Biosciences

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

Planting Ideas: an Interview with Professor Beverly Glover

Ramya Gurunathan and Caitlin Walker talk to Professor Beverly Glover about communication, collaboration, and botanical research. “It’s important for scientists to be able to communicate about their research, we all know that, but sometimes it’s hard to know quite how to,” explains Beverly Glover, Professor of Plant Systematics and Evolution at Cambridge. Glover is not only Director of the Botanical Garden but also the leader of an active research group

Understanding the Irrational

Laura Nunez-Mulder discusses psychiatry’s future with Professor Paul Fletcher Psychiatry is changing. Historically, the field has been dynamic, undergoing transformation as institutions and asylums have come in and out of fashion. Over the last century, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook of checklists by which psychiatrists can make diagnoses, has been overhauled time and time again. The DSM is a controversial manual. Many disorders overlap,

Food for Thought: Fake News and the Diet Industry

Zi Ran Shen talks fad diets and pseudoscience with Cambridge’s Dr Giles Yeo. The post-truth era has taken over – beliefs are emphasised while cold hard facts are ignored. From Kellyanne Conway’s insistence that falsehoods were “alternative facts”, to Nigel Farage’s flip-flopping on the promised £350m for the NHS, nothing seems to be untouched by the post-truth haze. But perhaps all this is not so very new. We have seen

Our Neanderthal Ancestry

Alba Landra uncovers the ancient ancestry that underlies modern human evolution. MODERN HUMANS have managed to reach every corner of the globe and with current population sizes rising rapidly, we could stake a claim to being the most ‘successful’ hominid species yet. However, how much has our recent ancestry impacted our evolution, and have our previous interbreeding events helped, or even hindered, our success as a species? About 100,000 years ago,

The World Is What We Eat

Jacob Ashton tackles one of the biggest challenges facing mankind. “If we fail on food, we fail on everything,” said Charles Godfray in a paper five years ago, addressing concerns over food production and security. Throughout history, being able to sustain a growing population has been at the forefront of the minds of philosophers, politicians and scientists alike. We have always managed to find a way to feed the population,

FOCUS: AI and the power of the neuron

Alex Bates looks at how neurobiology has inspired the rise of artificial intelligence Since the ancient Greeks wrote the great automaton, Talos of Crete, into myth, science fiction has tinkered much with artiffcial intelligence (AI) in its well stocked playground. Isaac Asimov is perhaps the most famous man-handler of sci-fi’s best beloved toy, his three laws of robotics proving highly influential. Subsequently, lm has dissolved AI’s delicious possibilities and dangers

How our experiences affect our children

Jiali Gao looks at what toad sex, a suicide and starvation have taught genetics The theory of evolution is up there with the ‘universal law of gravitation’ and the ‘theory of general relativity’ when it comes to popular science. Darwin and Lamarck’s famous historical showdown is ensconced in GCSE Science textbooks, with Darwin emerging as the heroic victor, whilst Lamarck’s work is relegated to history’s dumping ground for scientific theories

Does Your Brain Have a Sex?

Does your brain have a sex? Julia Gottwald shows us that human male and female brains are more similar than we think If you were a fruit fly and smelled male pheromones, you would show a strong and consistent response. As a female fly, you would engage in courtship behaviour; as a male fly, you would become more aggressive. We know that pheromones activate different clusters of neurons in the

Travel and Conservation – Steppes Beyond

Last weekend I attended a unique festival at the Royal Geographical Society, London, that presented talks and discussions by conservationists, explorers, travel experts, wildlife documentary presenters and producers. Hosted by Steppes Travel, their first ‘Beyond’ two-day festival aimed to inspire everyone to embark on adventures into the wilderness, whether on safaris to the plains of Africa or rambles getting lost in ones own back garden. The higher end of which is offered by Steppes: from snow leopard tracking in India to