Benedictus, Benedicat, per Jesum Christum, Dominum Nostrum. Amen. Please be seated. It’s dinner time in St Paul’s College, Sydney, where I’m dean and head of house at Graduate House. The members of the High Table, wearing academic gowns, have processed into the refectory to a table laden with candelabra and silver accoutrements from the college treasury, each place set with cutlery and glasses. The students, also in gowns, rise from their seats to acknowledge the High Table, and stand until the presider has finished the Latin grace (this is the shorter one – a longer version is kept for…
Farmers from Europe to South America have one large, fragile asset more important than all others. Their land. Specifically, a thin layer of topsoil that can readily wash away or be depleted. To prevent that, many farmers grow inedible plants during the off-season.They help prevent erosion and absorb excess nutrients like nitrogen.  These cover crops have become so common it can be difficult to know which to choose from when it comes to complex crop rotations. A recent experiment in the U.S. state of Illinois planted different cover crops between the common rotation of corn and soybeans.…
With US-EU agriculture trade talks already stalled, the EU’s new "Farm to Fork” strategy escalates the science war and perhaps even isolates the EU even more - because EU wants to bully other countries into adoption of EU-style regulation.  If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it's that food regulations just get in the way. Individuals couldn't buy what they wanted, rationing occurred, but the reason was not supply. Businesses were not allowed by regulation to sell bulk foods they had purchased to consumers. And companies were not allowed to sell food meant to be sold in bulk to…
A UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claimed that agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases - a climate villain. But their finding was not based on science, it was based on simplistic parameters, a closed system which any field of science would disregard as intentional framing. Yet activists opposed to agriculture and the fields of science that support it jumped on it as settled science, where instead there was no consensus at all. The fundamental process in agriculture is photosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide is captured by crops and at the same time…
The advent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and the dynamics of its spread is unprecedented. It is therefore, of paramount importance to get a vaccine that can stop the spread of the virus. But basic knowledge about the virus and kinetics of immune responses against it is still emerging. An added difficulty is that different strains of SARS-COV-2 have been reported – even in the same country – within six months of its emergence. Vaccines are preventive or therapeutic interventions that dramatically reduce morbidity and mortality caused by infectious…
The brain has very high energy demand. For its body mass, the brain keeps mitochondria firing producing our body's common energy currency, ATP, from the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in our food. and reacts very sensitively to oxygen deficiency. Ludwig-Maximilian-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich neurobiologists have now succeeded for the first time in directly correlating oxygen consumption with the activity of certain nerve cells. Since the brain requires a disproportionate amount of energy compared to its body mass, and this energy is mainly generated by aerobic metabolic processes that…
It is often said that animals behave unusually before an earthquake. In an international cooperation project, researchers investigated whether cows, sheep, and dogs can actually detect early signs of earthquakes. In the experiment, sensors to the animals in an earthquake-prone area in Northern Italy and recorded their movements over several months. In order to be able to use animal activity patterns as a kind of early warning system for earthquakes, the animals would have to show measurable behavioural changes. Moreover, if they do indeed react to weak physical changes immediately before an…
Thirty years after the U.S.S.R. collapsed we are still learning about the ramifications of overarching government control of essential services. Though the combined Germany now has nationwide healthcare, some government health care is worse than others. You don't want to be in a South African public hospital today and you didn't want to be in a communist Russia one then. East Germans still have many more hospitalisations for heart failure compared to West Germans. Heart failure is the most common reason for hospital admissions and is responsible for a large part of the total health…
The complex ways in which quarks bind themselves into composite particles such as the protons and neutrons found inside atomic nuclei are not yet understood so the discovery of a four-quark particle, the first of a previously undiscovered class of particles, could provide valuable insight into physics at the very small level. Quarks typically combine together in groups of twos and threes to form particles called hadrons. Physicists had only observed tetraquarks with two heavy quarks at most and none with more than two quarks of the same type but had predicted the existence of four-quark and…
A stark warning about the kind of summer that could become routine in the UK by the end of this century has been issued in a new study by the country’s Met Office. Using temperature data and climate model simulations, the researchers tested the likelihood of UK temperatures exceeding 30°C, 35°C, and 40°C each summer over the next 80 years. They found that if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, temperatures exceeding 40°C could be reached somewhere in the UK every three-and-a-half years by 2100. If you live or have travelled in a hot climate, you might know the stifling heat that…
At the LHCP conference this year, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations presented new results relating to a physics process called vector boson scattering plus the first observation of the so-called “massive triboson production." During proton collisions at the LHC, many particles, including the carriers of the electroweak force – photons and W and Z bosons – are produced. These bosons are often referred to simply as vector bosons, in the Standard Model, and one of the processes that leads to their pair production is called vector boson scattering. In a vector boson scattering process, a vector…
Activity means different things to men and women in Finland, but there is one thing they share in common; television has little impact.  A recent longitudinal study with a ten-year follow-up examined how the television viewing time of Finnish adults was associated with their physical activity level during leisure-time. It found that active men spend more time watching television than less active men do, while the opposite is true for women. What accounts for that? A more traditional country, where education is done by rote and teachers are the best people rather than having their place…
Sustainability has become a popular buzzword since the turn of the century, and with it came tools to classify and measure urban performance (rankings, indexes, etc.) across public and private institutions. Those tools were used to create the policies implemented by authorities and are used to assess their success. Yet the tools themselves suffer from a lack of transparency, the very transparency that sustainability advocates claim is vital. There is a lack of knowledge about the actual methodological base underpinning them and which is supposed to legitimize their use. Lucía Sáez-Vegas, Ph.D…
Mutagenesis is a process where new strains of food and products are created using chemicals and radiation in the lab. It is much faster than the natural mutation process while being more targeted than old techniques like hybrids and grafts. In the 1970s, its successor, transgene science and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), began to be studied and by the early 1980s products began to appear. In the 1990s, the American state of Hawaiʻi approved a papaya that had been devastated by a natural virus after breeding techniques and chemicals failed to stop it. Other foods followed. When…
When Charles Dickens died, he had spectacular fame, great wealth and an adoring public. But his personal life was complicated. Separated from his wife and living in a huge country mansion in Kent, the novelist was in the thrall of his young mistress, Ellen Ternan. This is the untold story of Charles Dickens’s final hours and the furore that followed, as the great writer’s family and friends fought over his final wishes. My new research has uncovered the never-before-explored areas of the great author’s sudden death, and his subsequent burial. While details such as the presence of Ternan at…
More than two years have passed since the detection of what is arguably the most damaging tree pest ever to arrive in South Africa: the polyphagous shot hole borer (Euwallacea fornicatus). The beetle kills trees and there are no proven remedies. The beetle is now present in nearly all parts of the country and in more than 100 tree species. An invasion of this magnitude should have elicited a rapid response and the development of a strategic action plan. But that hasn’t happened. South Africa has never had to deal with a tree-killing pest of this importance before. In addition, the country has…