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One Hump or Two

Camel milk touted as latest superfood What does it take for a food to become a ‘superfood’? They certainly aren’t caped crusaders soaring through the skies and saving babies from burning buildings. The claims of what superfoods do, however, can be just as flamboyant. Take camel milk, ... Continue Reading »

Elite Athletes: Mind Over Matter

“Shut up legs and do what I tell you!” – Jens Voigt With all of the media coverage of the Tour Down Under this year, I thought it would be a great time to ask; what makes an elite athlete? Is it pure natural and physical ability, or ... Continue Reading »

The Greatest Fossils of 2014

As a palaeontologist, it warms the cockles of my heart to reflect on the significant fossils that came to light over the last year. And there are a lot of them, too many to consider here, but there are more complete lists elsewhere if you are sensibly obsessed ... Continue Reading »

The Good, the Bad and the Umami- The story of MSG

If we switched from salt to MSG thousands of lives a year could be saved In 1908 Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda (きくなえ いけだ) just happened to wonder what gave the Japanese soup Dashi (だし) its wonderful flavour. After a little research he found the substance he was ... Continue Reading »

Sampson Flat Fires

I grew up in a tiny place between Williamstown, Lyndoch and Gawler. Right next to Humbug Scrub. My partner is originally from Birdwood and almost all of our friends live there, in Kersbrook, Gumeracha or Lobethal. We spend almost our entire weekend driving through the hills and visiting random places. ... Continue Reading »

Hydrographic Surveyor Certification

Hydrographic surveyors work in fields or disciplines as diverse as nautical charting, port, harbour and coastal zone management, geophysical survey, off-shore construction, military rapid survey and inland waterways. Each discipline requires its own special set of skills and knowledge unique to the type of hydrographic survey work being undertaken. It is ... Continue Reading »

Who was Nikola Tesla?

I’m looking at a picture of Nikola Tesla. Not the expected 30’s black and white elegance; nor really Tesla in the flesh. Rather; his death mask. It’s a yellowed coppery bust on an ugly plinth. Deposited layers of metal, one after another on a plaster substrate. I can see every line and ... Continue Reading »

A Sparkling Canvas – Crystallography in the art world

“I love crystals, the beauty of their forms and formation; liquids, dormant, distilling, sloshing! The fumes, the odours – good or bad, the rainbow of colours; the gleaming vessels of every size, shape and purpose.” – Robert Burns Woodward If you think crystallography is boring, or confined to the world of ... Continue Reading »

Revisiting the future – 2014

At the beginning of this year I pulled together a list of predictions from psychics that were supposed to foretell momentous events in science during 2014. These predictions were collected from this article with the promise of a review at the end of the year – ... Continue Reading »

Light is life

Photonics is the study of light, that which illuminates our world and that which is hidden from our eyes such as the x-rays, ultraviolet and infrared light. “Photos” is the Greek word for light and its study is as old as human progress. However, it is not until 1960 that ... Continue Reading »

How To Make A Round Earth Flat

This blog is the second in the series ‘Contours, Coordinates and Cartography’ – A blog series about measuring the shape of the earth and how the results are used to create maps. Read the first instalment in the series on Geodesy here, upcoming blogs will look at GPS ... Continue Reading »

Finding Life in Antarctica

Earlier this year scientists from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a United States government agency, have made an amazing discovery whilst testing a new camera-equipped robot to explore under the ice in Antarctica. Their test run unexpectedly revealed a new species of sea anemone which actually ... Continue Reading »

Why we need bees

The best thing about my job is honey. It always smells like honey, I get stung, sure, but the honey definitely makes up for it. Also, bees of all kinds are adorable. The honey bee is arguably the most famous of bees, likely because of the honey, but also because ... Continue Reading »

Looking back – Life and times of an RiAus volunteer

A few years ago, I decided to become a volunteer at RiAus. I had just started my own science blog and was keen to explore both the online and offline world of science communication. I didn’t know what to expect when signing up. Was everyone going to be ... Continue Reading »

Is there political bias in scientific thinking?

