Spring is just around the corner which means the Science Media Centre team have been enjoying late winter vacations.
Here’s a double-issue instalment of the great science journalism we’ve enjoyed during July and August. Seen, read or listened to anything you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.
High Hopes: Who Will Benefit From NZ’s Legal Cannabis Industry?
Tess McClure, Vice
Legal cannabis is big money, Tess McClure writes in this feature, but who will benefit if an industry kicks off in New Zealand? This one’s particularly timely given Hikurangi Industries has just been granted the first New Zealand licence to cultivate cannabis for medicinal research purposes.
The ark, the algorithm and our conservation conundrum
Charlie Mitchell, Stuff
How did a stinky, ugly plant become a higher priority for protection than the iconic Kauri tree? In a two-part series, Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell investigates how we spread our conservation budget and decide which species to protect. Part two is available here.
MPI lab’s struggle under weight of M.bovis
David Williams, Newsroom
Newsroom’s David Williams has been doggedly following the Mycoplasma bovis story, as seen in this story outlining how the outbreak put immense pressure on the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Wallaceville laboratory.
Can Ray Avery turn promises into reality?
Eloise Gibson, Newsroom
And in another Newsroom investigation, veteran science journalist Eloise Gibson checked out some of the claims prominent Kiwi Sir Ray Avery has made about his low-cost incubators that he plans to send to developing countries and finds not everyone is cheering him on.
Bad Vibrations: The implosion of a New Age cult
Steve Kilgallon and Tony Wall, Stuff
In this long read by Stuff, the Auckland leader of a group known as Kosmic Fusion uses quantum physics terms to explain how she ‘heals’ people. Massey University Physics Professor Bill Williams says it’s ‘bollocks’.
Maraenui: The suburb swallowed by synthetics
Anusha Bradley, Radio NZ
It’s a scene common to many of New Zealand’s poorest suburbs: empty lots where state housing once sat, unemployment and a dependence on drugs. In this long-form feature, Anusha Bradley visits Maranui, Napier’s poorest suburb, which has fallen into the grip of synthetic drugs.
The Big Leak
Steve Kilgallon, Stuff
Leaky homes are an issue New Zealanders can’t seem to get away from, but the messy court battle at the centre of Stuff national correspondent Steve Kilgallon’s three-part series has three parties claiming they have been wronged.
Mould, sweet mould: inside New Zealand’s damp housing crisis
Ethan Donnell, The Spinoff
Ethan Donnell, director of Sick Homes, writes about some of the people he met while producing the documentary on New Zealand’s damp homes.
Lie of the Land
Ellen Rykers, New Zealand Geographic
Ellen Rykers’ ancestors were among a small group of colonists who tried to make a home on the Auckland Islands – she traces their tale in this feature article.
Overlooked No More: Beatrice Tinsley, Astronomer Who Saw the Course of the Universe
Dennis Overbye, The New York Times
It’s only a few decades late … New Zealand-raised astronomer Beatrice Tinsley has been recognised by an obituary in the New York Times, as part of its ‘overlooked’ series that seeks to address the imbalance of historic obituaries.
Tide of lies
Kai Kupferschmidt, Science
Three New Zealand researchers have played a role in uncovering fabricated data across dozens of clinical trials published in international journals.
The obsessive search for the Tasmanian Tiger
Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker
It’s right up there with the dodo and passenger pigeon as an icon of human-driven extinction, but some people still think the Tasmanian Tiger lurks in the wilderness.
Anti-Vaxxers Are Targeting a Vaccine for a Virus Deadlier Than Ebola
Brendan Borrell, The Atlantic
The Hendra virus can spread from horses to humans, but anti-vaxxers have been targeting this disease as well, giving scientists concern that the virus could turn into a major problem.
A semicolon in the arts
John Back, Lateral
There have long been established guidelines for discussing suicide in the news media, but the rules for fiction are far less clear.
The Nastiest Feud in Science
Bianca Bosker, The Atlantic
A Princeton geologist has endured decades of ridicule for arguing that the fifth extinction was caused not by an asteroid but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions.
The secret in my blood
Jon Kelly, BBC
Matt Merry was eight when he was infected with HIV after being treated for haemophilia with contaminated blood in the UK. This two-part series coincides with the launch of a public inquiry into the NHS scandal. The first part covers the tragic tale of a woman who lost two husbands to contaminated blood.
The Revolution That Rewrote Life’s History
David Quammen, The Atlantic
What even is a species anyway? The more we use DNA to examine the world around us, the more we find that organisms trade genes with no concern for our human concepts of species. In this excerpt from his new book, The Tangled Tree, science writer extraordinaire David Quammen delves into the nitty-gritty: what is an individual?
I was deluded. You can’t beat fake news with science communication
Jenny Rohn, The Guardian
As the Guardian shutters its science blog network, the bloggers have been writing their final sign-offs. In this piece, Jenny Rohn tells of her frustrations in the “dangerous era of untruth”.
The last two months on Sciblogs
100 years ago today – the likely first NZ death from the 1918 influenza pandemic
Nick Wilson, Jennifer Summers and Michael Baker, Public Health Expert
This week marked 100 years since the first likely Kiwi death in the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Official information kept secret too long
Mark Hanna, Honest Universe
For the past few months, Mark Hanna has been gathering data on 12 government agencies and how they handle requests under the Official Information Act: his full article is available here.
Slick propaganda has no place in science classroom
Alison Campbell, BioBlog
Unless it’s being used to develop critical thinking skills, propaganda has no place in the science classroom, writes Alison Campbell, and certainly not when it teaches creationism.
Critically endangered but not lost: the fight to save Te Papa’s collections from extinction
Nic Rawlence, Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives
Ancient DNA expert Nic Rawlence writes a passionate defence of museum collections and questions a proposed restructure of our national museum.
What are the possible psychological effects of being stuck in that cave?
Sarb Johal, Psychology Report
It probably seems like an age ago that 12 children were trapped in a Thai cave – in this article, Sarb Johal speculates on what they might have been going through prior to their dramatic rescue.