Latest Science


Australia’s Science Channel is merging with Cosmos Magazine

We’re merging with Cosmos Magazine to bring you even more compelling science news and insights from here and around the world. Big changes are happening! For several years Australia’s Science Channel has been The Royal Institution of Australia’s platform for Australia’s best science stories. However, we are now taking the steps to combine two of our most successful products – Australia’s Science Channel and Cosmos Magazine, into a single powerhouse of Australian online science. We’re […] See more

Published 12 months ago. Author: Australia's Science Channel Editors from Australia's Science Channel

Food, tools and medicine: 5 native plants that illuminate deep Aboriginal knowledge

Aboriginal knowledge is often seen as “in the past”, fixed and stagnant. Such tropes deny the ability to continuously adapt and innovate. Over countless millennia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have harnessed the tremendous potential of plants, ingeniously using them for medicines, nutrition, to express our culture and to develop innovative technologies. But as I learn more about First Peoples’ plant knowledge, I’m also better understanding the broader Australian community’s failure to recognise the depth and breadth of our […] See more

Published 12 months ago. Author: Zena Cumpston from Australia's Science Channel
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Supergiant Betelgeuse is smaller and closer than first thought

Researchers have discovered that Betelgeuse is a mere 530 light years from Earth, and painted a clearer picture of what phase of life the giant red star is in. It may be another 100,000 years until the giant red star Betelgeuse dies in a fiery explosion, according to a new study by an international team of researchers. The study, led by Meridith Joyce from The Australian National University (ANU), not only gives Betelgeuse a new lease on life, but shows it […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: ANU Newsroom from Australian National University
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New view of Tweed Valley’s attraction

Tweed Valley could be the perfect ‘natural laboratory’ to test carbon sequestration, however researchers warn it won’t solve our carbon problems. Australia’s Tweed Valley region, in northern NSW, boasts world-class surf breaks and sub-tropical rainforest – and according to new research, it is also the perfect natural laboratory to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. To meet the Paris Agreement and prevent the average global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Lauren Fuge from Cosmos Magazine
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Do social media algorithms erode our ability to make decisions freely? The jury is out

“At the end of the day, underneath all the algorithms are people. And we influence the algorithms just as much as they may influence us.” Have you ever watched a video or movie because YouTube or Netflix recommended it to you? Or added a friend on Facebook from the list of “people you may know”? And how does Twitter decide which tweets to show you at the top of your feed? These platforms are driven […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Lewis Mitchell
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Death by spaghettification: Astronomers spot a star being ripped apart by a black hole

Telescopes have captured the rare light flash from a dying star as it was ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. Astronomers have spotted a rare phenomenon – a star being ripped apart by a supermassive black hole in a process called “spaghettification”. The event, known as a “tidal disruption”, was detected using telescopes from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and is the closest flare of its kind ever recorded, at just over 215 million light years from Earth. According to Brad Tucker from The […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: ANU Newsroom from Australian National University
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Researchers estimate up to 14 million tonnes of microplastics lie on the seafloor

“Stemming the rising tide of plastic pollution starts with individuals, communities and governments – we all have a role to play.” Nowhere, it seems, is immune from plastic pollution: plastic has been reported in the high Arctic oceans, in the sea ice around Antarctica and even in the world’s deepest waters of the Mariana Trench. But just how bad is the problem? Our new research provides the first global estimate of microplastics on the seafloor — our research suggests there’s a […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Britta Denise Hardesty from Australia's Science Channel
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It was growing rainforests, not humans, that killed off Southeast Asia’s megafauna

“Luckily for us, our own species’ fortunes changed for the better with the emergence of typical Southeast Asian rainforests. But we’re now the very thing threatening to destroy them forever.” Thinking of Southeast Asia today may conjure up images of dense tropical rainforests teeming with iconic jungle animals such as orangutans, tigers and monkeys. Perhaps less well known, but just as important to these ecosystems, are a host of other large-bodied creatures: the goat-like serows and gorals, three species […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Julien Louys from Australia's Science Channel
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The influence of bots in spreading vaccine information isn't as big as you think

