A simple swab to make a world of difference

Cervical cancer is unique: it’s the one cancer that can be almost entirely prevented through a combination of vaccination and screening. We call vaccination “primary prevention” – it stops you ever getting infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). We call screening “secondary prevention” – it allows you to prevent the development of cancer even though … Continue reading A simple swab to make a world of difference

Heading for Mars? Not until a lot of work on novel space materials is completed

“This is space. It does not cooperate.” This quote – by stranded astronaut Mark Watney in The Martian – encapsulates the challenge of the new era of space industry and the NASA-led journey back to the Moon and on to Mars, known as Project Artemis. The Martian demonstrated – at least through literature and cinema … Continue reading Heading for Mars? Not until a lot of work on novel space materials is completed

Premonition, seizures and memory: the strange phenomenon of déjà vu

It’s fair to say that Dr Anne Cleary, a professor at Colorado State University, never intended to study déjà vu. Cleary is a cognitive psychologist and was studying memory when she read Dr Alan Brown’s book The Déjà Vu Experience in 2004. In his book, Brown called on scientists to evaluate existing theories of déjà … Continue reading Premonition, seizures and memory: the strange phenomenon of déjà vu

The art (and science) of procrastination

Back in March, my mother called from Poland to ask if I could paint a particular sunset scene for her sister. I’d recently put up a work-in-progress photo on my Instagram account of a painting I’d been commissioned to make as an engagement present for a friend, and my aunt, upon seeing it, instantly became … Continue reading The art (and science) of procrastination

Shark-bait tourism

Three hours off the coast of South Australia, in the remote and rugged Neptune Islands, white sharks gather. These apex predators are drawn to these offshore islands near Port Lincoln by fur seals, thousands of which form breeding colonies in the islands’ rocky coves. And, in turn, humans are drawn to the Neptunes to dive … Continue reading Shark-bait tourism

Redlining the robots

Around the same time that Isaac Asimov published his short story introducing the laws of robotics in 1942, the world’s first nuclear reactor was being built under the viewing stands of a football field at the University of Chicago. There had been some misgivings about initiating a chain reaction in the middle of a densely … Continue reading Redlining the robots

AI: is it starting to speak our language?

When someone once commented on the obvious African influences in his paintings, Pablo Picasso famously said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Programmers practise a similar kind of predation – like magpies, a good programmer will feather their nests with the shiniest bits that they can spy. And with a good search engine, well, there’s … Continue reading AI: is it starting to speak our language?

New laws to prevent space wars?

The week before last, a UN panel approved the creation of a working group to discuss next-generation laws to prevent the militarisation of space. The move comes as space 2.0 seems to be going into hyper-drive, with countries and corporations racing to claim their stake in the final frontier. It’s timely, as the potential for … Continue reading New laws to prevent space wars?

COVID Frontline: Letter from Auckland

I own a busy main street café in an affluent suburb of Auckland with my husband, his sister, and her husband. On 28 February 2020, New Zealand recorded its first COVID-19 case, and we were moved to Alert Level 2 on 21 March. With no real guidance of how to operate, we attempted to socially … Continue reading COVID Frontline: Letter from Auckland

The real dirt on carbon farming

Soil carbon’s role in reducing Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions is critical to the federal government’s plan for the nation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Estimates based on CSIRO data suggest that between 35 million and 90 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent could be stored annually through soil carbon sequestration – drawing carbon from the … Continue reading The real dirt on carbon farming

Feeling the heat

I decided to look at heatwaves around the time of the Angry Summer, back in 2012–13. Heatwaves were starting to occur globally that were unprecedented, but back then there was no real way of measuring them. We’ve come a long way since then. Using inspiration from other studies, I proposed a framework, but I also … Continue reading Feeling the heat

Meet the new chief: Nicole Webster’s journey from the tropics to Antarctica

By training, Dr Nicole Webster is an expert in tropical marine ecosystems. She’s spent much of her career researching coral reefs – but this year, her life took a cool turn when she was appointed the new chief scientist of the Australian Antarctic Division. “While I’m a really passionate researcher, and I absolutely love the … Continue reading Meet the new chief: Nicole Webster’s journey from the tropics to Antarctica