Mars salty lake organisms could be living under the ice-cap

Liquid water discovered on Mars

An exciting discovery of a liquid water lake on the red planet by a group of scientists of ESA (the European Space Agency) has recently been made public. The group working on the satellite called Mars Express has discovered the lake underneath the large southern polar ice-cap. This discovery opens up many new possibilities for us to search for Mars salty lake organisms. Therefore, scientists on Earth are thrilled by the new prospects.
Could this be a home of Mars salty lake organisms?
The South Pole of Mars, captured by ESA

Life finds a way  – even in extreme places on earth

We know organisms can be found in every corner of the Earth, also in places that are very extreme. These organisms are known as extremophiles, and biologists have found them on Earth in both boiling hot geysers as well as cold salty lakes underneath the polar ice-caps. The question is now; could similar organisms exist on Mars? In order to answer this, we first have to understand the what kinds of life could live there.

 Ancient Mars was earth’s fraternal twin

We know that geological evidence tells us of the young Mars as a planet not too different from Earth. However, because Mars is smaller than Earth it could not keep its atmosphere until the present day. Another problem for the habitability of Mars is that it does not have a proper magnetosphere protecting the surface from radiation. Mars today looks very different; we have lost the oceans and all we have left of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. We could, therefore, suspect the lake found on Mars to contain organisms from this ancient ocean.

Scientists could Find Mars salty Lake organisms in the future

Now, we still have many unanswered questions about this amazing discovery. Even though Mars is very far away, the answers are within our reach. Therefore, we are going to need new and dedicated scientists, who can study these far-off potential homes for life in the future.

Extreme salty organisms might live here
The bottom of the Antarctic Lake Vostok. By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wikimedia Commons

Ny viden om genanvendelse af bioaske kan give basis for evidens baseret lovgivning

Genanvendelse af bioaske som gødning i skovplantager
Genanvendelse af bioaske som gødning i skovplantager. Kilde: Louise Hindborg Mortensen

Blandt befolkningen findes der en generel holdning at politiske beslutninger på miljøområdet bør tages på et evidens baseret grundlag. Der er meget forskningen indenfor disse emner, men solid forskning tager tid og kan derfor ikke altid følge med de nødvendige lovkrav. Det tager år for de relevante forskningsprojekter at skaffe midler, opstille gennemarbejdede forsøg, indhente data og derefter analysere dem. I den mellemliggende tid, er der stadig behov for miljøregulering. Indtil resultaterne er på plads, må lovgiverene basere deres beslutninger på forskernes antagelser, nabolandes lovgivning og et generelt forsigtighedsprincip.
Af flere grunde er dette ikke fordelagtigt. Forskernes antagelser er ikke altid korrekte, vores nabolandes erfaringer kan ikke altid overføres og der må være en vis balance mellem udvikling og forsigtighed, dog altid med et miljøbeskyttende udgangspunkt. Derfor er det yderst relevant at revidere lovgivningen løbende, når solide forskningsresultater bliver offentliggjort.

Bioaskebekendtgørelsen

Et eksempel er ”Bekendtgørelse om anvendelse af bioaske til jordbrugsformål” (Bioaskebekendtgørelsen) fra 2008. Bioaskebekendtgørelsen omhandler regulativer vedrørende genbrugen af aske efter biobrændsel (træ eller strå). Bioaske er i dag oftest betragtet som et affaldsprodukt for kraftvarmeværkerne, men asken indeholder næringsstoffer som potentielt kan bruges til jordforbedring i biobrændselplantager. Genanvendelse af asken som nærring er en bæredygtig måde at deponere hvad der ellers betragtes som affald og kan potentielt være en besparelse for kraftvarmeværkerne. Bioaske indeholder dog også det giftige tungmetal cadmium, hvilket er grunden til at man i 2008 byggede bioaskebekendtgørelsen op omkring et forsigtighedsprincip. For skov er dosen sat til 3 tons aske/hektar/10 år, dog maks. 3 gange over en periode på 75 år. Desuden må cadmium tilførslen ikke overskride 60 g cadmium pr. ha pr. 75 år.

Ashback – et studie af bioaske til  genanvendelse i skovplantager

Siden udarbejdelsen af Bioaskebekendtgørelsen, har et omfattende studie fra Københavns Universitet (Center for Ashback) undersøgt hvordan aske påvirker jorden i en skov. Projektet har blandt andet undersøgt risiko forholdene for cadmium. Konklusionen er at der ved nuværende doser ikke er nogen risiko for at cadmium vil akkumulere i systemet og evt. blive en del af den menneskelige fødekæde. Studiet viser desuden at aske dosis skal sættes betragteligt op, før cadmium vil blive en risikofaktor.

