Category: Science & Technology

To feed the world in 2050 we need to build the plants that evolution didn’t

Synthetic biology can help agriculture adapt to a changing world. ShutterstockWe need to revolutionise agriculture in the next 30 years. In 2050 we may have almost 10 billion people to feed. Farmland is already degraded by existing agriculture, and climate...

/ November 20, 2019

Instead of showing leadership, Twitter pays lip service to the dangers of deep fakes

Neural networks can generate artificial representations of human faces, as well as realistic renderings of actual people. ShutterstockFake videos and doctored photographs, often based on events such as the Moon landing and supposed UFO appearances, have been the subject of...

/ November 19, 2019

Don’t (just) blame echo chambers. Conspiracy theorists actively seek out their online communities

The term illuminati has been used since the late 15th century, and applied to various groups since then. It's often discussed by conspiracy theorists, and is heavily referenced in pop-culture. Lettuce./Flickr, CC BY-NC-NDWhy do people believe conspiracy theories? Is it...

/ November 19, 2019

Turn down for what? Why you turn down the radio when you’re trying to park your car

When you're looking for a destination, you might need to cut down the volume ShutterstockYou’re driving down an unfamiliar street on a clear spring evening. You’ve been invited to a friend of a friend’s party, at a house you’ve never...

/ November 18, 2019

The main problem with virtual reality? It’s almost as humdrum as real life

Virtual horse racing, at a real racecourse? Zero points for imagination. Rachel Grey/AAP ImageJust a few years ago, virtual reality (VR) was being showered with very real money. The industry raised an estimated US$900 million in venture capital in 2016,...

/ November 17, 2019

Place your bets: will banning illegal offshore sites really help kick our gambling habit?

While total gambling spending in Australia decreased during 2016-17, sports betting increased by 15.3%, from A$921 million to A$1.062 billion. SHUTTERSTOCKThe Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is going to start asking internet service providers to block certain offshore gambling...

/ November 15, 2019

Is social media damaging to children and teens? We asked five experts

They need to have it to fit in, but social media is probably doing teens more harm than good. from www.shutterstock.comIf you have kids, chances are you’ve worried about their presence on social media. Who are they talking to? What...

/ November 15, 2019

Research funding announcements have become a political tool, creating crippling uncertainty for academics

There’s a lot of uncertainty in a research career. Most funding – and most jobs – are doled out by the project, or in chunks of a few years at a time. Recently, however, the situation has been made even...

/ November 14, 2019

Virtual tools, real fires: how holograms and other tech could help outsmart bushfires

In many countries including America, computer models are being used to predict how a fire will burn. Author providedAustralia continues to experience unprecedented destruction from bushfires. Now is the time to harness our technological tools, and find innovative ways to...

/ November 14, 2019

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of "the final judgement". Wasef et al./PLOS ONE, CC BY-SAThese days, not many Aussies consider the ibis a particularly...

/ November 13, 2019

As flames encroach, those at risk may lose phone signal when they need it most

Yesterday, New South Wales and Queensland issued fire warnings classified as either “catastrophic”, “severe” or “extreme” - and these conditions will remain in the coming days. The Bureau of Meteorology’s fire danger rating for Wednesday, November 13. RFS QLD Areas...

/ November 13, 2019

If you’ve given your DNA to a DNA database, US police may now have access to it

DNA database giant Ancestry lets members access international records including the convict and free settler lists, passenger lists, Australian and New Zealand electoral rolls and military records. Patrick Alexander/Flickr, CC BYIn the past week, news has spread of a Florida...

/ November 12, 2019

Firestorms and flaming tornadoes: how bushfires create their own ferocious weather systems

A firestorm on Mirror Plateaun Yellowstone Park, 1988. Jim Peaco/US National Park ServiceAs the east coast bushfire crisis unfolds, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Rural Fire Service operational officer Brett Taylor have each warned residents bushfires can create...

/ November 12, 2019

Some women seem to lack a key brain structure for smell — but their sense of smell is fine

Different MR images help us unravel the mysteries of the brain. A diffusion MRI tractography reconstruction like this reveals the complicated wiring deep within a person's brain. Thijs Dhollander, CC BY-NDWhile looking at the MRI brain scan of a 29-year-old...

/ November 11, 2019

Hackers are now targeting councils and governments, threatening to leak citizen data

Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly complex, as hackers find creative ways to beat ordinary systems of defence. christiaancolen/flickr, CC BYIn recent weeks, Johannesburg’s computer network was held for ransom by a hacker group called Shadow Kill Hackers. This was the...

/ November 11, 2019

Caught red-handed: automatic cameras will spot mobile-using motorists, but at what cost?

Trials found that 5% of offending drivers used a mobile phone with both hands while the vehicle was moving. NSW Transport, Author providedOver the years, advances in technology and transport policy have greatly impacted drivers. In the 1980s this came...

/ November 3, 2019

Robots can outwit us on the virtual battlefield, so let’s not put them in charge of the real thing

DeepMind's artificial intelligence-powered AlphaStar (green) repels an attack in the virtual world of StarCraft II. DeepMindArtificial intelligence developer DeepMind has just announced its latest milestone: a bot called AlphaStar that plays the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft II at Grandmaster...

/ October 31, 2019

The ACCC is suing Google over tracking users. Here’s why it matters

shutterstock The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today announced it is suing Google for misleading consumers about its collection and use of personal location data. The case is the consumer watchdog’s first move against a major digital platform following...

/ October 29, 2019

A small New Zealand songbird that hides food for later use provides insights into cognitive evolution

1200The New Zealand robin is a small and ordinary-looking songbird, but it can take down enormous invertebrate prey and hide morsels for later consumption. Supplied, CC BY-ND When we think about animals storing food, the image that usually comes to...

/ October 27, 2019

Here’s why memories come flooding back when you visit places from your past

A lifetime of memories... but not always readily accessible. Modus Vivendi/ShutterstockWe all know our memories get worse as time goes on – your recollection of what you did yesterday is probably a lot better than for the same day three...

/ October 25, 2019