Author: martha

Is the Evolution of Language all Talk?

Steve Samuel ponders whether it is worth tackling the central question of how language has come to be How is it that one species alone on this planet evolved language? Though we are not the only animal to have acquired a unique capability, language is so woven into the fabric of our species that it forms the defining element of our species-identity. For some, without language we would not even

No Time for Hot Air

Lauren Broadfield reflects on the state of climate change policies in an increasingly hostile political environment In a recent interview with fellow naturalist Chris Packham, Sir David Attenborough proclaimed that “humanity must come to its senses or face environmental disaster”. We are never short of reminders that climate change is a pressing global problem: we see climate refugees forced to flee their homes, changes in the distribution of some water-borne

Weird and Wonderful: Giving a Fig about Wasps

While many plants entice pollinators with nectar, fig trees do so with the promise of safety and food for the pollinators’ offspring. For the last 50 million years, fig trees have been exclusively pollinated by symbiotic wasps. The insects are born in the little flowers that make up the inside of the fig fruit and are thus provided with a ready food supply. The winged females and wingless males mate

Why care about the Polar Bear?

Rachael Beasley reveals how there is more to polar bears than meets the eye Climate change. Already in your mind are images of traffic jams hazy with pollution, melting icecaps, and most likely the polar bear. This year marked the fifth lowest Arctic sea ice extent since records began. The low amount of ice has a severe impact on the bears – in fact, they are increasingly becoming known as

Can Birds Read Minds?

Rachel Crosby puts herself inside the mind of the Eurasian Jay If you walk into the kitchen and see your friend jumping around holding onto their foot, you are likely to think that they have stood on something painful, not that they are performing a ritual rain dance. Humans have the ability to decode the thoughts, beliefs and emotions of others, allowing you to predict and understand peoples’ actions because

What if We Touched Mars?

Patrick Lundgren reflects on the scientific and moral implications of humanity’s dream of space exploration coming true. Humans have always been captivated by the beautiful bright speckles of light scattered across the night sky and the prospect of exploring these unknown worlds beyond ours. erefore, it is not surprising that the sciences pertaining to outer space (astronomy and its derivatives astrophysics, astrochemistry, astrogeology, and astrobiology) have successfully appealed to a wide

A Psychedelic Conversation: Tackling the Taboo

Antonina Kouli and Bart Nieuwenhuis report on the CamBRAIN panel discussion of psychedelic drugs’ medical potential As strange as it sounds today, psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms’ active ingredient) showed great clinical promise in the early 1960s. Several early scientific papers suggested that psychedelics could be used to treat psychiatric disorders and even for pain relief. However, the simultaneous rise in psychedelic use by the public at

The Inexpert Ape

Laura Van Holstein explains why none of us is a specialist, and why this makes us so successful. We belong to a remarkably successful species. By comparison, our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, never experienced a population boom or geographical sprawl on the scale of Homo sapiens. The key to our curious reproductive overdrive and environmental in delity is our place at the bottom of the Scala Naturae, if

The Drug that Brought the Dress Back

Following Professor France Ashcroft’s 2015 damehood, Atreyi Chakrabarty examines how the work of one woman transformed both treatment and understanding of a debilitating childhood disease. Neonatal diabetes is a myth. At least that was what Frances Ashcroft was told in 1997 on her quest to find newborns with the condition. Yet her persistence and determination to find the cause and cure of this unique condition was unfailing. Not only did she

FOCUS: Speak More, Act More

With ongoing political and public apathy surrounding sustainability and development, Kelsey Reichenbach and Paul Cohen ask the experts Professor Simon Schaffer, Professor Eric Wolff, Dr Hugh Hunt, Anthony Haynes and Ian Ellison how we can better communicate the urgency of Climate Change. In the famous words of George Bernard Shaw, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Scientists and engineers spend between 20% and 40% of