Scientists on the Rosetta mission have found building blocks for life in the cloud of gas and dust around the icy body known as comet 67P. The discovery backs up the idea that similar “dirty snowballs” could have been involved in kickstarting life on Earth.
The theory that extraterrestrial objects crashing into our planet could have brought chemicals crucial to the emergence of life has long been mooted, with an array of amino acids - the building blocks of proteins - already discovered on meteorites. But the new research adds weight to the notion that comets could also have played a role.
“It shows that even the very primitive bodies like comets contain a complex chemical soup, independent of [the] sun and Earth,” said Kathrin Altwegg, lead author of the research from the University of Bern. “They contain everything needed for life - except energy.”
Despite the untimely demise of the Philae lander that touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in November 2014, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has continued to orbit the icy body, capturing data with its fleet of onboard instruments, among them a mass spectrometer dubbed Rosina.
Writing in the journal Scientific Advances, a team of researchers from Europe and the US describe how they analysed data from Rosina, recorded as the comet sped towards its closest approach to the sun last summer.
The results reveal that the comet’s coma - the cloud of gas and dust that envelops the comet as it warms - contains the amino acid glycine, as well as the chemicals from which it is formed: methylamine and ethylamine. The equipment also detected the presence of small molecules such as hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide, as well as phosphorus - a key component of DNA.
A team of young Japanese engineers is developing a flying car with the goal of launching it in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The futuristic vehicle – dubbed Skydrive – is fitted with three wheels, a motor and four rotors, enabling it to take off and land vertically from public roads without the need of a runway.
Measuring only 9.5 feet by 4.3 feet, Skydrive claims to be the world’s smallest flying car, with a target top flight speed of 62 mph, while travelling up to 32 feet above the ground.
Tsubasa Nakamura, 31, from Mikawa in Aiichi prefecture, is heading a team of about 20 engineers and designers from across Japan’s car industry to build the new generation flying vehicle.
The goal is to provide a new form of personal transport in part to help avoid disruption caused by Japan's earthquakes.
“Our vision is to initiate a new era [in which] everyone can fly freely. We are developing the world’s smallest flying car with vertical taking off and landing (VTOL) system and it can fly anywhere and anytime," said the team on its website. "It enables us to go places where we cannot go now or to live on water, by releasing [us from] transportation on roads.”
The genetic engineering of humans has great potential to help those destined to inherit serious, incurable diseases, according to one of Britain’s most prominent scientists, who says the risks and benefits should be debated by society.
The invention of powerful new genome editing tools means researchers can now make precise changes to genetic material, and so consider correcting faulty DNA in human sperm, eggs and embryos.
While the procedure may prevent children from being born with serious disorders, the practice – known as “germline therapy” – is banned in Britain and many other countries, because the genetic changes would be passed down to future generations and the risks are largely unknown.
“There is great potential in germline therapy. There are clearly diseases that you could help by editing the germline,” said Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, who won the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2009 and became president of the Royal Society in December. “This is a case of a new technology where there are significant potential benefits, but also significant ethical implications.”
The Swiss are discussing a bold social experiment: paying their citizens 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) a month unconditionally.
The mountainous Central European country will vote on June 5 as to whether the government should start giving an unconditional basic income for all adults in order to replace existing welfare benefits and social programs. While the plan’s advocates haven’t stipulated how much the payout will be, the suggested tax-free amount is 2,500 Swiss francs or $2,800 for an adult and one-fourth of that for a child. Voters next month will decide if all 8 million citizens and legal residents of Switzerland will receive the sum, which would be a global first.
Switzerland's considering giving all its citizens a basic income of $30,000 a year https://t.co/gOT9BJYoHf pic.twitter.com/NPmWyk6mBK
— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) May 23, 2016
The idea comes as the result of a grassroots campaign since 2013 to combat income inequality and provide a financial safety net for the population felt since the financial crisis, according to Reuters.
“Organizers submitted more than the 100,000 signatures needed to call a referendum on Friday and tipped a truckload of 8 million five-rappen coins outside the parliament building in Berne, one for each person living in Switzerland. Under Swiss law, citizens can organize popular initiatives that allow the channeling of public anger into direct political action. The country usually holds several referenda a year.”
