Unpacking the history of how Earth feeds life, and life changes Earth

 At a fleeting glance, the study of life – biology – seems very separate from that of rocks, or geology. But a look back through history shows that geological processes have been key to the evolution of life on Earth. Geology has shaped biology by creating favourable conditions, and indeed the basic “ingredients”, for life’s emergence and evolution. And now there...

Sunday essay: identity politics and the case for shared values

A scene from the 1961 film West Side Story. The casting of an Australian performer as Maria in a local production of the musical was recently criticised for ‘white washing’ a story about a Puerto Rican immigrant. The Mirisch Corporation,Seven Arts Productions Recently, a group of respected academics, including Melbourne-born philosopher Peter Singer, announced that they were launching a new academic...

Earthrise, a photo that changed the world

Earthrise: astronauts aboard Apollo 8 captured this spectacular photo of Earth rising above the lunar horizon as they emerged from behind the dark side of the Moon. Image Credit: NASA December 24 is the 50th anniversary of Earthrise, arguably one of the most profound images in the history of human culture. When astronaut William Anders photographed a fragile blue sphere...

It’s not so easy to gain the true measure of things

Some things are just tricky to measure.  Flickr/Patty O'Hearn Kickham I teach measurement – the quantification of things. Some people think this is the most objective of the sciences; just numbers and observations, or what many people call objective facts. Lord Kelvin, a famous British scientist, said: When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know...

Protecting our digital heritage in the age of cyber threats

There is no clear cybersecurity governance framework geared towards detecting and preventing attacks against digital identity assets. One of the key functions of the government is to collect and archive national records. This includes everything from property records and registers of births, deaths and taxes, to Parliamentary proceedings, and even the ABC’s digital library of Australian news and entertainment. A...

Stone tools date early humans in North Africa to 2.4 million years ago

Archaeological excavation at Ain Boucherit, Algeria.  Mathieu Duval, Author provided When did early humans first arrive in the Mediterranean area? New archaeological evidence published yesterday online by the journal Science (as a First Release) indicates their presence in North Africa at least 2.4 million years ago. This is about 600,000 years earlier than previously thought. The results, from the Ain Boucherit site in north eastern...

Happy birthday, SA’s big battery, and many happy returns (of your recyclable parts)

The big battery has notched up a year in operation, during which it has been widely hailed as a success. AAP Image/David Mariuz A year ago yesterday, Tesla’s big battery in South Australia began dispatching power to the state’s grid, one day ahead of schedule. By most accounts, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery has been a remarkable success. But there are some concerns...

Summer forecast: scorching heat and heightened bushfire risk

Queenslanders have taken to the water in the face of record-breaking heat. GLENN HUNT/AAP Large parts of Australia are facing a hotter and drier summer than average, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s summer outlook. Drier than average conditions are likely for much of northern Australia. Most of the country has at least an 80% chance of experiencing warmer than average day...

Tension as scientist at centre of CRIPSR outrage speaks at genome editing summit

Jiankui He claims he has used CRISPR to edit the genomes of twin girls. Merlin Crossley, Picture - Author provided I am currently at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, where controversial CRIPSR scientist Jiankui He presented his research just a few hours ago. He also answered questions from gene experts Robin Lovell-Badge (Crick Institute) and Matt Porteus (Stanford), plus...

Researcher claims CRISPR-edited twins are born. How will science respond?

    Chinese scientist He Jiankui of Shenzhen claims he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies. from www.shutterstock.com   Gene editing technology is revolutionising biology – and now twin human baby girls may be a living part of this story. Today several media outlets report that a team of scientists in China has used CRISPR to modify the DNA of healthy human embryos to genetically “vaccinate” against...