Science and Society

Murchison and geology - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 19, 2019

There are many places, both in New Zealand and elsewhere around the globe, that are named for the nineteenth-century Scottish geologist Sir Roderick Impey Murchison. It seems astonishing how many of these are connected in some way with events of geological significance, or are otherwise of scientific importance.  One of my predilections is writing blog posts prompted by the occurrence … Read More

Astronomy on Bloomsday - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 16, 2019

The name of Michael Faraday is well-known in science, for his pioneering work in both chemistry and physics (in particular electricity and magnetism; hence the name of the SI unit of capacitance, the farad). As a postgraduate student at the University of Canterbury I spent many hours working on experimental radio receivers sat inside a large metallic box … Read More

How should we manage the harm caused by tobacco product waste? - Public Health Expert

Public Health Expert Jun 14, 2019

Professor Janet Hoek and Emeritus Professor Philip Gendall Annual consumption of cigarettes now exceeds five trillion, with around four trillion butts littered every year. These cigarette butts cause major environmental damage and impose significant clean-up costs on local authorities. Although tobacco companies have framed smokers as responsible for butt litter, recent debate has focused on the tobacco industry’s role … Read More

Connecting comets and rubber - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 11, 2019

Comet Grigg-Skjellerup was one of the first such celestial bodies to be visited by a spacecraft, the Giotto probe which was sent on to encounter it in mid-1992 after having first visited the famous Comet Halley in 1986. Comet Grigg-Skjellerup was discovered about a century ago, independently by a New Zealander (John Grigg) and an Australian (Frank Skjellerup). The younger … Read More

The problem of knowing when a lunar year begins and ends - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 05, 2019

The Islamic fast of Ramadan has come to an end, marking the beginning of the tenth month of the religion’s twelve-lunation year and therefore Eid al-Fidr, the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’. How the decision is made when each of those months begins and ends depends upon the actual sighting of the crescent new moon in the sky, a highly-complicated … Read More

Measles infection and immune amnesia - BioBlog

Alison Campbell Jun 04, 2019

Measles infection has a couple of longer-term sequelae. One, SSPE, is thankfully rare (although for infants with measles the odds of subsequently developing SSPE are considerably higher than for other age groups). The other, “immune amnesia”, is strongly associated with having had measles, though this doesn’t stop those opposed to vaccination claiming otherwise. In 2015, Mina et al. published … Read More

The 250th anniversary of Cook’s observation of the transit of Venus - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 02, 2019

On June 3rd occurs the 250th anniversary of the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, the observation of which was the prime purpose behind the expedition of HM Bark Endeavour to the South Pacific, under the command of Lieutenant James Cook. Following the measurements of the transit made by Cook and the mission’s scientists in Tahiti, the … Read More

The Great Eclipse of 1919 - Out of Space

Duncan Steel May 29, 2019

Measurements of photographs obtained during the total solar eclipse of 29th May 1919 were pivotal in demonstrating the veracity of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, turning him into a household name. The centenary of that event is now upon us, and well worthy of being remembered.  As I sit here typing on my keyboard, my favourite photo showing myself and … Read More

Game of Futures - Ariadne

Robert Hickson May 27, 2019

No one needs telling that the Future is Coming. But there are different perspectives and attitudes toward it. Some see the future as “dark and full of terrors” – The machines are taking over; Democracy is dying; We are doomed! Others see nothing but light – Technological utopianism; Singularities; Becoming an interplanetary species; Or a delight for … Read More