The role that bots play in spreading vaccine information on Twitter is quite limited, and rarely cross paths with active users. The influence of bots on vaccine-related discussions on social media may be a lot smaller than we think and fear. A new study led by the University of Sydney has found that the overwhelming majority of the vaccine-related content seen by typical users of Twitter in the US between 2017 and 2019 was generated […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Australia's Science Channel Editors from Cosmos Magazine
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A missing part of the rock art gallery

Newly described rock art images may be a missing link between early-style Dynamic Figures and X-ray figures. Arnhem Land rock art is continuing to provide a window into Australia’s past, with scientists describing 572 previously unknown images in a paper in the journal Australian Archaeology. The Maliwawa Figures, which range in age from 6000 to 9400 years, were documented across 87 sites from Awunbarna (Mount Borradaile area) to the Namunidjbuk Estate of the Wellington Range in northwest Arnhem Land. The […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Amelia Nichele from Cosmos Magazine
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Does Australia really have the deadliest snakes? We debunk 6 common myths

“Snakes are amazing, but shouldn’t be feared. If you encounter one on a sunny day, don’t make sudden movements, just back away slowly.” As we settle into spring and temperatures rise, snakes are emerging from their winter hideouts to bask in the sun. But don’t be alarmed if you spot one, it’s hard to imagine a more misunderstood group of animals than snakes. Our interactions with snakes are conversation starters, with yarns told and retold. But knowing […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Damian R. Michael from Australia's Science Channel
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Researchers have found more water below the surface of Mars

A patchwork of salty lakes below the surface of the Martian south polar ice cap is the first ‘alien’ water found there since 2018. Scientists using ground-penetrating radar have discovered a cluster of lakes beneath the Martian south polar ice cap. The radar is mounted on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003. Called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), this instrument can ping the […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Richard Lovett from Cosmos Magazine
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White supremacists believe in genetic ‘purity’. Science shows no such thing exists

Science reveals a history of ongoing genetic mingling, due to interbreeding between different populations and even species. Far-right white supremacist ideology is on the rise in Europe, North America and Australia. It appeals to a racist notion whereby many white supremacists see themselves as members of a “pure” race that is at risk of dilution and contamination. Science does not support the idea of pure races with ancient origins. In the past few years, genetic sequencing of ancient and modern […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Dennis McNevin from Australia's Science Channel
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The importance of urban trees

Cities could possess a sixth of the world’s tree diversity, with scientists suggesting urban environments should be a focus for conservation efforts. When thinking of tree conservation, sprawling forests generally come to mind. But cities, although covering only 2% of land globally, could harbour a sixth of the world’s tree diversity, according to Australian researchers. And among the more than 4,700 tree species they counted, one in 10 faces conservation risk in the wild. Six […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Natalie Parletta from Cosmos Magazine
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If there is life on Venus, how could it have got there? Origin of life experts explain

Scientists recently announced the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, a potential biosignature. But if it is life, how did it get there? The recent discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus is exciting, as it may serve as a potential sign of life (among other possible explanations). The researchers, who published their findings in Nature Astronomy, couldn’t really explain how the phosphine got there. They explored all conceivable possibilities, including lightning, volcanoes and even […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Martin Van Kranendonk from University of New South Wales
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5 things the pandemic has revealed about the Australian psyche

As Victorians begin to emerge from lockdown 2.0, we can reflect on what we’ve learned about human behaviour from the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned some of the most dramatic changes to Australian life in recent memory. We’ve had to adapt to a vastly different way of life to curb the spread of the virus, featuring unfamiliar challenges such as social distancing, mask wearing, and limits on gatherings and travel. As Victorians in particular […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Jayashri Kulkarni from Australia's Science Channel
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On the hunt for the powerful owl

