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 / Science
Cosmos Magazine

Cosmos Magazine Spring 2018

Global science, from a unique Australian perspective.

The Royal Institution of Australia Inc
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4 Issues


1 min.

MICHAEL BROOKS Michael holds a PhD in quantum physics,and is a UKbased science writer. He co-hosts the award-winning podcast Science(ish), which explores the science in popular culture, and is the author of several books, including the bestselling 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. His latest book is The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook. MEGAN MUNSIE Associate Professor Megan Munsie combines technical expertise in stem cell science with an interest in the ethical, social and regulatory issues associated with this field. She is Deputy Director of the Centre for Stem Cell Systems at the University of Melbourne and a member of the ARC-funded Stem Cells Australia initiative. JEFFREY D. PHILLIPS An award-winning Melbourne-based illustrator, Jeffrey is known for his brand of quirky pen and ink drawings. Besides editorial work he also art directs, draws storyboards for film and…

2 min.
parting is sweet sorrow

TIME TO HAND IN my captain’s epaulettes. From 1 September, Cosmos will be under the illustrious stewardship of the Royal Institution of Australia. A not-for-profit organisation dedicated to excellence in science communication, RiAus offers a sparkling future for the magazine. There will be continuity. The masterful Bill Condie, former publisher at Cosmos, is head of publishing at RiAus. Tess Wardle, our current and highly able publisher, will bed down the new enterprise. You’ll also continue to enjoy the craft and erudition of editor Andrew Masterson as he delivers enthralling stories across the spectrum of science and society. Andrew Patterson will continue looking after subscribers and optimising Cosmos online. The magazine will of course continue to showcase our stellar contributors. And I will keep contributing as an ‘editor-at-large’. I want to thank all our readers,…

1 min.
the amazing dragon of lingwu

Meet the amazing dragon of Lingwu. This astonishing fossil is a new species of diplodocoid dinosaur that was discovered in the Lingwu region in the northwest of China. Officially named Lingwulong shenqi, the species were long-necked herbivores that lived in the east of the supercontinent Pangaea 174 million years ago. A shepherd first stumbled across some enormous bones back in 2004, and since then the remains of between seven and 10 dragons have been found across several quarries. Though each find has some parts missing, between the lot of them, almost a complete skeleton can be assembled. (The dragon in the picture is one of the most complete specimens.) In a paper in Nature Communications, Xing Xu and colleagues have named the species and found its place in the dinosaur family tree.…

4 min.
how to make a koala

Yes the koala is cute. But it’s also evolved a bizarre survival strategy. Twenty million years ago when marsupial lions roamed the undergrowth, its ancestor sought refuge in the canopy of gum trees, spent most of its time sleeping and became the world’s only animal to survive solely on a diet of toxic gum leaves. Now the secret to this survival strategy has been revealed by reading its genome, an instruction manual written in 3.42 million letters of DNA and over 26,000 genes. The Australian-led international team reported the findings last July in Nature Genetics. It’s not just Aussies who adore the cuddly koala. Phascolarctos cinereus, which translates to ‘ash grey pouched bear’, regularly makes the top 20 list of the world’s cutest animals. But it wasn’t always so. In the…

3 min.
risk of death flattens out after 105

It’s no longer extraordinary to meet a centenarian. The average lifespan has skyrocketed over the past century but what about maximum lifespan? Are we likely to see anyone break Jeanne Calment’s record of 122 years, 164 days, set in 1997? That’s a question that has researchers disagreeing. Now in a paper published in Science last June, statistician Elisabetta Barbi at Sapienza University of Rome, suggests we will indeed see Calment’s record broken. Her study is based on new data from a group of Italians aged over 105 that suggests their risk of dying has levelled out. Arguments about maximum life span revolve around the maths of mortality. In 1825 British mathematician and actuary Benjamin Gompertz deduced that after the age of 30, the chance of death increases exponentially. So if a 30-year-old has a…

2 min.
why zebras have stripes

Pondering the purpose of zebra stripes has been a popular pastime for naturalists stretching back to Charles Darwin. As many as 18 theories have been proposed. Now a team led by Gabor Horvath at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, has succeeded in reducing the number by one. Their findings published in Scientific Reports in July, demonstrate that the stripes do not help the animals stay cool beneath the African sun. The most popular explanation for the function of zebra stripes is that they provide camouflage. But even Darwin had a hard time seeing how stripes offered protection on the open plains. And recent studies have found that zebra stripes, whose distinctness varies across African herds from north to south, do not show a strong correlation with the presence of large predators. They did…