Before Nobels: Gifts to & From Rich Patrons Were Early Science's Currency

Vera Keller, University of Oregon

While the Nobel Prizes are 115 years old, rewards for scientific achievement have been around much longer. As early as the 17th century, at the very origins of modern experimental science, promoters of science realized the need for some system of recognition and reward that would provide incentive for advances in the field.

Before the prize, it was the gift that reigned in science. Precursors to modern scientists – the early astronomers, philosophers, physicians, alchemists and engineers – offered wonderful achievements, discoveries, inventions and works of literature or art as gifts to powerful patrons, often royalty. Authors prefaced their publications with extravagant letters of dedication; they might, or they might not, be rewarded with a gift in return. Many of these practitioners worked outside of academe; even those who enjoyed a modest academic salary lacked today’s large institutional funders, beyond the Catholic Church. Gifts from patrons offered a crucial means of support, yet they came with many strings attached.

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Fullerenes Unveil The Truth Behind Carbon's Strangeness

From C60 to the Buckminster fullerene, our world is still being mined for its secrets which lie hidden behind one of nature's most plentiful elements. The "Buckyball" or C60 is a cage molecule with a similar pattern to a soccer ball and forms an entirely new form of carbon which stands separate from diamond and graphene. Discovered not long ago in 1996 by accident, the dynamic pattern was named after Buckminster Fuller who was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome.

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Gardasil Vaccine May Soon Be Pushed for Infants

Gardasil has been the subject of controversy for many years now. In fact, it has even been regarded as one of the most dangerous vaccines on the market today. Perhaps what is most alarming about this treacherous vaccine, however, is the fact that its manufacturer, Merck & Co, now wants to begin marketing their product to infants – and trials on babies have already begun. Merck recently launched a Gardasil vaccine trial on children at least one year old, and it's set to conclude in early 2017.

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Silicon Soul: The Vain Dream of Electronic Immortality

Nicolas P. Rougier, Inria

In just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal. – Ray Kurzweil, Global Futures 2045 International Congress (2013)

Without even considering the ethical, philosophical, social or legal scope of such a statement, it’s important to consider if it actually makes any sense. To try to give an educated guess, we have to move away from computer science and look at what biology and neuroscience can teach us.

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Crystal Birth: Incredible Timelapse of Metallic Crystals Forming in Chemical Solutions

Italian chemistry student Emanuele Fornasier also has a knack for photography and spent the last few months documenting the formation of crystals. The result is Crystal Birth, a timelapse of some 18 examples of electrocrystallization, where an electric current is run through a chemical solution, causing metal deposits to form over a period of several hours or days. You can see more of his chemistry and timelapse work on his website.

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Ex-Machina is less a Movie about the Nature of AI and more about the Fantasies of Men

David Glance, University of Western Australia

The recent South by Southwest festival in Austin Texas this year featured the US premiere of a new movie about artificial intelligence called Ex Machina. The movie, directed by Alex Garland, has received mostly positive reviews, principally for its attempt, in the words of the reviewers, to explore issues about the nature of artificial intelligence and ultimately, its dangers to humanity.

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Mother Nature’s answer to our DNA's infidelity and the Discovery of DNA Repair

Michael Sean Pepper, University of Pretoria

Imagine a world in which nothing could go wrong. Completely predictable, without risk and with guaranteed equality for all. This utopia of course does not exist. It’s therefore not surprising that even Mother Nature can’t maintain complete fidelity in the most intimate element that defines who we are: our DNA.

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