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 ?
The guy that waited for Armstrong & Aldrin to return up to his spacecraft. Took the famous picture of the LEM returning with the Earth in the background, a picture of every human that lived or ever lived except 1 - himself.
Edited by xongsmith, : No reason given.
Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Fixed link that should not have needed fixing.
Barricades! The 19th Century ruling classes of Europe had some thoughts about those!
1848. Present an American with that date and the only history he can think of is the discovery of gold in California which led to the flood of immigrants the next year to that region, the "Forty-niners". Even though it also marked the end of the Mexican-American War (US Marine Corps hymn: "From the halls of Montezuma ... ") -- just mentioning that war in class resulted in widespread snorts of derision from so many students ignorant of it.
But that year marked widespread revolutions throughout Europe ... or at least throughout the Continent (maybe the British are almost as insular as the Yanks). Germany almost united then -- a British historian writing a history of Germany at the end of WWII (mainly trying to figure out how they had failed) described 1848 as the turning point in German history where they failed to turn.
In France, the citizenry (or at least the students) erected barricades blocking the streets. After that, an architect whose name I forget completely changed the face of Paris replacing historic neighborhoods with wide boulevards. For a very good reason.
Before going there, I downloaded a 1850's map of Vienna, pre-Ringstraße ("ring street", a rather common feature in German cities around the old inner-city defensive wall). The entire area of the Ringstraße was a glacis, an open park area around the inner city's fortified wall kept open for defensive purposes -- old siege tactics would involve your combat engineers, AKA "sappers", digging trenches just to get close to the defensive wall (hence moats to prevent that) which an urbanized area would make unnecessary, hence no urbanized area in the old defense. It even showed the Vienna River flowing through (and it still flows under Karlsplatz).
Now to my point. I read that when Vienna was thinking of the Ringstraße in the latter half of the 19th Century (post-1848), French advisors recommended broad boulevards which were largely immune to the barricades that would be erected whenever your people might revolt against you.
(With a cup of tea, of course, this being England).
One of the habits I picked up in West Germany (c. 1973) was the French graphic novels of Asterix, a short Gaelic hero in Roman times. His village was never conquered by the Romans (the common refrain of "they're crazy, those Romans" translates to Italian as "Sono pazzi questi Romani", SPQR, the standard of "For the Senate and People of Rome" that the Roman legions marched under). In Asterix among the Britains, They brought their druid's herbs to their Breton brethren to use against the Romans, but not without typical British grumblings (mind you, I'm translating from my memory of the "original" German text). "I do so distrust foreign cooking." And "Could I please have two drops of milk in my magic potion?"
An anecdote from WWI was that the British could always be counted on to fire off their machine guns in the late afternoon. In order to heat up the machine gun coolant water to the brewing temperature of tea.
J. R. R. Tolkien's "Hobbitses" are far more British than his fans could possibly imagine. In "Lord of the Rings" the Hobbits are complaining that they're not stopping for "Elevenses". That is an actual British thing!