Are seeds a commodity or a vital resource to be shared for the benefit of humanity like the water we drink or the air we breathe? In the near future, farmers might lose the right to plant their own seeds. In Europe, a regulation is emerging which will impose strict controls on the use of agricultural seeds. Behind this appropriation stand five corporations already governing half of the seeds market and looking to spread their stranglehold even further.
The documentary ‘La Guerre des Graines’ – ‘The Seed War’ travels from India to France, and even the polar circle, to unveil a silent and unknown war whose outcome is critical – the status of our food independence! Through the making of this film the directors went to meet all the actors of this “war”, from environmental activists like Vandana Shiva to corporations and European politicians.
The film has been directed by Clément Montfort and Stenka Quillet.
Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, is using science to deliver new-to-the-world capabilities from agriculture to society. Through advanced plant breeding, ...http://www.dupont.com/products-and-services/seeds.html
Many faces, one object c. AD 1525 England The challenge in designing a polyhedral sundial such as this one is to set a separate dial on each face of the shape, so that as many as are receiving the sun tell the time. In this case the shape is based on an octagon and there are dials on nine faces - the two large octagonal sides, and seven of the connecting rectangles (the bottom rectangle is supported by the base).
It was made by the German mathematician Nicolaus Kratzer, who came to England in about 1518 and was astronomer to King Henry VIII. He made this instrument Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief adviser; the four-sided base has Wolsey's arms, the arms of York Minster, and (on two sides) a cardinal's hat.
Macrauchenia, a humpless camel with an extended snout, is actually related to modern horses. (Illustration by Peter Schouten from the forthcoming book "Biggest, Fiercest, Strangest" W. Norton Publishers (in production))
When the father of evolution found the first fossilized example of what would become the genus Toxodon in South America, he called it the "strangest animal ever discovered." Charles Darwin's find had the curved tooth of a rodent, but also seemed to share features with hippos and sloths, among other things. To hedge their bets, he and his colleagues suggested that it could presumably be a relative of any number of these animals.
In a new study published Wednesday in Nature, the secrets of the group that included this and another of Darwin's strange finds are finally revealed.
According to analysis of the protein in the bones of Toxodon and Macrauchenia bones, these strange creatures -- one a bit like a toothy hippo, the other something of an elephant-nosed, flat-backed camel -- are most closely related to Perissodactyla, a group of animals that includes horses, tapirs, and rhinos.
"Fitting South American ungulates to the mammalian family tree has always been a major challenge for paleontologists, because anatomically they were these weird mosaics, exhibiting features found in a huge variety of quite unrelated species living all over the place," Ross MacPhee, one of the paper's authors and a curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Mammalogy, said in a statement. "This is what puzzled Darwin and his collaborator Richard Owen so much in the early 19th century. With all of these conflicting signals, they couldn't say whether these ungulates were related to giant rodents, or elephants, or camels--or what have you."
The hippo-like Toxodon. (Illustration by Peter Schouten from the forthcoming book "Biggest, Fiercest, Strangest" W. Norton Publishers (in production))
Modern scientists have been similarly puzzled, because the bones of these creatures have lost too much DNA in the hot, wet conditions of South America.
"Over the past 180 years, people have tried to place them pretty much everywhere in the mammal family tree based on their physical features," study author Ian Barnes of the Natural History Museum in London told The Post.
Ancient DNA is Barnes's speciality, but he and his colleagues quickly found that they'd have more luck by analyzing proteins from the animals' bones instead. They looked specifically at collagen, a structural protein that's much heartier than DNA. Because proteins are made up of chemical structures dictated by DNA, protein analysis can show how different animals are related. Even with the bones far beyond the reach of DNA analysis, Barnes said, he and his team were able to recover 90 percent of the collagen's make-up.
After analyzing 48 fossils of Toxodon platensis and Macrauchenia patachonica, they finally gave the creatures a place in the mammalian family tree. While they're most closely related to Perissodactyla, they're quite distinct, having branched off from the lineage that produced animals we know today some 18 million years ago. The two species are also quite distinct from each other, and probably hadn't had a common ancestor for around 60 million years.
"It was pretty clear going in that no one had a really convincing idea of where these animals had come from, what they'd evolved from, or how they'd gotten to South America," Barnes said. But the new evidence supports theories that ancestors of the creatures came to North America around 60 million years ago, just before the dinosaurs died out. They must have made their way down to South America not long after.
