Stephen Fleischfresser

Stephen Fleischfresser

Stephen Fleischfresser is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Trinity College and holds a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Stephen Fleischfresser is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College and holds a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science.

  • How morally egalitarian are we?

    Exploring the ethics of automated vehicle accidents.

    In 2018 the results of a massive and audacious online experiment into human morality, published in the journal Nature...

    March 4, 2020
  • How can we trust AI?

    Machine anxiety is no longer just the stuff of science fiction.

    The brutal truth of being human is that we will never truly know the thoughts of anyone but ourselves. The only consc...

    January 19, 2020
  • Where AI and ethics meet

    Would a set of principles really work? What would they look like?

    Given a swell of dire warnings about the future of artificial intelligence over the last few years, the field of AI e...

    November 17, 2019
  • For better research, let mice be mice

    A more natural way of raising them will improve results.

    The humble mouse finds itself in thousands of laboratories across the world, where it is used to investigate everythi...

    November 3, 2019
  • Why don’t whales have saliva?

    It’s one of several adaptations to aquatic life that involve gene loss. Stephen Fleischfresser re...

    Research shows that adaptation of terrestrial animals to aquatic environments was as much about losing genes as it wa...

    September 26, 2019
  • Animals, science, behaviour and ethics

    Exploring an important emerging topic for society.

    The moral status of animals has a long and fraught history in the West, much of it reflecting poorly on our ethical u...

    September 22, 2019
  • Darwin’s finches inform and confuse

    Extinct populations had higher genetic diversity than many survivors.

    Charles Darwin’s famous Galápagos finches are once again helping us to understand the natural world. New research on...

    September 1, 2019
  • These scientists don’t think plants think

    Stephen Fleischfresser assesses the latest views on an enduringly controversial idea.

    A surprisingly old idea, the notion that plants have consciousness, is facing renewed scepticism and scrutiny. In the...

    July 3, 2019
  • Cooperation arises in biological systems

    Link between enforcement and suppression of selfishness.

    New research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution demonstrates that negative consequences for selfish ...

    June 25, 2019
  • Lost your wallet? It may not end badly

    People are more honest than economic theory says.

    An international experiment involving over 17,000 lost wallets has revealed that humans are far more honest and altru...

    June 20, 2019
  • Leap forward in disease diagnosis

    Massive sequencing project bears first fruit.

    A massive sequencing mission, 370 times larger than the Human Genome Project (HGP), has produced the first atlas of e...

    June 12, 2019
  • ‘Jumping’ genes let fish move from sea to fresh water

    While many of us get our omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, we tend to overlook the fact that fish need them just as ...

    May 30, 2019
  • Orchids shun the sun, sacrificing genes

    Not all plants rely on photosynthesis for nutrition.

    The green of a plant’s leaves reminds us that the energy that fuels life on Earth ultimately comes from the sun throu...

    May 15, 2019
  • For fish in the inky blackness, colours abound

    Genetic research reveals previously unknown vision proteins in deep sea species. Stephen Fleischf...

    Contrary to expectations, some deep-water fish species see in colour, researchers have discovered.The depths of the o...

    May 9, 2019
  • Exploring the dangers of gene-edited babies

    Two papers unite in the condemnation of poor science.

    In November 2018 Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui announced to the world the advent of the first genetically edited hu...

    April 30, 2019
  • Don’t repeat experiments, just flip coins, researchers say

    The ‘replication crisis’ in science is no more than a heads-or-tails dilemma. Stephen Fleischfres...

    Science is in the midst of a so called “replication crisis”, arising from the uncomfortable fact that the results of ...

    April 17, 2019
  • Mass extinction and “morphospace”

    Slow return to diversity is due to tensions between ecology and possibility.

    Theory tells us that after a mass extinction, an event where the diversity of species is drastically reduced, nature ...

    April 11, 2019
  • Paper tigers: when scientists hoax publishers

    Stephen Fleischfresser explores the murky, but sometimes funny world of prank journal papers.

    The old maxim that academics must “publish or perish” very much holds true. The best way to get your research out the...

    March 10, 2019
  • ‘You can’t kiss and make up with the environment’

    Researchers suggest eco-friendly shopping is a kind of bargaining with the world. Stephen Fleisch...

    While there is no genuine debate to be had over whether anthropogenic climate change is occurring, our Stone Age mind...

