New Life Forms?

No, I am not talking about Star Trek and space and aliens. I am looking at E coli microbes that have been modified to carry an expanded genetic code which researchers say will ultimately allow them to be programmed. Now, the first living organisms to thrive with an expanded genetic code have been made by researchers in work that paves the way for the creation and exploitation of entirely new life forms. Frankenstein-ish or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

new organisms

How can science help in order to “eliminate the fear of the unknown”?  Is it ethical to weigh the benefits against the potential costs (and in this case the benefits include new and better drugs) and decide that this is good for mankind? Can we do anything to halt this march of technological advance? Should we instead embrace this advance and instead try and mitigate the ethical and moral conundrums?

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/23/organisms-created-with-synthetic-dna-pave-way-for-new-entirely-new-life-forms?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=209881&subid=17049047&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

 

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Modern slavery in Libya

The north African nation of Libya is a major exit point for refugees from Africa trying to take boats to Europe. But since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi, the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable to being captured and trapped into slavery. A UN migration agency says selling of people is rife in Libya. More has to be done to help stop this humanitarian crisis.

slavery

Slavery in our modern times is a blight on our civilisation. What more can be or should be done? Should international agencies take a more active role in preventing this? Was the ousting of the dictator Gaddafi a pyrrhic victory? Is the present day situation in Libya worse than before? What can individual nations do to pressure international agencies to do more against this blight? Does this info on the plight of these refugees lead you to be more or less compassionate about the situation of refugees crossing Europe and its accompanying problems?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/10/libya-public-slave-auctions-un-migration?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=221273&subid=17049047&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

 

Environmental catastrophe at the Great Barrier Reef?

The tourism industry has raised questions about the reliability of the survey, saying scientists had previously made exaggerated claims about mortality rates and bleaching. But the researchers are saying that the consecutive years of severe bleaching will have a deleterious effect of this major environmental wonder that it may not recover from.

environment

In today’s world of environmental awareness, is this a case of fake news, alarmist reporting or just greedy corporations or lethargic governments practising environmental ignorance? Should governments be blamed for this? Should industry be blamed? Society? What could the constant hem and haw surrounding environmental protection lead to? What should be done now?

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-terminal-stage-australia-scientists-despair-latest-coral-bleaching-data?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=221121&subid=17049047&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Dust Storms plague Beijing

dust

Dust storms occur regularly yearly in China now. In spring, when winds from China’s north-west blow loose, dry soil and sand from the Gobi Desert into the city, it coats urban areas with a layer of dusty pollution and adds to the existing choking smog from industrial pollution.

Visibility in Beijing was as low as 1km yesterday  and levels of large particulate matter, known as PM10, hovered at around 900 micrograms per cubic m, or nearly 20 times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended daily maximum exposure of 50 mcg per cubic m.

The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars on projects to rein in the spread of deserts, planting trees on empty land and trying to protect what plant cover remains in marginal areas. Right now the effects of the changes are negligible.

Has their economic march gone down a slippery slope they cannot recover from? Will the Paris Climate Agreement  within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) be their salvation? Do they have enough political will to make serious and effective changes that will make a difference in the lives of their citizens in the near future? Or is the Economic Imperative just too strong and important a priority?

Smartphones and Addiction

The Apple iPhone has turned 10 years old. Have we ever wondered how much our lives had changed in that period thanks to this iconic piece of technology. The article by Guardian highlights that four in five adults in the UK now have a smartphone, and that the average US citizen looks at their device 46 times a day; if they are 18-24 years old, they look at them 74 times a day. We use our smartphones when walking down the street, watching films, or while in places of religious worship. One in three adults admits to checking their phone in the middle of the night; 12% admit to using their phone while taking a shower; and 9% say they check their smartphone during sex.

phones

Is smartphone connectivity to be heralded or feared? Has smartphone addiction gone out of control? What is the litany of problems associated with the usage of smartphones in our daily lives? Has the smartphone done more harm than good?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/29/apple-iphone-ten-years-old-crippling-addiction?CMP=share_btn_link

Is Grit the key to success?

Academic Angela Duckworth did research on the issue of Success. In all her research covering very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success and it wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.

GRIT-Artwork1-15-4-1024x961.

Angela Duckworth discusses Grit and the Growth Mindset. Is this just another fad in positive thinking or is it useful in reframing our approaches to success? How can we take into account our processes and practices in schools to help foster these positive habits?

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=240779578

Finland’s Phenomenon-Based Learning

Finland’s new, weird school ‘courses’ say a lot about how we teach our kids. There is no such job as ‘math’. There are mathematicians, sure, or engineers, but even math-heavy jobs still need strong foundations in grammar, technology, and history if they want to be successful. So it’s a little weird that many schools divide these subjects so heavily, like they are ingredients in a soup. In Finland, they’re trying a different approach. Rather than teach subjects as dry, separate ingredients, from now on, it’s all cooking together.

phenomenon

Many education systems are looking for the holy grail in improving their education system. Is this a step in the right direction? Is this approach too experimental as opposed to tried and tested approaches? Can this approach be followed successfully in our education system? Or does this phenomenon-based approach need to be tailored to our landscape?

http://www.upworthy.com/finlands-new-weird-school-courses-say-a-lot-about-how-we-teach-our-kids?c=ufb1