Guest Work

This is the Sciblogs guest blog, where we run science-related submissions from the Sciblogs community and beyond. Contact Sciblogs editor Peter Griffin about making a submission - or about hosting a blog on Sciblogs.

What’s behind phantom cellphone buzzes? - Guest Work

Mar 20, 2017

By Daniel J. Kruger, University of Michigan Have you ever experienced a phantom phone call or text? You’re convinced that you felt your phone vibrate in your pocket, or that you heard your ring tone. But when you check your phone, no one actually tried to get in touch with you. You then might plausibly wonder: “Is my phone acting up, or is it me?” Well, it’s probably you, and it could be a sign of just how attached you’ve become to your phone. At least you’re not alone. Over 80 percent of college students we surveyed have experienced it. However, if it’s happening a lot – more than once a day – it could be a sign that you’re psychologically dependent on your cellphone. There’s no question that cellphones are part of the social fabric … Read More

We shouldn’t ignore the potential of virtual reality advertising - Guest Work

Mar 16, 2017

By David Evans Bailey, Auckland University of Technology By some estimates virtual reality (VR) will be a US$162 billion industry by 2020. Only 50% of this figure is projected to come from hardware sales; the rest will be revenue from software, content and services. It’s not just the size of the market that advertisers cannot afford to ignore, but the unique potential of VR to influence choices and behaviour. This is due to something called the Sense of Presence. Presence is the feeling that you are actually within the scene, as if you are physically there. It’s unlike watching a video through a flat screen. Anyone who has tried VR will have experienced this phenomenon, as the following video explains: Sense of Presence: The Future of Virtual Reality. With presence, a whole host of other … Read More

The decoupling delusion: rethinking growth and sustainability - Guest Work

Mar 15, 2017

By James Ward, University of South Australia; Keri Chiveralls, CQUniversity Australia; Lorenzo Fioramonti, University of Pretoria; Paul Sutton, University of Denver, and Robert Costanza, Australian National University Our economy and society ultimately depend on natural resources: land, water, material (such as metals) and energy. But some scientists have recognised that there are hard limits to the amount of these resources we can use. It is our consumption of these resources that is behind environmental problems such as extinction, pollution and climate change. Even supposedly “green” technologies such as renewable energy require materials, land and solar exposure, and cannot grow indefinitely on this (or any) planet. Most economic policy around the world is driven by the goal of maximising economic growth (or increase in gross domestic product – GDP). Read More

A more advanced solar country - Guest Work

Mar 13, 2017

By George Jones I have not been seen around Wellington for a while, so I think it is about time that I tell you what I am doing now. I have for many years been worried about the world and its problems, and in 2011 with the help of colleagues I delivered a copy of a book “World on the Edge” to nearly two hundred people, decision makers in politics, business and science in New Zealand. Months later I asked the three local general election candidates whether they had read the book I had delivered, and the Labour and National candidates told me that they had not read it.  Nobody was taking the lead to fix even some of the problems. So I decided that I must do something myself.  My background of a long life as a technologist … Read More

Seven tips for surviving the apocalypse - Guest Work

Mar 10, 2017

By Lewis Dartnell, University of Westminster Billionaires who have made their fortunes in Silicon Valley seem to be worried about the future. So worried in fact, that some of them are reportedly buying vast estates in places such as New Zealand, as “apocalypse insurance” boltholes to head to in the event of doomsday scenarios such as nuclear attack or global political meltdown. But what about the rest of us? What should the non-billionaires of the world do if we haven’t prepared at all? How do we go about making and doing everything for ourselves once again, and help post-apocalyptic society avoid another Dark Age – and reboot civilisation? As a scientist, this is the thought experiment I chose to explore in my book, The Knowledge. So here are my seven top tips for getting to grips … Read More

How to protect your private data when you travel to the United States - Guest Work

Mar 07, 2017

By Paul Ralph, University of Auckland On January 30 – three days after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries – an American scientist employed by NASA was detained at the US border until he relinquished his phone and PIN to border agents. Travellers are also reporting border agents reviewing their Facebook feeds, while the Department of Homeland Security considers requiring social media passwords as a condition of entry. Intimidating travellers into revealing passwords is a much greater invasion of privacy than inspecting their belongings for contraband. Technology pundits have already recommended steps to prevent privacy intrusion at the US border, including leaving your phone at home, encrypting your hard drive and enabling two-factor authentication. However, these steps only apply to US … Read More

What makes science in online videos sexy? - Guest Work

Mar 06, 2017

By Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis, University of Otago We live in a world where we consume more and more of our media online – especially with regard to videos. For those of us interested in communicating science in such a medium it is not enough to simply put our videos online. Every minute of the day, 300 new hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and in a single day 4.95 billion videos will be viewed worldwide by the more than 1.3 billion of us who are YouTube users. In other words: it is the right place to go for the eyeballs, but there is enormous competition for those eyeballs. With that in mind, an international study involving 20 researchers – led from Spain (Professor Bienvenido Leon, University of Navarra), Kuwait (Dr Michael Bourk, Gulf University for Science and … Read More

In places where it’s legal, how many people are ending their lives using euthanasia? - Guest Work

Mar 06, 2017

By Andrew McGee, Queensland University of Technology The Victorian Parliament will consider a bill to legalise euthanasia in the second half of 2017. That follows the South Australian Parliament’s decision to knock back a voluntary euthanasia bill late last year, and the issue has also cropped up in the run-up to the March 11 Western Australian election. With the issue back in the headlines, federal Labor’s justice spokesperson, Clare O’Neil, told Q&A that in countries where the practice is legal, “very, very small” numbers of people use the laws. Whether or not you agree with O’Neil’s statement depends largely on your interpretation of the subjective term “very, very small”, but there is a growing body of data available on how many people are using euthanasia or assisted dying laws in places such … Read More

Women aren’t failing at science — science is failing women - Guest Work

Mar 01, 2017

By Lorena Rivera León, United Nations University Female research scientists are more productive than their male colleagues, though they are widely perceived as being less so. Women are also rewarded less for their scientific achievements. That’s according to my team’s recent study for United Nations University – Merit on gender inequality in scientific research in Mexico, published as a working paper in December 2016. The study, part of the project “Science, Technology and Innovation Gender Gaps and their Economic Costs in Latin America and the Caribbean”, was financed by the Gender and Diversity Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ‘productivity puzzle’ The study, which looked at women’s status in 42 public universities and 18 public research centres, some managed by Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), focused on a question that … Read More

No animal required, but would people eat artificial meat? - Guest Work

Feb 24, 2017

By Clive Phillips, The University of Queensland and Matti Wilks, The University of Queensland Futurists tell us that we will be eating in vitro meat (IVM) – meat grown in a laboratory rather than on a farm – within five to ten years. IVM was first investigated in the early years of this century and since then criticisms of farm animal production systems, particularly intensive ones, have escalated. They include the excessive use of land, energy and water resources; local and global pollution; poor animal welfare; a contribution to climate change; and a unhealthy eating habits and disease in humans. At the same time, human (and livestock) population growth continues, farming land is requisitioned for urban expansion and meat consumption per person is rising. So we want a new source of … Read More