The BBC recently wrote an article regarding the genetic test that was approved, allowing people to get tested for genetic conditions before pregnancy. Though this test has the potential to be very beneficial and prevent people from creating families if they would be at a high risk of carrying a genetic disorder if they so choose, it also has the potential to create a stigma around people who test positive for genetic disorders.
Upon being tested and finding positive results, would our society then tell those people that they should be be banned from having families and children? Knowing that you had a higher chance of carrying a genetic disorder would perhaps cause one to feel as though they had a moral obligation to be tested to prevent the disease from being passed onto others. This would cause a stigma on those who test positive for any such diseases.
This video shows another aspect of the implications of having genetic testing done.
The definition of eugenics as given by the Apple dictionary says it is, “The science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.” By using technology that can be available to us because of a progression in research is not always a good idea. By implementing this as a normal test into health care systems, there would be a great possibility that our society would lead to being in favor of eugenics.
Other factors which would be a greater concern to Americans, would deal with wether or not health insurance companies could take this information into account, or even have mandatory testing for certain groups of people. This is not a topic to be taken lightly, but rather one that should be well thought out before the test is planned to be used on a regular basis which could have negative impacts on our generation.
Whale watching might be an economically and environmentally feasible way to replace the whaling industry, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Andres Cisneros, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, says whale watching has the global potential to become a $2.5-billion industry and support 19,000 jobs.
A gray whale surfaces beside a whale-watching boat off the coast of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Photo © IFAW
We interviewed Andres to discuss the global whale hunting controversy and how coastal countries can profit from whale watching in this video.
We further discussed with Andres the importance of whales in the ecosystem in this podcast.
Whale watching is more than sitting on a boat and viewing just whales. It is going out into the natural environment of whales and viewing all the marine species who share the water with the whales. It has significant educational and environmental benefits and provides an outlet to study the whales scientifically. There are also economic benefits both locally and globally. Whale watching has the potential to expand the tourism market, which will promote all the local businesses and restaurants. Jobs are created when locals are trained as guides. They can combine local knowledge such as traditional encounters with the whales with scientific knowledge about the whales.
Whale watching as an alternative to whaling is an idea being promoted around the world. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) wrote up a global proposal for whale watching as a sustainable alternative. They estimated that the whale watching industry profited 1-billion dollars in 2001. Recent findings by Andres Cisneros from the University of B.C. found that whale watching could potentially profit 2.5 billion dollars worldwide. His model estimates the value of whale watching could be worth double the amount compared to 10 years ago if countries begin to expand their whale watching industry.
A humpback whale breaches off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Photo © IFAW/ C. Carlson
Regulations are being put in place to make sure whales and their environment are respected. The IFAW is one of the main groups who promotes responsible whale watching. Responsible whale watching is a global code of conduct for how whales should be treated. This is to prevent the harassment of the whales and reduce intrusions into their environment by the whale watching boats. There are concerns that a large number of boats and people may disturb whale migration and feeding habits.
There is also a need to change some of the tourism laws to allow local fishermen to act as whale watching guides.This will provide more work and give them an opportunity to expand their employment beyond just fishing. This problem was brought to Andres’ attention on a recent trip to Panama. “I was just down talking to fishermen in Panama and they were saying ‘sometimes the fishing is not very good and we know that there are whales out there and we would like to maybe ask the tourists if they want to pay us and we would take them to where we know there are whales’ and they are not letting them do that right now because of some tourism laws that they have down there.”
Whale watching is a way to use whales as a sustainable resource. It provides jobs and reduces the harm done to whales and their environment. Some countries are realizing the potential profit that whale watching can but many more can join in and stop commercial whaling. There needs to be regulation on this growing whale watching industry to make sure it is practiced ethically.
The UK company Sea Life Surveys has a video on how they run their responsible whale watching trips.
Post created by : Shirley Huang, Kate MacMillan, Irfan Haji, James Kirkbright
Posted in Environment, Final Project, Interview Project, Issues in Science, Public Engagement, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged Ecosystems, environment, group E., research, science news, UBC, whale watching, whales, whaling
When someone brings up the idea that life as we know it originated from space, it is easy to think they are crazy. However, instead of thinking of lanky-green aliens, would this idea seem so far fetched if they were talking about micro-organisms? There is a hypothesis called panspermia which hypothesizes that life originated elsewhere in space and migrated to Earth. This alien life would have arrived from another planet on a meteorite.
Comet Hale-Bopp courtesy kevindooley Flickr
There are three important stages a micro-organism would have to survive for a succussful journey. Must first survive take off, then space travel and finally survive the impact upon landing. There have been studies to evaluate the likelihood of surviving any of these phases.
