Monday, November 26, 2018

no contact rules

Open Archive Day

There were press reports last week of a "missionary" (shouldn't that job title be banned in the 21st century?) trying to visit the small population of the North Sentinel Island in the South Pacific, who found a sticky end in a hail of arrows. (See Michael Safi's reports in the Guardian on the event, his motivations, and the aftermath. Update 30.11.2018, here's another one)

This reminded me of a feature I wrote on uncontacted tribes back in 2015, defending their right to remain uncontacted, swiftly drawing criticism from academics who were at the time arguing in support of contacting efforts, along the lines of "if only they knew all the benefits of our civilisation, they would want to be contacted". Well I have lived long enough to know the benefits of our civilisation and I have my doubts about that line of argument.

Anyhow. Here is my 2015 piece which that idiotic "missionary" clearly hadn't read:

How to protect the last free-living humans

North Sentinel Island (wikipedia)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

urban mining

Urban mining sounds like a really cool trend, and it probably is one, too. Why dig up the ground in search for diminishing mineral resources, when all we need is contained in the waste we discard every day? Recycling and reuse was yesterday, in the future we call it the urban mine.

Inspired by the Urban Mine Platform which lists the mindboggling amounts of metals that go to waste in Europe, I wrote a feature which came out in C&I a couple of months ago, I just forgot to shout about it (probably because the issue wasn't yet online when I checked and then I forgot about it). Anyhow, it's all online now, and if you can't get to it, drop me a line, I have the PDF file:

Urban mining

Chemistry & Industry 82, No. 7, pp 22-25.

access via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members only)

Here's a sneaky peek at the first page:

Monday, November 19, 2018

vanishing wildlife

Mammals are generally getting preferential treatment in conservation efforts, especially if they have big eyes and fluffy fur, but they are still on track to lose significant diversity in the ongoing, man-made sixth mass extinction. Among various items of bad news from the extinction front, there was one paper recently that analysed how long it would take for mammals to recover their biodiversity. I used this as a peg for a feature on mammal conservation and extinction, which is out now:

Can vanishing wildlife evolve back?

Current Biology
Volume 28, Issue 22, 19 November 2018, Pages R1283-R1286

FREE access to full text and PDF download

The Tasmanian tiger is one of the mammalian species that suffered severe range reductions as humans spread around the planet. It finally became extinct at the beginning of the 20th century. (Photo: Osado/Wikimedia Commons.)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

all about energy

In the latest issue of C&I (issue 9) you'll find four book reviews including two long essay reviews from me, both relating to energy use, by cells and by humans, respectively. Both books cover very exciting and important material, but don't do much to make it accessible to a broader range of people who really should know about these things.

The books are:

Low Carbon Energy Transitions by Kathleen M. Araujo (Oxford University Press 2018)
review on page 38


Photosynthesis and bioenergetics by J. Barber, A.V. Ruban, eds. (World Scientific 2018)
page 40

Araujo covers the decarbonising and surprisingly swift energy transitions in Brazil (biofuel), France (nuclear), Iceland (geothermal) and Denmark (wind).

Meanwhile, the monograph by Barber and Ruban rounds up research around life's most important energy systems, ATP synthase and photosystem II.

Reviews can be accessed via the C&I website or through the Wiley Online Library. Both options are limited to institutional / subscriber / member access, but I'll be happy to email PDFs if you email me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

living on an island

Open Archive Day

As a certain Brexit secretary in the UK government seems to have realised only recently, this country is located on a group of islands, aka the British Isles. Islands are defined by their small size and surrounding waters, and their biology can be quite peculiar, as Darwin noticed when he visited the Galapagos archipelago.

Island biogeography has very successfully uncovered the rules that apply to life on islands. Intriguingly, they also apply to all sorts of other isolated locations, including, for instance, those under the water. Last year I wrote a feature on island biogeography under the surface, which is now in the open archives:

Life's islands under the sea

Friday, November 09, 2018

there's a rang-tan in my bedroom ...

So today we learned that in TV adverts in the UK you are allowed to spread all kinds of lies and unfair comparisons, but you're not allowed to say the truth about environmental problems and how human activities endanger other mammal species. How weird is that. So, while I don't normally post in support of Iceland or any other supermarket, here's the ad they're not allowed to show. The way things work these days, I expect it will get a gazillion views on youtube, maybe more than it would have had on TV:

The Guardian: Iceland's Christmas TV advert banned for being too political

Iceland’s Christmas ad was brave and necessary. It shouldn’t be banned
Opinion piece by Jessica Brown

Monday, November 05, 2018

on the edge

This year's climate feature ahead of COP24 covers lots of things going in the wrong direction including fracking in the UK, coal mining in Germany, everything in the trumpocalypse, as well as recent research analysing which countries will be most affected by climate change. It was in press while the second round of the election in Brazil happened, so this novice horseman of the apocalypse only makes a brief appearance as a possible calamity.

So, well, if you can cope with more bad news, here goes:

Counting carbon costs

Current Biology
Volume 28, Issue 21, 05 November 2018, Pages R1221-R1224

FREE access to full text and PDF download

On the edge is where we stand right now:

Climate change protesters at Hambacher Forst, Germany, where an open cast mining operation for lignite is destroying ancient woodlands and several villages. (Photo: Leonhard Lenz.)