Sixth great extinction
Scientists say that our planet has entered a mass extinction event – that is a period when the Earth loses more than three quarters of its species in a relatively short period of time. These events are rare, and usually catastrophic. They have only happened 5 times in the past 540 million years. The last one was about 65 million years ago and caused the end of the dinosaurs. We are losing species of plants and animals at a rate well above the normal species cycles and it is thought to be due to human activities.
The TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Conference, is a get together of big thinkers, with, according to the conference organisers, ideas worth spreading. Science in Action caught up with three interesting speakers.
Paul Nicklen is a wildlife photographer, who grew up in the High Arctic. He has been filming the demise of the polar bears and other animals there who suffer because of the melting ice sheets.
Felisa Wolfe-Simon from the NASA Astrobiology Institute hit the headlines earlier this year, when she discovered a species of microorganism that uses arsenic in it's biological make up. Suggesting that what we understood to be the building blocks for life may need adjusting.
Aaron O'Connell is a quantum physicist who has managed to create a device which shows complicated and mysterious quantum behaviour, but is big enough to see. Sub-microscopic particles are known to behave in unusual ways – such as being in more than one place or state at the same time. But until now, it was something that we could not see. But, taking his word for it, he showed Jon Stewart, his little device which obeys the laws of quantum physics in the macro scale.
The margin, in sporting events, between winning Gold, and just plain losing, can be down to milliseconds or millimeters. But now science and technology is playing an increasing role in the training and monitoring of athletes as they train and compete. Trackside biological and physiological monitors mean that the athlete can get instant access to see how they are doing and how they can improve.