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Crowd-funding science: great public engagement or ethical quandary?
Crowd-funding has been around for a long time – small payments made by individuals who collectively contribute to a single project, such as disaster relief and political campaigns. But with the spread of the internet, it has become a global affair, and now science is getting in on the act. Rockethub.com, MedStartr.com, sciflies.org, fundageek.com and eurekafund.beta are all matchmaking needy scientists with willing donors. Petridish.org founder Matt Salzberg, Stanford University scientist Dan Madigan, funder Martha Santoro and science and society expert Dr Alice Bell of Imperial College London share their views about this development in science funding as it starts to take off.
Storing carbon by fertilizing oceans
How can an ocean be parched? Victor Smetacek, Professor of Biological Oceanography at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, likens the lack of iron in the oceans to a lack of water on land – our seas often lack this substance, which is crucial for algae to grow.
Although iron is known to stimulate algal growth, it was unknown what happened to these algae. Now, Professor Smetacek and his team have discovered how iron-fertilisation could store carbon in the ocean. After dropping dissolved iron sulphate into a carefully chosen patch of the Southern Ocean, they tracked the resulting algal bloom as it grew, degraded and sank. Eventually, it formed a fluff layer on the ocean floor around 3000m below the surface, potentially locking up carbon for centuries. But does this method hold really promise for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide? And can it do so without damaging the ocean ecosystem?
Native American population history discussed
Recent research published in the journal Nature has questioned whether the Americas were originally peopled by a single wave of migrants from Siberia, or by multiple streams of people.
The multiple-stream theory stemmed from linguistic research undertaken in the 1980s by Joseph Greenberg. He proposed a controversial theory that the Americas were populated in three waves. This was initially dispelled by genetic studies examining maternal, mitochondrial DNA and paternal, Y chromosome lineages. But the latest survey, examining the entire genomes of 52 Native American and 17 Siberian groups, shows that there were probably at least three waves of migration. Author Professor Andres Ruiz-Linarez from University College London discusses the findings.
(Image: A bluefin tuna. These fish are the subject of one crowd-funded study. Credit: AFP / Getty Images)