Science fiction has long promised an age of interplanetary human existence. Scenes of spaceships hopping from one galaxy to the next are so common, it seems almost inevitable that future generations will one day vacation on Mars. But, if we are ever going to achieve life on other planets, we first have to figure out if the human body can tolerate it.
Some of the best data we have on the subject comes from American astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly spent a year living on the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, was on Earth. Scientists from all over the country studied the impact life in space had on Scott Kelly, and compared changes in his body to his brother.
One of those scientists was UC San Diego Professor of Medicine, Michael G. Ziegler, MD. In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Ziegler detailed some of the more interesting findings from the study. Scott Kelly lost weight. There were significant changes to his gene expression. He lost collagen. His carotid artery thickened. His bones became less dense. His eye shape changed, forcing him to wear glasses. While he was in space, his performance on cognitive tests improved. But, his performance plummeted after returning to Earth, and never quite returned to pre-launch levels.
Despite all of this, Ziegler has reason to be hopeful about long-term space travel. He says the year in space study illuminated many of the challenges, and gave researchers some ideas of how to overcome them. Still, it’s probably a little early to start planning your trip to the red planet.
Watch — How a Year in Space Affects the Human Body with Dr. Michael G. Ziegler — Osher UC San Diego
What is nature? What does it mean to preserve, or save it? Science writer Emma Marris says one common definition of nature in North America is the way any given place was before European explorers arrived and began changing the landscape. Therefore, saving nature would mean returning the land to how it was before their arrival. But, she says that idea is flawed because there are countless examples of land management by indigenous people: relocating useful plants to new environments, creating systems to manage rainwater, and clearing land for crops. And, human impact on the environment goes back much more than a few hundred years. Marris notes that pretty much anywhere you look, there is evidence of major changes with the arrival of humans – in particular, the extinction of large land mammals like the woolly mammoth.
Today however, the planet is largely tailored entirely to human existence. Nearly 40% of the ice-free surface of the earth is agriculture. Domesticated livestock far outweighs wild animal life. Species have been moved around, in some cases wreaking havoc on ecosystem. And of course, there are growing impacts of climate change – even hitting places on the planet where humans have never lived.
Marris argues that in order to effectively conserve nature, we have to change our perception of what nature means. She says her old way of thinking, that nature was a pristine untouched and unchanged place didn’t match reality, because if left alone, all places will change. So, she came up with new definitions, including the idea of resource-intensive land management to keep certain culturally important lands as unchanged as possible, and also the idea of novel ecosystems where uncontrolled landscapes have transformed themselves.
With this updated understanding of what nature is, Marris proposes an updated take on conservation. She suggests dividing land into three different styles of management: restoration, innovation, and observation. In her exciting and hopeful talk at UC San Diego, Marris goes on to give concrete examples of how these strategies have worked, and might continue to work around the world.
Watch — The Future of Nature: Conservation in the Anthropocene with Emma Marris – Institute for Practical Ethics
How can students leverage their college years to find their ideal career path? From connecting with an alumni network to finding the right summer job, your campus career center is here to help. They can take you beyond building a resume to thinking about your personal goals, the art of networking, and building marketable life skills.
Kris Hergert, executive director of the Career Center at UC San Diego, talks about how to work toward your future and translate the world of academic rigor to the world of work.
Watch Career Planning for College Students with Kris Hergert – Job Won
Larry Smarr is defining the future of healthcare. As he, a world-renowned computer scientist and Michael Kurisu, the much-in-demand osteopathic physician at UC San Diego demonstrate, the balance of power between patients and doctors will change as technology gives patients the tools to know more about their own bodies. And the more informed they become, the more likely they will work with their doctors to develop treatment and prevention plans that are appropriate for them. Using Smarr as a case study, this patient and doctor show the benefits of hands-on, systems-based thinking in treating sciatica and self-diagnosing Crohn’s disease. Kurisu then takes these concepts to Project Apollo, a group of highly educated and motivated patients who call themselves “Little Larry’s” as they use the same techniques to address and treat their own health problems. All of this pointing to what theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer envisioned in the last century, “the doctor of the future will be one self.” Smarr and Kurisu are showing us how.
Watch Future Patient/Future Doctor – Larry Smarr, PhD & Michael Kurisu, DO .
Eat well. Stay healthy. That’s the message that a panel of experts from UC San Diego and elsewhere made clear in this fascinating discussion on the benefits of fresh, organic foods. Hear the case studies presented by people who have overcome serious illnesses by changing their diets. It’s true! Healthy food can be powerful medicine in treating diabetes, arthritis, Lyme disease, cirrhosis and high blood pressure, among other ailments. And the stories told here are compelling. Stepheni Norton recalls her own harrowing journey that led to the founding of Dickinson Farm and “farmacy.” Zen Honeycut, founder of Moms Across America, recounts how changing to a non-GMO, organic diet resolved the symptoms of allergies and autism in two of her sons. These kinds of outcomes didn’t surprise the MD’s on the panel — Gordon Saxe of UCSD’s Center for Integrative Nutrition and Sheila Patel of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing — as they confirmed their own experiences with patients using food as medicine.
Thanks to Michelle Lerach and the Berry Good Food Foundation for convening this 7th edition of the Future Thought Leaders series exploring paths to a sustainable food supply. Now go eat some kale!
Watch Let Food Be Thy Medicine — Future Thought Leaders .