I’ve got out of the habit of posting about each edition of Australasian Science, but this April edition certainly justifies something. When looking for writing work I think this will be my CV edition.
For a start, the cover story is my piece on Paul Frijters’ work on the sacrificial urge. I’ve covered this in some depth elsewhere, but I find it a fascinating exploration of the human search for a reciprocal relationship with those around us, with a few policy implications thrown in.
I only have a feature in about every third edition, so it is pretty rare to have two together, but my interview [sub only] with climate scientist Kevin Trenberth was held back for inclusion here. Trenberth was a pioneer in researching El Nino and has become a key figure in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Unlike some climate scientists who have been badly unsuited to the rough and tumble of a debate where one side has no respect for truth or decency, Trenberth understands what is going on and is increasingly ready to get out there and defend the science.
There is a browse on the ever fascinating question of the relationship between early humans and Neanderthals, suggesting the apparent long term co-existence in southern Spain may have been an illusion. It seems even then we were not very good at getting on with our neighbours.
Super massive black holes have a quadratic mass relationship with the galaxies that host them says Swinburne’s Alister Graham, rather than being a steady 0.2% as previously thought. Thus the black holes at the heart of the largest galaxies are bigger than we thought, while most are quite a lot smaller. Meanwhile, Curtin’s James Miller-Jones is confident we have finally found the long sought intermediary sized black hole in the outskirts of the Andromeda galaxy.
This winter is set to be a really bad one for gastro, with a hybrid norovirus to which very few people have immunity appearing. Sydney’s Peter White says there is little you can do to protect yourself from getting the virus, but if infected you can take steps to avoid passing it on.
There are three separate species of beaked sea snakes, not one, according to the irrepressible Bryan Fry.
During the Emian period, 115-130,000 years ago Greenland was 4-8°C warmer than it is today, despite lower atmospheric carbon dioxide. Now having finally captured a ice core that gives us a picture of conditions at the time we know a bit more about what it was like, including the fact that much of the sea level rise at the time must have come from Antarctica – suggesting we need to worry more about melt to the south than north in the long run. Unfortunately, one of the ideas frequently proposed to stave off global warming looks unviable. Although some pockets of the oceans may be amenable to iron fertilisation Sydney PhD student Daniel Harrison has demonstrated that on a large scale the cost of sequestration will be far higher than any carbon price on the table.
RMIT’s Dr Vijay Sivan has created nanocoated liquid metal marbles capable of acting as environmental sensors and superstrong ball bearings at the same time, but it all might be a little too close to Terminator 2 for some people’s liking.
Perhaps most importantly of all, there is my article on Douglas Sheil’s challenge to our notions of what drives climatic conditions in the heart of continents, indicating forests may be more important than we ever realised. (BTW, my blog post on this work is now easily my most read post and still steadily climbing – thanks to all those who shared it). Appropriately, but depressingly, there is also a column by David Salt on the tragedy of the loss of really big trees from ecosystems worldwide.
It’s not all me though. There is a feature by Nic Rawlence on DNA evidence that humans really did wipe out the moa, an explanation by Christopher Usher and Duncan Forbes of the colour variation in globular clusters and the implications this has for galactic evolution and Kamal Alameh a piece on how windows can be used to harvest energy to power office buildings. Ian Mclennan explains why autism is more common in boys and Julian Cribb examines proposed solutions to the global food crisis – you know, little things
The one disappointment is that the Cool Scientist isn’t particularly interesting. If I had known what a great edition it would be I’d have hustled March’s profile of the brilliant Lexa Grutter in ahead of this one on Daithi Murray exploring the role of stick-nest rats and their relatives in preserving climate records in deeply arid environments.
If you only buy one edition this year, I’d say this should probably be the one, but you better be quick.