Investigation below zero

The history of XIX century consists of great scientific discoveries which illuminated the contemporary era. Researchers in Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other countries, developed a formidable activity which lead to transformations that had never been seen before, in the fields of energy, materials and biology, just to point three concrete areas.

A few days ago the official discovery of Antarctica had been commemorated, the achievement belonged to a Russian expedition commanded by Fabian Gottlieb Von Bellinghausen, a sailor of German origin. His crew and the two ships, Vostok and the Mirny, came in sight of the coasts of the frozen continent on the 28th of January 1820.

It wasn´t a casual Discovery. The crew spent two years mapping the seas of the south, a very important job that was worthwhile in the end. Beyond the celebration of the anniversary, I mention Antarctica because it allows me to reflect on the scientific activity of some of my colleagues from a very interesting point of view. I´m in particular referring to the geologists, José Abel Flores y Francisco Javier Sierro, and the mathematician Carmen Domínguez. Three scientists of renowned prestige (the first two, had been awarded the Castile and León Award for the Protection of the Environment) who carry out a part of their research in Antarctica.

After months of studies in Salamanca and other cities of the western world, examining series of data to assess changes in the climate during thousnads of years, the three of them, literally embark on scientific expeditions, in which they have to take samples and analyze nature in difficult conditions. Some of these, are the expeditions to Antarctica, so distant that just its mention makes us feel cold.

As I have participated in the Atlantic Meridional Transect voyage many years ago, while working in the Plymouth Oceanographic laboratory, I admire the abilities of my colleagues like José Abel, Paco and Carmen, because apart from being good in their scientific work they also have to be prepared physically and mentally to work in difficult conditions. Furthermore, their contributions to the knowledge of the climate are relevant and necessary, even more so, if some, less informed platforms go back to questioning climate change and how this affects life on Earth.

All research that contributes new knowledge and broadens the horizons of science, is relevant and should be valued.

And this applies to both, basic science like its uses and technological developments. Some research studies are very shocking and can be easily communicated to our society. Others however, have a high degree of complexity and their knowledge and value is often to recognized by the citizens.

However, in all cases, these are very laborious works with an important degree of competence and uncertainty, and sometimes carried out in difficult condition. As in the case of scientists that I had mentioned before, this work often includes months sailing through the frozen waters or at the scientific station that our country has in Antarctica.

For that reason, we are now going through some weeks of cold, and not only climatic, I wanted to remind all of you and contribute my gain of sand in the spread of their work, as it is for many researchers who, although not very known, are valued by our University.

Researcher Carmen Dominguez in Antarctica. Photo: Eraso

Juan Manuel Corchado

Full Professor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Department of Computer Science and Automation, University of Salamanca, Spain.


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