Category - Thinking differently
It may seem bizarre that a biochemist interested in plants at a molecular level works closely with engineers. But that’s exactly what Dr Gareth Griffiths does at Aston University.
Plants, Gareth tells me, fix 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide and water into cellulose each year through photosynthesis. Indeed if the sugar generated on planet Earth each year could be made into sugar cubes it would extend to one of the Solar system’s outer bodies, Pluto!
Plants are also ble to synthesis the vast array of complex molecules including DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids and other carbohydrates from the primary products of carbon dioxide fixation.
So it is that Nature already has the answers for synthesising complex molecules —but then it has had several billion years to make the process effective.
By contrast, humans have only been utilising their understanding of organic chemistry for the past few hundred years. We have a lot of catching up to do!
And in understanding the fundamental processes by which plants are able to make such complex molecules, we may, in turn, be able to mimic it, hopefully in a simpler and cost effective way, to generate products of value to society.
For example, plants produce molecules to defend themselves against pathogen attack. At Aston, Gareth and his colleagues have looked at the features of some of these molecules and generated simpler molecular mimics which may have potential use as ‘green’ fungicides
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.
Continue reading “Round-up: Face to Face with 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.
Another scientist featuring in our first Kindle book The New Optimists: Challenging Cancer is Professor Peter Sadler FRS, an inorganic chemist. In this video clip, he talks about what makes him optimistic.
Like many scientists, he’s far more excited by what he doesn’t know than what he does. Chemists know very little about how the eighty or so elements of the Periodic Table play a part in living organisms — yet a greater understanding, Peter argues, will lead to radically more effective drug treatments.
Continue reading “Face to Face with the New Optimists: Peter Sadler”
For the latest video interview in our Face to Face series, we spoke to Craig Jackson, Professor in occupational health psychology at Birmingham City University. In the video above Craig talks about workplaces and how working affects people’s health and psychological well-being and the role that technology plays.
Continue reading “Face to Face with the New Optimists: Craig Jackson on work and mental well-being”
Continue reading “Face to Face with the New Optimists: Jack Cohen on complex networks”
In the first of a new series we’re running called Face to Face with the New Optimists, we spoke to Professor Jack Cohen. An Honorary Professor of Mathematics at Warwick University and a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, Jack has written several books including the Science of Discworld series.
His essay in The New Optimists is about reproductive biology, the science behind why we look like and inherit traits from our ancestors. The first part of our interview here looks at emerging theories, in particular changing theories around genetics
Continue reading “Face to Face with the New Optimists: Jack Cohen on reproductive biology”
Research conducted at Harvard has concluded that the pattern of inherited characteristics – known as imprinting – may account for some of the perceived differences between male and female brains.
Continue reading “Harvard research – it’s a brain of two halves?”
When you’re reading a book like The New Optimists it’s always nice to put a face to a name. So at last week’s official launch event, at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, we grabbed a few contributors to the book and asked them what they’re optimistic about as well as what made them want to contribute to the book (aside from being cajoled into it by Kate, that is).
In this first part of the round-up, Professor Peter Sadler talks about inorganic elements and their possibilities.
Who do you look like? Have you ‘inherited’ your Uncle’s ears or your grandmother’s smile? In my case it is webbed toes – and before you ask, no, I’m a lousy swimmer.
It seems obvious that children look like their parents, but this is worth much more thought than many of us give it, and that’s where New Optimist contributor and Science of Discworld author, the reproductive biologist Professor Jack Cohen comes in.
Continue reading “Honorary Wizard of Unseen University & my family’s webbed toes”