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Feature article

The Rise of the Crocodile Hunters

The skull of Australopithecus sediba from Malapa in South Africa.

The skull of Australopithecus sediba from Malapa in South Africa. Photo by Brett Eloff courtesy Lee Berger

By Andy Herries

Recent excavations in Kenya have revealed the first evidence that a diet of fish and crocodiles two million years ago may have aided the development of larger brains in the human lineage.

Andy Herries is Senior Research Fellow at the University of NSW School of Medical Sciences. He helped estimate the age of the archaeological remains at FwJj20.

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Fool’s Gold: The Search for Early Life

Michaela Partridge examining a banded iron formation from the Archean.

Michaela Partridge in the Pilbara examining a banded iron formation from the Archean.

By Michaela Partridge

The golden mineral, pyrite, is a valuable tool in the search for the secrets of early life on Earth.

Michaela Partridge is completing her PhD in astrobiology at the University of Queensland.

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Cosmic Time Machine

Moon craters

Craters reveal the Moon's turbulent history.

By Marc Norman and Tim Wetherell

Precise dating of impacts on the Moon might contribute to a better understanding of life on Earth.

Marc Norman is a Senior Fellow with the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University, where Tim Wetherell is Science Editor.

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How to Make a MegaStar

Big Bang

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By Peter Barnes

Astronomers are still largely in the dark when it comes to understanding how the most massive stars form, but they are now pursuing several new strategies to solve this enduring mystery.

Peter Barnes is an Assistant Scientist in the Astronomy Department at the University of Florida.

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Big Bang Conundrum

By Stephen Luntz

An unexpected consistency in the concentration of deuterium atoms in the distant universe might be a curious coincidence, or it could rewrite our understanding of the Big Bang.

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Thank God for the New Atheists

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is one of the New Atheists who are fulfilling the traditional role of prophets. Getty Images

By Reverend Michael Dowd

Religious people of all backgrounds and orientations need to heed what atheists such as Richard Dawkins are saying if they want their traditions to remain relevant to modern society.

Rev. Michael Dowd is the author of Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (2009, Plume). See http://ThankGodforEvolution.com

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Turning Water into Fuel

Environmental footprint

A major challenge facing the world is to develop sustainable, non-carbon-based sources of energy. One of the most obvious, renewable and non-carbon-based sources of energy is sunlight.

By Zhiguo Yi and Ray Withers

A simple inorganic semiconductor could deliver an artificial photosynthesis process that will convert sunlight and water directly into hydrogen and oxygen, thus providing the renewable fuel of the future.

Zhiguo Yi is a Postdoctoral fellow and Ray Withers is Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University. The assistance of Tim Wetherell in the writing of this article is acknowledged.

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Dangerous Ground

Tim Inglis searching for B. pseudomallei in the Kimberley.

Tim Inglis searching for B. pseudomallei in the Kimberley.

By Tim Inglis

A deadly bacterium lies dormant in tropical soils until it is disturbed by natural disasters, mining operations or even gardening.

Tim Inglis is a medical microbiologist with PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, QEII Medical Centre, Perth.

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New Tactics in the War on Weeds

The native herb Lomandra stands in front of the invasive weed African lovegrass

The native herb Lomandra stands alone in front of the invasive weed African lovegrass, which was introduced into Australia for pasture improvement but was found to be unpalatable to grazing livestock and native animals.

By Jennifer Firn

Sometimes fertilisers can be more effective than herbicides when it comes to controlling weeds.

Dr Jennifer Firn is OCE Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.

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Spitting Image

An archerfish spits a carefully aimed jet of water.

An archerfish spits a carefully aimed jet of water to knock an unsuspecting insect down to the water.

By Shelby Temple

Archerfish are known for their remarkable hunting technique of spitting water at insects above the water, and their eyes are specially adapted for seeing both above and below the water’s surface.

Archerfish have earned their name for spitting jets of water at insects to knock them down to the water’s surface where they can be eaten. However, what is most incredible is not that they can spit, but that they can spit accurately despite the distortion that occurs due to refraction as light travels from air to water. Recent research is giving us new clues as to how they achieve their astonishing accuracy.