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Science + Technology — Analysis and Comment

Shifting from one policy to another has disrupted the NBN rollout, so how does NBN Co report its progress? Floris van Lint/Flickr

Mixed tech, mixed messages: NBN reports unravelled

NBN Co, tasked with building the National Broadband Network (NBN), yesterday released its 2014 Annual Report, showing a three-fold increase in activated premises (210,000 up from 70,000) and a doubling…
It’s likely children will come across child-unfriendly content online, regardless of parental control. ransomtech/Flickr

Kids with Google accounts: how parents can keep them safe

You might have seen reports that Google could offer children under the age of 13 years a simple and safe way to access their internet services, including Gmail and YouTube. But will this new strategy really…
The government wants your movements online to be retained by ISPs and other companies. Flickr/Envato

What metadata does the government want about you?

With the leaking of a discussion paper on telecommunications data retention, we are at last starting to get some clarity as to just what metadata the Abbott government is likely to ask telecommunications…
The dawn of a new day. Flickr/Christos Tsoumplekas

Explainer: how does our sun shine?

What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history. Given our sun is a star and stars are suns, explaining the source of the sun’s energy would help us understand why stars shine. An…
There are some massive galaxies out there, and we now know a little about their early life. Lauro Roger McAllister/Flickr

It’s about time: young galaxies were dense, intense star-makers

A piece of the galaxy formation puzzle may have fallen into place, thanks to a team of European and American astronomers peering into the depths of our early universe. According to new research published…
Watching video on your smartphone is fine during take off and landing - so long as your device is in flight mode. Flickr/colorblindPICASO

Smartphones on aircraft – what access do we really want?

Australia is playing catch up by allowing plane passengers to keep their mobile phone switched on – albeit in flight mode only – during take off and landing. But many have probably already done this. A…
Ian Macfarlane – here at the Anglo Australian Telescope in April – had science lumped in with his industry ministry. AAP/Alan Porritt

Science and the Coalition: two big policies, one year and no minister

On science and technology, the Abbott government is somewhat of a paradox. On one hand, the government passionately believes that deregulating the university sector is essential. By taking caps off fees…
Want more working memory? Then you need to expand your brain. Flickr/Elena Gatti

Brain size matters when it comes to remembering

Before we had mobile phones, people had to use their own memory to store long phone numbers (or write them down). But getting those numbers into long-term memory could be a real pain. People had to write…
When money’s tight, there’s no better time for researchers to bust out of the Ivory Tower and actively engage with the public. Nhoj Leunamme == Jhon Emmanuel/Flickr

It’s time to ditch the ‘old academic identity’ to survive funding cuts

Much has already been written about the pressure on the Australian university system due to the federal government’s planned deregulation of fees, course funding cuts and significant research funding cuts…
One of the self-drive cars already being used by Google in Nevada, in the US. EPA/Google

Self-driving cars need ‘adjustable ethics’ set by owners

One of the issues of self-driving vehicles is legal liability for death or injury in the event of an accident. If the car maker programs the car so the driver has no choice, is it likely the company could…
Facebook’s Messenger sparked the latest outrage over privacy - but should people be concerned? Flickr/Karlis Dambrans

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook…
The majority of edits to Wikipedia are done by volunteers. Flickr/mikeedesign

Paid editors on Wikipedia – should you be worried?

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people…
Professor Yonath gained inspiration from an unlikely source … hibernating bears. EPA/Brais Lorenzo

‘I consider science a luxury’: In Conversation with Ada Yonath

Israeli crystallographer Ada Yonath shared the 2009 Nobel prize in Chemistry for her work the ribosome – a protein-building structure central to life found in all living cells. Professor Yonath determined…
Tom Higham and Katerina Douka uncover evidence that early humans and Neanderthals lived alongside each other for thousands of years. Thomas Higham

Early humans lived with Neanderthal neighbours

A new study has dated the final days of the Neanderthals and found they lived at the same time as the earliest modern humans in Europe. Rather than seeing Neanderthals suddenly vanish at the time modern…
The Great White North is about as similar to Australia as any other country … so why don’t we follow their lead? Winston Wong/Flickr

For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

You might have seen communications minister Malcolm Turnbull raising the issue about Australian press not discussing policy problems and solutions from overseas, in a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute…
Australia’s southern grass skink gives birth to live young and a valuable species for understanding placenta evolution. Jacquie Herbert

Lizards help us find out which came first: the baby or the egg?

Have you ever wondered why we give birth to live young rather than lay eggs? Scientists have pondered this for a long time and answers have come from an unlikely source: some of Australia’s lizards and…
Will anyone jump on the Tesla patent bandwagon? raneko/Flickr

Where’s the real value in Tesla’s patent pledge?

With the much-anticipated arrival next month of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla’s Model S to Australian shores, it’s a good time to revisit Tesla’s pledge to freely share patents. Elon Musk, co-founder…
If you debate with trolls you soon learn some of their tactics. Flickr/Kenny Louie

What I learned from debating science with trolls

I often like to discuss science online and I’m also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably…
Passport officers had to decide if a person facing them was the same as the one pictured in the identity card. In this case, yes. David White

Passport staff miss one in seven fake ID checks

Staff responsible for issuing passports are no better than the average person at identifying if someone is holding a fake passport photo, my colleagues and I report in a study published in PLOS ONE today…
Chris Hadfield spent nearly five months on the International Space Station. NASA

Speaking with astronaut Chris Hadfield

Colonel Chris Hadfield is one of the most famous astronauts on Earth. Through the creative use of social media, he’s made space exciting and accessible to new generations of enthusiasts, most notably through…
Concrete sewers such as this are suffering corrosion partly because of the chemical used to remove particles that cause cloudiness from drinking water. Oliver Sved

Crumbling sewers are linked to drinking water treatment

Australian sewers are being corroded partly because of an additive used in the drinking water treatment process. In some cases the lifetime of concrete pipes is being reduced by up to 90%. But much of…