The Search For Unintelligent Life

Imagine an alien. If you’ve been influenced by movies and television at all, the creature you’re picturing is probably two-legged, two-armed, bipedal and with a reminiscently human layout – head, eyes and mouth somewhere near the top. And while most of us recognise that this vision of extra-terrestrial life is a bit silly, conversations about life elsewhere in the universe are often still painfully unimaginative – we always seem to end up talking about large, multicellular, intelligent organisms.

We desire nothing more than to find an intellectual counterpart on another planet (even though we sit idly by as highly intelligent creatures on our own planet are in decline). But the chances are if there is life out there, it’s probably nowhere near that complex, although it may well be quite sophisticated in it’s own way.

If I were a gambling woman, I would bet that any life out there in the universe is probably microbial. Here’s why.

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Why does the green movement hate GM?

This month, my friend James has written a brilliant piece exploring and (largely) debunking a lot of the common fears and complaints about genetically modified plants and crops. One of the reasons I asked him to write something on this topic is because it’s something I hear asked a lot. But it is also a topic that people seem to lump in with the general ‘green’ environmental movement – many organisations and individuals who describe themselves as being environmentalists also advocate the banning of GM products. Which seems very strange to me because as a biologist, I’ve never seen anything wrong with the concept of GM.

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This post is available for early view by patrons. It becomes public at 2:00pm on Sunday December 15th, 2019.

How do we know humans are causing climate change?

It pains me to have to write a blog on this topic in 2019. I feel that at this point, people who claim they haven’t seen enough evidence that humans are changing the climate are, frankly, just not looking very hard. Plenty of people have covered this topic in the past and there are some great summaries available, at all different levels of scientific detail.

Nevertheless, this is a question I’ve found myself being asked to address repeatedly over the last few weeks and months. So I thought I would just write down my answer here instead.

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May Editorial

If you’ve tried to visit Curious Meerkat lately, or have looked on the Twitter or Facebook pages, you might have been wondering what’s going on. That’s because I’ve been taking a little break to re-organise the website slighty. I’ve recently become aware that no matter how diligently you try to adhere to image copyright law, when you search broadly for images you are always at the mercy of the person who uploaded a given image, and trying your best won’t always protect you in the eyes of the law.

So to make sure I avoid any inadvertant copyright infringement, I’ve decided to remove most of the images from the blog. Afterall, I hope it’s the words you come for, not just the pretty pictures. I will continue to use as many images as I can, but only my own, or extremely reputable public domain images (e.g. NASA images). I’m collating a list of ‘safe’ sites. If you have any to contribute, please drop me an email! Or if you have an image of your own you’d like to contribute, that would be gratefully received.

You’ll be pleased to read that Curious Meerkat is back up and running again – expect more articles, including guest posts, over the coming months, as well as daily news articles on the Facebook and Twitter feeds.

A New Year

Happy New Year!

This year I’m making a concerted effort to write more regularly – I know things slipped a bit towards the end of last year.

To kick of 2019 I wrote a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while, looking at the real solutions to the sticky issue of palm oil. Read “Saving Face or Saving the Planet?” for my take on the Iceland Christmas advert.

Saving Face or Saving the Planet?

I’ve written before about the issues surrounding our near-limitless demand for palm oil. So you might expect I’d be applauding Iceland for promising to cut palm oil from their own-brand products from 2019 onwards – the kind of self-imposed deadline most campaigners can only dream of. And you might think I’d be up in arms about the ban that has stopped their beautiful and heartbreaking advert from reaching millions. And you’d be partly, but not completely, right. 

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