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.

New plain packaging research - experts respond

By various experts

As New Zealand deliberates over the introduction of 'plain packaging' for cigarettes, a new study confirms that such measures reduce the appeal of tobacco products.

Scientists from Canada, the US, and Brazil have conducted a study of 640 young Brazilian women to determine if cigarettes had the same appeal when presented in plain packaging.

Dr David Hammond from the University of Waterloo, Canada, who led this study explained:

New Report Card for Australia’s Marine Environment

By Various experts

A massive effort involving 80 Australian scientists from 34 institutions has produced a report card for Australia’s marine environment.

The Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card 2012 looks at a range of indicators such as ocean temperatures, acidity and the strength of critical ocean currents and relates these to changes in marine biodiversity such as the southward movement of fish and other marine organisms. Several independent experts as well as several who contributed to the report respond.

Contributing author comments:
Dr Elvira Poloczanska is a senior researcher with the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and is an overall lead author of the report.

State of the Climate 2011 Report – Experts Respond

By Various experts

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a large global report on the state of the climate in July. The report involved 11 Australian scientists, and focused on extreme weather events and the strong La Niña that brought wet conditions to many parts of the world.

“Most notably, the Arctic continues to warm at a very rapid rate – around twice the rate of warming compared with the rest of the planet... Arctic sea-ice extent was the second lowest on record at the end of the 2011 summer, and is tracking at lowest on record for 2012. In addition, the ocean heat content, a measure of heat stored in the oceans, was also in record territory during 2011, and continues another well-established long-term warming trend.

Higgs Boson Particle Discovered

By Various experts

CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) has announced that the long-sought Higgs boson exists after experiments conducted in the Large Hadron Collider yielded results that are consistent with its existence. The Higgs boson is the final particle in the Standard Model of physics, and has remained hidden from scientists’ reach until a series of experiments confirmed its presence.

“Today's announcement that the Higgs boson has been discovered at CERN represents the most important and profound discovery in particle physics in almost 30 years. The Higgs represents the key missing piece of the jig-saw puzzle that is the famous Standard Model of nuclear and particle physics. It has been anticipated for more than four decades and were it not there theorists all over the world would have been back to their drawing boards in desperation.

SKA Site Shared

By Various experts

After many months of deliberations, the Square Kilometre Array Organisation has announced that the massive telescope will be shared between Australia/NZ and South Africa.

“The decision is a complex one, which recognises the enormous amount of international investment that will be needed to make the SKA happen.

The array will be split between Africa and Australia/NZ. What this does not mean is that half the telescope will be built in each continent. Each site gets a full square kilometre of collecting area, with the full scientific functionality originally envisaged.

National Greenhouse Accounts Released

By various experts

The latest National Greenhouse Accounts, which compare Australia’s emissions to our Kyoto Protocol obligations, show that Australia’s carbon pollution is currently tracking at 104% of 1990 levels. Australia’s Kyoto Protocol target is to limit emissions to 108% of 1990 levels, on average, over the period from 2008–12.

“A striking feature of the data is that aggregate emissions have remained unchanged since 2008, although GDP has increased by 15% in that time. The fact that the link between GDP growth and emissions has been broken is encouraging evidence that we can achieve substantial reductions in emissions without damaging living standards.”

Professor John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow at the School of Economics, University of Queensland.

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Australia's Megafauna Extinctions: Cause and Effect

By various experts

Australian research has found new evidence that human hunters were primarily responsible for the disappearance of Australia’s giant vertebrates about 40,000 years ago, and concluded that the extinctions caused changes to the Australian landscape.

“We are excited by this research not just because it helps us to understand why Australia's megafauna went extinct. More importantly, it moves the question on by focusing on the ecological impacts of that extinction. Big animals have big impacts on plants. It follows that removing big animals should produce significant changes in vegetation.

Is Sugar as Toxic as Alcohol?

By Various experts

Experts evaluate a commentary published in Nature* arguing that added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol.

“A focus on added sugar is most timely, with increasing evidence of its negative health effects.

“The public health arguments for intervening are indeed strong, with perhaps the most important consideration, not highlighted by the authors, [being] the imperative of governments to protect vulnerable members of society, especially where the capacity for well-informed decision making is limited or non-existent.

Fukushima: one year on

By Various experts

A year since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the coast of Japan, triggering a powerful tsunami and resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl, nuclear and disaster experts examine the current situation and what lessons can be learnt.

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Dr Don Higson is a retired nuclear safety specialist and Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, Fellow of the Australasian Radiation Protection Society

On Engineering

Gas Drilling Affects Animal Health

By AusSMC

US scientists have documented cases of animal health problems they believe have possible links to gas drilling.

“This work is based on interviews and thus provides anecdotal evidence rather than a direct cause-and-effect relationship for adverse health impacts from gas drilling. It is an interesting study and highlights some of the knowledge that is required. However, there are some important differences between gas drilling in the US and here which need to be taken into consideration when extrapolating from this research.