Something strange is happening to the oceans. As coral reefs wither and fisheries collapse, octopuses are multiplying like mad. As soon as they perceive weakness, they will amass an army and invade the land, too.
Okay, that last statement is probably pure paranoia. But it is a bit unsettling that cephalopods—squids, octopuses, cuttlefish—are booming, and scientists don’t know why. An analysis published today in Current Biology indicates that numerous species across the world’s oceans have increased in numbers since the 1950s.
“The consistency was the biggest surprise,” said lead study author Zoë Doubleday of the University of Adelaide. “Cephalopods are notoriously variable, and population abundance can fluctuate wildly, both within and among species.”
Given that the reality of AI may be fast approaching, it’s of the utmost importance that we work out what might a future with artificial intelligence might look like. Last year, an open letter with signatories including Stephen Hawking and Nick Bostrom called for AI to be of demonstrable benefit to humanity, or risk something that exceeds our ability to control it.
AI, as conceived of in popular culture, does not yet exist, even if autonomous and expert systems do. Smartphones might not be supercomputers, but they are called “smartphones” for good reason, in terms of how their operating systems function. Equally, we are happy to talk about a computer game’s “AI”, but gamers quickly learn to take advantage of its limitations and inability to “think” creatively. There is an important difference between these systems and what is termed Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or “strong AI”, an AI with the general intelligence and aptitudes of a human.
Both the US and British governments' exploration of the significance and implications of AI research has focused on potential economic and social impacts. But politicians would do well to consider what science fiction can tell them about public attitudes – arguably, one of the biggest issues concerning AI
Culturally, our understanding is informed by the ways in which it is represented in science fiction, and there is an assumption that AI always means AGI, which it does not. Fictional representations of AI reveal far more about our attitudes to the technology than they do about its reality (even if we sometimes seem to forget this). Science fiction can therefore be a valuable resource from which the public view of AI can be assessed – and therefore corrected, if need be.
Is it time to give up sex? Oh, it has plenty to recommend it; but as a way of making babies it leaves an awful lot to chance. I mean, you might have some pretty good genes, but – let’s face it – some of them aren’t so great. Male pattern baldness, phenylketonuria, enhanced risk of breast cancer: I’m not sure you really want those genetic conditions passed on in the haphazard shuffling of chromosomes after sperm meets egg.
It is already possible to avoid more than 250 grave genetic conditions by genetic screening of few-days-old embryos during in vitro fertilisation (IVF), so that embryos free from the genetic mutation responsible can be identified for implantation. But that usually works solely for diseases stemming from a single gene – of which there are many, though most are rare. The procedure is called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and it is generally used only by couples at risk of passing on a particularly nasty genetic disease. Otherwise, why go to all that discomfort, and possibly that expense, when the old-fashioned way of making babies is so simple and (on the whole) fun?
In The End of Sex, Henry Greely, a law professor and bioethicist at Stanford University, argues that this will change. Thanks to advances in reproductive and genetic technologies, he predicts that PGD will become the standard method of conception in a matter of several decades. (Recreational sex might nonetheless persist.)
It is hard to miss the warnings. In the race to make computers more intelligent than us, humanity will summon a demon, bring forth the end of days, and code itself into oblivion. Instead of silicon assistants we’ll build silicon assassins.
The doomsday story of an evil AI has been told a thousand times. But our fate at the hand of clever cloggs robots may in fact be worse - to summon a class of eternally useless human beings.
At least that is the future predicted by Yuval Noah Harari, a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, whose new book says more of us will be pushed out of employment by intelligent robots and on to the economic scrap heap.
Harari rose to prominence when his 2014 book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, became an international bestseller. Two years on, the book is still being talked about. Bill Gates asked Melinda to read it on holiday. It would spark great conversations around the dinner table, he told her. We know because he said so on his blog this week.
When a book is a hit, the publisher wants more. And so Harari has been busy. His next title, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is not out until September but early copies have begun to circulate. Its cover states simply: “What made us sapiens will make us gods”. It follows on from where Sapiens ends, in a provocative, and certainly speculative, gallop through the hopes and dreams that will shape the future of the species.
