SCIENCE

Our long fascination with the journey to Mars

Signs of life on Mars? These are the tracks of NASA’s Curiosity rover exploring the Martian landscape. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS It’s touchdown again on Mars, with NASA’s InSight probe due landing sucessfully yesterday. This latest mission will continue our exploration of much that is still unknown about the planet. As seen from Earth, the big red dot in the night sky has certainly caught the attention...

Evidence of aliens? What to make of research and reporting on ‘Oumuamua, our visitor from space

An artist’s impression of `Oumuamua, the first interstellar object discovered in the Solar System.  ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser As an astrophysicist, probably the most common question I get asked is: “Are we alone in the universe and do aliens exist?” There is no doubt: people love to think and talk about aliens. Hence, stories about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence...

Why you like coffee, and I choose tea – it’s in the genes

Why does it cost so much to put a tea in a pot of hot water, anyway? from www.shutterstock.com Do you drink freshly brewed coffee to start off your day? Or is a cup of English breakfast tea a better option for you? Your choice could be a result of your genes, and how they affect your experience of bitter...

A super-Earth found in our stellar back yard

An artist’s impression of the surface of the planet orbiting Barnard’s Star. ESO - M. Kornmesser The potential discovery of a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star – the second closest stellar system to the Sun – was announced by researchers today in Nature. This discovery pushes the bounds of what we can do with our best current astronomical instrumentation, so the authors are understandably...

How research is helping to reduce prejudice between people online

When individuals from different groups interact positively and cooperate online, society changes for the better. rawpixel/Unspalsh The internet often gets a bad rap, and for good reason. Social media use can contribute to poorer mental health in teens. It can also be used to manipulate users’ emotions, and to disseminate misinformation and click bait to sway public opinion. The internet is also home to countless online...

Climate change will make QLD’s ecosystems unrecognisable – it’s up to us if we want to stop that

It’s not just about the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland’s rainforests - particularly in the mountains - will also change thanks to a warming climate. Shutterstock Climate change and those whose job it is to talk about current and future climate impacts are often classed as the “harbingers of doom”. For the world’s biodiversity, the predictions are grim - loss of species, loss...

How tracking people moving together through time creates powerful data

A group of people with something in common is called a ‘cohort’ in research. from www.shutterstock.com  Are you in a cohort? Perhaps a posse of friends, a sporting team, the “class of 1989” Facebook group from your former school? “Cohort” is collective term used to refer to people with something in common – historically it described a group of soldiers, but now...

Mānuka honey: who really owns the name and the knowledge

In the case of mānuka honey, there are serious questions about what authenticity actually means. from www.shutterstock.com Adulterated honey and fake mānuka honey have repeatedly made headlines in recent years. The arguments around adulterated honey are relatively simple. These honeys are diluted with cheaper syrups and their lack of authenticity is unquestionable. The discourse around mānuka honey is different, as there are serious questions...

Stringybark is tough as boots (and gave us the word ‘Eucalyptus’

The Eucalyptus obliqua as seen in Merthyr Park,Tasmania Cowirrie/Flickr, CC Few eucalypts are as versatile, varied and valuable as messmate stringybark. It was the first eucalypt to be scientifically named, and in fact gives us the name “Eucalyptus”. Gum trees had been seen and collected on earlier expeditions, but a specimen collected on James Cook’s third expedition to Bruny Island off...

Five projects that are harnessing big data for good

Often the value of data science lies in the work of joining the dots. Shutterstock Data science has boomed over the past decade, following advances in mathematics, computing capability, and data storage. Australia’s Industry 4.0 taskforce is busy exploring ways to improve the Australian economy with tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics. But while data science offers the potential to...