Resultaterne fra Ashback er klar netop som bioaskebekendtgørelsen skal til revision, hvilket muliggør en ny evidens baseret politik på området.

Hør mere om studiet og cadmium i podcasten herunder:


Tilknytningsforhold:

Forfatteren, Louise Hindborg Mortensen, er PhD på Center for Ashback

Brain scanning is helping scientists understand mental illness

by Julius Grothen, Katrine Rosenmejer, Liva Kasch Hansen, Marta Quatorze

Mental illness can be difficult to accept, both for the sick person and for the surroundings. It is a lot easier to diagnose a broken arm, than to diagnose a broken mind. Nevertheless, every fifth adult in Denmark has symptoms of a psychological disorder [1]. To be able to diagnose and medicate various mental illness, researchers are trying hard to get a better understanding of the mind. But their task is challenging. We have been talking to medical physicist Bryan Haddock about this subject.

 

Mental illness is affecting many people, but are poorly understood
Mental illness is affecting many people, but they are poorly understood

Emotions and brain scans

Emotions originates from our brain. Our brain consists of different compartments performing different tasks. When we experience something, parts of our brain get activated. These parts will then send signals to other parts of the brain or to the body. In this way we are able to move, think and feel [2]. When a person has a mental illness, something is working differently in the brain. This is one of the areas that Bryan Haddock and his co-workers are investigating at the Danish hospital Rigshospitalet.

“Psychiastry patients is a large group of patients, that is basicallyas inhibited or disabled as you can get. At the same time, we have very little to offer them”

Bryan Haddock, Medical Physics Expert

A look into the brain

It is the belief of Bryan Haddock that the answer to helping people with mental illnesses could be found within the function of the brain: “It is our hope to find out where things go wrong and how we could change that to help these patients”. One of the tools to do so is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI is a technique that can image the activation of the brain. This makes it possible to see which parts of the brain that activates during different stimuli. [2]

fMRI scanner used for mapping the changes in brain activity
fMRI scanner used for mapping the changes in brain activity

Locating Christmas spirit in the brain

As a part of a study Bryan Haddock and his co-workers tried to locate the Christmas spirit in the brain of people celebrating Christmas. Even though not directly related to mental illness, the results still contribute to the understanding of human emotions and could help develop new methods to further this understanding [4]. See more in the video below where we interview Bryan Haddock to learn more about this interesting experiment.

STUDYING MENTAL ILLNESS IS COMPLEX

As explained in the video, the purpose of the experiment was not only to locate the Christmas spirit in the brain, but also to inform about the shortcomings of such experiments. Due to the complexity of the mind, one can never be quite sure that the activation appearing on the brain scan happens for the reasons we would expect. For example, we don’t know if the person is thinking or feeling something that is unrelated to what we are looking for. Therefore all research needs to be repeated in different settings before the results can be trusted. [3][4]

Nevertheless, this is a promising field and it is the hope of Bryan Haddock and others, that this kind of research will make the breakthroughs that are so desperately needed in the study of mental illness.

[1] Folker, P. Mental sundhed. SDU  (accessed at 16-08-18)

[2] Filippi, M. (2016). FMRI techniques and protocols (Second ed., Neuromethods). New York, NY: Humana Press. Pages 3-28

[3] Milham et al. (2017). Clinically useful brain imaging for neuropsychiatry: How can we get there? Depression and Anxiety, vol 34(7), pp. 578-587

[4] Hougaard et al. (2016). All in the mind: Evidence of a Christmas spirit network in the brain: functional MRI study. British Medical Journal. Vol 351

Podcastserie om hjernerystelse

Behandling af langvarig hjernerystelse

De fleste har oplevet at slå hovedet uden at få alvorlige følger, men hvert år pådrager 25.000 danskere sig en hjernerystelse. I 10 til 15 % af tilfældene er der stadig mén efter flere måneder. Der findes ikke én bestemt behandling af hjernerystelse, og mange oplever derfor at det er svært at finde frem til den rette behandling. Nederst i artikel er en liste over forskellige behandlingsmuligheder.


Pilotafsnit – En Rystet Hjerne hos akupunktør

I dette pilotafsnit af podcastserien En Rystet Hjerne, møder vi to Katriner, og hører vi mere om akupunktur som behandlingsmulighed for hjernerystelse.


