By Sarah-Jane O'Connor 01/11/2018


Phew, it’s been a busy month in the news agenda: from the IPCC’s 1.5C report to turmoil in the National party and tragedy in Wanaka and Mt Cook.

Through all of that, you’d be forgiven for missing some of the excellent science-related stories that have been published over the past month. But never fear, we’ve collated some of our favourites for your reading and listening pleasure. Let us know in the comments if you think there’s something we’ve missed.

What happened here
Charlie Mitchell, Stuff

This month Stuff has launched a new ‘premium’ section on its website to highlight some of the excellent long-form reporting being produced by the company’s journalists. It’s no surprise to see National Correspondent Charlie Mitchell featured with this in-depth story about the West Coast’s Powelliphanta augusta snails that were rescued from a cloudy mountaintop before its habitat was destroyed to make way for a mine. Now the snails live in cold-store in Hokitika and while you might have heard this story, Charlie delves into the details of what happened here.

The Final Meltdown
Kennedy Warne, New Zealand Geographic

Every year, at the end of summer, Niwa researchers take to the skies to undertake an annual survey of the Southern Alps’ snowline. Kennedy Warne tags along and reports back on the rapid changes in our highest peaks: could water quantity evoke the same emotional response among New Zealanders as water quality has in recent years?

New Zealand is busy bickering about petrol prices while the world burns
Charlie Mitchell, Stuff

The day after the IPCC’s 1.5C report was released, it seemed we’d forgotten all about its dire warnings. The country was back to arguing about fuel prices with little to no acknowledgement that we ought to be talking about burning less fuel, Charlie Mitchell wrote in this searing op-ed on the subject.

The Truth is Dead
Toby Morris, The Spinoff

If you’re unfamiliar with Toby Morris’ ‘The Side Eye’ comic, it’s time you became acquainted. In this month’s instalment, he explores the ‘post-truth’ era, attempts to find common ground with a Flat Earther, and shares his thoughts about how we come to an understanding of the truth. While you’re there, check out Drug Zealand, his take on what brave drug policy could look like.

Return of the lost birds
Kate Evans, New Zealand Geographic

Since humans arrived in Aotearoa, we’ve lost nearly half of our native terrestrial bird species. In this New Zealand Geographic feature, Kate Evans talks to scientists learning more about these long-lost species through the remains and DNA they left behind.

Foxes in charge of the meth house
Branko Marcetic, Newsroom

In a two-part inquiry for Newsroom, Branko Marcetic investigates the people running the flawed meth testing regimes. Part 2, Meth-testing’s ‘wild west’, can be found here.

Data for Sale: The value of our digital lives
Katie Kenny, Stuff

In this four-part series, funded by the Aotearoa New Zealand Science Journalism Fund, Stuff national correspondent Katie Kenny takes a deep dive into what data internet giants collect on us and talks to those who are trying to do more to protect us – do watch the accompanying video, it’s superb.

Drug Deals
Stuff Circuit

Eugene Bingham and Paula Penfold from Stuff Circuit investigate the secret deals behind the multi-million dollar global drug market, and what, if anything, Pharmac can do about it.

Why White Supremacists Are Chugging Milk (and Why Geneticists Are Alarmed)
Amy Harmon, New York Times

In a pretty bizarre way, white supremacists have misinterpreted and corrupted scientific research to support their beliefs. Writing in the New York Times, Amy Harmon spoke to researchers grappling with what to do when evidence is taken out of context to support racist causes.

Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them
Carl Zimmer, New York Times

And in a similar vein and also in the USA, Senator Elizabeth Warren released results from a DNA test that suggests she had a Native American ancestor six to ten generations back. Science journalist Carl Zimmer writes about how this was a textbook example of people jumping to the wrong conclusions from DNA test results and corrects two cases where his own 2014 article was taken out of context to provide support for incorrect claims.

The Myth of ‘Dumbing Down’
Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

It’s something we hear all the time at the Science Media Centre: experts complain about topics being ‘dumbed down’ to meet the public’s (and their proxy, the media’s) needs. But writing in The Atlantic, Ian Bogost argues that it’s a problem with the expert refusing to address the audience’s needs, rather than a problem with the audience just because they don’t have the in-house knowledge of fellow specialists.

Liver transplant from HIV+ living donor to negative recipient: key ethical issues
The Conversation

Doctors in South Africa performed a liver transplant from an HIV-positive donor to an HIV-negative recipient. This piece from the University of the Witwatersrand talks about the major ethical questions that came into play.

The People Who Could Have Done Science, Didn’t
Kate Marvel, Scientific American

The people who could have solved the math problem or designed the experiments, or developed the theory didn’t, because they were women and they were told, at every stage, that they weren’t good enough, Kate Marvel writes for the Scientific American.

A Controversial Virus Study Reveals a Critical Flaw in How Science Is Done
Ed Yong, The Atlantic

Last year, the world learned Canadian researchers had resurrected the long-dead horsepox virus: though harmless to humans, it’s a close relation to the deadly smallpox virus. Ed Yong writes about why critics are horrified that researchers could make a decision like this that could have global repercussions.

A Lesson of Hurricane Michael: Our Policymakers are Failing Us
Darien Alexander Williams, Undark

The devastating storm underscored a cruel irony: science-informed policy is being shunned in the US states where it’s needed the most, writes doctoral student Darien Alexander Williams on Undark.

The people who moved to Chernobyl
Zhanna Bezpiatchuk, BBC

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 left a ring of ghost villages as residents fled, fearing radiation poisoning. But now people fleeing fighting in Ukraine are choosing to live in the crumbling houses on the edge of the exclusion zone, writes Zhanna Bezpiatchuk for BBC.

October on Sciblogs

Make taxonomy great again
Nic Rawlence, Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives

Starting with a story about an inebriated walk home and an exotic snail discovery, Nic Rawlence outlines why taxonomy is so important and ways New Zealand and researchers can help boost the field.

The origin of a false claim: projecting demons
Grant Jacobs, Code for Life

Seeing the origin of a false claim from its very beginning gives insight into where they come from, as Grant Jacobs found when he tracked down the origins of a fake story about deer and RoundUp.

Bursting the Conservation Bubble with Birds
Kimberley Collins, Up and Atom

Now that kererū has taken out the top spot of Bird of the Year, Kimberley Collins reflects on her four years running the competition and the way it gets people talking about conservation.

Fuel consumption: fewer vehicles means less than fewer emissions
Marcus Wilson, Physics Stop

A big welcome back to physics blogger Marcus Wilson – in this post he laments the end of the quick school holiday commute and the impact heavy traffic has on fuel consumption.

Applying insights from the humanities and social sciences to help refine the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
Douglas Van Belle, Guest Work

Science fiction author and humanities academic Douglas Van Belle takes a fresh look at what social and environmental clues might tell us about where to look for extraterrestrial life.

TB or not TB: origin and antiquity of tuberculosis in New Zealand
Michael Knapp, Guest Work

In his Marsden Fund research, Michael Knapp is looking at the origins of tuberculosis in New Zealand, including the possibility it was spread here before European arrival by animals like seals.