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.

The science of journalism - Guest Work

Jun 21, 2018

Zahra Shahtahmasebi This year’s Centre of Investigative Journalism conference hosted several inspiring speakers; the likes of Alison Mau, Melanie Reid and Louise Nicholas. While the #metoo movement was a topic of focus, another issue was discussed among some of the delegates; the role of science within investigative journalism. Newsroom’s science and environment editor Eloise Gibson says the tools used by investigative journalists are ones science journalists should be using all the time. They need to know how to use the Official Information Act, how to press government officials for answers, and how to understand financial accounts. Typically, science and the arts are considered to be mutually exclusive. Eloise explains this is because there’s an idea there are two types of people: ‘word’ and ‘numbers’ people. Journalists are considered to be the former. But this isn’t always true. Eloise always … Read More

Could playing Fortnite lead to video game addiction? The World Health Organisation says yes, but others disagree - Guest Work

Jun 20, 2018

Joanne Orlando, Western Sydney University Could your child be addicted to playing video games? Maybe. If you’re a parent looking for tips on moderating your child’s gaming habits, read on. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has, for the first time, recognised “gaming disorder” – compulsive and obsessive playing of video games – as a diagnosable condition. The new condition will be included in the 11th edition of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, which is due out this month. The disorder is described as: …impaired control over (video) gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. For a positive diagnosis, these symptoms should last for at least 12 … Read More

Why methane should be treated differently compared to long-lived greenhouse gases - Guest Work

Jun 13, 2018

Dave Frame, Victoria University of Wellington; Adrian Henry Macey, Victoria University of Wellington, and Myles Allen, University of Oxford New research provides a way out of a longstanding quandary in climate policy: how best to account for the warming effects of greenhouse gases that have different atmospheric lifetimes. Carbon dioxide is a long-lived greenhouse gas, whereas methane is comparatively short-lived. Long-lived “stock pollutants” remain in the atmosphere for centuries, increasing in concentration as long as their emissions continue and causing more and more warming. Short-lived “flow pollutants” disappear much more rapidly. As long as their emissions remain constant, their concentration and warming effect remain roughly constant as well. Our research demonstrates a better way to reflect how different greenhouse gases affect global temperatures over time. Cost of pollution The difference between stock and … Read More

Rover detects ancient organic material on Mars – and it could be trace of past life - Guest Work

Jun 08, 2018

Monica Grady, The Open University It was to a great fanfare of publicity that researchers announced they had found evidence for past life on Mars in 1996. What they claimed they had discovered was a fossilised micro-organism in a Martian meteorite, which they argued was evidence that there has once been life on the Red Planet. Sadly, most scientists dismissed this claim in the decade that followed – finding other explanations for the rock’s formation. While we know that Mars was habitable in the past, the case demonstrates just how hard it will be to ever prove the existence of past life on its surface. But now new results from NASA’s Curiosity rover, including the discovery of ancient organic material, have revived the hope of doing just that. Understandably, the authors of the two papers, … Read More

A bird’s eye view of New Zealand’s changing glaciers - Guest Work

Jun 08, 2018

Andrew Lorrey, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research; Andrew Mackintosh, Victoria University of Wellington, and brian.anderson@vuw.ac.nz, Victoria University of Wellington Every March, glacier “watchers” take to the skies to photograph snow and ice clinging to high peaks along the length of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. This flight needs to happen on cloud-free and windless days at the end of summer before new snow paints the glaciers white, obscuring their surface features. Each year, at the end of summer, scientists monitor glaciers along New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Summer of records The summer of 2017-18 was New Zealand’s warmest on record and the Tasman Sea experienced a marine heat wave, with temperatures up to six degrees above normal for several weeks. The loss of seasonal snow cover and older ice during this … Read More

Why won’t scientific evidence change the minds of Loch Ness monster true believers? - Guest Work

Jun 07, 2018

Artūrs Logins, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences You may have noticed a curious recent announcement: An international research team plans to use state-of-the-art DNA testing to establish once and for all whether the Loch Ness monster exists. Regardless of the results, it’s unlikely the test will change the mind of anyone who firmly believes in Nessie’s existence. As a philosopher working on the notion of evidence and knowledge, I still consider the scientists’ efforts to be valuable. Moreover, this episode can illustrate something important about how people think more generally about evidence and science. Discounting discomfiting evidence Genomicist Neil Gemmell, who will lead the international research team in Scotland, says he looks forward to “(demonstrating) the scientific process.” The team plans to collect and identify free-floating DNA … Read More

Deterring cyber attacks: old problems, new solutions - Guest Work

Jun 06, 2018

Joe Burton, University of Waikato As the investigation into Russia’s interference in the US election deepens, it is becoming obvious that the events in 2016 are just the tip of an iceberg. Ever since the Russian cyber assault on Estonia in 2007, policymakers and cyber security scholars have debated how best to deter cyber attacks that cross international borders. Yet both state and non-state actors continue using the internet for malicious purposes with an unacceptable level of impunity. The growing global market in cyber crime is projected to hit US$6 trillion by 2021. Curtailing the risk requires new approaches. Old problems Fundamentally, deterrence is about convincing an adversary that the costs of an attack outweigh the benefits. One of the problems in cyber deterrence policy has been a reliance on ideas that were formulated in … Read More

Fuego volcano: the deadly pyroclastic flows that have killed dozens in Guatemala - Guest Work

Jun 05, 2018

Dave McGarvie, The Open University and Rebecca Williams, University of Hull Dozens of people have been killed, and with many more missing, after Volcán de Fuego (Fuego) in Guatemala erupted on June 3 2018. In recent years, Fuego has regularly ejected small gas and ash eruptions, which hold little risk to surrounding populations. But Fuego also has a reputation for producing larger explosive eruptions. These larger eruptions have two main primary hazards – falling ash and bombs (collectively known as tephra), and pyroclastic flows. Of these two, pyroclastic flows are the big killers, and are responsible for the deaths from the latest eruption. So, just what are these flows and why are they such killers? And what can people do to avoid them? Footage taken from a road bridge over a dry valley from on June … Read More

The social science of Mycoplasma - Guest Work

Jun 02, 2018

Dr Gareth Enticott, Cardiff University, UK, Dr Anne Galloway, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. Usually when animal disease strikes, it is the advice and expertise of the veterinary sciences that is sought. However, recent disease outbreaks such as Foot and Mouth in the UK in 2001, have led to the recognition that the social sciences should also play an important role in the management of animal disease. They should also be important to help understand and manage the impacts of mycoplasma in New Zealand. Whilst there are some important differences between Mycoplasma and the UK’s FMD outbreak, there is already a remarkable similarity between the two events. Taking lessons from social studies of animal disease, the following issues should be of concern for all involved in the management of Mycoplasma: … Read More

How children’s picturebooks can disrupt existing language hierarchies - Guest Work

Jun 01, 2018

Nicola Daly, University of Waikato There are many factors that shape the value we place on different languages. Some languages seem more pleasant to listen to, easier to learn or more logical. These perceptions are generally influenced by our attitudes towards the speakers of a language and the different situations in which the language is spoken. One reflection of the differential status of languages comes through in bilingual children’s picturebooks. Here I explore how te reo Māori (the indigenous language of New Zealand) is represented and argue that the way languages are displayed in bilingual picturebooks can disrupt the status quo. Linguistic landscapes As a sociolinguist, I am interested in the representation of languages in bilingual picturebooks. This not only reflects existing attitudes towards languages, but it can also be powerful in shaping future societal attitudes. Read More