Forskning på området

Rent neurologisk vil hjernen være genoprettet allerede et par måneder efter man har fået hjernerystelsen. Forskning på området tyder på at det er en kombination af flere årsager som gør, at folk får langvarige følger. Dette oplyser Hana Malá Rytter, forsker i neuropsykologi på Københavns Universitet, og uddyber:

“Der er flere ting i det. Der er selve traumet, det der kommer umiddelbart efter traumet og den måde det håndteres på. Og så er der alt det efterfølgende, som er en blanding af traumet, men lige så meget den måde man plejer at være (…), altså hvad er det for en person man er.”

Behandling af hjernerystelse

Behandling

En hjernerystelse er altså en kompleks situation, der påvirkes af flere ting. Det er svært at behandle, specielt fordi alle tilfælde er forskellige. Der er derfor ikke én behandling som virker på alle. Sundhedssystemet har sjældent en udførlig løsning til folk, der henvender sig med langvarig hjernerystelse. Mange oplever derfor at føle sig svigtet og overladt til sig selv.

Selv på nettet er det svært at danne sig et overblik over behandlingsmuligheder og tilbud til folk ramt af hjernerystelse.  

Vi har i denne artikel forsøgt at samle de mest kendte former for behandling og andre nyttige links. Der er både anerkendte og alternative behandlingsformer, samt forløb der nogle gange er dækket af sygesikringen.

Målet er lave en podcastserie, der går i dybden med flere behandlingsmuligheder. Du kan lytte til pilotafsnittet her, og hvis der kommer flere afsnit kan du finde dem på denne side.


 Oversigt over behandlingsmuligheder og andre nyttige links

Tatjana Clemmensen, Cecilie Sand Nørholm og Laura M. V. Knudsen, august 2018

Climate change: Tipping point cascades in the Earth system

A new perspective piece published in PNAS proposes novel processes through which the planet could enter a ‘Hothouse Earth’ state. The mechanism, the climatic equivalent of a gravitational slingshot, could propel us toward extreme climate change quicker than previously thought – which was already “pretty fast”, remarked one source. Yet, whilst US governmental agencies preoccupy themselves with climate deregulation, a point of no return approaches, totally unphased and mostly unnoticed. But what are the climate change tipping points and cascades in the Earth system?


A tip of the hat

Lenton et al. first coined the term ‘tipping element’ in 2008, setting the stage for research into climate tipping points. The term describes the large-scale biophysical features of the Earth’s climate such as Arctic sea ice and the Amazon rainforest. All these features would be significantly altered after surpassing as-yet unknown climate thresholds. The nature of these tipping elements makes it extremely difficult for them to return to their original states.


Bite the hand that feeds

The new report by Steffen et al. suggests that 2°C of global warming could trigger a tipping cascade. The report uniquely considers self-reinforcing feedback loops such as the effects of tipping elements on one another, and how this could impact human control over the future climate. Such runaway feedbacks could lead to a ‘Hothouse Earth’ faster than current models predict. We are already ~1°C above pre-industrial levels and as temperature increases lag emissions, humanity may already be committed to a pretty sketchy game of chicken.

2 little too late?

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 – 2°C based on findings from the IPCC report. Not everybody agrees on the finality of those 2 degrees of warming. Most scientists, such as Anders Svensson, feel the climate system is too unpredictable to assign a safe level of warming – it could be more, but it could also be much less.

Climate policy does not yet consider nonlinear mechanisms such as tipping cascades presuming that mitigation actions can restore previous conditions. Steffan et al. propose this is as an oversight requiring renewed levels of stewardship in response.

– Andrew Hattle, Janani Venkatesh, Jesse Jones 

The Fake News Podcast. Episode 1: Science Communication

Fake News in Science Communication

Nick Cooper

Fake news is a term that has become unavoidable in modern society.

Whether it be in our daily conversations, nightly news or embedded in our Twitter feeds. But what actually is fake news? Does it relate to the communication of science? Who is responsible for its creation and dissemination? And are there any solutions? These questions we look to answer in the inaugural episode of the Fake News Podcast.

What is fake news?

Fake news is defined by Lazer et al (2018) as;

“Fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organisational process or intent”.

Fake News in Science Communication

This definition does not fit in well with the communication of fake science related news and is focused on news outlets creating fake news. This is not always the case. We spoke to Olivier Driessens from the University of Copenhagen, Olivier pointed out that fake news can also comes from the onset of undertaking scientific research. With large, influential cooperations funding research. They are able to construct favourable narratives for their businesses which may in turn lead to the creation of fake news stories, by creating ‘noise’ within science.

