Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Online Feature

Social Media Tracks Disease Epidemic More Effectively

By American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

New Study on Cholera in Haiti Demonstrates for First Time Tweets, Blogs and News Feeds Can Track a Disease Epidemic in Disaster Setting More Rapidly than Traditional Methods

Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti that has already killed more than 6500 people and sickened almost half a million, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Science advice and policy making

By Robert M. May

Lord May examines the challenges facing tomorrow’s world: anthropogenic climate change; feeding more people; and designing a financial system that allocates capital in a responsible and effective way.

To borrow a phrase, we live in the Best of Times and the Worst of Times. This makes it particularly pleasing to see a resurgent Royal Society of New South Wales (RSN) playing a larger part in the communal life of the state.

Logging does not cause ‘tipping points’ for Mega Fires

Mountain ash regeneration

Foreground and mid-ground: young mountain ash regeneration unburnt after 7 February wildfire. Background: burnt 1939 ash regrowth, same wildfire. (Photo: A. Leong, courtesy Victorian Association of Forest Industries)

By Ian Ferguson and Phil Cheney

An alternative view to a report published in Australasian Science last month.

Ian Ferguson is Professor Emeritus of Forest Science at the Dept of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne. Phil Cheney is former Head of the Bushfire Research Unit, CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products.

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First glimpse of the Higgs boson

By Jonathan Carroll

How to interpret CERN’s announcement.

I can guarantee you that some time in the next two weeks, someone at a barbeque I’m attending will ask me about the Higgs boson. I don’t blame them – it’s interesting stuff – but it’s not “answer-in-30-words-or-less” stuff. If you’re that go-to person in your family or circle of friends, but you don’t necessarily have the gory details to respond with, hopefully I can give you the ammunition to fire back with: “Oh, the Higgs, yeah, I know about that.”

University challenged for giving undeserved credibility to alternative therapies

By Various signatories

Some of Australia's most prominent doctors, medical researchers and scientists have put their names to a letter criticising a university's decision to teach an alternative medicine course as if it were science.

Thirty four of Australia’s most prominent doctors, medical researchers and scientists have voiced their concern that the public are at risk of being misled about health treatments after another Australian university announced plans to teach an “alternative” medicine course as if it were science.

Doctors and scientists have written to Central Queensland University (CQU) criticising the university’s decision to train chiropractors, deploring what they see as a trend to offer courses in the sciences and health that are not supported by valid scientific evidence.

Black holes might exist, but let’s stay sceptical

By Craig Savage

Peruse the astrophysical literature and you could be forgiven for thinking black holes exist. But do they really?

What makes a black hole special is its event horizon: a no-return gateway to an unknowable elsewhere. If you pass through you are lost forever, in the most complete way, from the universe you left behind. It’s a boundary to the knowable universe.

The recent debate about faster-than-light neutrinos has reminded us that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim that the universe has internal boundaries is extraordinary. So what’s the evidence for event horizons?

Rare Occurrence of Humans Harboring Two Flu Strains Simultaneously in Global Flu Hot-Spot

By American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

While dual infections in Cambodia did not produce new strain, study cites need for continuous tracking against risk of different influenza viruses combining to create a new pandemic.

Researchers conducting influenza-like illness surveillance in Cambodia have confirmed a rare incidence of individuals becoming infected with a seasonal influenza and the pandemic strain at the same time, a reminder of the ongoing risk of distinct flu viruses combining in human hosts to produce a more lethal strain, according to a report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. A pandemic strain is a type of flu against which people have little or no natural immunity.

The future of Australian science – a Nobel Prize winner’s view

By Brian Schmidt

Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt reflects on the state of Australian science.

Despite my American accent, I have lived in Canberra longer than anywhere else in my life. And a lot has changed in the past 17 years.

When I arrived in Australia in 1994, it was a well-off country separated by vast oceans from the rest of the world. Today, Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, gateway to the fastest growing part of the world economically, Asia.

We have come of age. The world is rapidly changing, and Australia is in a unique position to shape its future for the century ahead.

A higher calling, but does altitude training work?

By François Billaut

Some professional sporting teams spend the off season at high altitude, but how effective is this?

You might have heard about athletes and other sportspeople absconding to high-altitude locations for training.

Indeed altitude training has become the training-method-du-jour for sporting codes around the world. But does it actually work? And do athletes benefit from it?

Hypoxia – a condition whereby the body is deprived of adequate oxygen – has been used for decades as an additional stimulus to training by endurance athletes to:

Google has changed the way students research – and not for the better

By Sunanda Creagh

A US study found that students use research databases like they use Google — which limits the results they turn up.

Many university students use scholarly databases like they would Google, revealing an astonishingly poor understanding of how to refine searches for better research results, a US study has found.

The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project, a two-year study of the student research process involving five US universities, included extensive interviews with students, librarians and other academics in an effort to better understand 21st Century student research habits.