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Articles related to Science & Society

Buzz Aldrin setting up seismic equipment on the Moon in 1969.
Cover Story: Lies, Damn Lies, and Science
Conspiratorial thinking is a major element in the rejection of a broad range of scientific findings, from climate change to tobacco, vaccinations, GM foods and the moon landing. But why?
Cover Story: Survival of the Sexiest
“Survival of the fittest” never applied to beards, so why did they evolve and what role do they play in mate selection in modern society?
A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper drone
Feature: Remote Weapons: Ethics from a Distance
Are military drones that launch lethal attacks by remote control of any more concern than traditional warfare capabilities?
Feature: Gene Drives: A Fork in the Road for the GMO Debate
What are the moral and ethical concerns about gene drives, and how should the technology be regulated?
Feature: It’s Not Just About “The Science”
Female scientists and health professionals have revealed that opposition to genetically modified food is less about “the science” and more about perceived conflicts with personal values.
Browse: Gender Behaviours Inherited from Social Environment
Browse: People Prefer a Human Face for Robots
Elderly people prefer to get medical assistance from a robot that displays a human face, according to Dr Elizabeth Broadbent of the University of Auckland’s Department of Psychological Medicine.
Browse: Pet Fractures Identify Domestic Violence
Cover Story: Will Enhanced Soldiers Fight a Just War?
Technologies may be able to enhance a soldier’s strength, endurance, stress tolerance and cognitive ability, but could they reduce their moral capacity to follow the laws of armed conflict?
Browse: Flawed Forensics Hamper ID of Human Remains
Feature: Neural Interfaces: From Disability to Enhancement
Neuroprosthetic arms, mind-controlled exoskeletons and brain–computer interfaces are already enabling the disabled, but what happens when these and other devices become mainstream consumer products that blur the lines between enhanced human and machine?
Credit: Stuart Harris
Feature: How to Recruit 23 Million Scientists
Partnerships between scientists and everyday Australians are changing the face of scientific discovery and exploration.
Browse: Retailers Brace for e-Theft
Mobile phone technology is raising new security issues for the retail industry.
Feature: The Wild West of Robot Law
Robots remain a law unto themselves, with legal frontiers including issues such as liability, copyright and even the taxing of robots much like the human workers they are replacing.
Browse: Kiwis Value S&T
Feature: The Wide Net of Seafood Slavery
Labour abuses are allowing fishing fleets to remain profitable while depleting fisheries ever-further from the coast.
Feature: More Than Just a Game
Excessive video gamers have the same physiological disturbances and disrupted thought processes as those addicted to substances and gambling.
The enjoyment of music differs across dementia types.
Cover Story: The Language of Emotions in Music
Patients who have been diagnosed with dementia are helping scientists determine which areas in the brain are necessary for identifying emotions in music.
Credit: vitanovski/SSilver
Cover Story: Digital Immortality
Is a Google executive’s vision of a digital afterlife feasible or a fantasy?
Credit: enterlinedesign/adobe
Cover Story: Creationism Evolves
It’s 10 years since US legislation drafted to stop the teaching of “intelligent design” was ruled unconstitutional, yet anti-evolution legislation continues to replicate and “evolve” across the USA.
Credit: iStockphoto
Feature: Can We Program Safe AI?
Tomorrow’s software will compute with meaning and be much more autonomous. But a thought experiment with a chess robot shows that we will also need to carefully include human values.
Dara Perales' tattoo shows Rutherford's model of the atom.
Feature: SCIENCE INKorporated
His body may be adorned by tattoos of snakes, Komodo dragons and an adrenaline molecule, but Bryan Fry is only one of many scientists whose research interests are glorified in ink.
Feature: Bigger or Better?
A number of commentators and interest groups extol the need to increase Australia’s population, but how well do their arguments stand up to scrutiny?
We can tell not what are people thinking, but how people are thinking.
Feature: How the Marketers Stole My Brain
Emotions play a large part in our purchasing decisions, so marketers are using neurological methods to tailor advertising campaigns that influence our attitudes to brands.