    March 4, 2019
  • Humans, machines and lawyers: legal problems loom for cyborgs

    Human-machine hybrids already exist. The problem is the law doesn’t recognise them. Stephen Fleis...

    The new movie Alita: Battle Angel has once again drawn our attention to the idea of cyborgs: machine-human hybrids. A...

    February 20, 2019
  • Can fish be self-aware? The answer isn easy

    Researchers have found a species of wrasse can recognise itself.

    A new paper published in the journal PLOS Biology has demonstrated that a species of fish meets the experimental crit...

    February 7, 2019
  • Indeterminate nature: the resurgence of quantum biology

    A melding of biology and physics enjoying a revival.

    An old and quirky collaboration between seemingly incompatible scientific fields is producing fascinating new insight...

    January 7, 2019
  • Unicorns did exist – until they didn’t

    Monstrous rhino species survived for longer than thought.

    What’s four metres long, 2.5 metres high, weighs 3.5 tonnes and has a preposterously large horn in the middle of its ...

    November 26, 2018
  • Can jumping genes explain biological complexity?

    Research finds genes that boost complex cells are lethal to simpler ones. Stephen Fleischfresser ...

    A previously overlooked relationship between jumping genes and DNA repair mechanisms might be behind the evolution of...

    November 25, 2018
  • Different truffles all smell delicious

    Genomes reveal similarities between distantly related truffles.

    An international effort to understand the world of fungi has resulted in the sequenced genomes of some of the world’s...

    November 15, 2018
  • Heatwaves damage insect sperm

    More hot spells could lead to collapse of beetle species.

    Despite what some politicians would have you believe, climate change is happening, and it is taking its toll on life ...

    November 13, 2018
  • Starving bears and snowballs: talking science in a time of denial

    In a world of fake news, how do scientists get their messages across? Stephen Fleischfresser repo...

    Republican Senator James Inhofe mocks theories of climate change by throwing a snowball.makeagif.comA starving polar ...

    October 11, 2018
  • Where to look for extraterrestrial life

    The universe may be teeming with life, but we have yet to find any beyond Earth. These are the be...

    You may have noticed that there are not a lot of aliens around. Which is weird, because many scientists think there s...

    September 19, 2018
  • Poppy genome reveals opiate evolution

    The world’s illegal medicinal plant had a turbulent history.

    A series of bizarre events and biological errors over evolutionary history were responsible for the intoxicating medi...

    August 30, 2018
  • Ultra-violet experiment confirms “Darwin’s moths”

    First observed natural selection proven from an avian perspective.

    New research published in the journal Communications Biology has provided the final piece of evidence needed to confi...

    August 20, 2018
  • Marine mammals lose pesticide protection

    Marine species at risk due to separat evolutionary pressures.

    The oddities of evolution may have left many marine mammals without defences against some particularly nasty human po...

    August 14, 2018
  • Koala virus war looks set to rage for millennia

    A virus is invading the marsupial genome.

    New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals an ongoing war between bits of ...

    August 6, 2018
  • All-female salamander species steals sperm

    Unisex amphibians beat the evolutionary odds.

    Sex is expensive: it eats time, energy and resources. But the genetic diversity it produces is key to long-term evolu...

    July 31, 2018
  • Geoengineering could fight climate change

    6 ways massive engineering projects might slow global warming.

    International political efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not going well: what are we to do to mitigate th...

    July 27, 2018
  • Bat DNA hosts stolen Ebola genes

    Bats adopt parts of the DNA of the deadly virus.

    Filoviruses like Marburg and Ebola produce terrifying and often fatal haemorrhagic fevers. New research, however, sho...

    July 26, 2018
  • Jumping gene flash: horizontal transfer is a major evolution driver

    Study of 759 species finds derided mechanism in fact exerts substantial influence. Stephen Fleisc...

    It isn’t supposed to happen according to one of the central tenets of biology, but it does. Now, for the first time, ...

    July 11, 2018
  • Crowd-funded fern study reveals symbiotic secrets

    Fern genome carries implications for climate change mediation.

    New research reveals the very first complete genome sequences of ferns. The report published in the journal Nature Pl...

    July 4, 2018
  • Whose disease? Genomes help to resolve the mystery of the pox

    A gruesome disease with a clouded past, syphilis has long confounded medical historians. New rese...

    A new report in the snappily titled journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases presents, for the first time, the sequen...

