• Question: will you're research help us in any way?

    Asked by mollyillingworth to Alan, Caspar, Diana, Murray, Sarah on 21 Mar 2011 in Categories: . This question was also asked by ellen.
    • Photo: Murray Collins

      Murray Collins answered on 11 Mar 2011:


      Well I certainly hope so. Scientists think that climate change will have large impacts on our societies. Carbon dioxide is one of the most important gases in causing climate changes. Cutting down and damaging forests in tropical countries leads to 15% of the total carbon emissions caused by people across the world. Biologists think these forests support about half of the world’s species, and lots of poor people also depend on these forests for food and building materials etc. So if you could slow down deforestation, then you may be able to slow down climate change, help to conserve wildlife and also help some of the poorest of the world’s people.

      I would say though that this is a very difficult thing to do. Lots of people have tried to reduce deforestation long since before I was born! I do think there is an opportunity here and now though, with rich countries giving billions of dollars over the next few years to rainforest countries like Indonesia.


      UPDATE – I think Alan made a good point. My own research will only contribute a small amount, so it won’t change the world on its own. I guess as Alan says it’s about lots of people working on the same issues, then together you can get big results.

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      I really hope so!! I work really hard on my research and it really means a lot to me. All my ideas work in theory – I just need time to put them into practice!

      At the moment, I’m working on making a blood test that will detect cancer. I’ve made a tag that can bind on to chemicals that are emitted by tumours. Now I’m trying to attach a fluorescent dye on to my tag so that when it binds to cancer chemicals, it becomes fluorescent. I think this could be a really quick and simple test because all the doctor would need is a little bit of the patient’s blood, then he would add the tag/dye to the blood sample and then it should become fluorescent!

      I hope this will work and help diagnose patients with cancer quickly…

    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      Well I hope so! If I didn’t think that my research was helpful in some (small) way then I wouldn’t do it. (I’m very lucky that because I work in a University I don’t have to work on things just because my boss tells me to!)

      Science is so huge that very few scientists can make big breakthroughs that really change the world (like inventing the Internet, or discovering the structure of DNA). For ordinary scientists like me the way that our research helps is in small ways that – hopefully – add together with other researcher’s work in order to make a difference.

      In my robotics research one of the things I’ve been working on for awhile is how to make swarms of robots safe and reliable. With my students I wrote a paper in 2006 called ‘safety in numbers: fault tolerance in robot swarms’. Alot of people would find this quite boring, but other robotics researchers have taken our work and continued to build on it so that – hopefully – future swarm robot systems (like search and rescue robots) will be safe and reliable (which – I hope you will agree – is quite important).

      So, in the kind of research I do it’s very difficult to point to one thing and say “this discovery or invention is really going to change the world”. Instead you do the best work you can – working with others – and hope that it will contribute to making the world a better place.

    • Photo: Diana Drennan

      Diana Drennan answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      Well, there’s a couple different levels to that question. The top level, is whether better skin products help us individually or as a society. Officially I have to say “of course !”, but on a personal level I don’t think making people’s wrinkles get better is all that earth shattering. However, some of the research we do along the way is pretty cool. We’ve done a lot of basic research into how our skin works – how it protects us, how it repairs itself, how it ages, how it gets colored, and how things go wrong – and I find that sort of thing really interesting and it could, potentially, be important to know. If we could somehow make people change their habits, our research could help people have healthier skin. Changing habits is hard, tho. Would you stay out of the sun (or wear sun block), take shorter, cooler showers, and moisturize twice a day if I told you that you would look great in 20 years and have healthier skin ?

    • Photo: Caspar Addyman

      Caspar Addyman answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      HI again Molly, Sorry for not answer this one sooner – you’ve all given us loads of homework!

      Hopefully these replies ( http://ias.im/35.1463 , http://ias.im/35.473 ) answer your question

      But if not leave a comment,