And the nightmares. Because even as the book has humans gaining godlike powers, that is only one eventuality Harari explores. It might all go pear-shaped, of course: we sapiens have a knack for hashing things up. Instead of morphing into omnipotent, all-knowing masters of the universe, the human mob might end up jobless and aimless, whiling away our days off our nuts on drugs, with VR headsets strapped to our faces. Welcome to the next revolution.
Aha! moments are satisfying in part because they feel so right; all the pieces of a puzzle appear to fall into place with little conscious effort. But can you trust such sudden solutions? Yes, according to new research published in Thinking & Reasoning. The results support the conventional wisdom that this type of insight can provide correct answers to challenging problems.
In four experiments, Carola Salvi, a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University, John Kounios, a psychologist at Drexel University, and their colleagues presented college students with mind teasers, such as anagrams and rebus puzzles. At the completion of a timed trial, subjects were asked to report if they had arrived at their answer by thinking the problem through step by step (analytical problem solving) or if the solution had sprung to mind (insight).
In all four experiments, aha! solutions were more often correct than those achieved deliberately. For instance, in one experiment, in which 38 participants had to think of a single word that could form a compound phrase with three previously presented words (such as “apple” for the trio “crab,” “pine” and “sauce”), aha! solutions were correct 94 percent of the time compared with 78 percent accuracy for analytical solutions.
The futuristic world portrayed in The Machine Stops is an eerily familiar one - people mostly communicate with each other via screens, the rarity of face-to-face interaction has rendered it awkward, and knowledge and ideas are only shared by a system that links every home.
Yet that world was imagined not by a contemporary writer but by the Edwardian author Edward Morgan Forster.
Best known for his novels about class and hypocrisy - Howards End, A Room With A View and A Passage To India - The Machine Stops was Forster's only foray into science fiction.
Published in 1909, it tells the story of a mother and son - Vashti and Kuno - who live in a post-apocalyptic world where people live individually in underground pods, described as being "like the cell of a bee", and have their needs provided for by the all-encompassing Machine.
It is a world where travel is rare, inhabitants communicate via video screens, and people have become so reliant on the Machine that they have begun to worship it as a living entity.
We are on the verge of becoming the best trained, and least educated, society since the Romans — and reducing the humanities to a type of soft science will only hasten this trend.
As the sciences rightly grow, a free society must ensure that criticism of the sciences grows apace. Effective criticism depends on distance, in this case on an unshakeable difference, between the humanities and the STEM fields. That is not to say that STEM researchers can’t or shouldn’t be experts in the humanities, but rather that the work that the humanities do should not be judged by the metrics of hard science. As Aristotle, Plato’s most famous student, suggests at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, "precision is not to be sought for alike in all discussions." Similarly, we should not expect the humanities to be driven or dominated by the objectives of science. Plato teaches us that part of the liberal arts’ enduring mission is precisely to critique these objectives.
It ought to be obvious that the study of law, justice, and the arts is one of the best preparations for governing. This goes for governing our polis and equally for governing our technologies and ourselves. If you’re interested in learning about justice, you don’t go to the chemistry laboratory. You go to philosophy class and travel to Plato’s Republic.
But if you go to the Republic in search of concrete answers about justice (as many of our students are encouraged to search for the "right" answers in their labs), you will be disappointed. Plato is not famous for answering questions but for staking his life on the chance to ask them. He seems more interested in inviting his readers to ask their own questions and to finish the dialogue themselves, as if to say that it’s more important to learn to think than to memorize others’ dogmatic principles. The question about justice that motivates the Republic is posed in a lengthy series of dialogues, and it does not give rise to a fixed doctrine. Plato seems to be suggesting that part of being just is taking the time to think seriously about justice.
Animals’ ability to navigate long distances has long been shrouded in mystery. From the skill of racing pigeons to find their way home, to the seasonal breeding migration of the humpback whale, a huge range of creatures are capable of navigating in a consistent, precise and effective way.
Science has been slow to fully identify and understand the processes and cues involved in animal migration. However, evidence now suggests that a vast array of species, from beetles to birds to dogs, demonstrate amazing abilities to travel long distances, without the use of electronic GPS – something many humans have perhaps become over-reliant upon.
