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Living with Bushfires

I choose to live in an area of high bushfire risk. I'm not alone, many of my fellow Australians live in similar areas on the margins of our cities or in country and rural areas. As the weather turns and we approach the bushfire season, I thought I should outline ... Continue Reading »

Riding Light – The Science of Solar Sails

‘Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether’ - Johann Kepler, Astronomer (1571 –1630) The silver sail unfurled and stretched taut as it was filled by the solar wind. Flown by the sun like a kite, LightSail-A glided through the air and began its sightseeing tour from Earth’s orbit. ... Continue Reading »

How do we Taste?

Taste – It can evoke intense emotions in us from utter disgust through to elated pleasure. This is due to our ability to distinguish five basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and the more recently discovered flavour known as umami. These tastes are detected by the cells on the tongue ... Continue Reading »

Why Do We Need Sleep?

Humans spend, on average, about a third of their lives sleeping. Logically, this seems like a massive waste of time, and a dangerous one too, since sleeping leaves us vulnerable and unaware of what's going on around us. You'd think we would be much better off if humans ... Continue Reading »

The Role of Tannins in Wine

You may remember the classic prank of betting someone that they cannot swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon. If you were ever unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of this bet you will no doubt recall a feeling like your jaw has seized up entirely, wired shut almost. You ... Continue Reading »

Medicine’s Future Runs on Electricity

A message from our partner Imagine taking a medicine without swallowing a pill or having an injection. A treatment that instead works by implanting a miniaturised electronic device, smaller than a grain of rice, into your body. It sounds like science fiction, but research into bioelectronic medicine is happening now. It’s ... Continue Reading »

Spacious

A few years ago, thanks to RiAus, I had the incredible experience of meeting astronaut Andy Thomas. Last week, I got to see Chris Hadfield in action. I took my Mum with me to see Chris. Her head is still in the stars, as ... Continue Reading »

Sweet Science

There really is nothing quite like sharing a lovely homemade cake with family and friends on birthdays or just as a weekend treat. Many of us first got introduced to cake baking as kids; watching our mothers or grandmothers bake and waiting for that moment when you were allowed to ... Continue Reading »

Drake’s Equation

Our fascination with extraterrestrial life is long-standing. Hollywood has successfully created an entire genre based on this fascination including hits such as Alien, E.T. and Men in Black. The recent discovery of Earth 2.0, also known as Kepler 452b, has once again brought to the forefront our fascination with ... Continue Reading »

The Thinking Years

When I think back on my years as a post graduate student, I realise that I had it all wrong. Prior to that time, all through my high school and undergraduate education, I saw getting a PhD as the pinnacle, the peak of achievement and the end of a fabulous ... Continue Reading »

What’s In a Beard?

A beard is more than a golden ticket into the Secret Men’s Society, granting guys the right to the Knowing Nod when passing their bearded comrades. The manliness projected by a beard, however, is not merely subjective. Charles Darwin suggested, in his book The Descent of Man, that beards, including ... Continue Reading »

Why do Humans Breastfeed?

All mammals breastfeed their young. This process is time-consuming and cumbersome, so why did it evolve? Current theory says that it developed as a way to rapidly develop a complex immune system in infants. As time went on, breastfeeding benefits became more complex- the concentration of nutrients in the mother’s ... Continue Reading »

The Animals of Antarctica

The animals of Antarctica have always held a special fascination for me. For someone who can’t handle the cold and is more likely to hibernate like many northern species of animal, our southern friends fascinate me like no other. It would even be amazing to visit them someday… if I ... Continue Reading »

New Clear Thinking on Risky Business

The future will always be a risky business. Decisions we make today will shape the world we build tomorrow. So how do we manage the risks of the future within our planning today? Risk is perhaps the most difficult concept to communicate because what you make of it depends heavily on ... Continue Reading »

Life on the Seven Seas

Everything is affected by climate change. From the mountains to the bottom of the ocean, our every action can have an impact on the world around us. The 25zero campaign helps to highlight the impact through the loss of our snow-capped mountains along the equator. But it’s not ... Continue Reading »

Shake Your Tail Feather

Animal sex is great. No wait… that came out wrong. Let me start again. There is nothing quite as weird as sex in the animal world. It’s an ever-giving fountain of fascinating material if you like the strange side of science. Here are some of my favourites. Do you have a favourite ... Continue Reading »

World Hepatitis Day 2015

Hepatitis has been a hot topic recently due to the identification and recall of Nanna’s frozen berry products as they were contaminated with the hepatitis A virus. The severity of viral hepatitis or the impact of this disease on our community is however not widely known. So ... Continue Reading »

Turmeric – The Super Root

Turmeric, the bright yellow spice (often referred to as the Indian saffron) is widely used in curries to get that gorgeous yellow colour and mild peppery taste. It is isolated from the root Curcuma longa, and belongs to the same family as ginger. Often used as a spice and ... Continue Reading »

An Apple A Day

Apples are amazing. Here’s why: Where would we be without the humble apple? Apple pie, apple sauce, apple fritters, apple cider… Lots of us grew up with an apple in our lunchbox, but the story of our relationship with apples started long before primary school. The apple tree is thought to have ... Continue Reading »

When The Media Get It Wrong

I was on the verge of spluttering my muesli across the living room all because of a report spewing from the ABC Breakfast program. “New research challenges Darwinian Evolution” is probably not a phrase that would invoke reflux in most people but to an evolutionary biologist and professional science communicator, ... Continue Reading »

Willie Wonders Why

‘The Braggs’ are a big deal in South Australia. There are busts on the main street, a very fancy, new building named after them at the University of Adelaide and even a beautiful children's book about their accomplishments. Even RiAus gets caught up in ... Continue Reading »

What is Chronic Pain?

