Science, Technology and Innovation

Hope and fear surround emerging technologies, but all of us must contribute to stronger governance

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It’s been a big year for companies pushing the boundaries of technology – and not in a good way. The Cambridge Analytica scandal led to a public outcry about privacy, the Commonwealth Bank’s loss of customer data raised concerns about cybersecurity, and a fatal self-driving car crash put the safety of automated systems in the spotlight. Authors: The Conversation These controversies are just the latest warning signs that we urgently need better governance of the technologies redefining the world. There ... Read More »

Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

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Imagine the director of a big company announcing an important decision and justifying it with it being based on a gut feeling. This would be met with disbelief – surely important decisions have to be thought over carefully, deliberately and rationally? Valerie van Mulukom The Conversation Indeed, relying on your intuition generally has a bad reputation, especially in the Western part of the world where analytic thinking has been steadily promoted over the past decades. Gradually, many have come to ... Read More »

Yanny or Laurel? It’s your brain not your ears that decides

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As a speech scientist, I never thought I’d see so much excitement on social media about one tiny little word. Jennell Vick The Conversation The clip, which went viral after being posted on Reddit, is polarizing listeners who hear a computer voice say either “Laurel” or “Yanny.” @AlexWelke tweeted, “This is the kinda stuff that starts wars.” While I can’t prevent a war, I can explain some reasons why this sound file has created such a controversy. Basically, the “word” ... Read More »

From risk to benefit: public servants change their minds about cloud security

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Only a few years ago, a lot of public service leaders saw cloud computing as a security risk; now it is mainly seen as the opposite, according to a new survey. Stephen Easton The Mandarin “Federal agencies surveyed said improving security was the biggest reason driving them to move their IT systems into the cloud,” according to a statement from Macquarie Government, which commissioned the survey from research firm Ovum. Leaders from 45 federal government departments and agencies were interviewed during ... Read More »

Maria Agnesi, the greatest female mathematician you’ve never heard of

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The outmoded gender stereotype that women lack mathematical ability suffered a major blow in 2014, when Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to receive the Fields Medal, math’s most prestigious award. Authors: The Conversation An equally important blow was struck by an Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, born 300 years ago this month. Agnesi was the first woman to write a mathematics textbook and to be appointed to a university chair in math, yet her life was marked by paradox. ... Read More »

Australia’s biggest solar farm switches on in Port Augusta

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Australia’s biggest solar farm – the 220MW (AC) Bungala solar project near Port Augusta in South Australia – has begun production marking the important first stage of the transformation of a former coal city into a… Giles Parkinson REnewEconomy The first output from Bungala – which could end up being a 300MW project if all three stages are built – was injected into the local grid last week, as final commissioning of the 110MW first stage continues. Bungala, located 12kms from ... Read More »

Seeing the unseen: the exhibition opening up the universe to teenagers

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Scienceworks museum takes a new approach to getting young people interested in Stem subjects – with playful results Jane Howard The Guardian Dr Kendall Ackley pushes her fist into the universe: purples and pinks and flashes of yellow, two black holes spin across the screen. As she pushes, the universe responds, concaving inwards. Her fist becomes a “potential well”, its gravity overriding that of the other black holes, pulling them into its orbit. Ackley was a member of the team ... Read More »

Ocean’s Monopoly: How Nations Use Science to Conquer the Sea

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A look into the complex world of ocean bed ownership and how nations are vying for their own piece of the puzzle. AlJazeera What if a country didn’t end at the coastline but would simply continue under water? A territory the size of a continent would come up – a territory uncontrolled and open for seizure. But who owns the sea bed, is it territory still to… The fact that the world’s oceans cover three-quarters of the earth’s surface once ... Read More »

Extinguished and anguished: what is burnout and what can we do about it?

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Feeling “burnt out” is a pretty common phrase in daily parlance, but we’re starting to learn more about its longer-term destructive effects. Authors: The Conversation Sufferers often describe feeling exhausted and disconnected, and as though they’re “going through the motions” without motivation or… Burnout can have serious consequences, including reduced work performance and life satisfaction, and has been associated with other mental health conditions. For instance, it has been linked to depression, as both conditions share a number of symptoms ... Read More »

Final donation for man whose blood helped save 2.4 million babies

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For every regular blood donation, three lives could be saved; an ordinary plasma donation could save 18. But James Harrison is extraordinary. Kate Aubusson The Age His blood has helped save the lives of 2.4 million babies. The 81-year-old’s plasma contains a potent antibody used to create a remarkable treatment known as Anti-D that protects unborn babies from the potentially deadly Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease (HDN). On Friday, after more than 60 years and 1173 donations, Mr Harrison made his ... Read More »

This isn’t Helter Skelter: Why the internet alone can’t be blamed for radicalisation

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The internet’s precise role in the process of radicalisation remains vexing. You can lead a person to a bomb-making manual, but you can’t make them use it. Radicalisation is a social process. Authors: The Conversation It refers to a means by which an individual or group embraces an extreme ideology and rejects or undermines the “status quo”. This process can then lead to an increased willingness to condone or use violence. “Safety” in the digital era The internet allows previously ... Read More »

The New Ebola Outbreak Could Take ‘Three, Maybe Four’ Months to Control

Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB), Jean-Jacques Muyembe from Democratic Republic of Congo poses on May 28, 2015 in Paris. Dr Muyembe received the 2015 Christophe Merieux Prize for his search on Ebola. AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE        (Photo credit should read MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images)

The DRC’s top virologist says the response has been quick, but it started late because of delays in reporting suspected cases. Ed Yong The Atlantic The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently fighting its ninth Ebola outbreak—and Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum is as calm as ever. Warm, round-faced, and preternaturally chill, Muyembe was the first scientist to encounter Ebola during the first-ever outbreak in 1976, and he has been involved in studying and fighting the disease ever since. “We have a ... Read More »

Vitamin D linked to lowered autism risk in large study

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Children born with high blood levels of vitamin D have 25 percent decreased odds of autism compared with those born with low levels. Nicholette Zeliadt Sprctrum Researchers presented the unpublished results today at the 2018 International Society for Autism Researchannual meeting in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The results come from the largest study yet to explore a link between vitamin D and autism. It involves an analysis of dried blood spots from 3,370 newborns in Sweden, 1,341 of whom now have an ... Read More »

Trump White House axes Nasa research into greenhouse gas cuts

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President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly axed US space agency Nasa’s monitoring system into greenhouse gases, a US journal has revealed. BBC The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10m (£7m)-a-year project which remotely tracks the world’s flow of carbon dioxide, is to lose funding. Science magazine reports that its loss jeopardises the ability to measure national emission cuts – as agreed to by nations in the Paris climate deal. The US plans to withdraw from the deal. However, until a ... Read More »

California becomes first US state to require solar on new homes

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California has become the first U.S. state to require solar panels on all new residential buildings as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Hurriyet The California Energy Commission said the new building standards, adopted unanimously by its members, will go into effect on January 1, 2020. “We are the first, we will not be the last,” commissioner David Hochschild said after the new mandate was adopted. “This is a landmark vote today.” According to the plan, residential homeowners could expect to ... Read More »

We must not punish content creators in our rush to regulate social platforms

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By harnessing social media, the teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida massacre in the United States have started a movement that might finally shift the dial on gun control. Authors: The Conversation Using their cellphones and laptops, they’ve not only organised a march on Washington, but built a digital network of supporters who are putting unprecedented pressure on legislators. Social media platforms such as Facebook have richly earned our distrust. From Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election, to ... Read More »