Blog Archives

Embed Plus – and the Plants Talk to Us

Tay from EmbedPlus pointed me to their free tool to allow greater control over YouTube videos, so here is my first attempt at using it to annotate and take over this TED talk from Wade Davis.

EDIT – it doesn’t work properly on WordPress.com, but here is a link to the edited video (the embedded version below is the original from YouTube). It works great on GoogleSites and Moodle, though.

The second ‘chapter’ (about 11.40 in) links to a brilliant example of an amazonian shaman who makes a powerful psychoactive preparation of Ayahuasca, from a vine. Tryptamines are the active component and are similar to tryptophan (our famous amino acid/ end product inhibition example).

They act as neurotransmitters and include serotonin, which regulates mood. It is broken down by enzymes bound to the plasma membrane of cells in the digestive tract called monoamine oxidase (MAO), so can’t be taken orally. The amazing thing is the shaman uses a preparation from another plant that inhibits this enzyme, so that the potion can be ingested and is effective. This is amazing knowledge, gleaned from a totally alternative scientific method to the one we are used to, and demonstrates an advanced naturalistic intelligence.

When he asked how they knew this and were able to combine these two extracts from the thousands available, they answered “The plants talk to us.”

Can you link this to the AHL enzymes content and represent it diagrammatically?

Once you’re done flicking through, watch the whole talk. Then become an ethnobotanist and do something useful!

For more questions and TOK links, see the full post here.

A breathing lung live on stage…

Click for more TEDMED videos

Check out this entertaining TEDMED 2010 Talk in which Shaf Keshavjee brings a breathing lung onto stage and explains how the process of transplantation works. Plenty of links to the human health and physiology topics here:

Early in the talk he refers to Charity Tilleman-Dick, an opera singer who can sing again after a double lung transplant! It’s also funny to see Martha Stewart get on like a high-schooler with her camera-phone.

Fore more excellent anatomy and physiology resources, GetBodySmart is a great website.

HeroRATS: Detecting Landmines and TB

In this TED Talk, Bart Weetjens explains how he and his team from Apopo are using operant conditioning to train African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) to sniff out and signal land mines and TB infections:

HeroRAT in action. Go to Apopo

Visit the resources at Apopo’s pages to find out more about why these rats are chosen in favour of other species and how the training programme works. You could also adopt your own rat to support their work. There are more videos from Apopo on their website or on their YouTube channel.

IB Biology Links:

Information Is Beautiful at TEDGlobal 2010

Linked to some of the other posts about data visualisations, here is Information is Beautiful creator David McCandless at TED Global 2010.

“Data is the new (s)oil”

Visualisation is a great tool for highlighting trends and patterns in data sets, but we must still learn to go into the data ourselves. We must use a critical eye when looking at these graphics – what do they intend to communicate and how well do they achieve their goal?

Stephen Palumbi: Following the mercury trail

In another TED Talk from the Mission Blue Voyage, Marine Biologist Stephen Palumbi talks about biomagnification – how mercury from the bottom of the ocean food chain makes its way up into the human body, with terrible results.

With a close link to recent HPD topics on the environment’s link to health and to G3: Impacts of Humans on Ecosystems, Palumbi highlights the tight connection between the oceans and our own health as humans.It might better be entitled “Protecting the Ocean Pyramid,” or “Beach closed due to excess human fecal matter.

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass

Viral video pop masters OK Go set an incredible engineering challenge for this music video – a giant Rube Goldberg machine that fits in with the song and is all completed in a single shot. Here is the result:

Engineer Adam Sadowsky has a really entertaining talk on TED about the ten commandments of making the video and the challenges they overcame. OK Go introduce their video at the end.

How We Wrecked The Oceans – Jeremy Jackson at TED

In another great (but more than a little worrying) talk from TED 2010, Jeremy Jackson (coral reef ecologist, not star of Baywatch), gives a picture of the real state of the oceans, and the massive damages we as a species have caused.

Dan Barber: How I Fell In Love With A Fish

What’s sustainable about feeding chicken to fish?

How do you make sustainable fisheries development entertaining? Get this guy to tell you about it.

In this talk (from TED 2010), chef Dan Barber talks about how he fell out of love with one type of ecologically questionable farmed fish and was impressed by new sustainable fish farming methods in Spain. Watch the talk, be amazed and then read more about Miguel Medialdea’s projects (“three parts Darwin, one part Crocodile Dundee”).

Pawan Sinha: How the Brain Learns to See (TED 2010)

Perfect timing for our Neurobiology unit, and a real showcase for the interdisciplinary nature of science and humanitarian work – here is Pawan Sinha talking about how the brain learns to see, and how we can help the children who are born blind in India. Find out more about Sinha’s work and Project Prakash at his university website (MIT).

Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel

Diamond came up on TED Talks this week, and he is a great example of Edge’s idea of the Third Culture – taking the sciences and humanities and putting them together to get to the roots of how the world works.

Jared Diamond specialises in how societies collapse and how cultures have become different, by not only focusing on the social and political but also the environmental and evolutionary. One of his books, Guns Germs and Steel, tells the story of how human history took different paths and is one of my top science-related reads.

National Geographic ran a 3-part series on the book, and here it is on GoogleVideo:

Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

In this talk, the comb-over king discusses how societies collapse:

Jared Diamond’s Edge profile

American Scientist interview

Amazon search results for his books.

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