I’ve written before about science and politics more from the perspective of how science should be treated within the political corridors of power. But what about the more internal question of politics in science? Just how much is a researcher’s scientific work influenced by their political bias? And ... Continue Reading »

Ponzi’s Ecology

Recently an ecologist friend of mine commented that modern capitalist economies are little more than elaborate Ponzi schemes, complicated frauds that can only end in their own spectacular collapse in direct proportion to their stratospheric success. While I'm not sure I entirely agree with this proposition, I can ... Continue Reading »

The Psychology Of Firefighting

Firefighters are amazing. As the rest of us turn to run from a blazing building, they’re the ones running towards it, putting themselves in danger in order to save people, animals and property from damage. It is therefore not surprising that firefighters have been the subject of several lines of ... Continue Reading »

The Bizarre Sex Of The Animal Kingdom

While everything in this post is biology it may be considered 'not safe for work' by some. Please read on at your own discretion. As research for this blog post I watched the awesome Dr Carin Bondar’s TED talk on wild sex. ‘Wild’ referring, of course, to the animals, ... Continue Reading »

Fallible Science

A core value of science is objectivity: being able to exclude human emotion, bias and influence as an observer to reveal the true nature of the phenomenon under investigation. But I’ve long felt that we’re kidding ourselves if we think that science and scientists are really able to approach anything ... Continue Reading »

The Making of the Next Generation

We humans are obsessed with falling in love, and we often assume that every other living thing is too. But enough with the romantic stuff - what’s really important to us is the urge to reproduce. Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Our species’ survival depends on ... Continue Reading »

Living with Motor Neuron Disease

The ‘ice bucket challenge’ has gone viral over the past few months and is now the most watched thing on YouTube, ever. Its popularity has been credited to a simple premise and celebrity involvement helping it to raise millions of dollars. Search Motor Neuron Disease (for Australia) or Amyotrophic Lateral ... Continue Reading »

Fighting Fires in the 21st Century

In the lead up to the 2014 fire season it is interesting to take a look at how firefighting techniques have kept up with industrial and residential changes of the 21st century. As technology has advanced the way we build and the materials we build with have changed. For example ... Continue Reading »

What is fire?

A threat and a tool, a spectacle and a muse: fire has a large role in human and non-human ecosystems. In Australia, fire has been used by people for hundreds of years as a land management tool, and in more recent times was used to clear land for grazing and ... Continue Reading »

Does alpine grazing reduce blazing?

Summer cattle grazing in the Australian Alps has been in place for over 150 years with graziers proclaiming that its key benefit is fuel reduction, which leads to reduced bushfire severity as summarised in the bumper sticker slogan, “Alpine grazing reduces blazing”. This idea is a widely accepted ... Continue Reading »

Transdisciplinary science is research synergy

When the Fellowship began their perilous journey toward Mordor, they took a transdisciplinary approach. They involved individuals of different expertise, worked toward a common goal and their work had a social purpose, saving all that was good from the evil of Sauron. As in 'Lord of the Rings', transdisciplinary science frequently ... Continue Reading »

The Scientific Pick-and-Mix

Interdisciplinary science is the combination of two or more academic fields (kind of like a scientific pick-and-mix) and it has been steadily growing in popularity, although it has been prevalent throughout much of scientific history. However, it makes you wonder, which academic disciplines can be combined, which are often merged ... Continue Reading »

Geodesy – The Math of Planet Earth

This blog is the first in the series ‘Contours, Coordinates and Cartography’ – A blog series about measuring the shape of the earth and how the results are used to create maps. Upcoming blogs will build on the concepts of Geodesy to discuss Projection and Coordinate systems, ... Continue Reading »

A Sonnet to Science

Some would argue that science and poetry are two conflicting practices. Science is method, peer review, experimental protocol, words that do not normally come to mind when reading a poem. But science can be a fertile ground for poetry. Both science education and poetry use similar techniques to educate or inspire ... Continue Reading »

Top 10 Best-selling science books of 2013

Books like those listed below often open up new avenues into the sciences, allowing readers a glimpse of a different world or even changing the perspective of one (personally I no longer look at mathematics as the stodgy, boring subject I once thought it was). But where to begin? The editors ... Continue Reading »

Who’s The Hobbit?

Sometimes we forget that scientists are only human. Given their head, most scientists would assume almost superhuman qualities of rationality, impartiality and objectivity. But these qualities are frequently tested when an hypothesis is shown to be wrong. Most scientists are not prepared to give it up their cherished ideas even ... Continue Reading »

Quirk by Hannah Holmes – Book Review

What is it that makes us tick? Why are some of us more inclined to cooperate than others? How does our personality influence our voting preferences? Could there be a beneficial side to anxiety? In Quirk, Hannah Holmes does an excellent job of exploring the science behind human personality and the evolution of each ... Continue Reading »

Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon – Book Review

I invite you then, to travel in imagination through the aeons that lie between your age and mine. I ask you to watch history of change, grief, hope, and unforeseen catastrophe, as has nowhere else occurred, within the girdle of the Milky Way. (Stapledon, xviii) Last and First Men is not ... Continue Reading »

