Latest Science


The eyes don’t have it

That person staring directly at you is probably looking at your mouth. The communicative power of eye contact might well be a myth, if a recent Australian experiment is indicative. Making eye contact with another person is considered to be a highly effective way of concentrating the transition of messages, so much so that it has long passed into the realms of cliché. People fall in love when they gaze into each other’s eyes; salespeople […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Andrew Masterson from Edith Cowan University
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“Pristine” Tasmanian lakes among the most polluted in the world

Six lakes, including some in a World Heritage Site, are contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals. Tasmania’s untouched wilderness might not be all it appears, with a new study finding a series of lakes badly contaminated with dangerous metals – in some cases at levels among the highest in the world. Even more worryingly, several of the lakes studied are within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The research, led by Larissa Schneider […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Australian National University
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Great opportunity for would-be marine biologists

Rare chance for school students to join in a research expedition. Secondary school students have the opportunity to become marine biologists for a week this April in Tasmania, Australia. Organisers of an expedition run by the University of Tasmania and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) are inviting students in Years 11 and 12 to join a trip to Maria Island off the east coast of the island state for some hands-on learning. […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Brian Pulling from University of Tasmania

Shark Bay: A World Heritage Site at catastrophic risk

Everyone knows the Great Barrier Reef is in peril. But a continent away, Western Australia’s Shark Bay is also threatened by marine heatwaves that could alter this World Heritage ecosystem forever. The devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 rightly captured the world’s attention. But what’s less widely known is that another World Heritage-listed marine ecosystem in Australia, Shark Bay, was also recently devastated by extreme temperatures, when a brutal marine […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: UNSW Newsroom from University of New South Wales
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Sea temperature drives fish evolution

A common South African fish is splitting into new species, propelled by heat. Evolutionary theory holds that one of the primary drivers of speciation – the divergence of a single species into two or more – is physical isolation. If a single population is divided by an insurmountable barrier – a sea, for instance, or a mountain range – then the separate sections will likely take different evolutionary paths. Now, however, researchers have found that […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Andrew Masterson from Flinders University
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Honeybees can do maths

Research shows the insects understand both subtraction and addition. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are capable of arithmetic, showing proficiency in addition and subtraction, new research reveals. The tiny bee brain is capable of numerical skills and short-term working memory previously attributed to the larger brains of some vertebrates. The study of animals’ ability to use numbers, or numerosity, is an important facet of neuroscience, because it helps researchers better understand the relationship between number skills and […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Tanya Loos from Cosmos Magazine
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Cycling fatalities almost halved since introduction of mandatory helmet laws

Mandatory helmet laws have resulted in a drastic reduction in cycling fatalities. The evidence is in: Australian mandatory helmet laws brought in to reduce fatalities in cycling have worked, with a world-first study showing they led to an immediate 46% drop in fatalities and have saved billions of dollars in medical costs since 1990. The study has been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology by a team led by Jake Olivier from UNSW’s Transport […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: UNSW Newsroom from University of New South Wales
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Ditch junk food to help stave off depression

A study that combined the results of 16 trials confirmed that ditching junk food is not only good for physical health, but mental health too. An Australian study released at an AusSMC briefing this week suggests switching from junk food to a healthy diet rich in fruit and veg won’t just benefit your physical health, it could also help you beat the blues. The researchers brought together the data from 16 previous trials, including a total of […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Joseph Milton from Australian Science Media Centre
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Australia sets the pace to renewables

Australia’s per capita rate of new renewables is world leading, and could drive us towards meeting our Paris commitments. Australia is streaking ahead of other countries when it comes to renewable energy, to the extent where we may reach our Paris carbon reduction commitments five years early, claims a new report. New analysis by the Australian National University has found Australia is installing renewables 4-5 times faster per capita than the EU, USA, Japan and […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Australian National University
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Scientists can clone monkeys, but should they?

The age-old question facing science – just because we can, should we? Medical ethicist David Hunter weighs in on our relationship with some of our closest relatives. Scientists have many tools at their disposal to study, manipulate and copy genes. Now it appears researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, China, have combined techniques to produce a world first: gene edited, cloned macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Qiang Sun, a senior researcher in the project […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: David Hunter from Flinders University
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Seaweed prospers with a little kelp from its friends

Size is definitely an issue for critical kelp forests, researchers find. Adult kelp seaweed engineers its environment to optimise conditions for juvenile species members, Australian researchers have established. The finding, published in the journal PLOS One, provides valuable insight into the conditions that lead to the collapse of kelp forests, which are recognised as critical structures in many marine ecosystems. Kelp forests are estimated to provide abundant habitats for a diverse range of species along […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Andrew Masterson from Cosmos Magazine
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Nuclear weapons help solve the riddle of the Lungfish

Scientists have worked out the longevity of Lungfish, and we have nuclear testing to thank. The lungfish is a particularly weird fish. As well as the usual gills, as its name suggests it also has a fully functioning lung that allows it to survive out of water in drying river beds or lakes for extended periods. That lung has led some to believe it essentially represents a surviving link in the evolutionary chain between fishes […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Australian National University
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Breathe easy firefighters: respiratory masks make the difference

Firefighters should have regular lung checks and ensure their respirators are functioning properly to protect themselves against long-term lung damage. UniSA PhD student Flynn Slattery discusses research from four countries, showing catastrophic events such as 9/11 can permanently damage firefighters’ lungs, but respiratory masks help maintain normal lung function for routine firefighters. See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: UniSA Newsroom from University of South Australia
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People with a well developed cortex find tonic water less bitter, study finds