In April, the story of Pero, an adventurous four-year-old working sheepdog was reported. Pero managed to find his way from Cockermouth in Cumbria back to his previous home, near Aberystwyth, on the coast of mid Wales. In a real-life story reminiscent of “Lassie Come Home”, Pero somehow navigated about 240 miles in two weeks. Significantly, his microchip confirmed this was not a case of mistaken identity, this young sheepdog really had made it back to his first home.
Stories like that of Pero’s often attract media interest, leaving readers puzzled over how an animal can travel so far. Without speculating over whether the dog had been simply dropped off at the farm by someone who recognised him, these sorts of tales apparently prove the remarkable nature of animal instincts. The deep relationship between people and their dogs also seems to drive a desire to believe that there is something magical about this ability. So, is this navigation skill because of “personal bonds” between owner and dog, or is there a scientific understanding of the biology involved?
At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival premiere of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, director Woody Allen was asked about aging. He replied with his characteristic, straight-faced pessimism. “I find it a lousy deal. There is no advantage in getting older. I’m 74 now. You don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser ... Your back hurts more, you get more indigestion ... It’s a bad business, getting old. I’d advise you not to do it if you can avoid it.”
Creaking bones and bad digestion notwithstanding, is that really the only face of aging? Turns out, it’s not. At least for the fortunate few, old age may not be Woody Allenesque; instead old age is when they become compassionate and wise. Yes, wise. While aging diminishes activity in certain brain regions, there’s tantalizing evidence this may be compensated by changes in brain regions associated with supportive and social behavior. This shift in brain activity may foster wisdom in some people, a way of being that moves one away from self-centeredness toward emotional equanimity and wider social consciousness. We may even be able to work toward wisdom in old age.
Adidas has announced that it is ready to begin commercial production of footwear at a robot-staffed factory in Germany. The so-called "Speedfactory" in Ansbach will apparently allow the firm to produce more shoes, with greater precision and with new designs.
The 4,600-sq m (49,500 sq ft) Ansbach facility was set up as a pilot in December last year, allowing Adidas to test both the new manufacturing process and a new production model. The automation, it says, allows production to be brought "to where the consumer is," presumably due the the virtual elimination of staffing costs.
Once up and running, the facility will be operated by Adidas' strategic partner Oechsler Motion. In addition to being able to produce goods "faster than ever before," the factory will help to reduce shipping emissions and the use of adhesives, the firm says.
The first pairs of footwear to be produced at the Speedfactory will be revealed later this year, with large-scale production due to begin in 2017. A second Speedfactory is being planned for the US.
Secrecy has long been a part of scientific and innovation practices. For instance, research on nuclear, biological or chemical weapons is often conducted in secret. In his excellent book on Secrecy and Science, Brian Balmer describes how the Manhattan Project epitomised the way in which scientific secrecy operates, explaining how specific sites were kept secret, but also how projects were compartmentalised, so that knowledge was exchanged only on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, meaning that only a very few people had any real understanding of the programme as a whole. In other words, attempts to maintain secrecy often go hand-in-hand with imperatives of efficiency, security, bureaucracy and control.
By their nature, it is often the most controversial, risky and ethically dubious research programmes that are conducted in secret, curtained-off from society in order to protect knowledge and technology not only from public scrutiny but also espionage or corporate theft. Therefore it should be no surprise that a behind-closed-doors meeting, convened last week at Harvard, on the prospect of synthesising the human genome, has caused a stir. The meeting was convened to discuss the prospects of coordinating a large collaborative venture to follow-up on the Human Genome Project (HGP), that would, over the next decade, seek to construct an entire human genome in a cell line. Currently unfunded but to be prospectively titled ‘HGP-Write: Testing Large Synthetic Genomes in Cells’, it is backed by some of the biggest names in the field.
As the New York Times reported, the meeting was invite-only and “The nearly 150 attendees were told not to contact the news media or to post on Twitter during the meeting.” For the sociologist Georg Simmel, secrecy helps to produce a “second world” alongside the everyday, public world, and whilst separated from it, it nonetheless has the effect of significantly altering the qualities of the relationships between those who conceal and those kept in the dark. What we do in secret changes what we do in public. It seems the organisers of the Harvard meeting were keen to build a second world for synthetic biology.