Simple Science Is Not Risk Free

People often tell me that they find science difficult or complicated and that this complexity scares them away from engaging with science. I, in turn, have difficulties understanding this view because, to me, science is about simplicity and clarity, it even has in-built mechanisms to keep things simple. Anyone who ... Continue Reading »

Biological Membranes – Surface, Undulation and Interface

As part of the 2014 SALA Festival of South Australian Living Artists, the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery is proud to present Under the Surface. Using different artistic forms and media, Malcolm Koch joins Christopher and Therese Williams in an exploration of what lies beneath the surface of the world ... Continue Reading »

Christopher Williams on Under the Surface: Salt Dance

I’ve been working as a sound artist since the mid-nineties. Salt Dance originated when I was invited to Lake Tyrell by Paul Carter and John Wolseley, along with other artists including photographer Harry Nankin and dancers Michaela Pegum and Sióbhan Murphy, to investigate how artists may be able to ... Continue Reading »

Malcolm Koch on Under the Surface

Recently, my painting MA#41 was highly commended in this year's prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, an international competition that invites artists to investigate the environment around us and present their own perspective on natural science. It’s an achievement just to be recognised. Likewise, I'm also thrilled to be invited ... Continue Reading »


I’ve written before about how science and business talk different languages and also about how business can take the lead on topical issues in science such as Climate Change. Despite all the thunder science can muster, not as much gets done as when insurance companies such ... Continue Reading »

A Voyage to Terra Australis

It’s July 18 1814, summer in England, and Matthew Flinders has 24 hrs left to live. His untimely death from an illness he picked up in Mauritius years earlier only just allowed him to see in the day that the world would finally get to view his most important work ... Continue Reading »

Salyut-ing Soviet Science

43 years ago, the Soviet Union launched humanity’s first space station. Salyut 1, meaning ‘salute’ or ‘fireworks’, orbited the Earth nearly 3,000 times in 175 days, but following some disastrous events, it was eventually directed back into a lower orbit and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Despite the problems that it ... Continue Reading »

Studying Science Overseas

As a first year undergraduate student I remember listening to my lecturers introduce themselves. As they described their careers, almost all of them included postdoctoral work overseas. I had worked overseas before coming to university, as a remedial massage therapist on cruise ships, and I love to travel for holidays, ... Continue Reading »

What causes breast cancer? Ancient theories to modern facts

Breasts have been long cherished across cultures for their nourishment of babies, their sensual appeal and their feminine symbolism. The destruction that cancer wreaks on breasts therefore attacks the very notion of womanhood. For most of history, ‘cancer’ often simply referred to breast cancer; even in the ancient world, tumours ... Continue Reading »

Order In Nature

When you see the apparent chaos of a forest or a woodland, it can be difficult to think of there being any order in nature. The tangle and interplay of so many different life-forms appears to be a game with few rules or ethics. But in the approximate regularity of ... Continue Reading »

Clear as crystal – the story of X-ray crystallography

Here is a brief history of the work of two of Australia’s most famous scientists, Sir William Bragg and his son Sir Lawrence Bragg. Jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915 for their ground breaking research into the use of x-rays to study the chemical structure and function of molecules, ... Continue Reading »

Today is hug a climate scientist day

The science is so staggeringly clear on climate change it should not need repeating, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. Yet despite the overwhelmingly confident position of the scientific community there are still those that ... Continue Reading »

Discoveries in the world of stem cells

Stem cells offer some of the most exciting – and the most controversial – potential medical treatments around today. Research is proceeding at a cracking pace and notching up revolutionary finds all over the shop, with scientists learning how to grow them faster and use them in a wider variety ... Continue Reading »

A different perspective

I am now the proud owner of seven chickens. It’s been a long time coming, I’ve always wanted to have some chooks, but the opportunity only presented itself late last year when I moved to my new home in the Adelaide Hills. I didn’t expect them to be such wonderful entertainment. ... Continue Reading »

Stem Cells 101

Stem cells. The words sound so futuristic, bringing to mind science fiction movies involving clones, but stem cells are a commonly-used research tool and have been for quite some time! In fact, there are some incredibly exciting things happening with stem cells right now, even as you read this blog, ... Continue Reading »

Who’s afraid of GMOs?

Don’t you hate it when another of your favourite foods or other indulgences turns out to be bad for you? I was doubly taken aback when this article came across my desk recently suggesting that I should stop drinking some of my favourite beers. Not that I hold ... Continue Reading »
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