Connections: your monthly look at what books, news releases, festivals and blogs are interesting the 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

  • Goldfish in the Parlour: The Victorian Craze for Marine Life.
  • By John Simons
  • Book and e-book. 359 pages
  • Sydney University Press
Goldfish image

When you go on holidays and want some pleasant reading, take this little paperback, a wonderfully written insight into a brief window of Victorian era history which is both fascinating, and important for our understanding of human-animal relations. It’s also a bit Dickensian.

“For the first time, fish became our companions and a corner of many a Victorian parlour was given over to housing tiny fragments of their world enclosed in glass.”

The book actually begins with Obaysch, a hippopotamus being displayed at London Zoo, but it was quickly surpassed in popularity by the fish aquariums which opened in 1853.

To get an idea of Simon’s writing style, read the introduction: “Most of the work was done in Tasmania while we were largely virus free and lived lives which were very different from those lived almost anywhere else in the world. But the signs told us there was no room for complacency. A shark jumped up and pulled a child from a boat and two sharks attacked people in the inshore waters of our island where no sharks have been known before. Nearly five hundred whales were stranded on our west coast. Yellow-bellied sea snakes were seen swimming off our coast – much further south than their usual range. If I were writing this in sixteenth-century England, I’d see these events as monstrous portents and signs that the world is diseased”

 Simons points out the experience of seeing a fish swimming in a glass tank is one we take for granted now but in Victorian England this was a remarkable. People had simply not been able to see fish as they now could with the invention of the aquarium and everything that went with it. But first they had to learn how to keep the water fresh. (IM)

  • The Power of Trees: How ancient forests can save us if we let them.
  • Peter Wohlleben
  • Book and e-book. 271 pages
  • Blackinc books

We know forests remove CO2 from the air – but they do much more and this unusual, almost personal narrative, explains it all in understandable prose. For example: “Generally speaking soils are the largest land-based carbon systems. They store more than all the plants and atmospheres combined” is the sort of detail to add to facts to transform debates. Peter Wohlleben has been dancing with forests in Germany his whole life, and while he focusses on those areas, his research is global: He deals, for example, with Australian researcher Christopher Dean who discovered old trees literally protect carbon, and they guard it so well that up until now their role has been mostly overlooked. “The team was working in a primeval eucalyptus forest…they discovered about four times as much carbon (under the tree) as in the ground between the trees.” (IM)

The death of open acce

Many in the publishing and science communication industry will be caught by the headline which speculates on the possible upending of the scientific journal publishing standard. It’s a great backgrounder to the contemporary industry and unveils insights like the connection between universities and publishing houses, which, frankly, must be an unresolved conflict of interest.

The high level interest though is summarised in the final sentence: “…AI-assisted quality vetting, this may be the right time to separate the less rigorously authenticated publications from the herd.”

Timely and interesting. (IM)

Pint logo
  • Nationwide 22-24 May, 2023

Poetry, folk music, even heavy metal (Hi university bars) sounds different with a beer, so, it’s not surprising that science has its place in a pub too. There are six main categories of topics:

  • Atoms to Galaxies: physics, chemistry, maths and astronomy
  • Beautiful Mind: neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry
  • Our Body: medicine, human biology and health
  • Our Society: law, history, politics, policy and languages
  • Planet Earth: geosciences, botany and zoology
  • Tech Me Out: biotechnology, robotics and computers

They are right now collecting expressions of interest for both volunteers and speakers. If you have any questions, get in touch.


This Facebook page gives parents in Adelaide a place to find activities for their kids and discuss issues has a fossil get in it.

Parents have decided the theme of a playground in this seaside suburb will relate to the bones of an extinct diprotodon found at the site before most of them were born – 1992. Kids will be able to climb all over the beast. In Mid March our Cosmos Weekly publication looked at dinosaurs in the tourism landscape. This is another way of bringing science to the widest possible audience, which is what our parent, The Royal Institution of Australia, is all about.

  • Sky Country
  • By Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli
  • Book. 195 pages
  • Thames and Hudson Australia
Sky country 1

Sky Country is a gift given by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli. They lay out their own personal story in the first chapter – both of them have suffered the kind of hardships and trauma that most of white Australia will never experience.

Then much of the rest of the book provides a detailed map of indigenous sky knowledge. It feels like being given a book of secret information reserved only for those in Australia whose ancestors have walked the lands for 60,000 years.

Towards the end there’s the reason why they are sharing this with us – they highlight the erosion of our dark skies across the world – a huge problem and one that needs a collective solution. Last, there’s a powerful chapter about integrating indigenous knowledge into both science and classrooms.

This book should be a must read for those interested in astrology, and feels like a book as powerful as Dark Emu. Noon and De Napoli should be proud of writing this important work. (JB)

Science journalism in good hands? This article which is not by-lined, contains more surprises than a quantum computer can deal with. It’s a profile bio about PhD student Kai Wang, but the insight which suggests science journalism is in an okay place, comes from this sentence: “His snapshot is taken by a camera that doesn’t have a lens. Instead it has metasurface, a flat piece of glass with an intricate pattern of tiny rectangular pillars carved into its silicon surface. The structures are smaller than the wavelength of light and are carefully designed to reveal the quantum image.” (IM)

Quantum photo
PhD student Kai Wang

Writing in Nature, Ho sums up the problems with direct air capture of carbon dioxide.

“The scale of the challenge is immense. We must slow the carbon clock to a crawl before we can turn it back.”

David T. Ho

This detail in this item might shape Cosmos Science enquiries around direct carbon capture for some time. We need it; we aren’t spending enough to develop it; it might be an excuse not to reduce emissions.

David T. Ho is a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


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