political decisions.

I have looked into these issues for my latest feature which is out now:

Caring about humanitarian crises
Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 4, pR123–R125, 20 February 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Research shows that empathy responds better to images of a single identified, or at least identifiable, person. While groups of victims may need more support, their numbers rather subtract from our empathy. Charities and political organizations have long used this effect, with ads and posters of individuals, like in this charity campaign from 1918. (Image: United States Government/Wikimedia Commons.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

chimps revisited

Open Archive Day

Many of my features are in one way or another about Homo sapiens - eg how this one species wrecks its home planet in record time. So it's always a welcome relief to report on other animal species that don't destroy their habitat and look at the amazing things they can do.

A year ago I wrote a feature on chimpanzees and the question whether their tool use can be described as culture. This feature has now entered the Open Archive so it's freely accessible here:

Chimpanzees, our cultured cousins


Photo: Thomas Lersch via Wikipedia

Monday, February 06, 2017

fantastic species

After all the depressing news of Death Eaters taking over the White House and starting to blow up our planet, I needed some cheering up, so I wrote a feature that's a bit of light entertainment (compared to the others), about the magic of marine biology, complete with dragons, unicorns and psychedelic colour schemes. The Harry Potter Universe also provided inspiration for the title:

Fantastic species and where to find them.
Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 3, pR83–R85, 06 February 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Oh, and by sheer coincidence, the cover of the issue also shows one of the fantastic creatures I've discussed in my feature, a leafy seadragon :

The cover relates to the paper by Connell et al. (pages R95–R96), who use natural CO2 underwater seeps in the southwest Pacific, which represent near-future oceanic conditions, to demonstrate how a marine calcifying animal can in fact thrive in acidic waters due to the increased supply of habitat and food. The image shows a leafy sea-dragon (Phycodurus eques), an iconic marine animal of southern Australia that lives among CO2-affected habitats.

Monday, January 30, 2017

can we still stop the collapse?

Open Archives Day

(trigger warning - depressing outlook)

Three years ago, I asked in a feature:

Will our civilisation survive this century?

and discussed the issue in the light of evidence from earlier collapsed societies, as well as the current crises that humanity is failing to address.

As things are going now, we can count ourselves lucky if civilisation survives the next four years, and we'll probably have to put in some extra effort to make it to the middle of the century, never mind the end. Accordingly, the famous Doomsday Clock has just been moved forward by 30 seconds.

So we have about two and a half minutes to do something. The first waves of global resistance have been encouraging, but much more is needed. As the horror clown in the White House steers his administration in exactly the wrong direction on almost every level and the UK government rushes to line up with him, multiple responses are required and things could get a lot worse before they get better. So, not to get anyone down, but this may be a good time to read my collapse feature, which is openly accessible now, as it is more than a year old.

Just now, my therapy is watching the counter on the online petition against a state visit from the horror clown. As I'm writing the count increases by ~200 every 10 seconds.

Also, the pink pussyhats have cheered me up enormously, so to end on a positive note I'll include the cover of Time magazine:

Monday, January 23, 2017

losing our lakes

Lakes are sensitive to a range of disturbances from human activities, from pollution to water shortage. Some are simply disappearing from the face of the Earth, which can have serious ecological knock-on effects.

Following the publication of a new database of key parameters of lakes around the globe, I have rounded up a few examples of lakes that are in trouble or disappearing. The resulting feature is out now:

The world's vanishing lakes

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 2, pR43–R46, 23 January 2017

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Where the Aral Sea used to be. Source: Zhanat Kulenov, Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, January 16, 2017

megapoo makes the world go round

Open archives day - one of my favourite stories from last year has just been switched to open access. It's about how large animals move nutrients against the hydrological cycle, including whales feeding in the deep but releasing themselves near the surface, sea birds feeding on fish but leaving their droppings on land, and terrestrial megafauna moving their goodies uphill.

That's what I called the great megapoo escalator a year ago - needless to say that we humans not only fail to comply with this mechanism but also are in the process of destroying it by eradicating megafauna, which before our time made the largest contribution to this nutrient recycling.

Read my feature in the open archives here.

Seabirds provide an important flow of nutrients from sea to land, acting against the draining that occurs through rivers and runoff from the land. The image shows guillemots, shags and kittiwakes breeding on the Farne Islands. (Photo: Jamumiwa/Wikimedia Commons.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

aptamer update

I don't do all that many news stories these days, but I did pick up this one from the lab of my old friend and astrobiology co-author Kevin Plaxco, as it is a further step on a path I have followed since the beginnings more than a decade ago.

So the latest news is that electronic aptamer sensors can now work inside a living, moving mammal, as you can read in Chemistry World today:

Personalised medicine boost as cancer drug monitored in real-time

Previous steps on the way:

Chemists crack cocaine detection Chemistry World 2006

MEDIC to kick-start personalised medicine revolution Chemistry World 2013

Biosensors in real time Feature in Chemistry & Industry 2014, No. 4, pp42-45.

Aptamerensoren für kontinuierliche Bluttests Chemie in unserer Zeit 2014,48, 88

Monday, January 09, 2017

trumpocalypse now

After the first electoral disaster of 2016, I wrote a feature warning that the same kind of wave of angry voters could send Trump to the White House, and sure enough it did. So I got the chance to write another political feature, now one step closer to the apocalypse. On current form it appears obvious to me that the age of enlightenment is over and western civilisation is heading towards a collapse sooner rather than later. Since I wrote the feature, three weeks ago, Putin's role in manipulating the election has become a more prominent issue, so that's missing in my story. Only then did I investigate how long we still may have to put up with Putin. I found out that since his two presidential terms (2000-2008), Russia extended the length of term to six years, meaning that he could remain in office until 2024 - like a certain Mr Trump you may have heard of. What the world will look like if that happens I don't want to imagine. We need to do something.

While I go looking for my thinking hat, read my feature:

The dangers of a post-truth world

Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 1, 9 January 2017, Pages R1–R4

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

The amplification of clickbait and fake news stories through Facebook’s algorithms has been recognised as a problem in the US presidential election. (Image courtesy of Ashley George.)

PS: the artwork in the Daily Mirror front page used in my article is Oh America by Gee Vaucher, I just learned.

Some links covering the first weeks of the Trumpocalypse:

First on the White House agenda – the collapse of the global order. Next, war? by Jonathan Freedland (4.2.) - If you're not terrified yet, read this, you will be.

PPS: The last sentence of my introduction:

"Scientists are left wondering not only how this could happen, but also what they can do to make verifiable scientific truth heard in a post-truth scenario."
is quoted in a loose translation in Der Spiegel, issue 6/2017, p94:
„Was können Forscher tun, um der überprüfbaren wissenschaftlichen Wahrheit in einer postfaktischen Wirklichkeit wieder Gehör zu verschaffen?“, fragte die Fachzeitschrift Current Biology.
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