Category Archives: Multimedia

You can help biological research from home

by Piter Kehoma Boll

There are a lot of people around the world that, although not being scientists, are science enthusiasts. I guess many of you reading this article fit in this category. You may be a housemaid, a lawyer, a taxi driver, or simply a young student, but you have a big interest in science.

Well, what if you could help science from home? That’s actually possible in several ways. There are plenty of programs, applications or websites in which you can help to do research on several different areas. Here, I’ll focus on biological research, since biology is the subject of this blog.

So, let’s start! See below how you can help.

1. Take photographs of wildlife and make them available online

A lot of people love to take photographs of wildlife. Some websites, such as flickr, are crowded with amazing images of all kinds of lifeforms. Unfortunately, most people protect their work under copyright laws that prevent the photographs to be used without direct permission from the author or by buying it.

But you can be more generous and distribute your work under a creative commons license. This makes sure that you have to be mentioned as the author of the work while still allowing others to use it. There are several different creative commons licenses. Choose the one that suits you! The important thing is to allow your works to be used on other websites, on books, scientific articles, etc, and thus helping to spread scientific knowledge.

You can upload your photographs on flickr, Wikimedia Commons, or even on your own website, as long as you indicate the right creative commons license. Be generous!

wikimediacommonsplanarians

I’ve uploaded many of my photos of land planarians on Wikimedia Commons.

2. Record the lifeforms you see

More than only sharing your pictures, you can record the location where you found the species. Thus, you will help the scientific community to improve the knowledge on species distribution around the world. A wonderful place to do that is the website iNaturalist.org. Even if you don’t know the identity of the species you found, you may upload your records there and someone will eventually identify the species for you. Likewise, you may help identify records from other users.

inaturalist

I’ve uploaded many records on iNaturalist.org

3. Share your bibliographic research on Wikipedia and EOL

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student, an academic researcher, or simply someone who loves science, and you read a lot of scientific articles, books, encyclopedias, etc, do not lock your knowledge within yourself. Make it available to others! And a wonderful way to do that is by editing Wikipedia.

I guess everyone knows Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. If you have been reading about the sexual behavior of earthworms, or the use of a plant extract in the tratment of cervical cancer, just check the Wikipedia’s article on the subject and, if the information is not there already, do not hesitate and add it and, of course, cite the source! Wikipedia may be a little confusing to handle at first, but once you understand it and get excited, no one can stop you!

Furthermore, if you information on a subject that does not have an article on Wikipedia yet, simply start a new article!

wikipediarsp

The article Reproductive system of planarians is one of my contributions to Wikipedia.

Another project that you can help is the EOL (Encyclopedia of Life), a website that aims to gather information on all lifeforms and let them available in a single place. After you have registered, you will have some limited freedom to add new content, but eventually you may ask for a higher position that will give you access to a greater number of features.

Do you know other ways to help biological research from home? Let a comment to share it with us!

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Tunnel of Time #1: Evolution – The Game of Intelligent Life

by Carlos Augusto Chamarelli

Hey everybody, PK here as usual. Today I’ll present the first of Tunnel of Time’s articles, where we shall remember and discover some of the multimedia works we’ve seen published around the world, including games, movies, documentaries, books, magazines, computer programs and anything related to biology or general sciences, influencing us and making our imagination take flight, and of course, entertaining us as they do.

Our first Tunnel of Time item will be the game primarily responsible for my interest on Earth’s history and the evolution of living beings: Evolution – The Game of Intelligent Life. Initially developed by Crossover Technologies and Discovery Multimedia in 1997, it was released in Brazil under the name “Evolução – o Jogo da Vida” the following year, under Globo Multimídia, completely translated to Portuguese. To this day I remember the day I gazed upon it’s peculiar box at the Nova America’s computer shop, nowadays a clothes store with ugly T-shirts where its noble box once stood.

A shirt with this picture wouldn’t be so bad.

A shirt with this picture wouldn’t be so bad.

The game is a blend of simulation and strategy, and players have the option to play on historic Earth or a randomly generated world, also allowing to choose its length, from short scenarios focusing on a single periods or the complete history of land vertebrates, from early tetrapods 360 million years ago to the appearance of intelligent species – the final objective of the game – with a single second representing 30 thousand years.

Few people know, but dinosaurs appeared during the early Permian and survived to this day on Africa.

Few people know, but dinosaurs appeared during the early Permian and survived to this day on Africa.

There are around 170 species, ranging from famous ones such as wooly mammoths and the Tyrannosaurus, as well as others – at the time of its release, that is – less known, such as Indricotherium and Ventastega. There are also intelligent species other than Homo sapiens, created by the developers in order to offer more variety and explore possibilities, such as Elephasapiens, an intelligent elephant, and the Saurosapiens, evolved from dinosaurs; so not only this game inspired me to the general idea of evolution, in a way it also my first ever contact with speculative evolution. There’s an in-game Bestiary, bringing informative texts about each creature, also explaining some of the decisions and exploration of ideas subtly introduced, such as synapsids and anapsids reptiles able to evolve into dinosaurs (in-game incentivized to be seen as analog species if an alternative path of evolution was taken) and the possibility of other animals being candidates to originate intelligent species.

And they STILL don’t get any pleasure from artistic pursuits.

And they STILL don’t get any pleasure from artistic pursuits.

The game is either played alone or against 5 opponents (computer or human controlled), but even on yourself the game is plenty challenging as continents move, climates change and the environments are altered and you need to evolve your creatures so they can keep up with the times – though not something easy, you can also go against it and see how long you can make an species survive, such as Pantylus enduring the Carboniferous all the way to the Cenozoic; it’s hard not to feel proud of the little guys. Each creature have an time period and specific ambient where they survive and feed better, thereof it’s imperative you take possession of the best feeding regions before your enemies do. When evolving new creatures you must allocate points that dictate how fast you evolved – determinate by how well you creature’s population are doing – , how much your feeding will improve and how fit for combat it is, offensively or defensively, this last point coming more into play in multiple players matches, as predator species are your main tools to maintain control of your territories and chase invaders away. As if it wasn’t enough the fight for survival among creatures, there are also natural disasters, causing mass extinctions and sometimes even altering the global climate to challenge you even more.

You’ll have to excuse the oddly outdated swamp-dwelling Diplodocus; At least it’s not dragging its tail.

You’ll have to excuse the oddly outdated swamp-dwelling Diplodocus; At least it’s not dragging its tail.

The game shipped with a Tree of Life poster, containing all the creatures of the game and the evolutionary lines, and a printed version of the Bestiary with higher-res versions of the creature’s graphics in all their 90’s 3D graphics glory. The Brazilian release only came with the poster (good grief), but it’s all good, to this day I keep it safe so one day I can frame it and put on a wall. The game manual, as per tradition of games released on that decade, contained additional information, in special the notes of designer Greg Costikyan regarding the decisions taken in the game’s development, such as the limitations of the time it was made forcing a rigorous selection of species that could offer a good variety of creatures and still create an evolutionary tree analogous to that of real life; all whilst fitting inside a CD-ROM.

Although with slow-paced playability – something that doesn’t attract as many people as first person shooters–, it’s to this day one of my all-time favorites, despite only able to run on Windows 98 and previous OS without the help of modifications. Before this game my knowledge about Earth’s past was limited to dinosaurs and what was taught at school like human history, so I’m happy I could get a hold of it when I did, and I’m thankful in all sincerity for those that were responsible for this project.

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