Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australasian Science Magazine Issue Jan/Feb 2018

Credit: KariDesign
Cover Story: Brain Circuits that Control Drinking
Cutting-edge genetic technology has revealed how the “love hormone” oxytocin protects us from drinking too much, and could lead to a better understanding of the brain circuitry underlying mental illnesses.
Credit: freshidea
Feature: Radical Reasons Explain Why Smoking Harms Babies
New research has found why mothers who smoke or are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke can cause permanent damage to the health of their babies.
Credit: Roy Caldwell
Feature: In Living Colour
Colour perception is more advanced in goldfish than humans, yet researchers have tended to focus on vision in animals similar to us. Justin Marshall says this is “fundamentally stupid” and is setting his sights on a marine creature with 12 different colour receptors.
Credit: Leigh Prather
Feature: Crystals So Flexible They Can Be Tied in a Knot
The ordered structure of most crystals makes them brittle and inflexible, but the discovery of crystals with elastic properties opens a range of new uses in emerging technologies.
Feature: Neurogenesis in the Emotion-Processing Centre of the Brain
The generation of neurons during adulthood can affect our behaviour and alter our mood, so the discovery that this occurs in the amygdala could lead to new strategies for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders.
Feature: Ancient Agriculture’s Role in Maternal and Infant Mortality
Ancient human remains have revealed evidence that the adoption of agriculture led to malnutrition in a mother, her foetus and other infants.
Credit: TKphotography64
Feature: The Ancestor of All Flowers
An international collaborative project has reconstructed the ancestor of all modern flowering plants. What can it tell us about the evolution of this important group?
Credit: asbtkb
Feature: Fighting Creepy with Crawly
The Australian sheep industry is crippled by drug-resistant parasitic worms, but the unique chemistries in spider venoms are showing promise as a new class of drenching agent.
Credit: auremar
Feature: The Crocodile and the One-Armed Bandit
Researchers have introduced crocodiles to test how excitement influences gambling behaviour on poker machines.
Feature: Death of Antarctic Physicist Marks End of Era
The death in Hobart on 30 December 2017 of 91-year-old Antarctic physicist and expeditioner Dr Neville (Nod) Parsons marks the end of an era of Australian Antarctic research and exploration.
Australasian Sky: This Month's Star Chart
Your map of the night sky this month.
conSCIENCE: Kangaroos Can Be an Asset Rather Than a Pest
Kangaroo harvesting is not a commercial option for landholders, resulting in greater animal welfare issues for the kangaroos that are culled on private land.
The Bitter Pill: Breast Cancer + Alternative Medicine = Lower Survival
The internet allows greater broadcasting of false information about cancer cures, which means that women are treating their breast cancer with alternative therapies known to be the direct cause of preventable deaths.
Directions: When Gold Loses Its Glitter
The Gold Rush left behind thousands of mines that remain toxic to the environment. The mining sector needs to develop a national abandoned mine initiative to regain public trust.
Eco Logic: Orangutans (and Science) Are in Trouble
Robust science is telling us orangutan populations are in serious decline but the Indonesian government is disputing the finding.
Expert Opinion: Gene Editing for Conservation Needs In-Built Protection
Researchers have been considering using gene drives to rid New Zealand of invasive pests, but have they adequately estimated the issues and addressed indigenous rights?
Fossil File: Fossil Treasures in Urban Australia
Our biggest cities remain great places to search for fossils. Here are some tips about where to start looking.
Lowe Tech: A Second Warning to Humanity
Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a warning to humanity that “many current life forms could be annihilated or committed to extinction by the end of this century”.
Naked Skeptic: Go! Learn Things!
Knowing about science is more important than doing science because it helps you separate sense from nonsense.
Neuropsy: Seeing Is Believing
Illusory pattern perception is associated with a belief in conspiracy theories.
Out of this World: Bringing the Building Blocks of Life Down to Earth
Astronomers find more evidence for how life began in Earth, and send a greeting to a red dwarf with two habitable planets.
Publish or Perish: Books: We Write, Read, Love, Need Them
Why write books? For some, it's a need — to find out what we think, and get the record down for all of history to see. And in science, there's the need to update what's known, something Emeritus Professor John Bradshaw has done.
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.
Up Front: Born This Way
A study reporting a weak association between two genes and homosexuality could have powerful consequences.