The Darling River is simply not supposed to dry out, even in drought

Puddles in the bed of the Darling River are a sign of an ecosystem in crisis. Jeremy Buckingham/Flickr The deaths of millions of fish in the lower Darling River system over the past few weeks should come as no surprise. Quite apart from specific warnings given to the NSW government by their own specialists in 2013, scientists have been warning of devastation since...

How is oxygen ‘sucked out’ of our waterways?

Dead fish are a source of food for bacteria, which then extract oxygen from the river. AAP A million fish have died in the Murray Darling basin, as oxygen levels plummet due to major algal blooms. Experts have warned we could see more mass deaths this week. Read more: The Murray Darling Basin Plan is not delivering – there’s no more time to...

It’s not just the isolation. Working from home has surprising downsides

Working from home means taking work into your home.  Shutterstock What if you never had to return to work? Never had to return to work at the office, that is. You’d be able to juggle kids on school holidays. You wouldn’t need to navigate traffic jams. Your employer might gain increased productivity, lower turnover and lower lease costs. But there are less...

Populism’s problems can be fixed by getting the public better-informed. And that’s actually possible

In its more dangerous manifestations, populism can mean a reckless, extreme distrust in governmental expertise. DAVID MAXWELL/AAP Many commentators have been alarmed at the electoral wins of ultra conservative leaders around the world, as well as policy decisions such as Brexit made by a popular referendum. They see these as signs of a rising populism. In its benign forms, populism can simply mean...

Heaven on earth: the ancient roots of your backyard garden

The connection between the gardens of Versailles, and your backyard garden, are closer than you might think. Shutterstock You don’t have to be an avid gardener or know all the Latin names of plants to appreciate the opportunity for reflection that a stroll in the garden can afford us. The explosion of colours, shapes, and textures in the garden, the...

Sex offender registries don’t prevent re-offending (and vigilante justice is real)

  Notifications of child sex offenders living in the area have, in some cases, created community hysteria and loss of sleep.  from shutterstock.com Calls for public access to information about convicted child sex offenders occur often in Australia. It may seem like common sense that allowing the public to know the whereabouts of dangerous people should increase community safety. As in many...

The environmental impact of music: digital, records, CDs analysed

Our favourite way of listening to music might have a bigger environmental impact than we think. patat/ Shutterstock Although streaming remains the most popular way people listen to music, old formats like cassettes and vinyl have both seen an increase in sales. In fact, vinyl has seen a remarkable sales increase of 1,427% since 2007, selling around around 4m LPs in 2018 in the UK alone....

Hidden women of history: Elsie Masson, photographer, writer, intrepid traveller

Elsie Masson outside Government House, Darwin.  Wayne Collection, Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum. In 1913, at the age of 23, Elsie Masson was travelling on a steamer near Port Essington, 150 miles from Darwin, when it was approached by a small lugger. The boat was manned by one white man and two black men. As she later recounted, The white man raised a...

How capitalism ruined our relationship with bacteria

Drawing from the Wellcome Collection There are many rational reasons that motivate consumers to spend US$65 billion annually on household cleaning products. But non-rational mechanisms are nevertheless still at work in the cleaning products market, as in all others. Advertisements for domestic hygiene products usually follow the same simple yet powerful structure: the threat of bacterial contamination looms large, but anti-bacterial gels, soaps,...

‘Alexa, call my lawyer!’ Are you legally liable if someone makes a purchase using your virtual assistant?

If you have voice shopping activated on your voice assistant, anyone in your home could potentially purchase items in your name. Shutterstock When Amazon launched its Alexa virtual assistant in 2014, it probably didn’t think that a bird would expose a potentially significant legal issue with the device. But an African grey parrot named Rocco, living in Blewbury, England,...