Friday, February 1, 2013

On oceans, fuels and beyond..

The future of science will focus on maintaining biosphere stability, discoveries in medicine, deep sea exploration, sustainable resource extraction, finding new energy sources, and exploration of the solar system. As we exhaust our resources here we will need to look at other metal and carbon rich moons to satisfy our resource needs. If we stay put, then we will have to develop better fuel sources, such as those from algae, recycle efficiently and develop ways to manage the atmosphere. The potential is there for a very well managed future. Here I am at Point Dume with the holdfast of  Macrocystis.

We have barely explored our deep oceans and if we hope to find life on other worlds, we will need to develop an understanding of the life on Earth that survives in harsh environments. Secrets in curing disease and promoting longevity might hide in the biochemistry of these organism. A new field of scientific research is emerging in this area. Examples include life in caverns and the basics of Extremophiles in general.

Besides learning about various environments and making new discoveries, we must decide how best to utilize resources for our own good and learn how to manage and preserve them for future generations while maintaining ecosystem balance. In order to do this, our future scientists will need to tackle such problems as  ocean acidification and cnidarian proliferation. These will be hot topics in the near future demanding attention and world-wide cooperation. Our existence depends on Ocean Chemistry and health. Another hot spot problem will be the monumental task of collecting and recycling plastics in the ocean.

A modern Biology or science class should include conceptual exploration and discovery projects as these issues must be managed in the coming decades. Integration of all the sciences is the best way to go about this covering Geoscience, Physics, Chemistry, Biology (all fields), relevant mathematics and Cosmology.

Current Issues

I like to imagine what it would be like if Mammuthus still roamed around. They were victims of a changing climate. Question: We are seeing warming probably induced by human activity and searching for ways to control it. However, if we were entering a new ice age, with large ice sheets advancing over the northern US and Europe, might we be trying to increase heat trapping gasses to heat up the planet? Interesting thought question as we try to find ways to balance the ecosystem (if possible) to a level that suits us comfortably. I hear fierce opinions on climate change. Is climate change due to Heliophysics alone, the burning of fossil fuels, or perhaps both? Influenced by us or not, there is still the pollution aspect that must be controlled. End of argument - in case you come across one!

What are we as a global society willing to give up? How will we manage a changing planet? Can our students today be inspired to learn how to create a balanced ecosystem? Can we sustain our economies and way of life in ecological balance? Scientists are experimenting with ideas now (algal fuels) that our science students will perfect in the future.  Students must understand the entire global ecosystem and the Geosciences that influence it. Important issues facing our students are emerging pathogens (old & new), population increase, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, resource extraction problems, space exploration and developing stable global economics.