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Turnbull has an opportunity to make Australia a science nation

The new Prime Minister has an opportunity to reverse the cuts to science funding and transform Australia into an innovative nation. Tracy Sorensen/Flickr, CC BY

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, talked a lot in The Conversation.

Did 'rising star' shine too bright?

Homo naledi bones.

Originally published in The Conversation.

We are lucky to live in a universe made for us

Like a cosmic roulette wheel, we exist because of a very lucky combination of factors. NASA/JPL-Caltech

To a human, the universe might seem like a very inhospitable place. In the vacuum of space, you would rapidly suffocate, while on the surface of a star you would be burnt to a crisp.

Originally published in The Conversation.

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