Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Online Feature

Head banging to bird song

By Tegan Dolstra

Can different bird species understand what each other are saying?

Within the grounds of Canberra’s Australian National Botanic Gardens, entire conversations are taking place, unintelligible to the human ear. A cacophony of bird song fills the air, from the delicate trill of the wren, to the raucous squawk of cockatoos.

Trevor Murray of the Australian National University's Research School of Biology is shedding some light on the remarkable way birds gather information by ‘eavesdropping’ on their neighbouring species’ chitchat.

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

By Claire Panosian Dunavan

Jared Diamond provides personal insights into his decades of field work in the Pacific Islands of New Guinea in an extensive interview about his latest book, which examines tribal societies’ approaches to universal human issues including, peace and war, child-rearing, treatment of the elderly, language, religion and health.

DUNAVAN: “Was this your most personal book?”

DIAMOND: “Not just my most personal … but most practical book which people can use to modify their lives [in terms of] danger, bringing up children, getting older.”

DUNAVAN: “I want to hear about your first contact with a traditional society. What was it like?”

Numbers game: the Australian Open and predicting success

By Michael Bane

Most of the focus of the Australian Open will be on the contenders for the men's and women's singles championships, but behind the superstars are the journeys of younger, less-experienced players. Who is on their way to the top ten in the next few years? And who will never make it into the top 100? Michael Bane writes that sports data science provides some insight into the potential for future success - and failure.

The Australian Open is upon us for another year, and the best tennis players in the world have assembled in Melbourne to compete for the right to call themselves “champion”.

Anti-vaccination network told to change its name or be shut down

By Rachael Dunlop

The heated battle between Australia’s anti-vaccine lobby, the Australian Vaccination Network, and those fighting against its misinformation has taken a positive turn with the New South Wales Department of Fair Trading ordering the AVN to change its name or risk being shut down.

The move follows what has been described as “numerous” complaints from both the public and the Australian Medical Association that the AVN name was misleading the public and wasn’t an accurate representation of its activities.

'Tis the season to get food poisoning

Research reveals food poisoning risk for the festive season, especially from raw egg dishes.

The Food Safety Information Council has released research results showing the increased risk of food poisoning from dishes that contain raw eggs. This could be a greater risk at Christmas as the weather hots up and we cater for several generations, including the very young and elderly.

Why is Christmas a greater time of risk from food poisoning?

  1. Christmas is the time of year we can be most at risk of food poisoning.
  2. With every increased degree of summer temperature the rate of food poisoning increases.

2012: The Biggest (and Weirdest) Science Stories

The year's ten biggest science stories, and ten of the most weird and womderful science stories.

The Top Science Stories

1. Physicists found signs of the Higgs boson

What causes hot flushes during menopause?

Hot flushes are not 'in the head,' but new research suggests they may start there.

A University of Arizona research team has identified a region in the brain that may trigger the uncomfortable surges of heat most women experience in the first few years of menopause

Hot flushes affect millions of people, and not just women. Yet, it is still unclear what causes the episodes of temperature discomfort, often accompanied by profuse sweating.

What we could learn from Yasser Arafat's exhumation

By David Ranson

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.

Investigators are looking for evidence of the presence of the radioactive element polonium-210, an alpha particle emitter that causes tissue damage if taken into the body. Polonium allegedly caused the agonised death of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and it’s been alleged that it was found on some of Arafat’s clothing after his death.

Trading chemistry for ecology with poo transplants

By Dyani Lewis

As simple as the procedure sounds, we don’t yet fully understand how faecal transplants work.

Antibiotics joined our growing arsenal of weapons in the fight against disease over seventy years ago. Their target – the bacterial infections that putrefied our wounds, filled our lungs with pneumonia, and made our genitals less than appealing to our lovers. Bacteria were worthy opponents, and with antibiotics, the war against infection seemed ours to win.

NASA's Curiosity shows there's more to life than life

By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter and Helen Maynard-Casely

The Curiosity rover has landed on Mars, driven around, and started reporting integrated science results.

In a news conference at the American Geophysical Union NASA’s Curiosity mission team presented a measured, low-key and hype-free discussion about the first use of Curiosity’s full array of analytical instruments.

What they have found are chlorinated hydrocarbons – simple organic molecules made up of carbon, chlorine and hydrogen, sulphur-containing compounds, and calcium perchlorate.