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Your face is part of Australia's 'national security weapon': should you be concerned?

Images of your face can be checked against images held on government databases. Flickr/StephenMitchell , CC BY-NC-ND

Australian government plans to increase the use of facial recognit

Originally published in The Conversation.

Top 10 science stories of 2013

From leaving the solar system to resurrecting a frog, we highlight just some of the science stories that generated headlines around the world this year.

The 10 weirdest science stories of 2013

From farts on a plane to fake fingers, this list of the weirdest science stories of the year contains stories that will make you squirm and some that will have you scratching your head.

  1. Researchers found we can smell ten smells – and one of them is popcorn! We all know tastes can be classified into five distinct flavours, but research released in September suggested there are 10 basic categories of odour – and that one of them is popcorn. The other odours are fragrant, woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty/peppermint, sweet, lemon and two kinds of sickening odours: pungent and decayed.

The genetics of epilepsy: bringing hope to families

Sam Berkovic and Ingrid Scheffer have changed the way the world thinks about epilepsy, the debilitating condition that affects about 50 million people.

Twenty years ago doctors tended to regard most forms of epilepsy as acquired rather than inherited. In other words, they believed epilepsy was mostly due to injury: the result of things like a crack on the head in a car accident, a bad fall in the playground, a tumour, or something having gone wrong in labour. Parents felt responsible, and the resulting guilt was enormous.

Regulating genes to treat illness, grow food, and understand the brain

Genes are not enough to explain the difference between a skin cell and a stem cell, a leaf cell and a root cell, or the complexity of the human brain. Genes don’t explain the subtle ways in which your parents’ environment before you were conceived might affect your offspring.

Another layer of complexity—the epigenome—is at work determining when and where genes are turned on and off.

Australian crystals set to take over industry

Forty per cent of the energy consumed by industry is used to separate things—in natural gas production, mineral processing, food production, pollution control. The list is endless. Each offers an application for Matthew Hill’s crystals. He has demonstrated that the space inside metal–organic frameworks (MOFs)—the world’s most porous materials—can be used as an efficient and long-lasting filter.

New Zealand's Alpine Fault reveals extreme underground heat and fluid pressure

By Rupert Sutherland

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The drilling project at New Zealand’s Alpine Fault is the first to investigate a major fault that is due to rupture in a big earthquake in coming decades.
John Townend/Victoria University of Wellington, CC BY-SA

Science or Snake oil: do Band-Aids really 'heal cuts twice as fast'?

By Nick Santamaria

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Don’t believe the hype. Band-Aids might protect minor cuts but there’s no publicly available evidence they speed up healing.
Johnson & Johnson Pacific Pty Ltd/The Conversation

Expert culture has killed the innovator in workplaces

By Joshua Krook

Over the last few decades, the Western world has had an increasingly specialised workforce, with workers trained in narrow skills, for increasingly narrow positions. However, the more narrow our jobs have become, the less capable we have become in inventing new technologies, products and ideas. The Conversation

The other Eurovision star hunt: Australia joins with Europe to explore the universe

By Tanya Hill

After working its way into the Eurovision Song Contest, Australia is now joining with European efforts to explore the Universe and all its stars, planets and galaxies. The Conversation