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Science + Technology — Analysis and Comment

Getting to grips with Domino’s square pizzas is easy with a bit of algebra. Robyn Lee/Flickr

Domino’s square pizza is value for money – with the right toppings

Consider a standard pizza box containing a standard circular pizza. How much more would you be willing to pay for a square pizza that filled the box? Clearly the square pizza contains more pizza: but is…
Remote households trying to telecommute rely on satellite connections to high-speed broadband – which sometimes don’t work. AnnieAnniePancake/Flickr

NBN benefits regional centres, but rural Australia is still left wanting

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated the importance of the National Broadband Network (NBN) for regional and rural Australia in an address to the NBN Rebooted conference in Sydney last week…
Protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, after the Monday evening announcement of no charges over a teenager’s killing. EPA/Tannen Maury

Timing of the Ferguson case may have made the riots worse

The announcement Monday evening in the US that there would be no charges against a policeman over the shooting of a teenager is puzzling and already the target of critique. It’s not just the decision itself…
We know different coloured plates can affect how food ‘tastes’ … and now we know that the same applies to coffee. Esti Alvarez/Flickr

Bitter coffee today? Try changing the colour of your cup

In Australia, around a billion cups of coffee a year are consumed in cafés, restaurants and other outlets. Even Britain, a nation famous for its fondness for tea, has in recent years seen a dramatic rise…
They’re waterproof and tough – not to mention colourful – but plastic notes were developed for their unforgeability. Lis Ferla/Flickr

Proceeds of crime: how polymer banknotes were invented

Welcome to CSIRO Inventions, a series looking at the discoveries and innovations borne from Australia’s national science agency. In this first instalment, we outline the story behind the plastic money…
Artist’s impression of a sunset on the planet Gliese 667Cc. While that planet is likely not an ideal target, we will discover planets far more like our own. ESO/L. Calçada

Exo-Earths and the search for life elsewhere: a brief history

The criteria for life on other planets is the focus of the 4th Australian Exoplanet Workshop, hosted by the University of Southern Queensland this week. The first in this series on exoplanets looks at…
When the sun sets on Patriot, what will spy agencies do? Roving Eye 365/Flickr

Freedom Act denied … so what happens when Patriot expires?

Last week a proposal called the Freedom Act was defeated in the US Senate. The Freedom Act was to restrict whole-of-population collection of communications data which is currently permitted under the Patriot…
Tractors may have revolutionised farming but to protect biosecurity, farmers could do with some extra help. Ben McLeod/Flickr

Go with the grain: technology to help farmers protect crops

New technology to tackle biosecurity challenges down the track is one of the five megatrends identified in today’s CSIRO report Australia’s Biosecurity Future: preparing for future biological challenges…
No longer restricted to elite athletes, personal fitness data can be collected from people jogging, going to the gym – even sleeping. Josh Janssen/Flickr

Fitness tracking data in courts – persuasive, but not conclusive

Beyond simply counting steps, fitness tracking technology creates personal black boxes that archive everything we do – even sleeping. So it’s not surprising to see that a Calgary law firm, representing…
Listening in to a conversation can be easy if you have the right code in place. A. Strakey/Flickr

Sound advice – a new way to eavesdrop on Nexus phones

You don’t have to look far to see how many ways criminals can exploit mobile devices for nefarious purposes. From simple phishing scams to creating fake Wi-Fi networks, the methods in which data can be…
Webcams have been made public because their passwords weren’t changed from the default. Flickr/Cory Doctorow

How to keep the world’s eyes out of your webcam

There are concerns that thousands of private webcams around the world could be streaming live images to anybody who wishes to view them – without their owner knowing – thanks to a Russian website providing…
Warmer waters heading south – here’s sunrise off Manly in New South Wales. Flickr/Jeff Turner

Things warm up as the East Australian Current heads south

Occasional erratic bursts southward of the East Australian Current (EAC) are thought to have moderated the weather of south-east Australia this autumn and winter and they continue to introduce tropical…
As the leaders were meeting at G20 the tweeters were tweeting their own thoughts on the global summit. Flickr/Palazzo Chigi

From selfies to climate change: the #G20 debate on Twitter

The G20 Summit that brought many of the world’s most important leaders to Brisbane last weekend was also a major Twitter event. Australian and international users expressed their concerns over the appearance…
A woman stands outside a makeshift toilet built by a resident of a slum colony based on the bank of the Yamuna River, India. Flickr/Gates Foundation

Providing the toilets people want will help Clean India’s campaign

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has wowed audiences in Australia during his recent visit and used the occasion to remind people of his plan to provide a toilet at home for all Indians by 2019. The…
Rosetta deploys the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam

The Rosetta lander detects organic matter: the seeds of life?

Scientists working with data sent back by the now-slumbering Philae lander have announced the discovery of organic molecules on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Finding organic compounds on 67P’s surface…
If you get lost in the bush, you might be found by a flying robot, such as this one. UAV Challenge

Robots in the skies: how Outback Joe was found and rescued

Lost and thirsty in the Australian bush, Outback Joe waited eight years. And finally, in September this year, he was found – by a flying robot. Outback Joe is not a real person, but for a week each September…
Tassie devils in the wild are prone to the transmissible cancer. Flickr/roger smith

Tassie devil facial tumour is a transmissible cancer

On Monday this week The Conversation published a story under the headline “What’s killing Tassie devils if it isn’t contagious cancer?” The article suggested evidence that the Tasmanian devil facial tumour…
Philae’s first panorama shows a 360 degree view around the point of final touchdown. Superimposed is a sketch of what the lander team believes is Philae’s configuration. ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Sleep now for Rosetta’s comet probe after a bouncy landing

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) pioneering Rosetta mission to land on a comet has been wildly successful, but now it appears that part of its aim, the exploration of the surface by the little Philae…
Look beyond tinfoil hats – the most dangerous pseudoscience comes from scientists. B Rosen/Flickr

Scientists can learn from pseudoscience … that’s a fact

Scientists should study pseudoscience – see what the pseudoscientists are up to and perhaps (for a laugh) try a few pseudostudies themselves. Critically, scientists must learn what really distinguishes…
A reduction over the years in rider deaths in horse racing means further tragedies could be prevented. Flickr/Tsutomu Takasu

We need to prevent further jockey deaths in horse racing

Horse racing claimed the lives of three jockeys recently – two in Australia and one in the United States – and some prominent industry professionals have openly claimed that deaths in racing are part of…