Pointing At Science

The missing link between simple and complex cells?

Steve Pointing May 13, 2015

An intriguing new paper appeared in Nature this week, entitled ‘Complex archaea that bridge the gap between prokaryotes and eukaryotes’ (abstract and author details at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14447.htmlSo what’s all the fuss about? – surely the widely held view that simple prokaryotic cells (the domains Archaea and Bacteria, which are what most people would know as simple unicellular ‘microbes’) gave rise … Read More

NASA one step closer to finding aliens

Steve Pointing Apr 16, 2015

I have been fortunate enough to work closely with NASA’s Ames Research Center for over ten years.  They are the world’s leading astrobiology research institution, and have been responsible for most of the major advances in this field.  This week has been massive for NASA for two reasons: The discovery of conditions for liquid water on Mars and a … Read More

Science is set to drone on and on!

Steve Pointing Apr 10, 2015

It is looking increasingly like New Zealand will be the first country to approve ‘beyond line of sight’ operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones or remote piloted aerial systems (RPAS).  This follows a submission by Callaghan Innovation to the government, describing economic benefits that will arise from using UAV to make gains in the primary industries … Read More

Do we owe more of our identity to money than our genes?

Steve Pointing Mar 23, 2015

An intriguing new piece of research by US and European researchers describes how human evolution may be disconnected from our traditional view of Darwinian natural selection.Life on Earth is subject to evolution due to mutation and natural selection. The latter process describes how individuals with more favourable adaptation to their environment will contribute more to the subsequent generation’s gene pool … Read More


Australian desert dust comes to New Zealand

Steve Pointing Mar 16, 2015

I have just returned from a trip to Kanazawa University, located on the central west coast of Japan.  Aside from enjoying the fabulous Japanese hospitality from my colleagues there, we got to do some awesome science on bio-aerosols.  This involved adapting a helicopter to accommodate our air filtration and analytical devices, designed to measure particulates, chemistry and biology of aerosolised … Read More

Did gerbils bring the Black Death to Medieval Europe?

Steve Pointing Feb 25, 2015

An exciting paper published in PNAS this week (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/02/20/1412887112) suggests that the history books may need to be re-written when it comes to the cause of the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death in Medieval Europe. The Black Death is caused by the gram negative bacterium Yersinia pestis. This microbe was discovered by Alexandre Yersin of the Pasteur Institute, … Read More

You should love the love rats

Steve Pointing Feb 14, 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone – If, like me, you are an old romantic at heart then you will be looking forward to the soppy card and perhaps a little gift today.  Bear in mind, however, that all those feelings of love we experience are down to SCIENCE!As people fall in love they experience three stages: Lust, Attraction, and … Read More

Why it is perfectly safe to have a beer with your BBQ

Steve Pointing Feb 08, 2015

Not content with catalyzing a change to the recipe for Coca Cola and Pepsi in 2012, an unfortunate misinterpretation of science has now caused the Heineken brewing company to announce this week that it too will follow suit and modify the recipe for it’s beers in the US market.The culprit is the ‘caramel colour’ compound 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), which … Read More

Starting “Science Chat” in 2015 with stories ancient and modern

Steve Pointing Jan 23, 2015

Here is a summary of my first 'Science Chat' feature of the year for TV3’s Firstline show, which resumed this week on TV3 after the summer breakWatch here: http://www.3news.co.nz/world/scientists-atomic-tests-mark-new-era-2015012211#axzz3PaoCjTVfThe ancient: New insight to worlds oldest writingThe wealthy Roman resort town of Herculaneum was buried in 79AD by the massive eruption from Mt Vesuvius that also engulfed Pompeii.  Excavations some … Read More

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