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Science + Technology — Analysis and Comment

US Army scientists analyse unknown samples to determine whether hazardous. That’s typical of research trying to understand the unknowns and expand on our knowledge. Flickr/US Army RDECOM

Why research beats anecdote in our search for knowledge

UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH: What do we actually mean by research and how does it help inform our understanding of things? We begin today by looking at the origins of research. It is comforting to feel like…
What data from telcos and tech companies does the government want handed over? Flickr/Nic McPhee

When does Google hand over your data to governments?

Governments around the world want to know a lot about who we are and what we’re doing online and they want communications companies to help them find it. We don’t know a lot about when companies hand over…
The term ‘creationist’ can encompass many types, each with their own beliefs. Logan Campbell/Flickr

Categories of creationists … and their views on science

John Long provoked a comments barrage on The Conversation last week after defending the theory of evolution in the face of creationist views. Unfortunately, while some of the comments were thoughtful…
Gemini North observatory, on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, shoots a laser beam into the night sky to create an ‘artificial star’, part of a process that helps astronomers remove blurring from any images of galaxies. Gemini Observatory and Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

Laser helps find supermassive black hole in a small galaxy

A supermassive black hole has been found in an ultracompact dwarf galaxy – the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive black hole. This finding, published today in Nature, suggests that supermassive…
Over time, Earth’s plates went from static to dynamic. Modestas Jonauskas/Flickr

What a crack up: hefty continents got tectonic plates moving

Plate tectonics – the large-scale movement of Earth’s lithosphere or outer layers – started around three billion years ago, but how those movements started was a bit of a mystery – until today. With colleagues…
The Gibraltar Museum says scratched patterns found in the Gorham’s Cave, in Gibraltar, are believed to be more than 39,000 years old, dating back to the times of the Neanderthals. EPA/Stewart Finlayson

Is that rock hashtag really the first evidence of Neanderthal art?

There has been much excitement over recent reports that something found in a cave in Gibraltar is the first known example of Neanderthal art. But what exactly has been found, can it be believed and, if…
‘The way in which we express the awesomeness of science is far too muted.’ Screenshot/ABC

Passion, patience and persistence are needed by today’s scientists

Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb appeared on the first all-science Q&A panel on the ABC last night with Suzanne Cory, Peter Doherty, Brian Schmidt and Marita Cheng. Here he outlines a disconnect…
An image of Australian shearers taken on glass plate negative is now preserved in a digital collection. Powerhouse Museum Collection/Flickr

Historic collections could be lost to ‘digital dinosaurs’

Australian’s museums, galleries and other cultural institutions must adopt more of a digital strategy with their collections if they are to remain relevant with audiences. Only about a quarter of the collections…
If some foods weird out your taste buds, read on to see if you fall in the ‘supertaster’ quarter of the population. parkydoodles/Flickr (cropped)

Abhor asparagus and can’t stand coffee? You may be a supertaster

There are natural variations between humans in our senses. We need different prescriptions to correct our eyesight. Some people say that vinyl sounds better than CDs or MP3s and will pay big money for…
Your voice can now be your password – well, for the ATO anyway. Martin playing with pixels.../Flickr (cropped)

You’re the voice – the science behind speaker recognition tech

You may have read reports that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has introduced voiceprint technology which aims to do away with cumbersome identity-verification processes on the telephone. When you phone…
After a nine-match winning streak, Richmond lost to Port Adelaide by 57 points in last week’s elimination final. AAP/David Mariuz

How finals fever can make a footy player better – or worse

The AFL final series – with the semi-finals starting today – is one of the most ferocious and toughest contests we will see in Australian sport. Behind the scenes, there is no doubt a fair percentage of…
Evolution is still the favoured theory, according to fossil records. Flickr/Brent Danley

Life on Earth still favours evolution over creationism

Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, first published in 1859, offered a bold new explanation for how animals and plants diversified and still serves as the foundation underpinning all medical and biological…
Some of the debris from the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash site. EPA/Jerry Lampen

Damage to the cockpit gives a clue to loss of flight MH17

Investigations into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have revealed the aircraft’s cockpit was punctured by a number of “high-energy objects”. The Dutch Safety Board has revealed the findings…
You could soon say goodbye to credit cards and cash – no need to burn them, though. ~lauren/Flickr

Apple Pay heralds a new, safe era of cashless convenience

Mobile payment systems have been around for years without gaining much traction, but this might be about to change with the release of the iPhone 6’s Apple Pay. This latest iPhone uses near field communication…
First in line Jason Ray (left) and Moon Ray (right) line up outside the Apple Store in New York, ready for the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6. EPA/John Taggart

All kneel at the temple of Apple’s latest technology

Just as with all the earlier versions of the iPhone, rumours abound about what Apple will announce this week in relation to iPhone 6 – new screens, different sizes, powerful chips, faster processing and…
There’s no one universal ‘intelligence gene’ but many thousands each contributing a small increment – and here are three. Andrew Huff/Flickr (cropped)

Intelligence inheritance – three genes that add to your IQ score

Intelligence, cognitive ability or cognitive performance is usually measured by a battery of tests that aim to quantify skills such as memory and analytical ability. There is loads of variation between…
Scientists can be victims of sexual abuse from their peers just as in any institution. Minerva Studio

We need to talk about the sexual abuse of scientists

The life sciences have come under fire recently with a study published in PLOS ONE that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments. The…
There’s definitely room for improvement in night-vision goggle technology – and graphene could make a huge contribution. UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr

Looking at the future through graphene goggles

Graphene – an atom-thick sheet of carbon – has been touted as a new wonder material: it is stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than copper. In the journal Nature Nanotechnology today, my…
Those who’ve had their digital privacy violated should have legal rights too. Reid Rosenberg/Flickr

It’s time for privacy invasion to be a legal wrong

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) yesterday recommended introducing new laws that would give a legal remedy for serious invasions of privacy. Unfortunately, the federal government has already…