Fake news is not a new phenomenon…..

“The faking of news stories has been around for a long time, and every iteration of technological advancement, from the telegraph in the 19th century to contemporary social media algorithms, has unleashed new possibilities of deception and fabrication” (Gelfert, 2018).

Who is responsible for its creation and dissemination?

We as humans instinctively are drawn towards to clean and simple explanations, fuelling the fake news fire. We are collectively responsible for the creation and spread of fake news. The introduction of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have doused the fake news fire in petrol. Accelerating the news cycle and the effectiveness of news outlets, scientists, journalists and leaders to disprove  or eliminate contradictory ‘noise’ in scientific conclusions.

Vox: False News stories travel faster and farther on Twitter than the truth. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/3/8/17085928/fake-news-study-mit-science

Some examples of scientific fake news on Twitter;

Are there any solutions?

there are no easy solutions to the fake news problem. A well educated population and collective awareness of fake news can be a first step towards a society where truth prevails and fake news noise is pushed out of the foreground and into the background. Listen to the podcast here for a more in depth discussion on Fake News in science.

References/Links:

Gelfert, A. 2018. Fake News: A Definition. Informal Logic, Vol. 38, No.1. . pp. 84–117.
Lazer, D, M, J., Baum, M, A., Benkler, Y., Berinsky, A, J., Kelly M., Greenhill, K, M., Menczer, F., Metzger, M, J., Nyhan, B., Pennycook, G., Rothschild, D., Schudson, M., Sloman, S, A., Sunstein, C, R., A. Thorson, A, E., Watts, D, J., Zittrain, J, L. 2018. The Science of Fake News. Science  09 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1094-1096.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2998 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1094
Vox. 2018. False News stories travel faster and farther on Twitter than the truth. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/3/8/17085928/fake-news-study-mit-science

Self-driving cars bring classical ethics dilemma back to life

The recent emergence of self-driving vehicles brings a classical ethics dilemma uncomfortably close to the real world. Should an innocent bystander be sacrificed to save a greater number of people?

With Google’s self-driving car project and Tesla’s autopilot, autonomous vehicles are on the verge of becoming part of every-day’s traffic. Driverless cars should reduce traffic accidents. However, with an increasing number of such cars on the road, even fatal accidents will happen at some point.

self-driving
https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/images/home-where.jpg

In a recently published report in Science magazine Jean-François Bonnefon and his team explore the moral standards citizens would demand for self-driving cars.

Trolley problem applied to self-driving cars

Programmers must equip autonomous cars with decision-making processes for accidents – however unlikely they seem. The car might have to decide whether to swerve and hit a single person to avoid harming a group of pedestrians.

This scenario, also known as the trolley problem, has fascinated philosophers and laypeople alike since its first appearance in the 60’s. With autonomous vehicles conquering the streets this thought experiment has become a central piece of today’s discussion about ethics in technology.

According to Bonnefon’s report, citizens would prefer self-driving cars to minimize harm. They even agree with sacrificing the passenger for saving a group of pedestrians. However, they would not want to buy such a vehicle. This divergence in moral expectations as passenger and bystander puts manufacturers of driverless cars into a tough position.

Moral guidelines for machines

In order to create a safe traffic environment, driverless cars will have to act consistently. What moral algorithms for such vehicles should look like is still open for discussion. To ensure public acceptance, it will be crucial to invite the public to participate in defining those moral guidelines.

However, even if autonomous cars are programmed to comply society’s moral standards in the future, there is no guarantee that the code can’t be altered and abused.

Public perception of the financial crisis: Foggy, but why?

Public perception of the financial crisis: Foggy, but why?

by Elina Beer & Michael Polny

The general public’s perception of the financial crisis is still that of a mystery shrouded in fog. Why did the financial crisis happen in the first place? Why did it affect uninvolved people all over the world?

Mediating when there’s no knowledge to mediate – the media’s view

The media are usually acting as a knowledge transfer agent from experts to the general public. But they have had a hard time explaining the financial crisis to the general public. “The structure of the financial system is a big black hole for most people.”, Adam Hannestad, journalist at “Politiken”, agrees. He identifies as main reasons for that the use of jargon and lack of understanding among Danes for the greedy behaviour that underlay the crisis. Accordingly, he is convinced that there is a need for a responsible banking system, good politicians – and a good financial press! (Translated and paraphrased by Michael Polny)

Emotions versus knowledge – public perception

Lack of knowledge, however, opens the path for emotions to sweep in: The less you know, the more you worry. A study on U.S. public response to the financial crisis implicitly had a similar finding. The sadder, angrier, worried, anxious, fearful or stressed the participants were, the riskier they perceived the financial crisis to be – as manifested in e.g. higher savings. What is the European perspective?
In the following video, a Danish dental technician voices her perception of the financial crisis. The crisis had forced her to retire early.

