Hello from Los Angeles where we just hosted the first Axios Science event. More on that below, along with experts weighing in on food security, a roundup of top science stories, and, of course, something wondrous.
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More than 760 million people around the world are hungry, with even more at risk as the planet's population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. At the same time, climate change and related droughts, floods, and epidemics of pest and disease are predicted to challenge our ability to reliably and consistently produce food.
Possible fixes: Lab grown food, plants bred with molecular tools, and a better understanding of the planet's complex ecology hold promise for solving the world's food challenges. Given all of these tools, what is the best way to tackle the fast-coming problems of hunger and food security? Four scientists weighed in:
Our first Axios Science event focused on what we know — and don't know — about the human brain. Five researchers talked about what we might expect from research and technology to better understand the brain and its connection to human behavior and experience. As USC's Lon Schneider said:
"What's at stake is the prediction and control of human behavior or in medicine, and the prediction, control, and treatment of illness...How we work, function, interact, feel, what we're able to accomplish, and our autonomy."
More key takeaways from the program, which you can watch in full here (start at min. 44):
Eric Siemers from Eli Lilly: Despite decades of R&D, a successful drug for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's is yet to make it to market. People should remain optimistic because of recent advances in our understanding of the pathology of Alzheimer's and because while clinical trials haven't produced an available medicine, they are revealing some effects of drugs.
Hunter Hoffman from University of Washington: L.A. is the heart of virtual reality development — tens of thousands of people are here this week for the E3 gaming conference, with VR front and center. This technology has other applications, such as being used to alleviate pain for burn patients during treatment.
Matt Grob from Qualcomm: One of his company's ultimate goals is creating brain-to-brain communication.
Doris Tsao from Caltech: In the past 20 years, major advances in neuroscience have come from tools but there are still some big questions to answer:
Each scale of a butterfly's wing emerges from a single cell. In some, like the Morpho species, tiny nanostructures are formed in the wings and bend light into a particular wavelength. UC Berkeley graduate student Aaron Pomerantz, who took the photo above of a Morpho during a recent trip to Ecuador, is trying to understand the genes underlying these structures that produce iridescent colors or, in other cases, totally transparent wings.