Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australasian Science Magazine Issue Nov/Dec 2018

Credit: George Peters/iStockphoto
Cover Story: Why Our Brain Craves Random Noise
Sensory deprivation, dreams, hallucinations and the detection of familiar patterns in clouds and repetitive sounds reveal our brain’s determination to make meaning from random noise.
Credit: Rainer Fuhrmann/Adobe
Feature: Cloudy with a Chance of Seizure
Just as we check the weather forecast to plan our daily activities, people with epilepsy will soon be able to check personalised seizure forecasts to determine their risk and take necessary precautions.
Credit: peter_waters/Adobe
Feature: Chasing the Meaning of Zero
It took early mathematicians until 400 BC to determine the concept of zero, yet the simple bee brain can be trained to recognise an “empty set” within a few hours.
Credit: natasnow/Adobe
Feature: Keeping Up with the Kids
Children seem to be able to play for hours without tiring. Only now are we beginning to understand the physiological reasons why.
Credit: Caleb Dawson
Feature: The Art of Science
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has created an exhibition of gorgeous images revealing biological processes such as breast and lung cancer, blood vessel development and embryogenesis.
Credit: k_e_n/Adobe
Feature: What’s Jumped Into Your DNA?
DNA elements that can transfer between species make up an astonishing 17% of the human genome, and have been associated with schizophrenia and cancer.
Feature: Cultural Evolution in Darwin’s Finches
A new study is analysing the songs of Darwin’s finches to determine the role of cultural evolution in speciation.
Credit: mraoraor/Adobe
Feature: Under the Shade of Eucalypt Trees
Eucalypt trees are iconic in Australia, with around 900 species spread around the continent. However, a new study has found that toxic compounds in their leaves are having undesirable ecological impacts when eucalypt plantations have been established in other parts of the world.
Different phytoplankton species, including diatoms and algae. Image courtesy of
Feature: The Ghosts of Climate Past – and of Climate Future
Ancient plankton DNA is revealing how marine ecosystems have responded to long-lasting changes in past climate – and enabling us to predict the future.
Credit: ugurv/Adobe
Feature: Magnetic Particles Make Wine Fine
Magnetic polymers have been applied to winemaking to demonstrate their potential as a treatment to remove off-flavours. How does it work and what is the effect?
Feature: How Can Heartburn End Up As Anaemia?
Research finds a link between some of the most popular heartburn treatments and iron deficiency, which can lead to anaemia
Feature: Native Aussie rat survives sticky situation
Their wooden homes are stuck together with pee and have stood longer than the pyramids.
Feature: The Top 10 WEIRD Science Stories of 2018
There was no shortage of weird and wonderful science in 2018.
Australasian Sky: This Month's Star Chart
Your map of the night sky this month.
conSCIENCE: Diversity Values Must Be Backed By Actions
A disabled student’s story reveals the huge systemic barriers faced by minority groups seeking a science education.
The Bitter Pill: Forget Fake News: Is PR Hype the Big Problem in Science?
The problem of over-hyped science news is undermining public trust in science.
Directions: Science Can Leverage Soft Power
Australia is well-placed to use the expertise, networks and infrastructure of our science, technology and innovation sectors to leverage international influence.
Eco Logic: Injecting Biodiversity into City Spaces
Cities planning to adapt to climate change should take biodiversity along for the ride.
Expert Opinion: The Persistent Killer of Killer Whales
Killer whales are at risk due to PCB contamination despite a near-global ban more than 30 years ago. The threat affects more than half of the world’s orcas, and whale populations near industrialised regions and at the top of the food-chain are at a high risk of population collapse over the next 100 years.
Expert Opinion: Australia's proposed encryption laws
New laws proposed by the Australian Government target communication services and device makers, and include the power for police to force companies to disclose encrypted information on devices like phones, computers and social media platforms. Apple has called the draft legislation “dangerously ambiguous”, saying that the Coalition's attempt to weaken digital encryption should be “alarming to all Australians”.
Expert Opinion: NASA has Mars InSight
NASA's InSight lander has touched down on Mars after spending almost 7 months travelling through space. Its mission is to measure the temperature of the red planet and listen out for any earthquakes to help scientists understand more about the interior of the planet.
Expert Opinion: Australia's Space Agency to Land in Adelaide
Australia’s Space Agency will touch down in Adelaide by mid-2019. It is hoped that it will help triple Australia’s space economy to $12 billion by 2030.
Fossil File: Kangaroo Teeth Tell Their Story of Evolution
An analysis of kangaroo teeth reveals a rapid burst of evolution in response to the expansion of grassland rather than drier climate conditions.
Lowe Tech: Australia’s Environmental Ranking Trumped
Australia has been ranked third-worst in the developed world for environmental protection, and medical professionals are increasingly concerned about the health impacts of climate change.
Naked Skeptic: Don’t Wave Goodbye Just Yet
Predictions of a tsunami hitting Sydney should not have made the news.
Neuropsy: Too Many Choices
Decisions are most easily made when the right number of options are available.
Out of this World: Meet Icarus, the Most Distant Star Ever Seen
Astronomers have spotted the most distant star ever seen as well as stunning auroras on Saturn.
Quandary: Molecular Life Extension
Alongside the question of whether we can treat ageing is the question of whether we should.
Up Front: Don’t Bite the Hand that Funds
Corporate interests have a heavy hand in how research is designed, conducted and reported.
Online Feature: The kilogram is being redefined – a physicist explains