    June 21, 2018
  • Star Wars shows the way on robotics

    A droid in the new Han Solo flick suggests the future of robot design. Sort of. Stephen Fleischfr...

    With the release of Solo: A Star Wars Movie and the rise of its break-out star, a self-modifying droid called L3-37, ...

    June 20, 2018
  • Into the darkness: human activity turns multiple species nocturnal

    Studies show mammals across the globe change their behaviour to avoid human beings, with potentia...

    As humans spread relentlessly across the globe, animal species are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their di...

    June 14, 2018
  • Shallow and mechanical: no evidence that sex with robots can be therapeutic

    Advocates of robo-intimacy peddle hype and hope with zero grounds to do so, says a new report. St...

    Given onscreen depictions of robots designed for pleasure in Blade Runner and the recent Westworld series, and even a...

    June 4, 2018
  • Stats point to natural selection drivers for weight, height, schizophrenia

    Genetic alphabet variations suggest evolution as well as environment influence some characteristi...

    Certain complex human traits and diseases seem to be driven by natural selection, a finding which helps to explain va...

    May 21, 2018
  • A rancher dies, and butterflies lose the farm

    An evolutionary trap is identified as the cause of local extinction. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

    Research in the journal Nature reveals that changing patterns of land use can tempt organisms into cruel and deadly e...

    May 9, 2018
  • The octopus from space: the return of panspermia

    Paper revies theory that life began from cosmic microbes.

    The peer-reviewed journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology recently published a most remarkable scientifi...

    April 24, 2018
  • A brief history of panspermia

    The ancient history of a surprisingly resilient idea.

    A recent journal paper argues that life did not originate on our planet, but arrived within comets and meteorites fal...

    April 23, 2018
  • Self-destructive microbe species can commit “ecological suicide”

    High-density populations of certain microbes make their environments unliveably toxic and wipe th...

    Microbes that are too successful can set out on a path of environmental destruction that leads to their untimely demi...

    April 16, 2018
  • Eyebrow evolution linked to social signalling

    The human brow may have been shaped by the need for communication, rather than mechanical or stru...

    The loss of the pronounced eyebrow ridge seen in human ancestors may have more to do with how modern humans get along...

    April 12, 2018
  • Development of teeth may hold clues to human evolution

    A new theory of how teeth get their shape could help trace the evolutionary relationships between...

    Examining the fossil record through the lens of evolutionary developmental biology may help scientists reassess the t...

    April 11, 2018
  • Boogie-woogie bowhead whales

    Arctic-resident species lays down licks and riffs like Miles Davis playing underwater. Stephen Fl...

    Beneath the ice, a species of whale sings up a jazz storm all through the months-long High Arctic night, according to...

    April 5, 2018
  • Its name is LUCA. Now it’s needing second thoughts

    An engineered new lifeform throws bacterial evolution into doubt. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

    A new artificial lifeform is helping cast light on a profound and ancient evolutionary event, reports a team of Dutch...

    March 22, 2018
  • Colonising spiders evolve the same three forms. Every time

    Hawaiian species has limited tricks in its repertoire, and performs them repeatedly. Stephen Flei...

    A central truth of evolution is that it is a contingent process – one in which chance plays a decisive role. This mea...

    March 11, 2018
  • Naked mole rats and elephants offer genetic clues to human diseases

    Comparing genomes of seven very different mammals pays dividends. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

    A band of unusual critters may help scientists better understand medical conditions such as cancer and autism, new re...

    March 6, 2018
  • Two become one: raven species reverse Darwin’s tree

    DNA analysis finds two separate bird lineages have merged, not converged. Stephen Fleischfresser ...

    A new study of the genetic make-up of ravens has revealed a startling and little-known side to evolution – “reverse s...

    March 4, 2018
  • Head-to-head: when scientists do battle

    Science is a lively business, and scientists sometimes disagree vehemently. Stephen Fleischfresse...

    1. NUMERO UNO OF CALCULUS Isaac Newton, born in 1643, is perhaps the most celebrated scientist of all time. He was al...

    March 1, 2018
  • Lobster life is patchy and chaotic

    Crustacean colonies are formed by time and tide, not family ties. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

    New research published in the journal Molecular Ecology has discovered that the genetic structure of populations of t...

    February 26, 2018
  • Guts and gory: vampire bats need bacteria to digest blood

    Research uncovers remarkable adaptations that allow vampire bats to thrive on a very poor diet. S...

