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.

Five things to consider before ordering an online DNA test - News

Apr 05, 2018

Jane Tiller, Monash University and Paul Lacaze, Monash University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. You might be intrigued by what your genes could tell you about your ancestry or the health risks hidden in your DNA. If so, you’re not alone. Fascination with personal genetics is fuelling an explosion of online DNA testing. More than 12 million people have been tested – 7 million through ancestry.com alone. Amazon reported the 23andMe online DNA test kit as one of its top five best-selling items on Black Friday in 2017. But while online genetic testing can be interesting and fun, it has risks. Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re considering spitting in a tube. 1. Understand the limits of what’s possible … Read More

Why bodycam footage might not clear things up … - Guest Work

Apr 05, 2018

Deryn Strange, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Kristyn Jones, John Jay College of Criminal Justice This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Stephon Clark, an African-American man, was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard last month, setting off protests and conflict over the police’s actions. Police initially said they thought Clark was armed. But after the shooting, the officers found no weapon on Clark, only an iPhone. The city’s police chief has been credited with responding quickly to the protests by making the officers’ bodycam footage available, in an attempt to help the public discern what really happened. But bodycam footage is unlikely to solve every conflict. Why? We are psychology scholars whose research focuses on the legal implications of memory errors. Our … Read More

Gene-based tests may improve treatment for people with bipolar disorder - Guest Work

Apr 04, 2018

Klaus Oliver Schubert, University of Adelaide and Bernhard Baune, University of Adelaide This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) affects around 2% of the world’s population, leaving them with bouts of severe depression and episodes of what is commonly referred to as “mania”. A range of drug treatments are available, but choosing the right medication, or range of medications, can be a struggle – sometimes spanning many years. But new research aims to shorten this process by matching drug treatments to individual patients, based on their genetic profile. What is bipolar disorder? When depressed, people with bipolar have a low mood, poor energy levels, and lose interest in pleasurable activities over the course of many weeks. They also notice ongoing negative thoughts about themselves … Read More

Drug use can have social benefits, and acknowledging this could improve rehabilitation - Guest Work

Apr 04, 2018

Jennifer Power, La Trobe University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Illicit drug use is often framed in terms of risk and antisocial or criminal behaviour. But drug use is often a highly social activity. For many people, the pleasure of using drugs is about social connection as much as it is about the physical effects. A new study aiming to understanding the social benefits of drug use may help us to improve responses to risky or harmful drug taking. Pleasure is not just physical Pleasure is an obvious part of drug use and the short-term physical benefits are well known. Drugs can produce a “high”, give people energy, make them feel good, reduce stress and aid sleep. The social benefits of drug use are … Read More

We spent nine years tracking South Africa’s white sharks. What we learnt - Guest Work

Apr 03, 2018

Alison Kock, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. How big is South Africa’s white shark population? Nobody really knows: estimates range from 500 to more than 1200. This is an important question because the species is under enormous pressure. South Africa’s sharks come from two genetic lineages – one related to Australia and New Zealand, and one found only in waters around its coastline. In places like KwaZulu-Natal, white sharks are culled in large numbers by shark nets and drumlines. They are accidentally caught in gill nets and longlines intended for other fish. They are also losing prey, as many of their favoured fish species are overfished and those species populations are declining. White sharks are an important bellwether species. They are … Read More

Kids with autism less likely to be fully vaccinated - Guest Work

Apr 03, 2018

Phoebe Roth, The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Children with autism and their younger siblings are less likely to be fully vaccinated than neurotypical children and their siblings, new research from the US has found. Of children aged seven years and older, 94% of neurotypical children had received all the recommended vaccinations for children aged 4-6 years. For those with autism, the rate was 82%. It has been two decades since Andrew Wakefield’s now retracted and widely discredited study in The Lancet falsely linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. This new study, published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, suggests many parents still have concerns around vaccines and autism. The study included 3,729 children with autism and 592,907 neurotypical children … Read More

Citizen scientist scuba divers shed light on the impact of warming oceans on marine life - Guest Work

Apr 02, 2018

Madeleine De Gabriele, The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Rising ocean temperatures may result in worldwide change for shallow reef ecosystems, according to research published yesterday in Science Advances. The study, based on thousands of surveys carried out by volunteer scuba divers, gives new insights into the relationship of fish numbers to water temperatures – suggesting that warmer oceans may drive fish to significantly expand their habitat, displacing other sea creatures. Citizen science The study draws from Reef Life Survey, a 10-year citizen science project that trains volunteer scuba divers to survey marine plants and animals. Over the past ten years, more than 200 divers have surveyed 2,406 ocean sites in 44 countries, creating a uniquely comprehensive data set on ocean life. Reef Life Survey … Read More

Is psychiatry ready for medical MDMA? - Guest Work

Mar 30, 2018

Gillinder Bedi, University of Melbourne This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Within five years, science will likely have answered a controversial question: can methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) treat psychiatric disorders? After some studies showing a positive effect, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is entering final clinical trials as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If these trials show positive results, MDMA will go from an illegal drug to a prescription medicine in the United States by 2021, potentially prompting movement in this space in Australia and Europe. MDMA would move from the fringes to mainstream psychiatry, becoming recognised as a mainstream treatment option. What remains less clear is how psychiatry will deal with questions arising from this new treatment approach. MDMA in medicine: a brief history German pharmaceutical company Merck patented … Read More

How the first trees grew so tall with hollow cores – new research - Guest Work

Mar 30, 2018

Christopher M. Berry, Cardiff University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Imagine a world without trees, and then try to think about the changes that would need to happen for these trees to evolve from the small primitive plants that came before them. I spend as much time as I can trying to find evidence for this transition, which is currently estimated to have happened between 390-380m years ago, in the Mid-Devonian Epoch. One plant type, the extinct cladoxylopsids – an ancient plant group now only found as fossils – has continually demanded my attention. Despite these fossils first being found in the 1850s, understanding of the plants was highly confused for decades. This is a common problem in the study of fossil plants, because the living plants … Read More

With China’s space station about to crash land, who’s responsible if you get hit by space junk? - Guest Work

Mar 29, 2018

Melissa de Zwart, University of Adelaide This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. The defunct Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is falling back to Earth and about to crash land some time over the next few days. Most experts expect much of it to burn up as it enters the atmosphere, but it is likely that some pieces of the 8.5-tonne station will survive re-entry. While the odds of the debris falling on a person are small, you may ask: who is liable in the event of damage caused by a space object to a person or property? Under international law, a State is liable for damage caused by its “space objects” to another State or its space objects. Liability arises under the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, … Read More