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Feature article

Death of Antarctic Physicist Marks End of Era

Dr Neville (“Nod”) Parsons in retirement.

Dr Neville (“Nod”) Parsons in retirement.

By Paul J Edwards

The death in Hobart on 30 December 2017 of 91-year-old Antarctic physicist and expeditioner Dr Neville (Nod) Parsons marks the end of an era of Australian Antarctic research and exploration.

Not many physicists have lent their names to a mountain as did Parsons to a “huge, sheer-sided” peak at the northern end of the David Range in Australian Antarctic Territory. This followed the first exploration of the David, Casey and Masson ranges in January 1956 by an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition party of five led from Mawson by Antarctic explorer John Béchervaise over heavily crevassed ice. Béchervaise and Neville "Nod" Parsons were subsequently awarded Imperial Polar Medals for their work.

Top 10 science stories of 2017

By Joe Milton

2017 has been a bumper year for science yarns, from exploding neutron stars to a crashing spacecraft, and incredible advances in artificial wombs.

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Trump dumped Paris

‘Rock stars of the sea’ put on amazing underwater show in South Australia

Photo: Carl Charter

Nicknamed “the rock stars of the ocean” because they live fast and die young, cuttlefish have a life span of just 12-18 months, so impressive displays are necessary to attract a mate. Photo: Carl Charter

By Andrew Spence

Flowing arms, skins that change colour in an instant, dance battles and petite males disguised as females to trick their rivals – the courting behaviour of the alien-like Giant Australian Cuttlefish would look more at home in a Star Wars night club.

Each year more than 100,000 of the bizarre creatures gather in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in what is the only known mass aggregation of its kind in the world.

Nicknamed “the rock stars of the ocean” because they live fast and die young, cuttlefish have a life span of just 12-18 months. This makes each May to August breeding season critical because the number of surviving eggs one year directly impacts the number of adult cuttlefish that return the next year to breed.

Personal Deterrents Can Reduce the Risk of Shark Bites

Credit: Andrew Fox / Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions

Credit: Andrew Fox / Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions

By Charlie Huveneers & Corey J. A. Bradshaw

A study tests how effectively commercial shark deterrents reduce the risk of shark bites.

Many things might explain why the number of shark bites appear to be increasing. However, the infrequent occurrence of such events makes it nearly impossible to determine why. Recently, an atypically high rate of shark bites occurred in Western Australia in 2010-2011 and on the north coast of New South Wales in 2015-2016. These highly publicised events — often sensationalised in both traditional and social media — have pressured governments to implement new measures to reduce the risk of shark bites.

Top 10 weird science stories of 2017

By Joe Milton

Weird science was out in force in 2017 - someone named a planet Bernard, sheep were trained to recognise Baaarack Obaaama, octopuses marched out of the sea, and re-inflated dolphin dangly bits revealed some sea sex secrets, among many other peculiar science yarns.

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Sheep recognised Baaarack Obaaama

A Scientist’s Defense of Free Will

By Mahir S. Ozdemir

Why scientists should not jump to the unwarranted conclusion that free will is just an illusion.

Our commonsensical view holds that everything we do in life is a choice and we are totally free to choose between the options which we think are available to us. Many scientists, however, see a fundamental problem with the conventional wisdom about free will and claim that it is nothing more than an illusion.

Top Ten Weirdest Science Stories of 2014

By Australian Science Media Centre

A recap of the weirdest science stories in 2014, from the attractiveness of hipster beards and the induction of a dream within a dream to the number of bacteria transferred during a kiss.

Sorry hipsters, we hit peak beard