Connections: your monthly look at what’s been interesting the Cosmos newsroom

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

Book: Skirts: Fashioning modern Femininity in the 20th Century      

 Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell

Macmillan Publishers               

When the first Apple Store opened in SoHo New York, the two-story space boasted an ‘ethereal’ glass staircase. Conceived by CEO Steve Jobs, the architectural feature would go on to become a trademark of Apple stores.


Yet as Skirts records, women in technology were less than impressed by the engineering marvel, which unhappily coincided with the arrival of cameras in mobile phones.

From the Grecian Delphos to the Bodycon, in Skirts, fashion historian Dr Kimberley Chrisman-Campbell traces significant shifts in skirt and dress designs, placing the designs within their social and political context influential design. (Petra Stock)

Podcast: “A Brief History of the Metaverse.”

With Mark Pesce and Tony Parisi.

Pesce is podcast prince, a first mover, an adapter, and, as the best podcasters are – an iconoclast. He produced This Week in Startups Australia way back in 2014 and after 200 episodes will be launching its 11th series in March.

The science series titled The Next Billion Seconds has had 130 eps since 2017, with more coming at the start of February. Pesce, who is a regular contributor to Cosmos Weekly, says “the coming next billion seconds will be the most important in human history as we transition out of the acute period of the pandemic to a new era, one that might leave the pre-pandemic years as distant as the middle ages.”

Pecse podcast

Late last year a new episode dropped. “A brief History of the Metaverse” starts like a film noir movie, virtually taking us to a dive in Casablanca, or speakeasy in Chicago owned by Al Capone. Very entertaining and high production values.

But the focus remains on science. “30 years ago we created the metaverse, but none have succeeded. Why, after tens of billions being invested?” Pesce looks back to understand where we’ve come from, but says no-one knows what the future holds. “Disney meets Dante.”

The series includes links for further reading.

Both shows are available through whatever podcasting app you use (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, etc.) or you can play the episodes on the respective websites. (Ian Mannix)

News release : Man wins science prize

By Kevin Krajik, The Earth Institute’s senior editor for science news

Columbia Climate School, Columbia University New York

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I doubt anyone ever before has reviewed a news release but in the world of science, they form the backbone of our connections. Every university, research agency, affiliated government department and increasingly commercial science and technology corporates have journalists churning out content. Some is ordinary but increasingly our universities are becoming highly sophisticated at creating online content we should read. Like this from Krajik:

“The Earth’s crust is a tenuous little cloak, making up only about 1 percent of the planet’s volume. Directly below, the mantle comprises about 85 percent. While it seems solid, over time much of it behaves as a viscous fluid. Like a slowly simmering stew, material rises and falls by convection, and in some places, it melts.

This news article doubles as a news release to get people interested in the topic, the subject matter and to promote the university. It’s a thing of great joy. (Ian Mannix)

Book: The Mind of a Bee

Lars Chittka

Princeton University Press 2022.

This book is not only wonderful to hold (physically), it’s wonderful to bee-hold – read it and you’ll never slap away a bee again. Author Lars Chittka, who is a professor of sensory and behavioural ecology at Queen Mary University in London, takes us inside the intelligence of a honey bee, which he describes as “an alien from inner space.” He makes the case that bees’ brains are spontaneously active without stimuli – and he shows how they plan, memorise, explore, navigate, choose, prioritise, and communicate, and do it often in total darkness.

Bees cover

He concludes that bees have an elementary form of consciousness.

The book is much more than bees – it also explores the minds of scientists… how they think, take risks, chose projects to prove theory, and cope with disappointments and competitors.

Chittka explores philosophy too: “Is it unknowable what its actually like to be some other animal?”

You’ll get an idea of what bees are about with this Cosmos podcast, but the book will pollinate your life for many years. (Ian Mannix)

Television: Brian Cox: 7 days on Mars

ABC Iview

Brian Cox wrote to NASA when he was a boy, and they sent him some images of various planets. That was 40 years ago, and when he unfolds the well thumbed but preserved yellow government envelope to reveal its contents – which he does as he enters NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – you feel the passion and enthusiasm. The boyhood charm isn’t for everyone, nor the dramatic theatrical “Star Wars” music or the focus on great risk for great return, but inside the quiet humming facility, Cox gets to observe the Nasa Mars lander Perseverance Rover as few have ever done. He sees the spacecraft assembly facility, and how they keep Earth safe from Martians, and then trots out the back to a dusty lane with a broken down fence to a shed, where he discovers the technology being tested right now for the Mars Sample Return Mission. It’s access that explains. (Ian Mannix)

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Book: Sexus Animalis: There is Nothing Unnatural in Nature.

Emanuelle Pouydebat, illustrated by Julie Terrazzoni

The MIT Press

Sexus image

This book lay on the table for months before I was courageous enough to – gingerly – lift, and open it, like reading 50 Shades of Grey, or DH Lawrence. But after overcoming the intimidation of reading a book about animal genitalia, it was a delight. Witty, illuminating, often funny. In 30 chapters the author covers hundreds of animals and how their sex organs evolved; how they mate (and often then die); how their genitals work, how they preserve and spread their genetic material. The author acknowledges most of the book is about penises: “…which have received more attention from researchers than those of females.”

I now know about gutter penises, double penises, penises with spines, corkscrews, four headed, ones that make sounds, some which are detachable, and the biggest, longest, and largest compared to the animal size, and those with bones.

But beware, it’s probably NSFW: “Most of the time the male straddles the female, though sometimes the female rides on top. But they can assume any number of positions.” What is she talking about? Damselflies of course! The double entendres, wink wink, and anthropomorphising is highly entertaining. Just buy it for the facts. (Ian Mannix)

Book: Beyond the Hype: The inside story of Science’s Biggest Media Controversies

Fiona Fox

Elliott and Thompson


This is almost something of a brief autobiography by Fiona Fox, who describes how she might have been involved in some of the biggest science media fracas of the past 20 years. Fox established the Science Media Centre in the UK in 2002. Many science hubs, including our own Science Media Exchange in Australia, came in their wake. But the SMC in the UK is an advocate for scientists and Fox says: “We have pioneered a new approach to science in the headlines based on our founding philosophy that the media will do science better when scientists do the media better.” There’s nothing like a bit of hype in a book that goes “beyond the hype.”

It’s a rollicking good read for those who want to understand the connections between science, academia, industry, government and activism in the UK. Most of the content will be familiar outside the UK: genetically modified foods; animal activism; chronic fatigue; climategate; sexism in laboratories and of course the challenge of the pandemics.

And some good analyses of the uneasy relationship between scientists and science journalists. (Ian Mannix)

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