In October 2008, two of the big names in academic publishing, Elsevier and Thieme, celebrated victory against an "international piracy scheme involving the unlawful copying, sale, and distribution of scientific journals.”
In the defeated scheme, a Vietnamese entrepreneur had used throwaway email accounts to pose as a salesman. He contacted academics, offering discounted access to subscription journals. The unsuspecting marks made payment through fake websites that mimicked the publishers’, and received paper printouts of the journals in the mail.
Now, another international piracy scheme commands the attention of Elsevier—but this one looks more like a Silicon Valley startup than a black market.
The new offender, Sci-Hub, describes itself as “the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers.” It has more than 47 million papers available for free, according to its own estimate, hosted on servers outside the US.
In June 2015 following a complaint against the site’s founders, Elsevier succeeded in scaring Sci-Hub off the open web as a New York district court ruled that the site violates copyright law. But the site is still available, if you know where to look.
“In a future with mass unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood.”
This is the opening line of a short film entered in this year's Sci-Fi London Film Challenge. It's dark, enigmatic, contemporary…and written by a computer. In fact, the film's entire screenplay is the work of a neural net trained on sci-fi scripts.
Once the software completed the screenplay—which you can read in all its unadulterated glory here—it was up to the film’s director and actors to make it into something someone might actually watch. And they did an admirable job.
The debate over what technology does to work, jobs, and wages is as old as the industrial era itself. In the second decade of the nineteenth century, a group of English textile workers called the Luddites protested the introduction of spinning frames and power looms, machines of the nascent Industrial Revolution that threatened to leave them without jobs. Since then, each new burst of technological progress has brought with it another wave of concern about a possible mass displacement of labor.
On one side of the debate are those who believe that new technologies are likely to replace workers. Karl Marx, writing during the age of steam, described the automation of the proletariat as a necessary feature of capitalism. In 1930, after electrification and the internal combustion engine had taken off, John Maynard Keynes predicted that such innovations would lead to an increase in material prosperity but also to widespread “technological unemployment.” At the dawn of the computer era, in 1964, a group of scientists and social theorists sent an open letter to U.S. President Lyndon Johnson warning that cybernation “results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity, which requires progressively less human labor.” Recently, we and others have argued that as digital technologies race ahead, they have the potential to leave many workers behind.
On the other side are those who say that workers will be just fine. They have history on their side: real wages and the number of jobs have increased relatively steadily throughout the industrialized world since the middle of the nineteenth century, even as technology advanced like never before. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report explained why:
By reducing the costs of production and thereby lowering the price of a particular good in a competitive market, technological change frequently leads to increases in output demand: greater output demand results in increased production, which requires more labor.
Ever since Charles Babbage’s conceptual, unrealised Analytical Engine in the 1830s, computer science has been trying very hard to race ahead of its time. Particularly over the last 75 years, there have been many astounding developments – the first electronic programmable computer, the first integrated circuit computer, the first microprocessor. But the next anticipated step may be the most revolutionary of all.
Quantum computing is the technology that many scientists, entrepreneurs and big businesses expect to provide a, well, quantum leap into the future. If you’ve never heard of it there’s a helpful video doing the social media rounds that’s got a couple of million hits on YouTube. It features the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, detailing exactly what quantum computing means.
Trudeau was on a recent visit to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, one of the world’s leading centres for the study of the field. During a press conference there, a reporter asked him, half-jokingly, to explain quantum computing.
Quantum mechanics is a conceptually counterintuitive area of science that has baffled some of the finest minds – as Albert Einstein said “God does not play dice with the universe” – so it’s not something you expect to hear politicians holding forth on. Throw it into the context of computing and let’s just say you could easily make Zac Goldsmith look like an expert on Bollywood. But Trudeau rose to the challenge and gave what many science observers thought was a textbook example of how to explain a complex idea in a simple way.
In the time of the Facebook thumbs up, what does it mean to “like” something? What is it that makes humans decide they prefer one thing over another, so that you click replay on one song all day and cover your ears whenever you hear another in public? And how do Netflix and Spotify and other recommendation engines seem to know your taste as well or better than you do sometimes?
