Best of Australian Science: February 2013

February brought many exciting events, visits, conferences, interviews, and a bevy of intriguing articles written by Australian Science writers/authors. It is time to recapitulate that enthusiasm here and share with you highlights from the month in the fields of science, education, internet technologies, space, and among others.

If you are interested in science blogging and contributing to Australian Science – contact us and check out the Editor’s note.

Until next Australian Science month review,  stay curious, and geeky, scientifically and artistically passionate. I hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

Women in Space – Valentina Tereshkova  by Sharon Harnett

This article is the first in a series of articles in which I will profile every woman astronaut, cosmonaut and taikonaut who has been into space.  The last time I checked 58 women have travelled into space, by the end of this year there may be a few more!  We’re going to start this series at the beginning – with Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Read more>>


Could the next generation of electronics be made with graphene?  by Markus Hammonds

One of the biggest potentials for graphene, however, is in electronics. As graphite (a naturally occurring mineral), carbon is semiconductive. Due to the way carbon atoms are arranged in this hexagonal pattern, it leaves some electrons free to move across the material in a way not entirely unlike the way the motion of free electrons allows metals to be conductive. However, pure graphite isn’t really very conductive. Read more>>

Australia’s National Science Agency – Focused on the Future by Kelly Burnes

Wanting to learn more about this group’s work and impact, I reached out toDr Stefan Hajkowicz, the Theme Leader for CSIRO Futures. This is our digital conversation about science, education, energy, and what Australia must do to secure its future.

To our readers, if you have not done so already, check out the CSIRO Futures website for reports and projects to learn more. You’ll find some thought-provoking, fascinating topics guaranteed to make you put your strategic thinking cap on and get lost in a world of ‘what-ifs’. Read more>>


Australian Science travelled to Canberra for the (Linux Conference Australia) at the beginning of the month that brought plenty of interesting keynote speakers. For Open Source fans and advocates, don’t miss to read and listen to the interviews as well as the wrap up of the conference: 2013: ‘Nerdvana’ in Canberra. Interview transcripts are available with each article.

Radia Perlman at LCA 2013 by Jessica Smith 

Later in the week, I had the pleasure of heading off to lunch with Radia and a small group of fellow delegates during a break in technical sessions. She is engaging and thoughtful, and concerned as much with solutions for societal issues as solutions for thorny networking challenges. Radia is eternally self-effacing, and repeatedly claimed that she had “never done anything difficult” in her work. More>>

Linux – The Open Source Ecosystem by Kelly Burnes

Bdale Garbee is a computer genius. Although he retired in 2012 after a long career with HP, serving as Open Source and Linux Chief Technologist, he shows no signs of slowing down. Quite the contrary, his workload may be picking up with the number of projects he is involved with, such as serving on the boards of The Freedombox Foundation and The Linux Foundation. More>>

“Do what it takes to solve the problem, and no more”: a small talk with ‘Bunnie’ Huang by Rayna Stamboliyska

Along with Radia Perlman and Bdale Garbee, there was Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang. He is a very interesting person, and his activities go beyond just-basic-nerdiness. Huang happens to be the person responsible for the jailbreaking of Microsoft’s Xbox360, something he wrote a book about in 2003. Moreover, he holds a PhD in engineering from the MIT. What I really like Bunnie for is all his greatcoverage of Chinese manufacturing, while sourcing suppliers for Chumby. Read more>>


Ediacara: a “failed” evolutionary experiment? by Kevin Orrman-Rossiter

The Ediacara Hills, north of the city of Adelaide in South Australia are a tumbling mass of ancient rocks. Sunbaked now, 580 million years ago they were a sea alive with soft-bodied organisms. These organisms varied greatly: from millimetres to metres in size; from “blob-like” to intricate in complexity; and from sturdy and resistant to a jelly-soft rigidity. They are all prosaically named the Ediacaran biota. A mundane name for what are the earliest known multicellular organisms on Earth. Read more>>

Searching for Life on Titan by Lauren Fuge

Discovered in 1655 by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, Titan is one of Saturn’s 62 moons, named for a race of giants in Greek myth who were Saturn’s brothers and sisters. Over 5000 km in diameter, it’s roughly twice the size of our own Moon and is one of the largest moons in our solar system, second only to Jupiter’s Ganymede. It’s even bigger than the planet Mercury, and is covered with an orange haze that shields the secrets of its surface. Read more>>


Invasion of the Asian tiger mosquito by Charles Ebikeme

Aedes aegypti originated in Africa and was introduced to the Americas between the 15th and 18th centuries, during the height of the slave trade and most likely on ships transporting slaves. They quickly established across the south eastern part of the US. Then what followed was a demise in the face of stiff competition and after centuries of habitation in America. An inadvertent metaphor for the “Post-America” era we now inhabit. Read more>>


Talking the Language of Science by Danielle Spencer

Through hands-on experiential science, children learn to observe and describe phenomena. There is no right or wrong. They are encouraged to use their variety of senses in observing and describing. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel? (We make the cardinal rule never to taste in science.) They are encouraged to talk in their group about their observations and then make some conclusions. Read more>>


Connecting the Quantum Dots by Danica Radovanovic

Last week, after I spent a couple of days  in Brest, Brittany at a ESF, EU workshop/seminar brainstorming with other internet and scientific researchers on interesting topics related to  internet science and innovation,  I got myself back to Paris. I visited a French national institute with an international reputation for  scientific excellence – ESPCI (École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles) and the CNRS department of Physics, Quantum Foundations – a group dedicated to  research on quantum effects in materials. Read more>>


Rare echidna species not so extinct after all? by Markus Hammonds

Speaking as a European, Australia has something of a reputation for having some rather unusual wildlife. Easily the most unusual are the small handful of monotreme species – the echidnas, and the duck-billed platypus. The only species of egg-laying mammals in the world today, these little creatures may once have been quite widespread. Now, however, they’re only found in Australia and New Guinea. One species in particular, the long-beaked echidna, is critically endangered. Read more>>


Interstellar travel: how to spot a ‘starman’ going by? by Kevin Orrman-Rossiter

Massive objects moving at near light speeds do not occur naturally in the universe as we know it. If we detect such objects it is a reasonable to assume they are artificial artifacts from advanced intelligent life. This according to Garcia-Escartin and Chamorro-Posada, authors of a recent paper, is a low-cost, sure-fire way of searching for intelligent life outside earth. Read more>>