Public perception of the financial crisis:Public perception of the financial crisis:

No scientific consensus

In fact, economists have differing opinions with regards to these questions. “I doubt that there exists a consensus among experts about the underlying reasons for the financial crisis”, says Alexander Christopher Sebald, Co-Director of the Center of Experimental Economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Copenhagen. Consequently, they shy away from attempts at explanation.

Economists’ perception of the financial crisis: Economists' perception of the financial crisis

The financial crisis may have taught us that ignorance is not always bliss. The economic profession though, seems to prefer the Socratic thinking: “I know that I do not know” – an honest approach.

Art, phenomenology, and the aesthetic experience

what is art

by Brian Kantor & Nevena Niagolova

What is aesthetic experience?

This is an experience many of us have on a regular basis: You’re in a museum, a decorated hallway, someone’s yard, walking down the street. Art is everywhere.

And while the regularity of this experience dulls thoughtful reflection, there is much to consider in the interaction between ourselves and aesthetic expression.

Dissecting the senses

For years psychologists have tried to understand aesthetic experience from a more scientific perspective. For them, we can understand aesthetic experience by objective and quantitative analysis of select elements of an artwork—geometry and color, for example—and their stimulation of regions in the brain.

But is that really the best way of understand aesthetic experience?

The Greeks and the Cosmos

In search for a more complete understanding, some researchers believe we need to look back. Way back. To the Greeks.

Aristotle understand art as much more than simply the sensation it created in the mind. Art and aesthetic experience stimulated thoughts and reflection about the world.  In that way, aesthetic experience linked an individual’s mind to the wider cosmos.

Phenomenological Psychology Perspective – Totality of the Aesthetic experience

Later, philosophers of phenomenology had related thoughts, believing that art becomes art not by the sum of its parts but through its totality with which we interact.

 

aesthetic experience

Bringing Subjectivity

More recently, some psychologists seek to use these perspectives to improve their own understanding of aesthetic experience today. They argue that we cannot understand these experiences through reductive, quantitative analysis, but must attend to subjective experiences of the individual, namely, how the art appears differently to every individual.

The magic of art, then, is not contained in the artwork itself, but in the interaction between art, the viewer, and his or her own social history.

So next time you stumble upon a piece of art, what do you bring to the artwork, and how does your personal history shape this interaction?

A decline of children biking to school threatens Copenhagen cycling culture

Less and less children bike to school in Copenhagen since the 1990s. Research shows that one of the main problems is concerned parents. They do not feel safe biking with their kids. Yet, it has never been safer to bike in the city.
Children should bike to school

Copenhagen is well known all over the world for its strong biking culture. Nevertheless, numbers from the Danish Cyclist Federation shows that there is a decline in children biking to school.  While 70% of Danish children used their bike to get to school in the 1990s, it is only 50% today. The CEO of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, Klaus Bondam stresses that this tendency can potentially threaten the proud Danish cycling culture, since transportation habits are established at an early age. Furthermore, biking has proven to increase children’s health, well-being and learnings abilities. Therefore, it is crucial that children use the bike to get to school.

The feeling of safety

A recent study made by a team of cultural analyst from Copenhagen University uncovers an important reason for this negative tendency. Parents do not feel that it is safe to bike with their children in the city. This stands in stark contrast to the fact that it has never been safer to bike in Copenhagen.

diagram

Initiatives to change the development

Through interviews, observations, workshops and ride-alongs the research team found out that children are motivated and well-educated to use their bikes, that parents recognise the importance of children biking and that teachers include biking in the school programme. Yet, the feeling of unsafety withholds many parents to let their children use their bike.

“I think it is more dangerous to bike today than when I grew up”
Father (Blågård Skole)

The Danish Cyclists’ Federation addresses this problem by making campaigns and events that aim at changing the negative development. Furthermore, Bondam emphasizes that it is crucial to encourage a dialogue in families about the mode of transportation and in the society as a whole.

Billede1

With an ongoing focus on the importance of getting children to use the bike as their main means of transportation, Copenhagen will hopefully continue to have a strong biking culture.

Article and video produced by: Lydia Kirchner and Line Steen, Copenhagen University, 12.08.2016.