Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Expert Opinion

Experts pick apart the veracity of claims made in research papers and the media.

How Safe Is Australian Honey?

How Safe Is Australian Honey?


A study has reported that Australian honey has liver-damaging toxins at levels that exceed European standards. How concerned should we be?

"Plants often use toxic chemicals to stop animals eating them. One class of toxic chemicals are the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver and lung damage. Long-term consumption of pyrrolizidine alkaloids may increase the risk of cancer.

Gravitational Waves Detected


Australian astronomers involved in the detection of gravitational waves discuss the significance of the discovery 100 years after Einstein predicted them.

“We built the most massive scientific instruments in the world and made them so sensitive that they approach limits set by quantum mechanics. On September 14 last year they directly detected for the first time the weakest signals in the universe, gravitational waves, generated in the most violent event yet recorded – the collision of two solar mass black holes.

Gravitational Waves Detected

Australian astronomers involved in the detection of gravitational waves discuss the significance of the discovery

"For the first time, we’ve been able to observe a gravitational wave, created 1.3 billion years ago by the collision of two massive black holes. This observation confirms that gravitational waves do exist. It is a moment that will be remembered for 1000 years.

Sensing for the first time these rumbles in space–time will go down as one the major events in the history of physics, made possible by a close-knit, world-wide collaboration using instruments whose sensitivities are approaching limits imposed by quantum mechanics. And this is just the beginning.

Annual Climate Statement: 2015 Was a Hot Year


The Bureau of Meteorology has released its Annual Climate Statement for 2015.

The statement is at Below, one of the statement's authors and some third-party experts comment on the report.


"2015 has seen the globe record its warmest year since records began, and it’s been warm in Australia as well. Overall, it was Australia's fifth-warmest year on record.

Climate Deal Signed in Paris


After two weeks of negotiating, the representatives of more than 190 nations have settled on a agreed plan to tackle climate change.

The agreement sets the goal of limiting the world's rise in average temperature to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius".

Countries will be required to report on "national inventories of emissions by source" and also to report on their mitigation efforts.

Professor James Renwick, Climate Scientist, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University, comments:

Nuclear Waste Sites Shortlisted


The Federal government has shortlisted six sites for a permanent National Radioactive Waste Management Facility. The site will contain Australia’s low-level radoactive waste, with the capacity to store some intermediate-level waste.

“The shortlist represents sites that are all of an excellent standard to host such a facility. The important task now is engagement and consultation with local communities. The final site will be discreet in size, world-class in standard and absolutely safe to both communities and the environment...

“Australia has a responsibility to manage these materials properly. That process is on a strong footing and I commend the Department for the process thus far.”

2015 Likely to Be Hottest Year on Record

By Science Media Centre New Zealand

2015 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

This year's global average surface temperature is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era, according to a statement from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This is due to a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming, the UN agency says.

The years 2011-2015 have been the warmest 5-year period on record, with many extreme weather events - especially heatwaves - influenced by climate change, according to a WMO five-year analysis.

Epigenetic Markers Predict Male Sexual Orientation

By Australian Science Media Centre

Epigenetic differences between male twins has been used to identify sexual orientation with up to 70% accuracy, according to unpublished results presented at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 annual meeting.

“The key issue here is that the authors have searched through the entire genome to identify some difference between discordant twins. Given the number of tests, it is likely that some regions will show up as differentiated by chance. Without validation of the result in an independent data set it is not really possible to know whether there is any substance in this claim.”

Prof Gil McVean, Professor of Statistical Genetics, University of Oxford


Liquid water on Mars


Salty streaks identified by an orbiting spacecraft could be the first solid evidence of liquid water - a key ingredient for life as we know it - on Mars.


Professor Geraint Lewis is Professor of Astrophysics & ARC Future Fellow at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and Associate Head for Research in the School of Physics, The University of Sydney.

“Mars appears to be a cold, dry planet, but observations over the years have revealed streaks on the surface that come and go with the seasons. In this new paper, Ojha have uncovered the signature for salts in the streaks, critical evidence for the streaks having formed by flowing, or at least dribbling, water.

Can You Catch Alzheimer’s from Growth Hormones?

Brain damage found in autopsies of patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease acquired from growth hormone injections is strikingly similar to the damage done by Alzheimer’s disease.

Compiled by the Australian Science Media Centre