Category Archives: Life on Earth

How and Why Sleep Evolved

Sleep. We all need it, and most of us don’t get enough of it. And even if we get the average recommended amount (the good old 8-hour dosage), that takes up about a third of our lives overall.

But why do we sleep, from an evolutionary standpoint? The fact that it’s so widespread in the animal kingdom attests to it having some kind of vital function. But it just seems like a waste of 8 hours, more or less.

Continue reading How and Why Sleep Evolved

Bees: how important are they and what would happen if they went extinct?

Philip Donkersley, Lancaster University

How important are bees and what will happen when they go extinct? Is there research into what is killing them? I’ve been told it’s weed killers… – Tink, aged 18, Cornwall, UK.

Bees – including honey bees, bumblebees, and solitary bees – are very important because they pollinate food crops. Pollination is where insects move pollen from one plant to another, fertilising the plants so that they can produce fruit, vegetables, seeds and so on. If all the bees went extinct, it would destroy the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem and affect global food supplies.

Continue reading Bees: how important are they and what would happen if they went extinct?

The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst

Thomas Moynihan, University of Oxford

It is 1950 and a group of scientists are walking to lunch against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. They are about to have a conversation that will become a scientific legend. The scientists are at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the site for the Manhattan Project, where each of the group has lately played their part in ushering in the atomic age.

Continue reading The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst

20 Amazing Elephant Facts

Today, August 12, is World Elephant Day. Even though these largest existing land animals are loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world, they are actually close to the edge of extinction. The escalation of poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity are just some of the threats to both African and Asian elephants. So, we urgently need to take action to protect these amazing (and cute!) animals. Here are 20 amazing elephant facts.

Continue reading 20 Amazing Elephant Facts

How Earth Could Die – 9 Horrible Ways

Now we’re living on a warm, hospitable planet. As Carl Sagan has said “That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” We, humans, are the unquestionable rulers of our little oasis in a hostile universe. But all things must pass. The life on Earth, even the planet itself, won’t last forever. What’s more, the humans may go extinct before our planet (and probably before the life on it) dies out. Here some possible (and horrible) ways how planet Earth (or, at least, life on Earth) could die.

Continue reading How Earth Could Die – 9 Horrible Ways

Wildlife crossings make animals and people safer

Wildlife crossings over (and under) the highways could make animals (both wild and domesticated) and people safer.

Our expanding network of roads are interrupting and fragmenting the territories of wild (and also domesticated) animals who need to cross our roads in search of food, water, mates, and shelter. Many are routinely struck and killed by vehicles in this most basic quest for survival.

In addition to conservation concerns, animal-vehicle collisions have a significant cost for human populations because collisions damage property and injure and kill passengers and drivers: in the United States only, collisions between wildlife and vehicles have increased by 50 percent in the most recently reported 15 years. These accidents now cost Americans $8 billion every year.

Continue reading Wildlife crossings make animals and people safer

Sea creatures store carbon in the ocean – could protecting them help slow climate change?

Heidi Pearson, University of Alaska Southeast

As the prospect of catastrophic effects from climate change becomes increasingly likely, a search is on for innovative ways to reduce the risks. One potentially powerful and low-cost strategy is to recognize and protect natural carbon sinks – places and processes that store carbon, keeping it out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Continue reading Sea creatures store carbon in the ocean – could protecting them help slow climate change?

Is Cloning the Future of Genomics?

Almost every human condition can be linked back to your genes. The list of genetic conditions is lengthy. Diseases like muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, birth defects like spina bifida, and some cancers just barely scrape the long list of ailments that can be passed from one generation to the next. And, it seems that many of us try to overcome our genetics at every opportunity. We work to live a healthy lifestyle, eat the right foods, limit stress, and get enough rest each day. What if there was a better way to protect yourself and those you love from your own genes?

Continue reading Is Cloning the Future of Genomics?