Introducing F&O’s Expert Witness series

Facts and Opinions introduces Expert Witness, a series of occasional works by experts in their areas, in our Think section of analysis and commentary.

Expert Witness will publish eclectic essays, papers and occasionally even works from the past that strike our interests. It will include original pieces created for F&O, as well as selected works from other sources.

We are pleased to launch Expert Witness today with an essay about Nelson Mandela, and a science paper  about biodiversity in a world undergoing human-made change.

Learning from Mandela is by trans-national professor and author Heribert Adam, an expert on peacemaking, human rights and security, with a focus on Southern Africa, Israel/Palestine, Canada and Germany.  An excerpt:

Nelson Mandela is inextricably linked to the emergence of post-apartheid South Africa. Although he long withdrew from active politics after a one-term presidency (1994-99), he remained his country’s moral conscience in terms of domestic issues, and a principled defender of human rights internationally.

But despite the numerous biographies published so far – and with many more likely to appear – as well as his own 15-million-copies-sold autobiography, with a movie version soon due for release, we are still lacking a full understanding of why Mandela has emerged as a truly global icon.

Biodiversity in the Anthropocene, by Bradley J. Cardinale, is republished under creative commons licence from the new digital science journal Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene. An excerpt:

Imagine a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you are traveling through space and come across Earth for the first time … what would you be most struck by? Would it be the water that gives our planet the nickname ‘blue-marble’? I doubt it. We’ve now found water on the moon (Saal et al., 2008), on several other planets in our own solar system (Carr et al., 1998; Malin and Edgett, 2000), and a single survey of the Milky Way found >270 planets in the so-called “habitable zone,” warm enough for liquid water (Borucki et al., 2011). Would you instead be struck by the mountains, canyons and other geological features that are most visible from space? Again, it’s doubtful. Geologists tell us there are few, if any, landforms that are wholly unique to Earth (Baker, 2008; Dietrich and Perron, 2006), and you probably would have seen them all before. Based on our current understanding of the universe, the only thing a space-traveler is likely to be struck by, and the one thing that appears to be fundamentally unique to Earth, is its remarkable variety of life.