What determines people’s preferences is a fuzzy, hard-to-pin-down process, but Tom Vanderbilt takes a stab at it in his new book, You May Also Like. He examines the broad collection of likes and dislikes that make up “taste,” and how they come to be. Sometimes, people just prefer the familiar. Sometimes they like what their friends like. Sometimes they pretend to like movies they never really watch or music they don’t actually listen to. A lot of the time, they can’t say why they like something, they just know that they do.
I spoke with Vanderbilt about how what we like is influenced by both culture and human nature, how being able to analyze things helps us like them more, and how the Internet changes the game. Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.
You’re thinking about time all wrong, according to our best physical theories. In Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there’s no conceptual distinction between the past and the future, let alone an objective line of “now.” There’s also no sense in which time “flows”; instead, all of space and time is just there in some four-dimensional structure. What’s more, all the fundamental laws of physics work essentially the same both forward and backward.
None of these facts are easy to accept, because they’re in direct conflict with our subjective experience of time. But don’t feel too bad: They’re hard even for physicists to accept, an ongoing tension that places physics in conflict not just with common sense but also with itself. As much as physicists talk about time symmetry, they do not allow themselves to invoke the future, only the past, when seeking to explain occurrences in the world.
It touches the food we eat and the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and possibly the device you’re using to read these words. But slavery today is a paradox. It is hidden away as never before, but its effects are everywhere. If slavery were a country it would have the population of Canada and the GDP of Kuwait, but its CO2 emissions would rank third globally after China and the US.
The latest measures of global slavery conservatively estimate there are about 36m slaves worldwide, spread across virtually all countries. The UN says slavery generates some US$150 billion annually. These numbers seem immense, but the number of slaves represents only a small amount of the global population. While US$150 billion is a tiny fraction of the global economy and is spread across several million local criminal enterprises. In all of human history, slavery has never been such a small part of our shared existence. Slavery is illegal in every country, it is condemned by every faith, and business and government leaders are unanimous in rejecting it. Slavery has been pushed to the very edges of our global society, but it is still destroying lives and the natural world at an alarming rate because the criminal gangs who employ slave labour are often involved in pollution and deforestation as part of their work.
Most of us like to think that we have moral standards, and there may be a psychological reason why.
A study published (paywall) today (May 16) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that when we act unethically, we’re more likely to remember these actions less clearly. Researchers from Northwestern University and Harvard University coined the term “unethical amnesia” to describe this phenomenon, which they believe stems from the fact that memories of ourselves acting in ways we shouldn’t are uncomfortable.
“Unethical amnesia is driven by the desire to lower one’s distress that comes from acting unethically and to maintain a positive self-image as a moral individual,” the authors write in the paper.
“We can turn water into wine in 15 minutes.” So claims the Ava Winery, a San Francisco start-up that is making synthetic wine without grapes – simply by combining flavour compounds and ethanol.
Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee came up with the idea while visiting a winery in California’s Napa Valley in 2015. There, they were shown the bottle of an iconic wine, Chateau Montelena, which is famous for being the first Californian Chardonnay to beat French contenders at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.
“I was transfixed by this bottle displayed on the wall,” says Chua. “I could never afford a bottle like this, I could never enjoy it. That got me thinking.”
A British aid charity is warning that by 2060 more than a billion people worldwide will live in cities at risk of catastrophic flooding as a result of climate change.
A study by Christian Aid says the US, China and India are among the countries most threatened.
It says the Indian cities of Kolkata and Mumbai will be most at risk.
The eight most vulnerable cities on the list are all in Asia, followed by Miami in the US.
The report urges governments to take action to reduce global warming and invest in disaster reduction programmes.
Dr Alison Doig, the report's author, told the BBC World Service that people living in large coastal cities were particularly at risk.
"I think it's cities like Kolkata, Dakar, the big mega-cities of the south and the emerging economies where the people are most vulnerable to exposure to sea-level rises and to higher rain events," she said.
"Flooding in these cities can cause massive damage, but can also threaten life."
Dr Doig warned that Florida was likely to suffer extensive flooding.
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