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Cosmos Magazine

Cosmos Magazine Winter 2018

Global science, from a unique Australian perspective.

The Royal Institution of Australia Inc
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4 Issues


1 min.

DYANI LEWIS Dyani is a freelance science journalist based in Melbourne. Her work has been published in Science, Nature Medicine, ABC Health & Wellbeing, The Conversation, Australasian Science Magazine and elsewhere. She is the science and technology producer and host for Up Close, the University of Melbourne’s audio podcast, and is also a regular co-host on Triple R’s Einstein-a-Go-Go science radio show. RICHARD A. LOVETT Richard is a science writer and science fiction author based in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied astrophysics. A frequent contributor to Cosmos, he has also written for publications including National Geographic and – as a keen runner and coach – Running Times. LAUREN FUGE Lauren is an Adelaide-based author and science communicator. Her work has been published in Lateral Magazine, by the…

2 min.
beneath jupiter’s clouds

THE ANCIENT ROMANS named the planet Jupiter after the king of the gods, who sometimes hid himself behind a veil of clouds through which only his wife, Juno, could see. Though the Romans could not have known it, the planet too is concealed beneath clouds that scud and swirl across the top of its atmosphere. When NASA decided to send a spacecraft to peer through the veil and “reveal Jupiter’s true nature”, only one name would do: Juno. The Juno probe was launched in 2011. After a five-year voyage it settled into orbit around Jupiter two years ago. It is now at the end of its scheduled mission. So what has it uncovered? Juno has certainly been busy beaming home bursts of photos each time the probe’s orbit brings it close to Jupiter.…

1 min.
new tardigrade

Poking about in a Japanese car park – not the most glamorous of activities – has resulted in the discovery of a brand new species of tardigrade. Colloquially known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades are famous for being pretty much indestructible. The animals, typically no larger than half a millimetre long, can survive in conditions fatal to most other living things, such as extreme temperatures, massive pressures, high radiation and even the vacuum of space. Tardigrades have been found in the deep ocean and in mud volcanoes. Most, however, hang about in moss. For this reason researchers led by Daniel Stec of Jagiellonian University in Kraków decided to have a look at a moss-covered bit of concrete found in a car park in Tsuruoka, a city about 400 km…

2 min.
an ultra-bright shining mystery

Ultra-bright neutron stars are breaking what was thought to be a hard-and-fast law of physics, by collecting matter at a rate that should be impossible. So far four of the hungry stars have been detected, with the latest described in a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy. It was only in 2014 that a neutron star was definitively identified as the mystery object behind an ‘ultra-luminous X-ray source’ (ULX). The phenomena, first observed in the 1980s, are brighter than any known star. Most galaxies seem to sport one, although the Milky Way, curiously, has none. The key characteristic that makes ULXs fascinating is that they routinely exceed what is known as the Eddington limit – the point at which the outward pressure of a star’s radiation matches the inward pull of…

1 min.
quantum vibes hit the big time

Quantum weirdness has taken another step closer to the human-scale world. Entangled particles behave as if they have a voodoo connection. Einstein referred to it as “spooky action at a distance”: when one changes, the other is affected instantaneously. But it is usually confined to subatomic particles like photons. No longer. As reported in Nature, a team led by Mika Sillanpää at Aalto University in Finland has established quantum entanglement between two vibrating metal membranes, each 15 micrometres across – about a fifth of the width of the average human hair – and composed of trillions of atoms. The membranes were chilled close to absolute zero (–273.15˚C) to avoid unwanted thermal jiggles and connected by an aluminium circuit. Microwaves were pulsed through the circuit to set the membranes vibrating, and the resulting motions…

2 min.
how to build the perfect egg

An egg is a mechanical marvel. Sturdy enough to protect a developing chick, yet fragile enough for the fledgling to peck its way out when the time comes. But exactly how a cocktail of calcium carbonate crystals mixed with proteins achieves these specifications has eluded researchers. “Eggshells are notoriously difficult to study because they easily break when we try to make a thin slice for imaging by electron microscopy,” says Marc McKee of McGill University in Quebec. Now McKee and his team appear to have cracked the problem. As published in Science Advances, the team used a focused-ion beam to finely slice the eggshell and image the interior structure, where they discovered the secret of combining strength and fragility was all to do with packing density. The team found that calcium carbonate crystals…