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Science + Technology — Analysis and Comment

Get ready for another update of Windows. Flickr/Jake Rains

Why is Microsoft dropping support for Windows 8.1?

In a move certain to raise the ire of users of Microsoft’s Windows operating system the software giant has announced that next month it will cease support for Windows 8.1. But that operating system is…
We live in a ‘wide brown land’ – but we need to figure out how to use it sustainably. Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr

Groundbreaking earth sciences for a smart – and lucky – country

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
We still have so much to learn about Aboriginal history and culture. Shutterstock/John Austin

Aboriginal people – how to misunderstand their science

Just one generation ago Australian schoolkids were taught that Aboriginal people couldn’t count beyond five, wandered the desert scavenging for food, had no civilisation, couldn’t navigate and peacefully…
Spoiler alert: the Easter Bunny isn’t real. So how does it affect children when they find out their parents have been lying to them for years? Cordey/Flickr

The Easter Bunny tale: fun fiction or harmful myth?

All around the world many parents are preparing for Easter – possibly thinking of how Easter eggs will be hidden, how they will explain their delivery and perhaps bracing themselves for some challenging…
Distilling serious health issues – such as inflammatory proteins (in purple) in type 2 diabetes – into easy-to-understand concepts is made easier using animation. WEHI.TV/screenshot

Animating life: bringing science to the YouTube generation

Telling science stories often involves explaining complex interactions between a cast of molecular “actors”, on a set smaller than the wavelength of light, so scientists are increasingly using animation…
An unmanned Bluefin-21 of the type used in the underwater search for MH370. EPA/Leut Kelli Lunt/Australian Department of Defense

Searching underwater for MH370 is a shot in the dark

The ongoing search for missing flight MH370 has shown how finding objects such as debris on the ocean is difficult, but finding them underwater in the deep ocean is much more challenging. As of Tuesday…
Is that you, dad? SBS documentary questions oft-quoted figures on dads who are not the real father of their children. Shutterstock

What are the chances that your dad isn’t your father?

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But…
The explosive eruption of Sarychev Volcano, on Russia’s Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan, seen from the International Space Station. Flickr/NASA Goddard

Crater creator uses explosions to find the secrets of volcanoes

You can learn a lot about volcanoes by studying explosions. The more we can learn about their explosive behaviour, the more chance we have of saving lives when they suddenly erupt. There are many volcanoes…
Look into the future … what do you see for CSIRO, should its funding be reduced? griraffes/Flickr

Scrimp now, pay later: CSIRO cuts could stifle long-term research

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, is said to be preparing for cuts of up to 20% of government funding – that’s around A$150…
Frustrated by battery drain? A new superfast charger is still a couple of years off … but it’ll be more environmentally friendly than the toxic batteries we use today. rpavich/Flickr

Peptide power: the science behind the 30-second phone charger

If you’re one of the thousands of smartphone users experiencing battery drain, you’d have been pleased to read that Tel Aviv-based start-up StoreDot recently unveiled a prototype charger that fully charges…
The European Court of Justice has given data retention the thumbs down … but it’s still on the table Down Under. B Rosen/Flickr

Europe says no to data retention, so why is it an option in Australia?

There has been plenty of technology-related legal activity in the European Union this month. Last week the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled that data retention regulations, as they currently stand…
Does Heartbleed expose flaws in the way some security-critical software is developed? Flickr/Kaleenxian

How the Heartbleed bug reveals a flaw in online security

The Heartbleed bug that’s potentially exposed the personal and financial data of millions of people stored online has also exposed a hole in the way some security software is developed and used. The bug…
Male orb-web spiders are dwarfed by their female counterparts, but they can maximise success if they don’t mate indiscriminately. Brian Gratwicke/Flickr

Tiny male spiders can get a leg over – as long as they’re picky

Males will mate with anything. Well, that is the general view, one that exists because of a simple biological underpinning: females are reproductively limited by costly gestation, while males are only…
The Black Box flight data recorders from the 2005 fatal aircraft accident near Lockhart River, Qld, arrive at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Canberra. AAP/News Ltd/Ray Strange

What a black box can tell us about missing flight MH370

As the search continues for wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane it’s probable that answers surrounding the mystery of flight MH370 will not be available until the recorders are recovered…
According to a US court, ‘free speech’ means internet search engines can choose what they allow to show up and filter out. Brian J. Matis/Flickr

Baidu’s perfect paradox: free speech and the right to censor

China’s biggest search engine has a constitutional right to filter its search results, a US court found last month. But that’s just the start of the story. Eight New York-based pro-democracy activists…
Neurons make for good tattoos, but neurodegenerative disorders need urgent action. LianaAn/Flickr

A healthy future? Let’s put medical science under the microscope

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
The Large Magellanic Cloud (right) visible in the southern sky is a nearby galaxy to our own. Flickr/Tracey Harrison Hill

Darwin meets Newton: evolution and the mass of the galaxy

If the solution to a problem does not reveal itself straight away then why not let your initial guesswork evolve? That’s the approach we’ve taken in trying to determine the mass of our galaxy by mapping…
If the deal is sealed, ISPs will no longer be able to dictate which of their customers get faster service – well, in Europe anyway. redCreative~/Flickr

Europe votes for a ‘neutral net’ … but what does that mean?

Yesterday the European Parliament had an historic vote on the issue of “net neutrality”, and became the largest bloc in the world to affirm this open internet principle. This was part of a law on communications…