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The first demonstration of laser action in ruby was made in 1960 by T. H. Maiman of Hughes Research Laboratories, USA. Many laboratories worldwide began the search for lasers using different materials, operating at different wavelengths. In the UK, academia, industry and the central laboratories took up the challenge from the earliest days to develop these systems for a broad range of applications. This historical review looks at the contribution the UK has made to the advancement of the technology, the development of systems and components and their exploitation over the last 60 years.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that complex structures in the natural and cultural worlds emerge from two types of design. Bottom-up design involves the rote action of a simple algorithm in an environment constrained by physical laws. Top-down design involves deliberation and planning, and is unique to modern humans. Identifying the emergence of top-down design in the hominin lineage is an important research challenge, and the archaeological record of stone technology is our best evidence for it. A current view is that artefact types and flaking methods increased in complexity from 3.3 to c. 0.3 million years ago, reflecting improving capacities at spatial cognition and working memory, culminating in top-down design perhaps as early as 1.75 million years ago. Recent experimental work, however, has shown that a simple ‘remove flake’ algorithm constrained by the laws of fracture mechanics—a form of bottom-up design—can produce stone tool attributes thought to be evidence of top-down design. Here, these models are reviewed and critiqued in light of the new experimental evidence. A revised working memory-based model, focusing on the recursive aspects of stone flaking, is proposed.
The rocky shores of the north-east Atlantic have been long studied. Our focus is from Gibraltar to Norway plus the Azores and Iceland. Phylogeographic processes shape biogeographic patterns of biodiversity. Long-term and broadscale studies have shown the responses of biota to past climate fluctuations and more recent anthropogenic climate change. Inter- and intra-specific species interactions along sharp local environmental gradients shape distributions and community structure and hence ecosystem functioning. Shifts in domination by fucoids in shelter to barnacles/mussels in exposure are mediated by grazing by patellid limpets. Further south fucoids become increasingly rare, with species disappearing or restricted to estuarine refuges, caused by greater desiccation and grazing pressure. Mesoscale processes influence bottom-up nutrient forcing and larval supply, hence affecting species abundance and distribution, and can be proximate factors setting range edges (e.g., the English Channel, the Iberian Peninsula). Impacts of invasive non-native species are reviewed. Knowledge gaps such as the work on rockpools and host–parasite dynamics are also outlined.
Amphibian populations have been declining worldwide, with multiple potential causes. At La Selva field station in north-eastern Costa Rica, previous work has shown that populations of many amphibians have decreased significantly since the 1970s, especially in primary forest. Starting in 1998, we investigated one of the most common frog species at La Selva, the poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio (= Dendrobates pumilio). In a survey of 50 plots of 100 m2 in 1998, adult frogs were 4.6 times more abundant in secondary forest than in primary forest. Tadpoles were found only in secondary-forest plots. Almost all (89%) of the tadpoles were found in leaf axils of Dieffenbachia spp., which were much more abundant in secondary-forest than in primary-forest plots. The greater abundance of Dieffenbachia spp. in secondary forest was confirmed in a broad survey of ~11 km of trails within La Selva in 2002. When the same trails were resampled in 2012, Dieffenbachia spp. had been extirpated from 72% of the 50-m segments where plants were present in 2002; abundance was greatly reduced in the few trail segments where any Dieffenbachia spp. remained in 2012. The loss of Dieffenbachia spp., especially in secondary forest, removed the species most often used by O. pumilio for tadpole rearing. Based on counts of calling frogs in 2010, there was no difference in O. pumilio abundance in primary versus secondary forest, in striking contrast to multiple earlier surveys that found much greater frog abundance in secondary forest. We propose that the reason for the rapid decline in Dieffenbachia spp. is herbivory by the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), which has increased in abundance at La Selva in recent years. A likely consequence is continued reduction in O. pumilio populations.