Barnes hopes that this protein evidence will give scientists a solid starting point for studying the animals in-depth. Before, researchers blindly assigned attributes of the bones to one known group of animals or another. Now, he said, they can work in the opposite direction.
"Working from what we're reasonably certain about and going back into all that morphology could be really interesting," he said. "I'm hoping people will take this new information and use it to pinpoint what features really do group these animals together, and use similar living animals to reconstruct what the ancestral forms may have looked like."
Rachel Feltman runs The Post's Speaking of Science blog.
UC Berkeley researchers have created a new “smart bandage” that uses electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from bedsores before they can be seen by human eyes — and while recovery is still possible. Associate professor Michel Maharbiz explains how it works.
Anglesey-born William Jones was the first person to use the Greek letter π for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. But who was this little-known figure?
In 1706, William Jones – a self-taught mathematician and one of Anglesey’s most famous sons – published his seminal work, Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, roughly translated as A summary of achievements in mathematics.
It is a work of great historical interest because it is where the symbol π appears for the first time in scientific literature to denote the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Jones realised that the decimal 3.141592 … never ends and that it cannot be expressed precisely. “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers,” he wrote. That was why he recognised that it needed its own symbol to represent it.
It is thought that he chose π either because it is first letter of the word for periphery (περιφέρεια) or because it is the first letter of the word for perimeter (περίμετρος). (Or because of both).
The symbol π was popularised in 1737 by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83), but it wasn’t until as late as 1934 that the symbol was adopted universally. By now, π is instantly recognised by school pupils worldwide, but few know that its history can be traced back to a small village in the heart of Anglesey.
William Jones was born in 1674 on a small holding close to the village of Capel Coch in the parish of Llanfihangel Tre’r Beirdd, north of the county town of Llangefni in the middle of the island.
When he was still a small child the family moved a few miles further north to the village of Llanbabo. He attended the charity school at nearby Llanfechell, where his early mathematical skills were drawn to the attention of the local squire and landowner, who arranged for Jones to go to London, where he was given a position as a merchant’s accountant. He later sailed to the West Indies, an experience that began his interest in navigation.
When he reached the age of 20, Jones was appointed to a post on a warship to give lessons in mathematics to the crew. On the back of that experience, he published his first book in 1702 on the mathematics of navigation as a practical guide for sailing. On his return to Britain he began to teach mathematics in London, possibly starting by holding classes in coffee shops for a small fee. Shortly afterwards he published Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, a book written in English, despite the Latin title.
William Jones became friendly with Sir Thomas Parker, later the Earl of Macclesfield, and tutored the young George Parker, who was to become the second Earl. He later lived at the family home, Shirburn Castle, near Oxford, where he developed close links with the family. Through his numerous connections William Jones amassed at Shirburn an incomparable library of books on science and mathematics. He also maintained links with Wales, particularly through the Morrises of Anglesey, a family of literary brothers renowned for their cultural influences and activities who, although a generation younger than William, came from the same part of Anglesey and had strong London-based connections.
In the wake of publishing his Synopsis, William Jones was noticed by two of Britain’s foremost mathematicians: Edmund Halley (who had a comet named after him) and Sir Isaac Newton. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1711 and was vice-president of the society during part of Sir Isaac Newton’s presidency. William Jones became an important and influential member of the scientific establishment. He also copied, edited and published many of Newton’s manuscripts. In 1712 he was appointed a member of a committee established by the Royal Society to determine whether the Englishman, Isaac Newton, or the German, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, should be accorded the accolade of having invented the calculus – one of the jewels in the crown of contemporary mathematics. Not surprisingly, considering the circumstances, the committee adjudged in favour of Newton.
