Christmas has come early for geeks. The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has the answers to all your science related questions, from ‘Are we alone the in the universe?’ to ‘What is the value of biodiversity?’, in a collection of essays to see you entertained through the winter months.
Published today, the report carries 12 colourful essays by top UK scientists who have waxed lyrical on a key science question. The articles are based on discussion meetings held by the Royal Society throughout the year, and helpfully include links to audio recordings of the meetings.
Astronomers Martin Dominik at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and John Zarnecki of the Open University give a brief overview of how the search for extra-terrestrial life is going, and set out some of the known unknowns. For example, how likely is it for life to emerge elsewhere in the universe once all the conditions, including biochemistry, are in place?
“Advanced extra-terrestrial life might be inconceivable to us in its complexity, just as human life is to amoebae,” they add. Nice point. I’ve never really thought about it from the point of view of an amoeba before.
Adrian Hill a geneticist at Oxford University and Brian Greenwood, professor of clinical tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, write a brief history of vaccines and highlight some of the more recent developments including for the human papilloma virus (HPV). They discuss what further developments are needed to ensure people in the developing world have access to vaccinations, including developing vaccines that are stable at the higher temperatures.
The report is being launched as part of the Royal Society’s celebrations of its 350th anniversary. “In 1660, when the Royal Society was founded, science was in its infancy," says outgoing president of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, in a statement. "Our lives today differ from those of our ancestors largely because of the scientific advances made in the subsequent 350 years.”
“Science is an unending quest for understanding: as old questions are settled, new ones come into sharper focus,” he adds.