Lynley Hargreaves

Lynley Hargreaves is a freelance science communicator with a background in mathematical physics. After a stint overseas at Physics Today magazine, she spent happy years working for the Royal Society Te Apārangi, albeit with intermittent disappearances to the mountains of the West Coast of the South Island. From this now permanent West Coast base, she has been conducting IAQ interviews since the beginning of 2014, asking a wide range of researchers how their work can give us insights into the workings of the world.

Evolution in our changing lands - Infrequently Asked Questions

Nov 12, 2015

Professor Jon Waters New Zealand has often been pictured as a kind of ‘ark’ of ancient species, isolated and unchanging since our land broke away from Gondwana 80 million years ago. But new Royal Society of New Zealand Fellow Professor Jon Waters, over multiple Marsden Fund grants, has explored the idea that geology is both more and less important in our understanding of New Zealand’s biological diversity. He explains, with not-so-ancient freshwater fish, earthquakes that move rivers, and a spectacular diversity of flightless alpine stoneflies. How has our thinking on the arrival of plants and animals in New Zealand changed? For several decades it has often been assumed that a lot of New Zealand species were ancient relics. But now there’s wider acceptance for dispersal being a key force in New Zealand’s natural history. I work on … Read More

Humble aspirin aids cancer survival - Infrequently Asked Questions

Oct 29, 2015

Dr Anita Dunbier Breast cancer survival rates have improved by a third since the 1970s and taking the humble aspirin may help boost survival rates further still. University of Otago Senior Lecturer Dr Anita Dunbier explains why such a low-cost drug has been overlooked, why it works, and how her team is testing aspirin’s benefits in a new South Island-based medical trial. Should we all just start taking aspirin every day? Probably not yet as there are risks in taking aspirin too. The evidence we have at the moment suggests it is likely to be helpful and some people are already using aspirin based on these findings. Speaking specifically about breast cancer, any such decision would need to be made alongside your doctor and it would depend on the type of breast cancer. Generally, we’re still a little way … Read More

Lasers: the transformation to come - Infrequently Asked Questions

Sep 23, 2015

Cather Simpson wants every child and parent in New Zealand to know the word photonics – and to consider photonics science or engineering as a career. An Associate Professor at the University of Auckland and Director of the Photon Factory, she’s worked on problems as diverse as robotic surgery and sorting dairy herd sperm by sex. Now as part of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, Associate Professor Simpson is working to give school children, and the general public, a glimpse of the future of laser manufacturing.   You’ve already developed some very practical innovations. Can you tell me about how Engender came about? Associate Professor Cather Simpson. Photo: Stephen Barker/Barker Photography. © University of Auckland A venture capital investor bought me a coffee and asked me if I could help with any of five big problems … Read More

Have surgery, wake up on Sydney time - Infrequently Asked Questions

Sep 10, 2015

Dr Guy Warman Patients who receive anaesthesia for surgery may wake up jet lagged – after a six hour operation that starts at 9am, for example, a New Zealand patient might wake up on Sydney time. This could leave patients with trouble sleeping, inhibit wound healing and lower immune function. In a bid to investigate this and find possible treatment strategies, the University of Auckland’s Dr Guy Warman first used a Marsden Fund grant to look at honey bees, and is now running a clinical trial to see whether light-producing masks can help reduce the biological clock’s disruption associated with anaesthesia and surgery. Next week he’s giving the first in a series of lectures around New Zealand in recognition of the International Year of Light. In his  Ten by Ten Luminaries talk he will explain the importance of … Read More

The complex future of ecology - Infrequently Asked Questions

Aug 27, 2015

If you believe the next mass extinction event (caused by humans) has begun, how do humans begin to choose which species to save? Rutherford Discovery Fellow Dr Daniel Stouffer may be able to help, although he isn’t looking at kiwi, lichens, or in fact any particular species. Instead, he’s working on ways to study all of them at the same time, and he and his University of Canterbury team can tell us something about how food webs fit together across the world, and perhaps the future of ecology. Are we saving the wrong species? This is the exact question that managers of conservation policy are asking and answering every day. Unfortunately, the first big step forward might be realising that it may be the wrong question. What I mean is there’s lots of evidence that species at the … Read More