Feature: Normal Syndrome
What was once considered normal is becoming medicalised due to broader diagnostic criteria and the concoction of new disorders, but Julian Savulescu argues that this is merely biological enhancement by another name.
Feature: When the Ghost Gum Peels, Bull Sharks Are Fat in the River
With indigenous knowledge being lost, six Aboriginal language groups have documented up to 13 “seasons” that can be used by scientists to evaluate the impact of climate change.
Feature: Scientists at Breaking Point
Australian researchers are finding their careers more difficult to manage, with job security, uncertainty of funding and workload at the top of their concerns.
Feature: Cyborg Rights & Digital Divides
A growing number of people are implanting smart chips into their bodies. What issues do the rise of these “augmented and amplified” people raise?
Feature: More Alternative Career Options for Scientists
A research career doesn’t suit everybody, but the skill sets of scientists can lead to rewarding careers beyond academia, such as in sales and business management.
Feature: The Art of the Periodic Table
To mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Periodic Table, a STEM education centre is unveiling a permanent installation illustrating the birth of the universe through elements of significance.
Browse: Name Children Simply
Parents should take care when naming their children.
Browse: Buying into Feelings of Insecurity
Women who are vulnerable to media-generated insecurity about their bodies buy more shoes and handbags.
Browse: Caucasians Struggle to Distinguish Asian Faces
Differences have been found in the way people of Asian origin process Caucasian faces and vice versa.
Browse: Positive Attitudes to Science, But Who Do You Trust?
Browse: Scientists Unknowingly Tweak Experiments Browse: Misbehaving Dogs Die Young
Browse: Skeptics’ Bent Spoon to SBS “Medicine or Myth?”
iStockphoto / mstay
conSCIENCE: Take a Summer Time Trip
Backwards time travel, parallel universes and temporal paradoxes – take a ride with the best time travel movies.
conSCIENCE: Science in a Fluoro Jacket
Contrary to common perception, most working scientists are not “researchers” and don’t work for public institutions.
conSCIENCE: Can Science and Religion Be Friends?
Some scientists would prefer religion to become extinct but it defiantly prospers – peaceful co-existence is the enduring paradigm.
conSCIENCE: Science Is Not Just Whitefella Business
Australia’s indigenous culture has a rich scientific heritage, yet indigenous people are under-represented in science-related careers today. Some simple steps can change this.
conSCIENCE: Jobs of the Future: The Known Unknown
The digital revolution is having a profound impact on the workforce. Increasing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths is not optional.
conSCIENCE: Post-Truth and the Rejection of Science
In an age of "alternative facts", it may not be feasible to expect people to understand the details of scientific studies, but it is crucial that they respect the importance of evidence-based information underpinning scientific analysis.
conSCIENCE: Bursting the News Filter Bubble
Online technologies can create echo chambers that reinforce our world views, but does this necessarily mean we need to open ourselves up to alternative facts?
Cool Careers: Bringing Science to Afghan Women
In her spare time, cancer researcher Nouria Salehi runs an Afghan restaurant as well as programs to teach science to the women of Afghanistan.
Directions: We Need to Come to Terms with Unconscious Bias
Training that increases our awareness of unconscious bias is useful but insufficient.
Directions: We Need Better Infrastructure Decisions and Planning
Leaders must think strategically about how to plan, fund and implement infrastructure projects.
Directions: Research Needs a New Narrative
Research is a tapestry of creativity that enriches the society in which we live.
Directions: Risky Bias in Artificial Intelligence
Machine learning is intrinsically biased, but what can be done about it?
Eureka!: How a Woman’s Fertility Affects Men’s Speech
Men become more creative in their conversations when they detect subtle signals that a woman is fertile.
Eureka!: Like OMG!!! Texting Isn’t Ruining Grammar
The use of text slang does not correlate with bad grammar and spelling in young people.
