Guest Author

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.

Helpful tips for parents during lockdown - Guest Work

Apr 02, 2020

Dr Kirsty Ross Children and young people can respond differently in times of distress. This also varies by age and developmental stage, with younger children having more magical and imaginative thinking, and older children having more awareness and knowledge of the issues our communities are facing (which brings up a lot of emotions for them). So, depending on age and temperament, children can show their distress and adjustment through different behaviours and emotions. They can become a bit clingier and need more attention. Others can become irritable, grumpy and on edge. Others may regress in their behaviour (such as starting to wet the bed, wanting to sleep with their parents or talking in a more childlike way). Some may be more anxious and express a lot of fear and worries, for their health and the health of … Read More

How to spot bogus science stories and read the news like a scientist - Guest Work

Mar 19, 2020

Doug Specht, University of Westminster and Julio Gimenez, University of Westminster When fake news, misreporting and alternative facts are everywhere, reading the news can be a challenge. Not only is there plenty of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other scientific topics floating around social media, you also need to read science stories, even well-known publications, with caution. We have already seen headlines suggesting that coronavirus vaccines are imminent, while scientists desperately try to manage expectations that it’s more likely to take more than a year for vaccines to be suitable for use. So how do we approach science news like a scientist, to see past the sensational and find the facts? In a recent study, we and our colleagues analysed 520 academic papers and the media articles that reported their findings. We wanted … Read More

When a virus goes viral: pros and cons to the coronavirus spread on social media - Guest Work

Mar 19, 2020

Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology; Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology; Timothy Graham, Queensland University of Technology, and Tobias R. Keller, Queensland University of Technology News and views about coronavirus has spread via social media in a way that no health emergency has done before. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok and Instagram have played critical roles in sharing news and information, but also in disseminating rumours and misinformation. Getting the Message Out Early on, snippets of information circulated on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, before state censors banned discussions. These posts already painted a grim picture, and Chinese users continue to play cat and mouse with the Internet police in order to share unfiltered information. As the virus spread, so did the social media conversation. On Facebook and Twitter, discussions have … Read More

The ‘herd immunity’ route to fighting coronavirus is unethical and potentially dangerous - Guest Work

Mar 18, 2020

As most of the world tries to suppress the coronavirus spread, some countries are going it alone – trying to manage the pandemic through so-called “herd immunity”. Herd immunity means letting a large number of people catch a disease, and hence develop immunity to it, to stop the virus spreading. The Netherlands reportedly plans to use herd immunity to combat the coronavirus epidemic, just as Britain retreats from such plans after warnings it could lead to 250,000 deaths. A “herd immunity” strategy has been criticised by the World Health Organisation, which said far greater action is required. Other health experts say the approach is experimental at best, and dangerous at worst. So can herd immunity protect us from the coronavirus, and are countries wise to adopt it? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised … Read More

Why NZ’s tough coronavirus travel rules are crucial to protecting lives at home and across the Pacific - Guest Work

Mar 18, 2020

New Zealand’s border restrictions will come with significant job and business losses in the tourism sector, both at home and in the Pacific. But the new travel rules are absolutely necessary to protect the health of New Zealanders and people right across Pacific Islands, because New Zealand is a gateway country for many travellers entering the region. Health systems in Pacific Island countries are under-resourced and people often live communally, putting them at greater risk of transmission. New Zealanders have good reason to be particularly aware of this because of the Samoan measles outbreak in late 2019, which claimed 83 lives. It is likely that the disease came into Samoa from someone travelling from Auckland. Speaking at the University of the South Pacific in Suva last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised New Zealand would assist with … Read More

One simple, common factor to success against COVID-19 - Guest Work

Mar 18, 2020

Professor Philip Hill and Associate Professor James Ussher Most infectious diseases have an Achilles heel, the secret is to find it. The question is if we don’t have a drug or a vaccine for COVID-19, is there something else we can do to beat it? Some people estimate that, without any intervention, 50% of the Chinese population might have developed COVID-19, and if we use a 1% case fatality ratio, then the expected number of deaths would have been 7 million. Instead, there have been fewer than 3500 deaths reported across 1.4 billion people. This occurred in the absence of any effective drug or any vaccine. Therefore, something they did in China must have exposed an Achilles heel of the virus. As researchers, we are trained to observe and carefully interpret multiple lines of evidence when analysing a health problem. Read More

New Zealand’s COVID-19 public health response must be aggressive - Guest Work

Mar 13, 2020

Professor Philip Hill, University of Otago China, Taiwan and other Asian countries have shown that a massive public health response to COVID-19 works. Now is the time for New Zealand to do the same.  COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge for New Zealand and the rest of the world. Unchecked, the coronavirus causing this disease spreads easily through populations, killing a worryingly high proportion of infected elderly and those with serious underlying medical conditions, and rarely others in the general population. This has led to lockdowns of whole regions within countries, in China and now in Italy. However, New Zealand doesn’t need to have thousands of deaths or lockdowns from COVID-19. National pandemic plans tend to read like a fighter going into a fight planning to be knocked out. This is because they are based on … Read More

What’s the difference between pandemic, epidemic and outbreak? - Guest Work

Mar 12, 2020

Rebecca S.B. Fischer, Texas A&M University The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This is a landmark event. As an epidemiologist listening to the steady stream of conversation around the coronavirus, I’m hearing newscasters and neighbors alike mixing up three important words my colleagues and I use in our work every day: outbreak, epidemic and pandemic. Simply put, the difference between these three scenarios of disease spread is a matter of scale. Outbreak Small, but unusual. By tracking diseases over time and geography, epidemiologists learn to predict how many cases of an illness should normally happen within a defined period of time, place and population. An outbreak is a noticeable, often small, increase over the expected number of cases. Imagine an unusual spike in the number of children with diarrhea at a daycare. One or … Read More

Polly knows probability: this parrot can predict the chances of something happening - Guest Work

Mar 04, 2020

Ximena Nelson, University of Canterbury Avian experts have repeatedly demonstrated the remarkable brainpower of birds. Parrots, in particular, have established a reputation as skillful imitators – a talent that requires a complex network of neural connections. Now, researchers Alex Taylor and Amalia Bastos from the University of Auckland have once again observed parrots beating the odds when it comes to intelligence. Working with kea (Nestor notabilis) at Christchurch’s Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, their research has revealed this species’ ability to understand probability. Apart from humans and great apes, kea are the only animals to demonstrate this. The study, published today in Nature Communications, details how these fascinating feathered creatures calculate the chance of something happening. Clever, calculating kea The study involved presenting a few different kea with two jars, each containing different-coloured tokens: orange and black. The … Read More

First recorded ‘marsquakes’ reveal the red planet’s rumbling guts - Guest Work

Feb 25, 2020

Katarina Miljkovic We’ve all heard of earthquakes, but what about marsquakes? NASA’s InSight mission has, for the first time, recorded seismic activity coming from Mars’ interior. The observations, recorded in 2019 and published today, will help understand the red planet’s internal structure, composition and dynamics. It opens a new chapter in planetary geophysics and exploration. The NASA InSight mission has been operating on Mars since November 27, 2018. Soon after its seismic instruments were deployed in February 2019, InSight began detecting quakes and shakes. By September 2019 the InSight team had detected 174 marsquakes, and the total number continues to grow on a daily basis. What kind of quakes were detected on Mars? The recorded quakes fall into two distinct categories: 150 small ones, with high-frequency vibrations that suggest they occurred within the planet’s crust, and 24 low-frequency … Read More