Aliens, relativistic effects, and the end of elements - Infrequently Asked Questions

Aug 21, 2015

Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger would like to find the end of the periodic table – where elements get heavier, more relativistic and much, much less stable. The Massey University Professor is delivering the annual Rutherford Lecture series around New Zealand, and you can come along to find out more about why gold is yellow, what makes mercury liquid, and how understanding our chemical beginnings can help us look for alien worlds. Livermorium, Ununoctium, Ununtrium, Ununpentium and Ununseptium have been discovered since the turn of the century. Aren’t we creating more super heavy elements than before? No, the rate at which new elements are being added to the periodic table has actually been slowing down for the last 30 years. That’s because such experiments become increasingly more expensive and are difficult. Experimenters … Read More

New Zealand kids monolingual, missing out - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jul 29, 2015

Associate Professor Sharon Harvey The Māori language is in a dire situation and the 2013 census saw a further drop in numbers of Māori speaking Māori. In 2015’s Māori language week, Auckland University of Technology Associate Professor Sharon Harvey takes on popular misconceptions, explains how a national languages policy would increase our awareness of languages overall, and tells us how Māori might figure in such a policy. We have Māori immersion classes at schools, a Māori television channel – isn’t the Māori language doing well? No, people have an idea that the Māori language is doing well after a huge amount of energy that was put in through the 1970s to the 1990s. But actually in official terms it’s considered severely endangered. When a language is in an English-dominant environment like New Zealand and is indigenous to this place … Read More

Where will all the people go? - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jul 23, 2015

Professor Richard Bedford Sea level will rise, mosquitoes will likely carry dengue fever and malaria, and drought may damage dairy farming. But climate change is not going to be as devastating in New Zealand as in other parts of the world, says Auckland University of Technology’s Professor Richard Bedford. The first social scientist to lead the Royal Society of New Zealand in 75 years, Professor Bedford here talks about climate-induced and other population trends – New Zealanders in Australia, Pacific Islanders in New Zealand, and how everybody isn’t moving to Auckland. Isn’t everybody moving to Auckland? Sixty-six percent of New Zealand’s population does not live in Auckland. We hear an awful lot about the concentration of problems in Auckland, problems of rising property prices and so on. But don’t forget that the great majority of New Zealanders live … Read More

Our maker of words – the life and struggles of Robin Hyde - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jul 09, 2015

New Zealand author Robin Hyde was one of our most significant writers of poetry, fiction and journalism. She spent years in a mental hospital, smuggled her baby across Cook Strait in a hat box, but also wrote an acclaimed travel story in China during the Japanese invasion, and news of her death was covered on the front page of the New York Times. Massey University’s Dr Mary Edmond Paul – who was part of a prestigious Marsden Fund research project looking into the author’s life – tells us why, after long being overlooked, recognition for Robin Hyde is coming again and again. Robin Hyde’s name was actually Iris Guliver Wilkinson. Why did she change her name? Her pseudonym has a fascinating explanation. She had written, poems and journalism, under her real name, Iris Wilkinson, until 1926 when she gave … Read More

Is our flag a brand? - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jun 29, 2015

If you’ve felt uneasy about the new flag debate, this might be why. A flag, says a University of Auckland geographer, is supposed to be something that defines us as a people in our place, not an exercise in market branding. After a prestigious Marsden Grant looking at the development of Brand New Zealand, Associate Professor Nick Lewis says that any exploration of what our nation is, and what it might mean, shouldn’t reduce entirely to selling more stuff. Associate Professor Nick Lewis Do you think we should just keep our existing flag? I’m not sure that that is the right question. A few weeks ago columnist James Griffin dismissed the debate as a WTF moment. Great satire, and spot on in challenging the way the debate has been conducted. Yet, it is important periodically to ask who we are … Read More