Expert Opinion: Designer Baby Patent Makes Scientists Uneasy
A private company, 23andMe, has patented a method of creating “designer” babies by allowing the selection of sperm and eggs that are most likely to produce traits chosen by the parents, such as eye colour or athleticism, and also allows screening out of sperm and eggs likely to lead to genetic disease.
Expert Opinion: Who to kill? The dilemma of driverless cars
Driverless cars hold the promise of safer transport. But how should they react when loss of life appears inevitable? Should a car swerve to miss a pedestrian on the road, even if doing so would kill the passenger?
Expert Opinion: Who to Kill? An Ethical Dilemma for Driverless Cars
A study published in Science has found that people generally approve of autonomous cars that have been programmed to sacrifice their passengers if it will save others, yet these same people aren’t keen to ride in such “utilitarian” vehicles themselves.
The Fit: Retirement Time
Retirement is fun, but is it because you do what you like or because you like what you do?
Lowe Tech: Tasmania Bans GM Indefinitely
The Tasmanian government has turned its moratorium on genetically modified crops into an indefinite and complete ban.
Naked Skeptic: When Religion and Medicine Disagree
Should doctors be able to overrule parents who refuse life-saving treatments for their children due to religious beliefs?
Naked Skeptic: Will Your Smart Meter Make You Less Smart?
The introduction of smart electricity meters has led to some silly public misconceptions.
Naked Skeptic: What Science Isn’t
Scientific credibility requires more than a white coat, a laboratory and machines that go “ping”.
Naked Skeptic: We’re Still Here
It’s not surprising that the world didn’t end on 21 December, as predictions about the end of the world are nothing new.
Naked Skeptic: It’s All Happening, and It’s All Connected
This spring sees the decadal anniversaries of two favourites among conspiracy theorists.
Naked Skeptic: Philosophy Versus Science, and Vice Versa
Has philosophy outlived its usefulness or does it still provide a framework enabling trust in science?
Naked Skeptic: A Denier or a Skeptic?
Deniers are rebadging themselves as “skeptics” by arguing that they are challenging scientific orthodoxy.
Naked Skeptic: Keeping Your Skepticism out of Court
While corporations can no longer sue for defamation, they can instead attack skeptics by arguing for intellectual property infringement or practices that damage their business.
Naked Skeptic: Abuse of a Sound Principle
The Precautionary Principle has been abused in debates about climate change, vaccination and genetically modified food.
Naked Skeptic: Argumentum ad whateverum
A guide to four fallacies that derail many debates about science.
Naked Skeptic: Is Philosophy Dead?
Beware the strawman when arguing that science has outgrown philosophy.
Naked Skeptic: Counting the Opinions
The same-sex marriage survey repeats the statistical mistakes of most opinion polls.
Naked Skeptic: Just the Facts, Ma’am
Legislators continue to either refute or ignore science when it clashes with their ideology.
Naked Skeptic: A Conspiracy of Conspiracies
Republic of Lies is a primer on the state of conspiracy thinking.
Neuropsy: Girlfriend, Where’s My Car?
Men and women use different strategies to find their car, with different degrees of success.
Neuropsy: The Crimes of Sleepwalkers
Sleep experts and lawyers are wrestling over the criminal responsibility of sleepers.
Neuropsy: Send in the Creepy Clowns
Fear of clowns may result from an evolutionary adaptive “creepiness detector”.
Publish or Perish: Civilizations Beyond Earth
How does the public feel about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and what will happen if we actually discover that we’re not alone?
Publish or Perish: New books
Your guide to new science books this month.
Quandary: Is It Better Never to Have Been Born?
Bioethicists are questioning legal judgements that dismiss “wrongful birth” cases by challenging the belief that it is better to be born than not born.
Quandary: Cracks in the Edifice of Science
A tenfold increase in the number of retractions over the past 10 years raises questions about the infallibility of peer review of scientific research.
Quandary: Should Olympic athletes be allowed to use performance-enhancing drugs?
