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.

Data mining medical trials – a 'game changer' - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jun 10, 2015

Associate Professor Suetonia Palmer Diabetic? Got heart disease? Which blood pressure treatment will help you most? With hundreds of thousands of medical trials to wade through, even your doctor might not know. But in a paper in the Lancet medical journal published recently, University of Otago Associate Professor Suetonia Palmer, as part of a worldwide team, uses a new statistical framework to show – for the first time – which drug combinations best protect kidney function. The Royal Society of New Zealand Rutherford Discovery Fellow explains. How will this change what you can say to patients? Figuring out what the medical research is telling us is nearly impossible because of the sheer number of trials available all the time. Plugging all the trials into a single analysis will allow me to be much more confident when I discuss with … Read More

Tangata Whenua – changing science, changing history - Unsorted

May 27, 2015

Climate science may be fundamentally changing our view of how humans settled New Zealand and of how pre-European Māori culture changed. Australian National University Emeritus Professor Atholl Anderson FRSNZ tells us how science as a whole is an important part of Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, which charts Māori history from ancient origins to the 21st century. Co-authored with Aroha Harris and the late Judith Binney FRSNZ, the landmark publication is the winner of the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize. Emeritus Professor Atholl Anderson Do you think that weather – or climate science – has been underrated as a force of history? I think the climate was particularly important in several respects in pre-European New Zealand – the first is that changing wind patterns make a plausible case for how people … Read More

Wonderful dolphins, still lacking protection - Infrequently Asked Questions

May 14, 2015

Raewyn Peart When asked for legal assistance for dolphins, New Zealand’s Environmental Defence Society policy director Raewyn Peart was unable to help. But although the group couldn’t join a court case in which the fishing industry was challenging new regulations, Raewyn was so taken by the stories and science that she wrote Dolphins of Aotearoa, now a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society Science Book Prize. Here, Raewyn Peart and University of Otago’s Professor Liz Slooten tell us about our fascination with, and the future of, New Zealand’s dolphins. Have we always been fascinated by dolphins? Raewyn: The high sociability of dolphins, their intelligence, their altruism and their interest in interacting with humans, has made them intriguing to us for generations. Māori developed a very close spiritual relationship with dolphins, some believing that they embodied spirits of their dead. Read More

Science, Poetry & Responsibility - Infrequently Asked Questions

Apr 29, 2015

The front cover of Gathering Evidence The dissection of football-sized hailstones, the role of Newton’s first law of motion in long-distance cycling, and the ethics of some twenty tons of one woman’s cells posthumously grown in laboratories all feature in Caoilinn Hughes’ poetry book, Gathering Evidence, a finalist for the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize. Caoilinn tells us about her approach to science. Where does your interest in science come from, and are you going to keep writing about science? My tertiary education transformed my desire and capacity to learn, but it left me feeling aggrieved that the formative years of my education had been so inadequate. I didn’t take a single science subject at my all-girls school—run largely by nuns—which preferred to teach Religious Studies and Home Economics over the Theory of Evolution. Read More

Miraculous Manuka - Unsorted

Apr 15, 2015

Cliff Van Eaton Manuka honey – which at one time beekeepers literally gave away – is now bringing such fantastic prices that plans are afoot to create large-scale manuka plantations, and young people around the country are taking up hives and veils. Beekeeping specialist Cliff Van Eaton – whose fascinating account of how manuka honey became a New Zealand icon is a finalist for the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize – and researcher Peter Molan, who first discovered the unique antibacterial properties of the honey, tell us more about the amazing rags-to-riches manuka story. Do you have manuka honey on toast for breakfast? Peter Molan Cliff: Thanks to the special properties Peter discovered in manuka honey, it has now become arguably the most expensive honey in the world. Honey that has been tested and … Read More

Turing machines, coin tosses and internet security - Infrequently Asked Questions

Apr 01, 2015

Professor Rod Downey The movie The Imitation Game tells the story – albeit not very accurately – of Alan Turing and the WWII code breakers of Bletchley Park. But Alan Turing should be most famous, says Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor Rod Downey, for an entirely hypothetical device called the Turing Machine, invented to disprove an obscure problem in logic. Rod Downey – winner of the 2011 Hector Medal, a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and principal investigator on six Marsden Fund grants – explains. What did you think of the movie? I did not like the movie very much, for many reasons which I’ve listed in my talk. The good was that the movie correctly placed Turing as a leading figure in winning the WWII and as a one of the great minds … Read More

'Take scientific risks' – Nobel Laureates - Infrequently Asked Questions

Mar 18, 2015

Holly van der Salm Prize-winning scientists at an international meeting all gave similar advice, says New Zealand attendee Holly van der Salm – don’t just be a specialist, don’t be afraid to take risks, and go where the exciting science is. A University of Otago PhD candidate, Ms van der Salm now has new books on her bedside table and a new perspective on her future career. She tells us about the HOPE meeting, an annual Japanese conference aimed at engaging early career Asia-Pacific researchers with distinguished scientists. Who did you get to meet? The Nobel Prize Dialogue was held outside of Sweden for the first time this year; as part of the HOPE meeting, we attended this interesting symposium and had a shared reception dinner. Many Nobel Prize winners and celebrated scientists were present, and the Emperor … Read More

Diabetes – the long road of discovery - Infrequently Asked Questions

Mar 08, 2015

Professor Frances Ashcroft Late one night in 1984, Frances Ashcroft found a key link between the blood sugar level in your body and insulin secretion. That discovery helped transform the lives of those with a rare inherited form of diabetes. The Oxford-based Royal Society Research Professor is in New Zealand this month, speaking about electricity in our cells, the spark of life, which governs everything from hearing to the beating of the heart. She tells us here about the path from that eureka moment to a new therapy for people with neonatal diabetes, and challenges still to come. What exactly did you find? Insulin is the only hormone that can lower the blood glucose and if you don’t have enough you get diabetes. I was interested in understanding how a rise in blood sugar results in insulin release … Read More

Student – cow trampling increases nitrate leaching - Infrequently Asked Questions

Feb 18, 2015

Kyle Roberston It’s 2015, the International Year of Soils, and eighteen-year-old Kyle Robertson has been doing his bit for New Zealand dirt. By squashing soil with a press and pouring fake cow pee on top, the former Palmerston North Boys’ High School student has modelled the effect of cow trampling on nitrate leaching, with some surprising results. He explains why his Gold CREST research tells farmers to beware of overstocking on sandy loams. Is compaction well known for increasing nitrate leaching? There was no research that I could find that looked at the effect of compaction on nitrate leaching. I had looked into whether cow urine has a greater risk of leaching nitrate than typical fertiliser application for my Silver CREST project, and I wanted to look further into nitrate leaching mitigation. My mentor was Associate Professor David Horne … Read More

Future proofing our pastures against drought - Infrequently Asked Questions

Feb 11, 2015

Minushika Punchihewa New Zealand may have escaped another official declaration of drought, but climate-change forecasts make dry periods more likely. Good news, then, that a New Zealand high school student has helped improve the drought-resistance of future pastures. Former Palmerston North Girls’ High School student Minushika Punchihewa explains her Gold CREST research that ensures successful cross-breeding just by looking closely at a clover plant.   Why are clovers being cross-bred? Currently Trifolium repens (White Clover) is the most common species of clover used in New Zealand’s agricultural sector and is depended upon by farmers to feed their live stock and for pastoral growth. However, a relativity new type of clover called Trifolium ambiguum was introduced to New Zealand from regions surrounding the Black Sea. This clover has many advantageous traits such as drought tolerance, pest and disease resistance and … Read More