Interested in winning 10 million GBP of science prize money?

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Offline thedoc

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This new prize offers 10 million to individuals who can solve 6 pressing modern day problems.
Read a transcript of the interview by clicking here
or [chapter podcast=1000697 track=14.05.27/Naked_Scientists_Show_14.05.27_1002318.mp3] Listen to it now[/chapter] or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 27/05/2014 19:30:01 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Hmmm, this sounds a lot like the X-Prize.  I'm still waiting to see the first X-Prize 100mpg car hit the market.

  • First antibiotic resistance, ways in which for instance someone in Africa can decide cheaply and accurately whether they've got a viral disease or bacterial disease.

    We've had the ability go gram stain sputum samples for over a century which gives rudimentary bacteria/virus infection data, but that takes more work than diagnosing a patient, giving them a pill, charging them $200, and sending them out the door in 5 minutes.

    We are moving towards answers here, although getting solutions small and cheap may be a problem.  Antibody/antigen tests like the rapid strep test are getting more common.  In the future, I can foresee a more comprehensive antigen testing battery. 

    Alternatively one might do DNA probing, replication, and sequencing which might allow identification of not only the specific organism, but also identification of drug resistant strains.  Over time, it will be made smaller, cheaper, quicker, easier to process, and more accurate. 

  • Looking after patients with dementia.

    I'm not sure what you mean to look after patients.  We can do that.  One goal would be to prevent Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and mini-strokes.

  • Looking after people who have handicaps in mobility using advanced robotics and other techniques.

    Perhaps this is the one true advantage of sending our kids off to war is they come back broken...  and thus a tremendous effort to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  This then benefits the rest of society.

    Perhaps in a few years we will be routinely growing replacement organs and body parts, although re-implantation may not be a quick and simple process.

  • Food for the world, new techniques to enable us more readily to feed 9 billion people.

    The easiest solution would be to convince the world to target a lower global population.  5 Billion?  1 Billion?  Well, at least easier in concept.

    There have been discussions about changes in agriculture.  In a sense, less dependence on animal products would be a benefit, although some animals can be grown on otherwise marginal farmland. 

    Our "modern" agricultural practices can be expanded with more poisons, fertilizers, etc.  But, it isn't necessarily good, or sustainable agriculture.

  • Clean water for the world.  Many people are in places where they need to purify water or desalinate water.

    I'm not sure about this.  Western societies take clean water for granted.  Around here, one simply drills a hole in the ground and gets clean water back out.  There are, however, strict guidelines about well design and septic placement to prevent contamination of the wells and ground water reservoirs.  For example, 20 to 40 foot of impermeable casing is required to prevent surface water from reaching the well.

    Industrial contamination is a concern with regulations and efforts to prevent, and remediate industrial contamination.

    Public water is routinely treated with chlorine, and bleach can be used for treating smaller water supplies.  Small camping filters can be used for personal drinking water, as well as boiling the water, or other purification techniques. 

    There have been companies that have been using "reclaimed" water both for potable and non-potable use. 

    Algae generally isn't harmful, as well as many types of yeasts and bacteria, so water doesn't necessarily have to be "sterile".  The worst, of course, is if one mixes human waste with one's own drinking water.

    It is quite possible that the water that causes "traveler's diarrhea" is in fact not unhealthy for the local population who are used to the organisms in the water.  For example, there may be local strains of E-Coli GI bacteria that enters the drinking water, and is not harmful to those already exposed to it.

    The technology exists to give 100% of the people in the world "healthy" water.  Governments just need to invest in the infrastructure to do it. 

    Of course, some of it comes back to overpopulation.  Control the population, and there is less of an increasing demand for resources beyond what we already have.

  • In the transport area, perhaps a way of moving towards zero carbon flight.

    I believe there have been experiments using biodiesel for jet fuel.  Not necessarily "zero carbon", but it can be done as carbon neutral. 

    Zeppelins can, of course, be made with low carbon consumption, but they don't meet the rapidity requirements of modern transportation demands. 

    Many countries are moving to high speed rail which can effectively compete with aircraft for domestic transportation, and the trains can be powered by electricity, or just about any other energy source.

    I believe their have been long distance electric and solar flights, but I'm dubious about the commercial applications.  Perhaps one could move to compressed gas fuels, but commercial aircraft requirements may make it impractical due to safety constraints and the added weight of the compressed fuel containers.

    Perhaps one could use liquefied cryogenic fuels, which, of course, have different safety considerations including icing and condensation.