Some bioethicists are arguing that athletes should be allowed to take performance-enhancing drugs.
Quandary: The Canary in the Medical Coal Mine
A steroid is being used off-label early in pregnancy to “normalise” the gender of the foetus.
Quandary: Boosting Performance at the Paralympics
Up to one-third of Paralympians in London may have harmed themselves to boost blood flow.
Quandary: The New Eugenics
In the last century eugenics involved sterilisation or murder. This century it is more likely to involve genetic enhancement.
Quandary: Genetic Ancestry
The thriving business of DNA ancestry testing is hawking dreams, not science.
Quandary: Déjà Vu All Over Again
In vitro eugenics could soon make Huxley’s Brave New World a reality.
Quandary: The Dark Background to Immortal Cells
The origins of human cell lines used in some of the world’s greatest medical discoveries have been called into question.
Quandary: The Secret of Morality
Does thinking about science improve morality?
Quandary: The Bioethics of the Search for MH370
The search for the missing Malaysian aircraft raises an ethical dilemma over the bias we place on “identifiable” lives over “statistical” lives.
Quandary: Married at First Sight
Reality TV has added a fresh perspective to the bioethical debate about the use of love drugs.
Quandary: The Bio-Brick Revolution
While synthetic biology promises benefits such as glow-in-the dark trees that replace city lights, there are many more sinister applications that have many people worried.
Quandary: The Science of Persuasion
How did scientists win the public relations war to persuade British Parliament to approve the creation of three-parent babies?
Quandary: Pinker Takes on Bioethics
Steven Pinker has attacked bioethics as “moralistic grandstanding” that restricts research. Is he right?
Quandary: Acting Absolutely Beastly
Charles Foster has tried to reconnect with the animal world by living as a badger, a fox, a swift, a deer and an otter.
Quandary: Grim News for Immortals
A recent paper in Nature has cast a wet blanket over the dreams of immortality researchers.
Quandary: Locked-in’s Challenge to Autonomy
Four patients with locked-in syndrome have communicated that they are happy as long as they receive adequate care at home.
Quandary: The Facts About Surrogacy
The dismal death of Brooke Verity illustrates the need for longitudinal studies of the long-term outcomes of surrogacy.
Quandary: Last-Minute Complications
Botched executions provide a timely warning that assisted suicide does not necessarily lead to a peaceful death.
Quandary: Get Your Head Screwed on Right
Claims of the successful transplant of a human head may have been met by derision but they also reveal bioethical blindspots among ambitious surgeons.
Quandary: Ethical Challenges About Voluntary Assisted Dying
Much of the focus on new voluntary assisted dying laws is centred on patient autonomy, but it is only one of the four pillars. Does the legislation also satisfy the other three tenets of beneficence, non-maleficence and justice?
Simon Says: Not Understanding Terror
Science is not up to the challenge of divining the behavioural roots of Islamic terrorism.
Simon Says: Suicide Blondes and Blacks
Common perceptions of the incidence of suicide are shaped more by populist fears than real data.
Simon Says: Terrorism and the Sharing Economy
Whether new technologies are applied for good or ill, they encounter evolutionary pressure to fit in to the environments they inhabit.
Up Close: Enquiry on exhibit: Enlisting art to help communicate science
Science historian and Science Gallery director Dr Michael John Gorman talks about how we can do better in communicating science to the public. He also describes how the Science Gallery, based at Trinity College Dublin, attracts a diverse audience by bringing together art and science.
Up Close: Vigor in the ville: Creating cities that promote health and well-being
Urban public health expert Billie Giles-Corti discusses how a rigorous, evidence-based approach to urban policy and city planning can help bring long-term benefits for physical and mental health and well-being.
Up Close: Making nice: Julian Savulescu and the case for moral bioenhancement
Philosopher and bioethicist Julian Savulescu joins host Peter Mares for a conversation on the potential for moral bioenhancement through direct brain stimulation, pharmacology or genetics, and the ethical implications of such interventions.
