Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


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The Aristotle Swan Test

By Paul Waring

Students from school to university should be learning the essential skills of critical thinking.

Isaac Asimov once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. He had alien civilisations in mind, but what of the many Australians who cannot tell the difference between magic and science?

As scientists we are continually implored to communicate our results. For instance, Science Minister Kim Carr recently appealed to scientists to engage more with the public in the global warming debate. But if the public possesses no tools to assess the scientific claims being made, are scientists just wasting their time?

The Hazards of Synthesis

Image of Richard Eckersley

Richard Eckersley’s review paper was rejected by The Lancet for “self-plagiarism”.

By Richard Eckersley

Synthesis of knowledge from different disciplines is underused in research and has hazards for practitioners.

Last year I sent The Lancet a wide-ranging paper urging the need to rethink the science and politics of population health. The journal rejected the paper on the grounds of “self-plagiarism” and reported me to my university, the Australian National University. The ANU investigated and rejected the charge, saying I had not breached the Australian or ANU codes on responsible research.

Homeopathy Costs Us All

Homeopathy image

Natrum muriaticum is homeopathic salt.

By Ken Harvey

There is no evidence for homeopathy yet medical insurance companies – subsidised by the government – are extending their cover due to client demand, and health authorities lack the power to act on misleading claims.

Homeopathy has been in the news of late. Earlier this year, a homeopath and his wife were found guilty of manslaughter after their baby daughter died when they treated her severe eczema with homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medicines.

Deadly Concerns Over Herbal Medicines

image of Professor Roger Byard

Professor Roger Byard, Photo: The University of Adelaide

By Roger W. Byard

Just how safe are herbal medicines, and how well are we evaluating their possible contribution to illness and death?

While there is no doubt that some pharmaceutical drugs carry significant risks of morbidity and sometimes mortality, a recent review of traditional herbal medicines has shown that “natural” does not always equate with “safe”. Published in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Journal ofForensic Sciences, my review dealt withpotentially harmful effects and interactionsof herbal medicines that had been published in the international scientificliterature.

Science for Dummies

By John O’Connor

How concerned should we be that many Australians don't know some basic science facts?

There has been a range of comment about the recent Academy of Science survey on science literacy, ranging from criticism of such surveys and their relevance through to serious concern about the decline in literacy.

The criticism is based on the belief that it covers knowledge which is no longer relevant in the modern era and just gives an opportunity to highlight a deficiency that needs to be addressed for educational reasons or a target for greater science outreach. But is it so irrelevant?

From Prickly Pears to Quantum Computing: Enjoying the Fruits of Australian Science

By The Hon Karen Andrews MP

The government’s blueprint for scientific research will create a more innovative and entrepreneurial Australia.

This year marks 100 years since the Federal government established the Advisory Council of Science and Industry. Its first research investment was just £250 to explore ways to control the spread of the prickly pear pest invading agricultural land in eastern Australia.

In the ensuing century, the Advisory Council has evolved into what we now know as the CSIRO and a world-class science community has come to flourish in Australia. Today, our universities and public science agencies conduct cutting-edge research that benefits millions of people around the world.

Future Research Stars Are Born in Every Town

By Senator Kim Carr

Labor believes that “Australia cannot be an innovation nation unless we are an education nation – and a science and research nation”.

Australian scientists were entitled to feel relieved when the Liberal Party changed its leader last September. After all, in the 2014 Budget Tony Abbott’s government stripped $3 billion from public funding for science, research and innovation programs, and sought to take $12 billion over 10 years from university research programs. These policies, along with cuts to university budgets and unfair fee hikes that would lumber university students with $100,000 degrees, were carried through in the 2015 Budget.

Greens Plan Giant Boost to Science and Research

By Australian Greens

The Australian Greens want to put Australia on a path to spending 4% of GDP on science and research by 2030.

Announcing the policy at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in the electorate of Melbourne, Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale and Science and Industry spokesperson Adam Bandt MP said the policy would make Australia a world leader in investment in research and development.

Foodies May Be Our True Dietary Messiahs

By Catherine Lockley

The facts and figures in the Australian Dietary Guidelines are less influential on our dietary habits than the enthusiastic narratives of food cooked up by gastronomes.

Have you ever had the “perfect meal”? An offering that delights the eyes, the palate, the emotions and the olfactory senses? A meal whose flavours are so delightful, surprising and masterfully woven that you can’t even imagine wanting to over-eat?