Guest Work

The replication crisis is good for science

Guest Author Apr 10, 2019

Eric Loken, University of Connecticut Science is in the midst of a crisis: A surprising fraction of published studies fail to replicate when the procedures are repeated. For example, take the study, published in 2007, that claimed that tricky math problems requiring careful thought are easier to solve when presented in a fuzzy font. When researchers found … Read More

Squid team finds high species diversity off Kermadec Islands, part of stalled marine reserve proposal

Guest Author Apr 10, 2019

Kat Bolstad, Auckland University of Technology and Heather Braid, Auckland University of Technology Squids and octopuses could be considered the “parrots of the ocean”. Some are smart, and many have complex behaviours. And, of course, they have strange, bird-like beaks. They are the subject of ancient myths and legends about sea monsters, but they do not … Read More

Dissecting the Insect Apocalypse

Guest Author Apr 09, 2019

Tom Saunders Studies on insect declines published over the last few years have thrown up some scary headlines. “The insect apocalypse is here” proclaims the New York Times, warning the pace of insect declines could spell catastrophe within decades. It’s a grim picture, but how accurate is it? In late 2017, European scientists reported a 75% decline in insects over the last … Read More

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Tasman forest fires – the role of fire breaks

Guest Author Mar 29, 2019

Grant Pearce By New Zealand standards, the Pigeon Valley forest fire was a major wildfire. Burning under very dry conditions, it spread rapidly over several days, destroying a house, damaging other buildings and property, and causing the evacuation of more than 3000 residents. It burned 2300ha, which makes it the largest forest fire since the 1955 Balmoral Forest fire in … Read More

Social media must confront its role in terrorism

Guest Author Mar 22, 2019

Dr Paul Ralph By live-streaming the Christchurch mosque shooting, Facebook has drawn our collective attention, once again, to the role of social media in mass shootings and terrorism. Each time something like this happens, the tech giants claim to be doing everything they can, the tech pundits bemoan the problem as intractable, and the politicians fail … Read More

Extremism is not a mental illness

Guest Author Mar 20, 2019

Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand Following Friday’s appalling terrorist attack, the Mental Health Foundation has been disappointed but unsurprised to see some people speculating the terrorist must have been mentally ill. We understand why it’s comforting to think this. We all want to think the terrorist is an outlier, an outsider, different to us. We … Read More

How birds become male or female, and occasionally both

Guest Author Mar 13, 2019

Jenny Graves, La Trobe University The highly unusual “semi-identical” Australian twins reported last week are the result of a rare event. It’s thought the brother and sister (who have identical genes from their mother but not their father) developed from an egg fertilised by two different sperm at the same moment. In humans, it’s the sperm that … Read More

Pleading for accuracy in trial reporting

Guest Author Mar 12, 2019

Dr Julia Rucklidge A recently-published trial generated headlines about nutritional supplements and depression – but what did they actually find? Last week, Mariska Bot and colleagues published a clinical trial in JAMA whereby they randomised overweight or obese adults with subsyndromal depressive symptoms to placebo, micronutrients (400 mcg folic acid, 800IU vitamin D, 30 mcg selenium, 100 mg … Read More

Context is best – a reflection on last week’s breast vs bottle uproar

Guest Author Mar 11, 2019

Dr Eva Neely Last week clinical psychologist Dr Natalie Flynn was interviewed about the new release of her parenting book Smart Mothering. In her book, she draws on scientific literature to provide parents with the up-to-date, state of the art research on varying parenting practices, one topic being infant feeding. Though the intentions sit in the right place, … Read More

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The Dawn of the Age of Plastics

Guest Author Feb 28, 2019

David Taylor The 1939 World’s Fair was a testament to cork’s primacy in consumer packaging. But a little-known substance called plastic was waiting in the wings. In the closing months of World War II, Americans talked nonstop about how and when the war would end, and about how life was about to change. Germany would fall soon, people … Read More