Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australasian Science Magazine Issue July/August 2018

Credit: Artem_Egorov/iStockphoto
Cover Story: The Big Picture on Nanoparticle Safety
Nanoparticles are found in our food, cosmetics and tattoo inks, but regulations for their use aren’t keeping up with new research questioning their safety.
Feature: Extinct Burrowing Bats Betray Biodiversity Loss
The fossilised remains of burrowing bats that lived millions of years ago shed light on this remarkable group of mammals while signalling loss of biodiversity in New Zealand.
An electron microscope image of mitochondria undergoing herniation. On the botto
Feature: The Rogue Molecule That Triggers Autoimmunity
Mitochondrial DNA has been implicated in diseases such as arthritis, but how it escapes from inside the mitochondria and triggers these disorders has remained a mystery. Now Australian scientists have captured video evidence of mtDNA escaping for the first time.
Credit: David Merritt
Feature: Southern Lights: The Unique Bioluminescent Chemistry of New Zealand’s Glowworms
Researchers have extracted the molecules that power the majestic glowworm displays in New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves.
Credit: MN National Guard
Feature: Cheerleaders Make Fools of Our First Impressions
The “cheerleader effect” ­– the observation that people appear more attractive when they are in a group – reveals some quirks about how the brain processes complicated visual information.
Credit: Bernard Dupont
Feature: Know Your Enemy
An ingenious experiment has tested whether shared evolutionary history enables bilbies to detect threats from dingoes but not feral cats.
Credit: Philip Roetman
Feature: The Koala Conundrum
Wildlife managers believe that overabundant koala populations need to be culled before they strip the manna gums in which they live and begin to starve, but will the public accept culling koalas and other wildlife species, such as kangaroos and brumbies?
Credit: Phil Spark
Feature: What Do Genomes Have To Say About Marsupial History?
Marsupials have walked on Australia for tens of millions of years, and include iconic species like the kangaroo, wombat and bilby. New methods for studying the genomes of marsupials have revealed some surprising aspects of their evolution.
Mark Oliphant. Courtesy Australian Academy of Science
Feature: Australia’s Secret Agent of Science
Archival documents recently uncovered in the UK’s National Archives have revealed that Mark Oliphant, the Australian-born physicist, breached secrecy provisions during World War 2 to not only kick-start the Manhattan Project but also to attempt to prevent an American monopoly on nuclear technology.
Credit: Andrew Fox / Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions
Feature: Personal Deterrents Can Reduce the Risk of Shark Bites
A study tests how effectively commercial shark deterrents reduce the risk of shark bites.
Photo: Carl Charter
Feature: ‘Rock stars of the sea’ put on amazing underwater show in South Australia
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.
Australasian Sky: This Month's Star Chart
Your map of the night sky this month.
conSCIENCE: Seeds of Doubt Remain About Nanotechnology Use in Agriculture
A new meta-analysis has attempted to give a scientific grounding to claims about the risks and benefits of nano-agrochemicals, but knowledge gaps remain.
conSCIENCE: The Warming War
There is a legal basis for the United Nations Security Council to declare climate change as a threat to international peace and security.
conSCIENCE: Foodies May Be Our True Dietary Messiahs
The facts and figures in the Australian Dietary Guidelines are less influential on our dietary habits than the enthusiastic narratives of food cooked up by gastronomes.
The Bitter Pill: Diet Gurus Ignore the Weight of Evidence in Guidelines
Diet gurus are blaming Australia’s obesity problem on government dietary guidelines they claim are unhealthy, when the real issue is that too few people follow them.
Directions: Risky Bias in Artificial Intelligence
Machine learning is intrinsically biased, but what can be done about it?
Eco Logic: Human Burials Can Save Threatened Species
As declines in biodiversity accelerate we need to examine innovative ways to save threatened species. Conservation burials may be one solution, and the potential is enormous.
Expert Opinion: The Biodiversity Benefits of Limiting Warming to 1.5°C
Global temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2°C by 2100. A new study estimates that if this occurs, 26% of vertebrates, 49% of insects and 44% of plants would be unable to survive in about half of the areas they currently inhabit, compared with just 4% of vertebrates, 6% of insects and 8% of plants if warming is limited to 1.5°C.
Fossil File: The Oldest Lizards, Salty Amphibians and Dandruffy Dinosaurs
While dinosaur dandruff and salt-tolerance in tetrapods have palaeontologists excited, the recent auction of fossil bones is a sore point.
Lowe Tech: If a Taxonomist Falls in the Forest...
Taxonomists are so under-resourced it would take them 400 years to describe all of Australia’s species, which means that species are going extinct before we even know about them.
Naked Skeptic: Just the Facts, Ma’am
Legislators continue to either refute or ignore science when it clashes with their ideology.
Neuropsy: Rise and Shine, Soldier!
Army research suggests that the timing of your caffeine hit is more important than the amount consumed.
Out of this World: Planetary Formation Around a Binary Star
Astronomers take a close look at planetary formation around a binary star and examine one of the biggest stars in our galaxy.
Quandary: The Unspoken Limits of Liquid Biopsies
Liquid biopsies promise early detection of cancer, but some of their current limitations risk being overlooked.
Up Front: STEMM Faces Generational Gender Gap
A meta-analysis of academic authorship has concluded that gender equity in science remains decades away.