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.

Scientists Detect Echoes of the Big Bang

By AusSMC

Astronomers have found evidence that the Universe underwent a period of rapid inflation in the very first moments of its existence. If confirmed, the tell-tale signature of gravitational waves in the afterglow of the Big Bang will open a new chapter in astronomy, cosmology and physics.

Astronomers using a radio telescope based at the South Pole have peered into the afterglow of the Big Bang and seen the tell-tale whirls of light (called B-modes) that are caused by ripples in space–time (indirect evidence for Einstein's final prediction, which is a big deal). These ripples (or gravitational waves) would normally be too small for us to detect, yet something has blown them up to the size of the entire Universe. That something is inflation, and this discovery is the first confirmation of this incredible, potential Nobel Prize-winning result.

IPCC Report on Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

By AusSMC

Australian, UK and NZ experts respond to the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's summary report for policy-makers.

Dr Helen McGregor is a Research Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences at The Australian National University

Hazelwood coal fire health impacts

The Victorian government may announce a partial evacuation of residents from the smoke-affected town of Morwell. Australian experts comment on the health impacts of coal fires.

Are Chemicals in Food Packaging a Health Risk?

By Australian Science Media Centre

Synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage and processing of foods might be harmful to human health because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat.

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Australia Tops World Cancer Charts

By AusSMC

The cancer agency of the World Health Organization has revealed that Australian men have the highest incidence of cancer in the world. The data reveals striking patterns of cancer in women and highlights that preventing and controlling breast and cervical cancers globally should be prioritised.

The Globocan 2012 figures show a rise in the incidence of cancer worldwide. In Australia we are seeing more people being diagnosed with cancer, largely due to our ageing population. More people are living to an age where cancer becomes more common. In addition, it probably reflects more men having PSA tests for prostate cancer.

Chemical Exposure Linked to Preterm Birth Risk

By AusSMC

Women exposed to phthalates during pregnancy are at increased risk of preterm birth, according to US research. Phthalates are found in lotions, perfumes, deodorants and plastics such as PVC.

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Designer Baby Patent Makes Scientists Uneasy

A private company, 23andMe, has patented a method of creating “designer” babies by allowing the selection of sperm and eggs that are most likely to produce traits chosen by the parents, such as eye colour or athleticism, and also allows screening out of sperm and eggs likely to lead to genetic disease.

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Stem Cells Reset Inside Mice

Spanish researchers have successfully reset stem cells so they can become any cell type within the bodies of live mice, bypassing the need for transplantation.

The ability to change multiple different cell types in a living mouse back into iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells), that can turn into any cell type in that mouse or even into an entire new mouse, is unprecedented. This research provides a better understanding of the reprogramming process in mice and will enable further investigations into applications targeted at treating specific diseases and injuries.

Experts respond to the IPCC's 5th report on climate change

Experts from Australia, New Zealand and the UK respond to the IPCC's report “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”.

"There are human and natural factors acting in the climate system, and understanding all the factors influencing our climate is an ongoing scientific goal. But the current increase in CO2 and its effects on our planet are attributed to human activity because they have a pattern, in space and in time, which is what we expect from increased greenhouse gases, and which cannot be explained by other forces, such as changes in solar output or volcanic ash.

IVF Increases the Risk of Mental Retardation

A Swedish study has found that IVF was associated with a small risk of mental retardation.

“This study provides further strong broad evidence that babies born after IVF are healthy. IVF treatment was not associated with autistic disorder in the offspring but was associated with a small but statistically significantly increased risk of mental retardation. This, however, disappeared when the analysis was restricted to singletons (single births).