The inability to feel pain is not a superpower. Bee stings, bruises, burns and bumps usually cause sudden pain and that’s a good thing. Short term, or acute pain, is a warning message that tells us to modify our behaviour and protect ourselves from further injury. So if ... Continue Reading »

What Causes Pain?

“Can you tell me how bad your pain is? On a scale of 0 - 10, where 10 is the worst pain you’ve ever felt, and 0 is no pain at all?” Have you ever had to answer this question? What is the worst pain you’ve experienced? Some people ... Continue Reading »

Exploring the History and Culture of Indigenous Australians

In modern Australia - different is good. For the most part, we celebrate our differences (cultures/beliefs/lifestyles) and encourage individuality. Recently, researchers from the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University have used DNA obtained from a 100-year old Aboriginal male’s lock of hair to show that Aboriginal Australians ... Continue Reading »

Native Title

Native title claims in Australia are met with a number of reactions; fear, confusion, misunderstanding, support or admiration, it is a tricky area with a lot of legal and social implications to the greater public. But, that doesn’t really explain what they actually are and the process. So settle in, ... Continue Reading »

I’m Waking On Sunshine

Your consciousness has been altered, replaced with a series of cryptic, sometimes harrowing hallucinations, all five of your senses are been hindered and the action of moving once-voluntary muscles has become utterly impossible… It sounds like a scene out of a dystopian sci-fi movie but in fact, humans on average spend ... Continue Reading »

What’s New Pussy Cat?

There’s a good chance that right now some of the readers of this blog are procrastinating from other tasks. I’m not one to judge, this is the fourth fifth time I’ve tried to write this article but keep putting it off. But good on you for choosing to read ... Continue Reading »

Cyanobacteria – The Photosynthesis Pioneer

Express your creativity! Celebrate the International Year of Light by entering our Sci-ku competition! From a bird’s eye view, algal blooms look both alien and beautiful. Luminescent tendrils of green that fringe the coastline, swirled against the deep blue of the ocean. Algal blooms are commonly caused by Cyanobacteria ... Continue Reading »

Ophidiophobia

One of my parent’s favourite stories is about when I was a child and they took me to the reptile park. We followed the nice reptile man around and watched him feed all of the snakes. And then we got to the Death Adder. I was two, twenty years on ... Continue Reading »

What is COP21?

Today marks 150 days until COP21, and the start of RiAus’ journey with Tim Jarvis; 25zero. Needless to say, we’re all REALLY excited about the next few months as we go on a virtual journey with Tim across the equator. But it does raise the question, what is ... Continue Reading »

What is Dark Matter?

Before I started researching this blog I thought I would hazard a guess as to what dark matter is. In fact I’m sure I know already, based on my excessive consumption of Sci-Fi books I probably have enough knowledge to get a PhD in spacey-sciency stuff (OK so maybe I’m ... Continue Reading »

Pompeii

Volcanoes are such astonishing works of nature, in a moment they can completely recreate the world around us. Volcanic eruptions destroy the land around them and can relocate thousands of people in a day. And they are erupting all of the time; just here in Australia ... Continue Reading »

Blowing Away Reason

If you like this, then you should tune into ABC radio every second Thursday to hear Paul discuss science (and whatever else he's interested in). Last week I got very angry simply because of what I was hearing on the telly. In an interview crossbench Senator ... Continue Reading »

Humans and Hypergravity

This February, Italian scientists published data indicating that nerve cells can be grown faster and longer when experiencing hypergravity. Hypergravity is an increase in g-force, which you experience on theme park rides when you’re held to the sides of a spinning cylinder. Microgravity is a decrease in g-force, ... Continue Reading »

Cars on Mars

Mars has been in the media a lot lately, whether it’s because there are plans to fly people there in the next 20 years, or because of the chance that it may be hospitable to humans, The Red Planet has gained a lot of attention. And so it ... Continue Reading »

Sex in Space

If you like this, then you should tune into Weird Science on FiveAA on June 25th 2015 at 2:30pm and every second Thursday after that to hear Ben discuss weird science! Last week the international porn site PornHub announced a crowdfunding campaign to film the first zero-gravity space porno. ... Continue Reading »

Dinoversity

Like dinosaurs? Come to our event Dinosaurs on the Big Screen! You can watch Jurassic World and our exclusive premiere of RiAus documentary, Dinosaurs on the Big Screen. Dinosauria lived on earth for approximately 135 million years, until the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago. Our understanding ... Continue Reading »

World Blood Donor Day

It’s World Blood Donor Day on the 14th of June, and this year the World Health Foundation are celebrating donors for their role in life-saving procedures. One in thirty Australians donate blood every year, and their donations help a huge range of people. What exactly do I donate? When you ... Continue Reading »

Why You Should Really Turn Down the Volume

When I first started going to see local bands play as a teenager, I always brought earplugs with me. Of course, my friends found this highly amusing, but I honestly didn't care; I wanted to avoid permanent hearing damage. And when they inevitably complained about the ringing in their ears ... Continue Reading »

The Genetics of Jurassic World

Like hearing Paul Willis talk about dinosaurs? Come to our event Dinosaurs on the Big Screen! You can watch Jurassic World and our exclusive premiere of RiAus documentary, Dinosaurs on the Big Screen. And so the next instalment in the Jurassic Park saga is almost upon us. As with ... Continue Reading »

The Secret Worlds of Forensic Science

If you like this, then you should check out our Forensics STEM Pack! Over the last few years, forensic science has risen in the public consciousness. There is a seemingly endless supply of television shows that explore the discipline. Forensic scientists have a love/hate relationship with these shows. On ... Continue Reading »
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