Cosmos Magazine

Cosmos Magazine Issue 81

Global science, from a unique Australian perspective.

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The Royal Institution of Australia Inc
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4 Numeri

in questo numero

1 min
from the publisher

WELCOME to the first edition of Cosmos magazine published by The Royal Institution of Australia – the only charitable institution solely dedicated to the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths to the Australian public. You may already know us through one of our other activities, such as Australia’s Science Channel, the SCINEMA International Science Film Festival, our production of The Science of Doctor Who with the BBC, or our live narrowcasts that take leading scientists such as Brian Cox into schools across the country. Perhaps you are one of the thousands of teachers who use our free resources to help teach science in the classroom, a student or a parent who has read our STEM careers guide Ultimate Careers, or one of the 1500 journalists with whom we engage each year,…

1 min

PAUL BIEGLER After 20 years in emergency medicine, Paul changed career. He is now Adjunct Research Fellow at the Monash Bioethics Centre in Melbourne, and a prolific science writer. LAUREN FUGE Lauren is a science journalist and author, who recently moved from Adelaide to Canada. She is particularly interested in the intersection between astronomy and art. STEPHEN FLEISCHFRESSER Stephen has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science. Based in Melbourne, he divides his time between teaching at Trinity College and writing for Cosmos. CATHAL O’CONNELL As well as an accomplished writer, Cathal is a researcher at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, where he is developing technology to 3D print body parts.…

1 min
from the editor and lead scientist

WITHOUT CHANGE, good things go unnoticed; without the input of new energy, entropy triumphs. These statements are as true in the publishing game as they are in science, and this issue of Cosmos, we hope, is evidence of the benefits arising from renewal. This is the first issue published under the aegis of the new home, The Royal Institution of Australia, and the first for several years without the editorial leadership of Elizabeth Finkel. Needless to say, we are aware that there are some mighty huge shoes to fill – but I hope after perusing these pages you will think that we have largely succeeded in doing so. This is not a clone of the previous Cosmos, but a new iteration – if you like, Cosmos 2.0. Many familiar elements, however, remain. In this issue…

1 min
breakfast cereal is great for modelling ice sheet collapse

Puffed cereal grains have similar properties to rocks and ice, which makes them surprisingly useful in trying to understand what happens when ice sheets collapse, University of Sydney engineers have discovered. “All of these tend to crush upon interaction with chemically active fluid: puffed grains with milk, rock grains with underground water and ice with meltwater,” said Itai Einav, who undertook the novel research – described in the journal Science Advances – with colleague François Guillard. They first placed a sample of the cereal in a vertical cylinder and applied constant pressure from the top down. When fluid was injected into the lower part of the cylinder to soak the cereal, they noticed a sudden drop of stress in the system, accompanied by clicking sounds caused by the micropores of the cereal…

1 min
brown labradors die young

Surprisingly, colour matters when it comes to Labrador longevity. Research has found that chocolate-brown Labs die younger than the yellow and black varieties, and also get sicker while they’re alive. An Australian study of more than 33,000 Labrador retrievers registered on a UK veterinary database found that the brown ones have an average lifespan of 10.7 years, compared with 12.1 for the others. Just over 61% of the sampled dogs had at least one disorder recorded on the database, the most common being a form of ear infection called otitis externa, followed by obesity and degenerative joint disease. Getting fat was colour neutral – affecting almost 9% of the dogs – but the ear condition was considerably more common in the dogs with chocolate coats, and dermatitis was nearly four times more prevalent.…

1 min
sand flies fly high

Sand flies around the world have a strong attraction to cannabis, research has revealed. A team of scientists led by Ibrahim Abbasia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, collected insects from five different regions and sequenced the plant material found in their guts. This showed that they fed on a variety of plants, but marijuana (Cannabis sativa) was by far the most common. This was doubly surprising: first because of the consistency of the finding in places as distantly separated as Tubas in Palestine and Bahia in Brazil, and second because in all but one site the plant was not visibly common. “Therefore, we conclude that Cannabis comprised but a small fraction of the available sugar sources in any particular habitat and that its ample representation among sand fly plant meals signifies…