January Australasian Science

Writing for a monthly isn’t really compatible with blogging. When I write the stories I can’t link to them, and by the time the edition comes out I tend to forget. Nevertheless, I’m going to try to promote the stories I think are most interesting in each edition – giving priority to my own of course.

Probably my favourite from this edition is the Cool Scientist profile (thanks to Goldie Pergl for the suggestion). Malcolm Walter has had a distinguished career as a geologist, particularly in challenging the theory that South-Eastern Australia has been tectonically and seismically quiet for a very long time. Not great news to hear, particularly his reference to a fault line (of the non-political sort) under Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, but interesting and important.

However, Wallace’s most exciting work is his discovery of a giant fossilised reef ten times the size of the Great Barrier Reef in outback South Australia. It’s more than 700 million years old, and dates to a little known period in the Earth’s history between two giant glaciations known as “Snowball Earth”. We don’t know what drove the planet into these icebound states, nor what got it out of them, and the relatively brief flourishing of life in between has obvious fascination. To find a reef 1km high from the period is truly extraordinary.

Other pieces of mine are on the possibility that a recently discovered asteroid impact could be the cause of the Cooper Basin’s potential as a source of geothermal energy, a way to recycle waste heat in cars to make them use less petrol, and evidence that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will not increase the growth of most forests (subscriber only).

However, the most fascinating article of all, on sex selection strategies in skinks, is so complex I think I’ll give it a post of it’s own, rather than trying to summarise.

Asteroid impacts are a bit of these, with two features on them by scientists doing the research. There’s also a piece by an astrobiology PhD on her work using fool’s gold to seek the earliest evidence of life on Earth


About Stephen Luntz

I am a science journalist, specialising in Australian and New Zealand research across all fields of science. My book, Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats: A Field Guide to Australian Scientists is out now through CSIRO Publishing. I am also a professional returning officer for non-government organisations. I'm very politically active, but generally try to restrict this blog to scientific matters.
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