Over to you.... Any questions?

It's a race against the clock as our panel whizz through questions from the audience.
23 April 2019

Interview with 

Chris Johnson, University of Glasgow, Beth Biller & Luke McNally, University of Edinburgh

Question marks

Question marks


Time for some quick fire questions.... Chris Smith asks our panel to whizz through the questions sent in from the audience!

Chris - Brody, brilliant question this one! This is for you, Luke..

“When and if the ice in the Arctic melts, is there a chance of there being pathogenic - in other words, harmful - microbes and deadly diseases locked up in the ice? “

Luke - That's an excellent question. I'm just part of a bid that, hopefully the EU will fund, to see if that's the case. So we're looking at the melt from the Arctic. There is a risk, we know when we've looked in Arctic cores before we've seen antimicrobial resistance deep down in those cores because it's ancient bacteria evolved to resist the antibiotics of others. But, yeah, there is a chance that that might be the case so we need to worry about it.

Chris S - Thank you very much for that. Alison Bramley says,

“How will we find life on other planets and how will we know, Beth?”

Beth - All right. The “how will we know” part is really tricky. First step, find and characterise a planet like our Earth. We have a few that are sort of like [Earth] but we don't know because we've not seen their atmospheres. That is going to take space missions in the 2030s and beyond to image these objects and to get spectra. Once we have spectra of the objects, we can look for the fingerprint of different molecules, different things going on, and then we start looking for biomarkers. Now this is tricky because you might think “oh, oxygen!”.

Chris S - ...20 seconds to go!

Beth - Let's look for oxygen. There's other abiotic ways to do that. You have to look for the right combination to really show that you may have life and it would be best if you had a lot of planets to do this work because if you find this just one planet who knows you really need an ensemble to say.

Chris S - Thank you, Beth. Jamie says,

“What problems can we anticipate for cyber security of self-driving cars Chris?”

Chris J - Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Adam - One minute!

Chris J - Okay, the Department for Transport which is part of the UK government has issued some principles on how to secure connected and autonomous vehicles. People that are developing the vehicles are very aware of the possibilities. Equally, people are experimenting with more and more interesting offensive techniques and those two things, as I said in the previous answers, go together. The protection goes alongside an understanding of the threat.

The kinds of things people can do are to attack the inner computer networks that control the vehicle or they can attack the sensors. I've seen some military projects that are looking at systemic vulnerabilities in the artificial intelligence that's used by the vehicles to identify that kind of scenario.

Chris S- … 10 seconds!

Chris J - Very, very quickly. Funniest example of an autonomous vehicle right now. I went across the states looked at a demonstrator, one case study they're working on is what happens when a member of the police walks out into the middle of the road to stop the autonomous vehicle? The autonomous vehicle says it's a pedestrian, manoeuvers around and escapes.


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