Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Expert Opinion

Experts pick apart the veracity of claims made in research papers and the media.

Musk’s Mission to Mars

By AusSMC

Elon Musk provided an update on his quest to colonise Mars at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, where he described a reusable rocket to overcome cost barriers and an ambitious schedule to land cargo missions on Mars by 2022.

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Human Embryos Edited

By AusSMC

Scientists have used CRISPR to edit human embryos, removing a mutation linked to a heritable heart condition.

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Finkel Review Hedges Its Bets

By AusSMC

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has unveiled a blueprint for the national electricity market that “risks falling short of Australia’s task and opportunities in reducing carbon emissions”.

After 'WannaCrypt', should governments stockpile software vulnerabilities?

Should governments adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world?

The “WannaCrypt” malware has disrupted vital infrastructure in almost 100 countries so far.

Federal Budget 2017-18

Experts comment on how the 2017-18 Federal Budget will impact research, health and science.


Professor Les Field is Secretary for Science Policy at the Australian Academy of Science
"Science has largely flown under the radar in a restrained Budget, with no big spending measures and no major cuts apart from the university funding changes announced last week.

National Science Statement Released

By AusSMC

The Australian government has set out a plan to use science to engage and enrich Australian society. Its objectives are to engage all Australians with science, building scientific skills, produce new research and technology, and improve Australians’ lives through research.

“The National Science Statement sets out admirable objectives, but also shows how the Commonwealth government is failing to put those aims into practice. Most observers would agree that refining and applying science is vital for a civilised future. The Statement reveals some worrying trends.

On Blackouts and Renewable Energy

By AusSMC

Politicians have blamed South Australia’s recent blackout on its reliance on renewable energy. Is this a valid concern for the state’s energy security?

The SA blackouts had nothing to do with the State’s move to clean energy. The distribution network was affected by a storm. The problem would have been exactly the same if SA used coal or nuclear power to provide its electricity.

Climate Change Authority Report “Untrue and Dangerous”

By AusSMC

The Climate Change Authority has called for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, but two members of its board, David Karoly and Clive Hamilton, have since issued a dissenting minority report calling for stronger measures to reduce emissions.

“Karoly and Hamilton point out that the Climate Change Authority’s report is inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations. In 2014, the Climate Change Authority recommended a carbon budget through to 2050. The new report rapidly blows our carbon budget. By accepting the current government’s targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts, it creates a crunch point for emissions reduction in 2030 that we can’t possibly achieve. The new CCA report is contradictory with the Authority’s 2014 report and with Australia’s role in keeping global warming below 2°C.”

Who to Kill? An Ethical Dilemma for Driverless Cars

By AusSMC

A study published in Science has found that people generally approve of autonomous cars that have been programmed to sacrifice their passengers if it will save others, yet these same people aren’t keen to ride in such “utilitarian” vehicles themselves.

Given that driverless cars are less than a decade away, we need to work out, as a society, how we program such systems. Unlike the past, where if you survived an accident you could be brought in front of the courts if you drove irresponsibly, we will have to program computers with behaviours in advance that determine how they react in such situations.

Who to kill? The dilemma of driverless cars

By AusSMC

Driverless cars hold the promise of safer transport. But how should they react when loss of life appears inevitable? Should a car swerve to miss a pedestrian on the road, even if doing so would kill the passenger?

New US research, published in Science (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6293/1573), explores this ethical dilemma in a series of surveys, revealing that people generally want automated cars to be utilitarian (i.e. prevent the greatest loss of life) but, when pressed, admit that they would prefer to buy a driverless car that protects the driver at all costs.