    A new study of common vampire bats demonstrates some unique adaptations for its blood-sucking lifestyle, as well as t...

    February 19, 2018
  • Ancient lizards legged it

    A South Korean discovery suggests lizards ran on two legs 100 million years ago. Stephen Fleischf...

    Among the many things that we think make human beings special is our upright stance and two-legged gait, known as “bi...

    February 15, 2018
  • Cloned crayfish conquers the world

    A bizarre aquarium escapee has extra chromosomes, clones itself, and is spreading around the worl...

    It may sound far-fetched, a but a real-life super-macromutant has been born, creating a new species with bizarre biol...

    February 5, 2018
  • Did extremophiles move into less nasty habitats by hijacking virus DNA?

    The origin-of-life debate continues, with genome sequencing providing tantalising clues. Stephen ...

    Scraped from the near-boiling mud of a volcanic hot spring on the Italian island of Ischia, an ancient microbe is pro...

    January 29, 2018
  • Brainwaves help you sort your life out

    US research finds different types of categorisation are linked to different types of neuronal act...

    As the reverence with which Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus is held symbolises, classification is central to human ps...

    January 25, 2018
  • Hidden in plain sight: massive new family of ocean virus uncovered

    Marine biology texts will need to be written, and lab equipment redesigned, following stunning di...

    For those who like to take a regular dip in the ocean, it might come as something of an unpleasant revelation that se...

    January 24, 2018
  • Crows make hooked tools to increase efficiency

    Scottish research finds crows make hooks to gain more food in less time. Stephen Fleischfresser r...

    The manufacture and use of tools has long been touted as a line of demarcation between humans and non-human animals: ...

    January 22, 2018
  • Geoengineering could cause more harm than climate change

    US research finds policy and politics could turn a technological fix into a climate disaster. Ste...

    New research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has come to the counterintuitive conclusion that attempts to fig...

    January 22, 2018
  • Tumour behaviour calls Cambrian-oxygen link into question

    Swedish study suggests multicellular life might have needed low, not high, oxygen levels in order...

    Exploration of the relationship between oxygen, stem cells and cancer might just challenge the story of how life as w...

    January 18, 2018
  • Crowds within crowds are wiser still

    Argentinian research finds small-group deliberation much more accurate than large-group guesses. ...

    The crowd might be wise, but a “crowd of crowds” might be wiser still, according to new research published in Nature ...

    January 17, 2018
  • An African slave in Iceland, and the revelation of the mother

    Researchers use descendant DNA to close in on the lost origins of the mother of an African slave ...

    In a world first, a portion of an individual’s genome has been reconstructed from those of their living descendants, ...

    January 16, 2018
  • Not just genes: identical twins exhibit “supersimilarity”

    In a surprising finding, some markers believed to be environmental in origin are repeated in twin...

    The sometimes-preternatural similarity of identical twins is more profound than previously thought. Identical twins, ...

    January 9, 2018
  • Worm fertilises itself and sheds its genes

    Nematode worm demonstrates evolution can simplify as well as complicate. Steve Fleischfresser rep...

    New research published in the journal Science indicates that a species of nematode worm has evolved the ability to re...

    January 8, 2018
  • Stats resolve “kill the winner” paradox

    New modelling finds a way through the conundrum of diversity and competition – at least among mic...

    In 1961, the British polymath G. E Hutchinson, dubbed the father of modern ecology, noted a conundrum in marine ecolo...

    January 4, 2018
  • Dead infant reveals unknown Native American population

    Genetic analysis clarifies and expands understanding of human settlement in North America. Steve ...

    A little girl who lived 11,500 years ago has helped scientists to understand the story of human migration to North Am...

    January 3, 2018
  • Fungi was vital to early plant life

    Study finds fungus was critical for enabling plants to photosynthesis. Steve Fleischfresser reports.

    Oxygen is vital to life, and the account of how it came to make up such a large proportion of the atmosphere, from it...

    December 20, 2017
  • The voices outside your head make more sense than the ones inside it

    Dutch casino-based research backs up century-old experimental results from Charles Darwin’s cousi...

    New research indicates that your inner wisdom is, once again, no match for the wisdom of the crowd.And we know this b...

    December 17, 2017
  • When it comes to sex, size does count

    Game theory and statistics point to why sperm and eggs evolved. Steve Fleischfresser reports.

    You probably haven’t stopped to think about it, but why is the living world so often divided into sexes?As Jack da Si...

