Category - The Macrocosm

Elly Vesty, New Optimist, on the advantages of understanding the historical evolution of plants

Elly Vesty’s research makes her optimistic that we can improve food security.  Her work on how, historically, plants have germinated to ensure they grow is about having a core understanding of how crops will grow.

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Round-up: Face to Face with the New Optimists

Here’s a quick recap of the interviews we’ve posted so far in our Face to Face series. We’ve got more of those coming soon, and if you click here you can leave your questions which you’d like us to ask the New Optimists.

Jack Cohen talks about reproductive biology:

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What’s coming up for the New Optimists

There are lots of exciting things coming up for the New Optimists in the next few months. As well as more Face to Face interviews with some of the scientists who have contributed to the project, there are some other big things which we’re very excited about.

  • There will be some activity over the coming months to tie in with the first Kindle book, Challenging Cancer. We’re also going to be working on forthcoming Kindle books, which will cover topics such as renewable energies, ageing, and how scientists view the world.
  • The New Optimists Forum is something we’re really looking forward to – a series of unconference-style gatherings where we bring together scientists to talk about viable approaches to deal with challenges which we will face in our near future. The first Forum theme is the prevalent topic of Food & Cities.
  • There’s also a book in the pipeline about stem cell research, covering epigenetics and how our environments reprogramme the human genome.
On top of this, there will be plenty more stuff to come so keep your eyes peeled on the blog as well as on Twitter and Facebook!

Face to Face with the New Optimists: Russell Beale on technology, the law and society

In the second part of our interview with Professor Russell Beale reflects on the issue of choice in technology and whether the choices available to us in our regular lives should mirror this. He recently wrote a Birmingham Post blog about this very topic, and it’s an interesting area to consider.

Also prevalent

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Face to Face with the New Optimists: Russell Beale on communication in a technological world

Next up in our Face to Face series is this first part of a chat with Russell Beale, Professor of Human Computer Interaction at the University of Birmingham.

Russell tells us how the web has changed

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Make-a-Human DNA instruction kit, Ian Stewart & a third cup of coffee

I’m midway through the OU short course Human genetics and health issues. (I thought I needed more than a smattering of understanding about genetics and epigenetics, given I’ll be talking to a few top-notch researchers in the field in the coming months.) And until Chapter 11, I was doing just dandy at answering the questions in the OU text. I linked cytosine with guanine in a meaningless kind of way, realised why The Binding Site (HQ in nearby Edgbaston) is so-called, know a tad more about the double helix and what mitosis is. But getting thus far hadn’t begun to touch my ignorance

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Aston power plant & plans for a “thermal ring”

What kind of lab is useful for a chemical engineer whose research is about how to convert biomaterials into energy? The answer is, of course, a power plant.

And that’s exactly what New Optimist Andreas Hornung is about to get.

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#tunisia #egypt, #algeria, #morocco . . . the transformative power of technology

For governments everywhere, the game has changed. Technologies now let into the world millions upon millions of messages and images from ordinary people saying what is happening in the moment in front of the eyes. Such as this one:

Uninstalling dictator
#TUNISIA ████████████████ : done
#EGYPT ████████████████ : done
#ALGERIA ███░░░░░░░░░░░░: in progress

And this one:

Protest schedule: #Bahrain #feb14#Libya#feb17#Algeria #feb19#Morocco #feb20#Cameroon#feb23#Kuwait #Mar8 #freedom #hope #peace

Russell Beale is a computer scientist. And one of the New Optimists. His optimism, now grounded in a new political reality

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Can parrots think strategically?

It may seem an arcane notion, the notion that birds can think, and can really communicate not just mimic.

But Jackie Chappell is not alone in her discoveries that parrots can think, and think in complex ways. Let me, by way of a starter, introduce you to grey parrots called Alex, Griffin and (wait for it) Einstein. (See examples of the trio’s behaviour on YouTube.) 

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Can plants get cancer?

Robin May knows how to woo scientist colleagues into his office on the 4th floor of the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham. White chocolate cake spilling over with red currants. Or blackberry and apple crumble cake oozing decadence.

Jackie Chappell and Juliet Coates, the latter doing a turn at the CASC Conference later this week, were already there when I arrived

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