Up Close: Molecular gaze: How discoveries in the life sciences are changing our identities and politics
Prof. Nikolas Rose explores how scientific developments have changed conceptions of human identity and governance, and what this means for our political, socio-economic and legal futures.
Up Close: False findings: The rise in retraction of scientific results
Medical journalist and educator Prof Ivan Oransky talks about research misconduct that, once uncovered after publication, leads to retractions of scientific papers, damaged careers, and an undermining of the scientific process. Prof Oransky suggests why retractions are on the increase, and how technology is being enlisted in the fight against fraud.
Up Close: Wild and domestic: A cultural history of human-animal relations
Environmental historian Prof Harriet Ritvo recounts the often ambiguous relationships between the human and animal worlds through history, and explores our need to both tame and take inspiration from the wild.
Up Close: Twin engines of truth? How science and law interact to construct our world
Social science and legal scholar Prof Sheila Jasanoff discusses how science and the law interact or compete with one another in the formulation of public reason -- in the economy, the courts and the political landscape.
Up Close: Show me the data: Sifting pseudoscience from the real thing
In a world with a bewildering mix of fact and fiction, and in which social and mainstream media only add to the confusion, how do we separate out false or dubious claims from the well-founded and evidence-based? Research and clinical psychologist Prof Scott Lilienfeld joins science host Dr Andi Horvath to help us distinguish pseudoscience from the real thing by exploring popular myths that too often make fools of us.
Up Front: A New Twist in the DNA Revolution
Gene drives take genetic modification to the population level, with applications in health, conservation and agriculture, but there are also practical and ethical concerns.
Up Front: AI Faces Its Manhattan Project Moment
Researchers are boycotting a major university that is opening an autonomous weapons lab in collaboration with an arms company.
Up Front: Cold Case for a National Genetic Database
If we won’t share our medical history across the health system, it’s hard to see Australians handing over their genetic profile.
Chemical Solutions: Expert Q&A on alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria
An expert on the effects of exposure to chemical warfare agents and the field investigation of alleged chemical warfare incidents answers questions on the Syrian chemical weapons attack.
Notice Board: HEALTH STUDY - Are brain training games effective?
PLay online games to help researchers determine the effectiveness of brain training programs.
Odd Spot: During war, the old guy will win the elections
Candidates’ age can predict leadership during war
Odd Spot: Eunuchs outlive other men
Castrated men living in Korea centuries ago outlived other men by a significant margin.
Odd Spot: Bioethics for Halloween
Should zombies be euthanased?
Odd Spot: John Oliver on Conspiracy Theories
For those who love or loathe conspiracy theories, John Oliver turns his attention to the Cadbury Creme Egg.
Odd Spot: Trump Dismisses the Montreal Protocol
Donald Trump's hairspray is no longer strong enough, and dodgy science behind the ban on ozone-depleting chemicals is to blame.
Online Feature: Social Media Tracks Disease Epidemic More Effectively
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
Online Feature: Science under Siege
When the denial machine goes after climate scientists it is, as one of them said, like the marines going into battle against boy scouts.
Online Feature: Turf War Over Who Can Claim The Title Of Acupuncturist
Doctors and complementary medicine practitioners are at loggerheads over who can use the title acupuncturist.
Online Feature: Taking over from evolution: how technology could enhance humanity
Technology offers great possibility of enhancing human capacity.
Online Feature: What we could learn from Yasser Arafat's exhumation
The remains of Yasser Arafat have been exhumed for “special testing” to determine whether he died from poisoning by a radioactive element or natural causes.
Online Feature: Holy grilled cheese sandwich! What is pareidolia?
A few quirks of neural processing explain why religious devotees can see the face of the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast.
Online Feature: This psychoactive drugs trip isn't working
The increasing pace and diversity of recreational drug development makes conventional approaches to drug control dangerous.
Online Feature: Pokémon Go puts pressure on when technology meets the law
Online Feature: We must plan the driverless city to avoid being hostage to the technology revolution