Australian research holds promise for new approaches to eating disorders. Reactions to quinine, the compound that gives tonic water its characteristic bitter taste, have been found to correlate with the size of an area of the brain known as the entorhinal cortex. The finding, by a team of researchers led by Liang-Dar Hwang of Australia’s Queensland Brain Institute, is the first evidence that relative brain size relates to the perception of flavour. Hwang and colleagues […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Andrew Masterson from Cosmos Magazine
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QUT's eSports scholarships have been awarded - here's who made the cut

The five students receive the first scholarships in Australia to study while competing for the uni’s own League of Legends team. The first five university students to receive scholarships for eSports in Australia have been announced. The team will study at QUT along with representing the university in the League of Legends Oceanic Challenger Series. As well as studying their degrees, the five will be part of an athletic program that also includes physical training, […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Queensland University of Technology
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Scientists discover potential to prevent cancer in children with neuroblastoma

New drug combination in clinical trials has the potential to prevent cancer in children. A team including UNSW Sydney researchers has discovered the link between a cancer-causing gene and a group of molecules that helps cells grow, raising hopes that scientists will be able to develop new ways to treat and prevent neuroblastoma in children. The MYCN oncogene has long been known to be a key cause of a number of deadly solid tumour cancers, […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: UNSW Newsroom from University of New South Wales
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Smartphones just a pain in the neck

Nearly one-third of smartphone users have neck and back pain, with researchers blaming “text neck”. If you’re hunching your head over to read this on a smartphone, you might be putting yourself at risk of the effects of “text neck”, say Thai and Australian researchers. But you’re not alone, with most of the world’s 3.4 billion smartphone users also putting their necks on the line. But the worst offenders are those of us who slouch […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: Ben Lewis from University of South Australia
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Lizard evolution highlights power of climate change

The fragmentation of lizard populations millions of years ago could spell trouble with continued climate change. The fragmentation of lizard habitat across Australia brought about by Ice Age aridification millions of years ago could lead to smaller current populations having a reduced ability to cope with continued climate change, say Flinders University researchers. Studies into populations of the Australian scincid lizard, Tiliqua rugosa (commonly known as the Sleepy Lizard, or Shingleback Lizard) has identified a prehistoric case […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: News Desk from Flinders University
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Extreme weather and geopolitics major drivers of increasing ‘food shocks’

Extreme weather and overfishing are increasingly disrupting food production, with international trade meaning they’re global problems. Global food production is suffering from an increasing number of “food shocks”, with most caused by extreme weather and geopolitical crises. An international study led by researchers from Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Centre for Marine Socioecology looked at the incidence of land and marine food shocks – sudden losses in food production – between […] See more

Published 1 month ago. Author: University of Tasmania Newsroom from University of Tasmania
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"Australians have been lied to" - Murray Darling Royal Commission

The Murray-Darling Royal Commission has handed down a damning finding of unlawful acts and ignoring climate change. The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission has found Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) acted unlawfully and “completely ignored” climate change projections when determining water allocation. The findings of the Commission were made public on Thursday and highlighted the complex web of issues threatening the Murray which are exemplified by the recent fish deaths in the Darling River and dry riverbeds at Walgett in […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: Olivia Henry from Australian Science Media Centre
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Flying taxis within five years? Not likely

CASA says we could have flying taxis operating in Australia within five years. But there are a few hurdles to clear before we see ride sharing happening in the air rather than on the ground. When the American aerospace company Bell Nexus unveiled an air taxi at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month it breathed new life into conversations about a future where ride sharing happens in the air rather than […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: Jason Middleton from University of New South Wales

Forests need decades to recover from fires and logging

A landmark study has found that forest soils need several decades to recover from bushfires and logging – much longer than previously thought. Lead researcher Elle Bowd from the Australian National University‘s Fenner School of Environment and Society said the team found forest soils recovered very slowly over many years from these events – up to 80 years following a bushfire and at least 30 years after logging. “We discovered that both natural and human […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: ANU Newsroom from Australian National University
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Nine pill testing myths

In all the talk, some myths keep being trotted out. Here’s the facts. From politicians to the public, the same myths keep being rolled out about pill testing. Here are nine of the most common. There’s no proof pill-testing will save lives They’ve been testing pills in 20 other countries for at least two decades and there is, in fact, considerable evidence that it helps reduce harm. There’s only been one sanctioned trial in Australia […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Australia's Science Channel
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New algorithm helps AI triumph in legendary Atari game

Teaching AI how to play games is not just news for gaming fans. In 2015, Google’s DeepMind AI was tasked with learning to play Atari video games. It was quite successful too, becoming as good at Video Pinball as a human player. But beyond the simple arcade games it began to struggle, notoriously failing to even collect the first key in the legendary 1980s adventure game Montezuma’s Revenge, due to the game’s complexity. However, a […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: Ben Lewis from Australia's Science Channel

Discovering how a local stream became less salty

A stream in the Adelaide Hills has reversed the salinity trend, becoming less salty much quicker than expected and giving clues how other rivers could be helped to do the same. Dryland salinity is a devastating problem in Australian agriculture, causing ongoing environmental and economic problems. Flinders University researchers have now discovered that a stream in a deforested Adelaide Hills catchment shows a decreasing salinity trend over the past 28 years, pointing to possible long-term […] See more

Published 2 months ago. Author: News Desk from Flinders University
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