quote:Atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen, who discovered how pollutants can destroy stratospheric ozone and shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has died, aged 87.
In 2000, Crutzen coined the term ‘Anthropocene’ — the ‘age of humans’. He regarded the concept as his most important contribution, which reflected his deep concerns about climate change and other environmental pressures. He was also the first to warn of the possibility of a nuclear winter, which Mikhail Gorbachev, who then led the Soviet Union, said influenced nuclear detente with the United States. Crutzen was tireless in his efforts to protect humans and our home, writes his former student and colleague Jos Lelieveld. “[He] would expect us to continue taking responsibility for science, society and our planet.”
Marvelous Marvin Hagler (born Marvin Nathaniel Hagler; May 23, 1954 – March 13, 2021) was an American professional boxer and film actor who competed in boxing from 1973 to 1987. He reigned as undisputed middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987, making twelve successful defenses of that title, and holds the highest knockout percentage of all undisputed middleweight champions, at 78 percent, while also holding the third-longest unified championship reign in boxing history at twelve consecutive defenses. At six years and seven months, his reign as undisputed middleweight champion is the second-longest of the last century, behind only Tony Zale, whose reign included several years of inactivity during his service in World War II. In 1982, annoyed that network announcers often did not refer to him by his nickname "Marvelous", Hagler legally changed his name to "Marvelous Marvin Hagler".
Not been here for a long time, but I wanted to drop in to note that Thomas Cavalier-Smith passed away a couple of weeks ago.
I first stumbled across Cavalier-Smith's work about 20 years ago, when I first became interested in understanding microbes and how they all fit together, evolutionarily. He was then proposing a grand scheme to explain exactly how everything was related and how eukaroytes evolved from prokaryotes. Several of his ideas turned out to be wrong, but this never appeared to cause him to break stride, and he was proposing new bold hypotheses to account for the evolution of all life pretty much continuously from the 1980s right up until a couple of weeks ago.
I don't mean to imply that all his ideas were wrong. While much has been rejected, a lot of his ideas have also become accepted as established fact. The scale of his influence is apparent if you look at the most recent consensus classification of eukaryotic life in the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. Despite the fact that they reject Cavalier-Smith's names for the largest groupings of organisms, he is nonetheless cited as author of a staggering 113 clade names. This includes several clades fundamental to our understanding of evolutionary relatioships, such as Opisthokonta, Alveolata or Ascomycota.
Part of this, of course, is due to his slightly annoying habit of naming and defining every single clade that crops up in every hypothesis he comes up with. A habit made more annoying by his bull-headed insistence in using 'correct' terminology even when his views on correct have far diverged from what every other researcher uses. Reading his work sometimes involves substantial cross-referencing as you try to remember what the hell 'Eozoa' is supposed to be.
As mentioned, he kept at this right up to the end, publishing together with his wife a truly epic review article in Protoplasm last year (clocking in at almost 150,000 words) summarising his current views on the origins of the different domains of life.
The article emphasises the view he's argued for decades, that Archaea are not a branch of life equally ancient with Bacteria, but highly derived Bacteria that evolved from them within the last billion years. Archaea and Eukarya are, on this view, nested deep within Bacteria phylogenetically (though he strongly disputes the widely-accepted notion that Eukarya are nested withing Archaea, considering them sister groups).
Ever happy to throw away old ideas, he's abandoned the view that we evolved from gram-positive bacteria as no longer tenable. His new scheme has us branching within the PVC superphylum, specifically close to the Verrucimicrobian Prosthecobacter.
If you have a lot of free time to kill, this article is a fitting epitath, as it's Cavalier-Smith at his most Cavalier-Smithian. He boldly pontificates on an enormous range of biological topics; scathingly dismissing his own critics while explaining which of the ideas he had previously boldly pontificated for were now clearly wrong and why. And, of course, he names a whole bunch of new clades.
This was a long obituary, but I think I was reading Cavalier-Smith close to the time I signed up for this forum, so it seemed appropriate.
I can happily accord his life the same level of respect as any other person who passed away last Friday and whom I didn't know.
But as a republican (lower case r), I see no need to give his passing any elevated status as a result of his marrying into one of the world's most privileged families. It feels wrong that in this day and age, there remains this inexplicable desire in this country to venerate (and chuck loads of cash, cars, stately homes, servants and security, lots of it at taxpayers' expense) at one family that very few of us know, and who know very few of us.
I'll reiterate - I respect his life and his passing - but it is the same respect that I accord everyone else I don't know.
Could there be any greater conceit, than for someone to believe that the universe has to be simple enough for them to be able to understand it ?