In his will William Jones bequeathed his library of roughly 15,000 books together with some 50,000 manuscript pages, many in Newton’s hand, to the third Earl of Macclesfield. Some 350 of these books and manuscripts were written in Welsh, and this portion of the original library was safeguarded in about 1900 to form the Shirburn Collection at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
A hundred years later, in 2001, that part of Wiliam Jones’s collection that comprised papers and notebooks belonging to Sir Isaac Newton were sold to the library of the University of Cambridge for over £6m, a sum partly raised by public subscription. The bulk of the rest of the library was sold in a series of auctions at Sotheby’s in 2004 and 2005, raising many more millions: a copy of the astronomer Johann Kepler’s Harmonices mundi raised close to £100,000 and Newton’s classicPrincipia mathematica a further £60,000. William Jones’s own book, Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, was a bargain at a mere £8,000. In one of Newton’s books, edited by William Jones, and given as a gift by Jones to the Macclesfield family, there was a single loose sheet in Newton’s own handwriting. This sheet alone raised £90,000. The Macclesfield estate benefited greatly from the sale, but this priceless collection has now been dispersed to libraries and private collectors across the globe. Some mystery remains regarding the fate of William Jones’s personal papers. The Macclesfield family had been reluctant to release them and there is the suggestion of a scandal that the family has sought to conceal. Those papers would surely throw further light on William Jones, on his relationship with the earls of Macclesfield, and on his remarkable life-journey from a cottage in Anglesey to be a member of the mathematics establishment, and one of its shining stars.
William Jones married twice. One of the children of his second marriage was born barely three years before William died aged 74. Also named William Jones – a source of much subsequent confusion – the son became Sir William Jones (1746–1794). He was appointed as a Supreme Court judge in India and was an expert in the languages of the subcontinent. Sir William established links between Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, leading to the concept of ‘Indo-European languages’ that remains a cornerstone of modern linguistic theory. He was once introduced to the king of France as one who knew every language apart from his own – Welsh! It is highly likely, given his place of birth, that William Jones, the father, would have been fluent in both Welsh and English but, having lost his father when he was three, Sir William would not have had the opportunity to learn his father’s first language.
Gareth Roberts is emeritus professor of education at Bangor University. As@GarethFfowc he sets daily maths challenges on Twitter in both English and Welsh. His website is www.garethffowcroberts.com
If you want to be kept in touch with this blog, Adventures in Numberland, please follow Alex Bellos on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
Some of the details of William Jones’s life remain unclear, partly because many of his personal papers have not come to light. However, interest in his life and work has increased. Patricia Rothman at University College London has analysed William Jones’s circle of influence in London in her article ‘William Jones and his circle: the man who invented the concept of pi’, History Today, 2009, 59/7, 24–30.
The Library and Archives Service at Bangor University holds a number of documents that relate to William Jones. The collection has been augmented over the years by material contributed by Llewelyn Gwyn Chambers (1924–2014), previously a Reader in the university’s Department of Mathematics and an ardent promoter of William Jones and his work.
The author is preparing a forthcoming book on the Welsh and their numbers, including the pi links with William Jones, to be published by the University of Wales Press. He has also co-edited a book on Robert Recorde, the Welsh Tudor mathematician and educator who introduced the equals sign: Robert Recorde: The Life and Times of a Tudor Mathematician (University of Wales Press, 2013).
Hanching Chung Pi Day - where, in the US, on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53, the date will mirror the first 9 digits of Pi.
Here's a gallery of artworks inspired by π to celebrate:http://gu.com/p/3nftt/fb
The man behind the 'Where's Waldo' algorithm has created a road trip route revealing the best way to visit 50 US states. The resulting 13,699-mile route would take 9.33 days of non-stop driving if you had the road to yourself
HOW WAS IT DONE?
Rather than looking at every possible solution, Randy Olsen used something known as a 'genetic algorithms' which starts with just a few random solutions.
It then manipulates these solutions, while trying something slightly different each time, until it finds one that it can't improve on.
The resulting 13,699-mile route would take 9.33 days of non-stop driving if you had the road to yourself.
In his blog, Mr Olson explains how he used information from Google Maps API and wrote code to discover the optimum distance to drive to all 50 landmarks.
This was the same code he had previously created to discover Waldo – or Wally in the UK.
'With 50 landmarks to put in order, we would have to exhaustively evaluate 3 x 1064 possible routes to find the shortest one,' he wrote.
'If you started computing this problem on your home computer right now, you'd find the optimal route in about 9.64 x 1052 years — long after the sun has entered its red giant phase and devoured the Earth.
'This complication is why Google Map's route optimisation service only optimises routes of up 10 waypoints.'
Rather than looking at every possible solution, he used something known as a 'genetic algorithms' which starts with just a few random solutions.
It then manipulates these solutions, while trying something slightly different each time, until it finds one that it can't improve on.