Australia’s largest owl is an accomplished hiding expert – so scientists need the public’s help in this game of hide and seek. The powerful owl (Ninox strenua) is Australia’s largest owl. With big yellow eyes and an impressive wingspan of up to 140cm, they’re a fabulous sight if you’re lucky enough to see one. However, getting a glimpse at these birds is no easy task; despite their size, the powerful owl is quite the hide-and-seek […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Amelia Nichele from Cosmos Magazine
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Last summer's bushfires burned the health budget

The cost of the 2019 – 2020 bushfires included more than just destroyed buildings and bushland, with smoke-related health costs estimated to be $1.95 billion. Ruined homes and other structures are among the most obvious signs of bushfires, and because there are insurance and rebuilding costs attached to them they’re often front of mind when it comes to the hard-dollar estimates of a fire’s cost. Not as obvious are the accumulated health costs created by […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Ian Connellan from Cosmos Magazine
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Giant spider provides promise of pain relief for IBS

Pain blocking peptides found in the venom from a species of tarantula could help tailor pain relief treatment for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Molecules from the venom of one of the world’s largest spiders could help researchers tailor pain blockers for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers from the University of Queensland screened 28 spiders, with the venom of the Venezuela Pinkfoot Goliath tarantula – which has a leg-span of up to 30 […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: University of Queensland Newsroom from The University of Queensland
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Can't get you outta my head: study finds 'hidden' thoughts in visual part of brain

Why do mental images form even when we try to stop them? Suppressed thoughts could be hiding in the visual part of our brains – without us even knowing. How much control do you have over your thoughts? What if you were specifically told not to think of something – like a pink elephant? A recent study led by UNSW psychologists has mapped what happens in the brain when a person tries to suppress a thought. […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: UNSW Newsroom from University of New South Wales
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A crap idea might make hydrogen sustainable

Researchers have used biosolids to produce hydrogen from wastewater, in new technology that makes use of one of humanity’s unlimited resources – sewage. Human waste, also known as biosolids and biogas, is the driving force behind a sustainable new method for producing hydrogen from wastewater, say Australian researchers. Developed by researchers at RMIT University, the technology uses a material derived from biosolids to spark chemical reactions for producing hydrogen from biogas. The approach means all […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: RMIT University from RMIT University

Tim Jarvis: Human-wildlife conflict: an unequal contest that needs redefining

When humans and animals cross, it’s termed conflict. As Tim Jarvis explains, that’s not correct. It’s 84 years since the last known Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), died at Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart. Locked out of its sleeping quarters by its keepers, it died in its cage, alone, as temperatures plummeted overnight. In 1996, on the 60th anniversary of this inauspicious date, 7 September was declared National Threatened Species Day — a day to reflect […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Tim Jarvis from Australia's Science Channel
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Vibrating earthworms pick up an Ig Nobel

This is shed science at a professional level. When you think of award-winning scientific research, you might think of determining the structure of DNA, or Marie Curie’s work on radioactivity. You might not think of vibrating pissed earthworms with a subwoofer in a garden shed. And yet, here we are. Two Australian scientists have taken home a 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for exactly that. Swinburne University’s Ivan Maksymov and Andrey Pototsky, a physicist and mathematician, were intrigued […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Cosmos Magazine
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Astronomers create 40% more carbon emissions than the average Aussie. Here’s how they can be more environmentally friendly

“As astronomers, we have now identified the significant size of our footprint, and where it comes from. Positive change is possible; the challenge simply needs to be tackled head-on.” Astronomers know all too well how precious and unique the environment of our planet is. Yet the size of our carbon footprint might surprise you. Our study, released in Nature Astronomy, estimated the field produces 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year in Australia. With […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: Sabine Bellstedt from Australia's Science Channel
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More than 90 per cent of protected areas are disconnected

While there are growing efforts to protect areas of habitat, more than 90% of these protected areas are isolated, “in a sea of human activities”. Ongoing land clearing for agriculture, mining and urbanisation is isolating and disconnecting Earth’s protected natural areas from each other, a new study shows. Lead author Michelle Ward, from The University of Queensland’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says the findings were “alarming”. “Protected areas are vital for the protection and […] See more

Published 1 year ago. Author: University of Queensland Newsroom from The University of Queensland
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