Posted by: gcarkner | January 1, 2015

2014 Highlights in Science and Morality

BBC Science News Highlights

1. We landed a spacecraft on a comet 67P. Bad luck on the final landing spot shaded from sunlight; her batteries died while solar panels languished in the dark. Very bad luck.

2. We discovered the world’s biggest and possibly most complete set of dinosaur bones in Argentina, a titanasour.

3. Loss of  a 44 year old white rhinoceros in the San Diego Zoo leaves only five left in the world, symbolic of the serious threat to species around the world and a horrific multi-billion dollar illegal trade in animal parts. Tens of thousands of rhinos, elephants, gorillas and tigers are egregiously killed each year by poachers.

4. The UN’s Climate Panel has rolled out parts two, three and four of its landmark assessment on global warming. 2014 is in the running for the hottest year yet globally. They highly recommend weaning ourselves off carbon (fossil) fuels to avoid planetary disaster. Will this be a key year to discuss climate change and the human future? One can only hope.

5. Scientists modified an E. coli to include two new synthetic DNA base pairs. Scientists also manufactured the first complete synthetic chromosome for yeast. Genetics continues to be a booming field along with neuroscience. Human brain mapping continues with gusto.

6. Iranian professor Mayan Mirzakhani was the first woman to win the prestigious math prize for her work in complex geometry.

7. This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to three scientists  for the invention of blue light emitting diodes (LEDs); the Chemitry prize went to researchers who had used fluorescence  to improve the resolution of optical microscopes.

8. Human Genome: DNA from a thigh bone was sequenced from a 45,000 year old man found near a river bed in Siberia. You can receive your genome map for around $1000. That’s a wow development over the past decade.

Were there any breakthroughs in human morals and virtues or the common good for humanity in 2014? 

Perhaps the new film on Martin Luther King Jr. called Selma will offer some hope for homo sapiens sapiens.

Reading Jim Wallis’ book The (Un)Common Good inspired me in a deep way during the holidays, as did the gripping courage of Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything) to take on big picture political and economic issues as the back story to the discourse/debate on Global Warming.

Jeremy Rifkin gave an inspiring talk on YouTube to Google employees of a way to move towards and internet of everything. He held up the German example of moving 25% of their energy production to solar and wind power in a short time.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.

Barack Obama handed out insurance life jackets to millions of underprivileged Americans.

Pope Francis challenges the wealthy and plutocrats of the planet and reminds the world of what matters most: compassion and mercy.

Oxford scientists suggest that the lateral frontal pole of our brain helps us evaluate our decisions. Interesting. Not there in monkeys.

Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everything, shows that the science is only one part of the climate change debate. She is revealing a gaping hole in our ethics and a brokenness in our governance.

~Gord Carkner  Views of Vancouver, B.C.

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