    November 30, 2017
  • Four DNA bases good, six better

    Researchers announce a fully viable bacteria created using expanded DNA repertoire. Steve Fleisch...

    The biological world thrives on variation. Organisms vary widely within a single species, and evolution uses this to ...

    November 29, 2017
  • In evolution, scale is important

    Two papers point to the common origin of feathers and teeth. Steve Fleischfresser reports.

    Scales, for most of us, are nothing more than an annoyance while having a fish dinner.But without them, you might not...

    November 23, 2017
  • Let slip the dragonflies of war

    The world’s military training zones double as conservation zones. The only worry is the threat of...

    “War!” as The Temptations sang in the 1970s, “What is it good for?” Little critters, biodiversity and the environment...

    November 22, 2017
  • New theory for life on Earth

    Two pronged attack challenges the idea that RNA alone was the driver for the start of life. Steph...

    The scientific story of abiogenesis, or how life first emerged from non-living matter, is one of an evolving ecology ...

    November 7, 2017
  • Goodall’s findings confirmed: chimps have stable personalities

    Decades after she was told to ignore her findings, Jane Goodall’s insight into chimps has been co...

    Once unfashionable, the idea that chimps have personalities has been confirmed.RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty ImagesIn the hype...

    October 26, 2017
  • Study fails to discover why old women exist

    A population analysis finds no evidence to support current theories of post-menopausal survival. ...

    The heart of the evolutionary process is the preferential selection of genes that help an organism to reproduce more ...

    October 11, 2017
  • The more people know about climate change and evolution, the more they disagree

    On hot-button issues in cultural conflicts, more knowledge can actually make people more likely t...

    It seems the political hyper-partisanship engulfing the United States has found yet another victim: science. New rese...

    August 25, 2017
  • How self-driving cars could make moral decisions

    Human responses to ethical dilemmas can be modelled into algorithms to guide machines, according ...

    In an age of relativism it is accepted wisdom that human morality is too complex to be accurately modelled. Or so we ...

    July 6, 2017
  • How culture makes mathematics possible

    Numerical capacity isn’t inherent but an abstract cultural product, says a neuroscientist. Stephe...

    Animals may have an innate understanding of quantities but counting requires understanding of symbols that can only c...

    May 22, 2017
  • The human power of smell is just as good as a dog’s

    The idea dogs’ noses are 10,000 more powerful than humans’ is misconceived, argues new research. ...

    Dogs’ sense of smell may not be superior to ours, but it is focused on different things.Donfer Lu / GettyNeanderthals...

    May 11, 2017
  • Hobbit jawbone study redraws the human family tree

    A skeletal analysis casts new light on the evolution of Homo floresiensis, the “Flores hobbit”, w...

    An artist’s impression of Homo floresiensis.Katrina KennyNew research published in the Journal of Human Evolution see...

    April 21, 2017
  • Bacteria’s evolution sheds light on great oxygenation event

    Cyanobacteria may have learnt the trick of photosynthesis by stealing genes from other microbes. ...

    A light microscopy image of a Cyanobacterium (Oxyphotobacteria).Fischer Laboratory/CAL TECHAll life as we know it owe...

    April 4, 2017
  • Dino evolutionary tree replanted

    Dinosaur ancestry was long thought to be settled. New research suggests a radical revamp. Stephen...

    The stegosaurus, a 'bird-hipped' dinosaur, is more closely related to birds than more superficially bird-like species...

    March 26, 2017
  • Macro or micro? Fight looms over evolution’s essence

    Is evolution driven by genes, individuals or entire species? A new paper promises to ignite feroc...

    Evolution over deep time: is it in the genes, or the species?Roger Harris/Science Photo LibraryA new paper threatens ...

    March 23, 2017
  • Complex speech in humans is a recent development

    Modern humans are capable of far more complex speech patterns than their hominin ancestors, for r...

    When it comes to complex speech, modern humans could out-perform Neanderthals with ease.Getty ImagesThe remarkable ra...

    March 16, 2017
  • New proposal challenges definition of species

    If you thought the concept of 'species' was simple, think again. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

    Is species fitness tied to how mitochondrial and nucleic DNA interact?PexelsA fascinating new hypothesis promises to ...

    March 8, 2017
  • What is de-extinction and how do you do it?

    How is it possible, and is it a good idea?

    In February of this year, scientists from Harvard University in the US announced their plans to create a live woolly ...

    March 7, 2017

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