Gerda Horneck from the German Aerospace Center stated in a paper which evaluated spore survival during space travel that, “There are certain areas at the rim of the impact crater, called the spallation zone, where by reflection of the shock wave the temperatures do not exceed 100 degrees Celsius.” This means that it’s cool enough for some spores to survive ejection from a planet.
Rocco Mancinelli of the SETI Institute with his colleagues have published a review on bacteria surviving space journey. Their study supports that microbes could survive a trip through space. Micro-organisms hitching a ride on a meteorite can get protection from the dangerous UV radiation if they are below the surface.
A study published in 2001 explored the likelihood of bacterial spores surviving the landing impact. This study found that spores could survive impact scenarios that are similar to those that meteorites experience.
Micro-organism arriving from Mars seems the most likely since it is a relatively short journey. First it must be proven that there is or was life on Mars, a group of researchers from MIT are hoping to test Mars’ surface for microbes. If microbes are found, the next step would be to do DNA/RNA sequencing on them. With these tests we may be able to prove that our neighbouring planet may actually be our mother planet.
Microbes courtesy CdePaz Flickr
One thing to be careful of is Earth microbes could contaminate tests being done on the surface of Mars. All the research has been done on `Earthling microbes`, so we know that they can survive a journey away from Earth.
There is no definite answer to how life as we know it began on Earth. I found this research interesting because I never heard of this idea before. After looking at the papers concerning bacteria surviving space travel, I don’t think this idea is far fetched. I think it is a rather simple explanation to how Earth became inhabited. If Martian microbes could be sequenced and a connection was found between them and any organisms genome here on Earth, that would be incredible. I think it would be hard for many people to accept this idea because it makes our origins even more mysterious.
Posted in Issues in Science, New and innovative science, Public Engagement, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged aliens, Common Ancestor, DNA sequencing, Mars, martians, meteorite, microbes, NASA, panspermia, research, science news, space, Space Exploration
With the Canadian election race in full swing, some people know exactly who they are going to vote for, and others are unsure. Each of us have our own biases and opinions about the big issues like healthcare, defense, and the economy.
Picture from Google Images
A group of scientists from the University College London just published a study in Current Biology that may show why “liberals are open to new experiences and can cope with conflicting information,” and why “conservatives are more sensitive to threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty. ” (Quotes from Sciencedaily.com)
The team of researchers looked at the different sizes of these two structures called the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala (click the name to find out more information about each structure from Wikipedia). This team suspected that there might be a structural difference in the brain that accounts for these differences. And this is indeed what they found. People with larger anterior cingulate cortexes tended to have more liberal views. Whereas people with larger amygdalas tended to have conservative views.
But there is not enough evidence to conclude that only these structures account for the political differences. There were too many uncontrollable factors to take into account, such as life experience, family history, also what kind of environment the subject was raised in. And people also have the ability to change their views over time.
Ryota Kanai of the University College London concluded in the article that “It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” and “more work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”
Picture from Google Images
Vote Compass is a free online survey where just click the answers that are closest to your opinions and it will tell you which political party you are closest to. I think it’s pretty cool, to check it out click on Vote Compass to go there now.
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Posted in Biological Sciences, Fun!, General, New and innovative science, Physical Sciences, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged brain, canada, conservative, liberal, parties, political, politics, structure, view
Now that the class has finished their interviews and has begun to assemble their footage, depending on how they conducted their interview it’s likely that some surprises may appear in the editing room. I know from personal experience now that it is difficult being a professional cinematographer. Fitting the subject into the frame of the shot just right and following their movement is not as easy as one would think.
But what if you had a camera that could do all this by itself and you merely had to press record? Zdenek Kalal, a PhD student at the University of Surrey in England, has just finished research that could make this a reality. He has developed a real time tracking program that unlike previous visual identification systems learns over time. That is, it can learn what the subject in question looks like at various angles and distances and actually gets more accurate over time. Affectionately named Predator, it promises to be the next generation of visual recognition technology.
The below video from the creator Mr. Kalal himself shows the program in action and provides an excellent introduction to the technology. Incidentally he also provides a fine example of how to effectively present research to the public.
As Mr. Kalal explains, the possible uses for the device go beyond simple facial recognition, although in the context of this class that would certainly be the most welcome. How simple would it be to tell Predator what to focus on, and then let a motorized camera automatically track your subject while you are free to carry out the interview unencumbered. Even in the context of large studio films I would not be surprised to learn that directors are eager to experiment with it. In the realm of science there are also several possibilities. The example noted in the video centres around animal research. The use visual recognition software could revolutionalize the field of wildlife biology. Studies of much larger scale could be completed by using cameras mounted in strategic locations, rather than relying on scientists heading out into the field to do manual observations.
Here is a link to the original press release from the University of Surrey, whose creation process is yet another area of science that we are now familiar with thanks to Science 300.