The Best of Australian Science: November 2013

It is time to recount November’s highlights, the most read and interesting articles from the month in the fields of science, education, internet technologies, biology, environment, health, among others.

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

Stay curious and scientifically passionate! I hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

If Ada can, so can we by Danielle Spencer

I have written before about the need to encourage our girls to pursue science in school and beyond. From my experience, girls at school are often reluctant to participate in science at first, until they are shown the possibilities that science offers. Girls need people to aspire to. Girls need to be shown that they are just as capable. With the recent celebration of Ada Lovelace Day last month, I set two of my young 12 year old female students on a mission: to find out about the significance of the day and explore the roles of females in science. The following piece is their writing.  Read more>>


Love of Language by Charles Ebikeme


The word I was looking for was “heatwave”. Sometimes a word appears to me in a different language — one that is not my mother tongue. I quickly realised I am not the only one. What we are experiencing is a pandemic of bilingualism — part infectious disease and part hereditary burden — passed on from parents to sons and daughters. As inherited afflictions go, it could be worse.

She was Italian and he was Icelandic. They met in a place where their two tongues shared nothing in common. Read more>>


Ocean Chemistry Unbalanced by Kelly Burnes

Ocean acidification is a decrease in the pH of the oceans, caused by the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s a problem; a real problem. One that marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called global warming’s “equally evil twin.” If pH levels in the ocean continue to decline, as a consequence of the rising uptake of carbon dioxide, the very existence of coral reefs could be in jeopardy. Read more>>


Social media and mobile technologies in bridging digital divides by Danica Radovanovic

Proliferation of mobile technologies world wide through ubiquitous mobile technology platforms and mapping software like Ushahidi and Uwiano, are allowing people to report, share, get informed, interact, get in touch, learn, and produce.

NT Mojos, a project Australia’s Northern Territory, is an example of a way to bridge a divide between white and indigenous Australia through sharing stories and storytelling, where it empowers indigenous people to have a local voice and to provide a less marginalized view of everyday life by enabling them to create and share mobile stories, though mobile journalism. Read more>>


Introduction to Cryptographic Basics by Milica Djekic

Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties. More generally, it is about constructing and analyzing protocols that overcome the influence of third parties and which are related to various aspects in information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation. Modern cryptography intersects the disciplines of mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. Applications of cryptography include ATM cards, computer passwords, and electronic commerce. In this article I introduce the Symmetry Law which can be useful for symmetric encryption of information. Read more>>


The Future of Energy Transmission is Wireless

It was 2007. The group of physicists led by Professor Marin Soljacic successfully made the first efficient non-radiative power transfer at a distance of 2 meters turning on a 60 W light bulb. Energy transfer was 40% efficient. The rest is the history! This work in wireless energy transfer is related to the work of Nikola Tesla at the beginning of 20th century. However, it has some significant differences. Unlike Tesla’s unsuccessful efforts at long-range wireless energy transfer, the MIT group focuses only on short-range transfer. On the other hand, Tesla coils resonantly transfer power with electric fields, while the MIT experimental set up uses coupling primarily via magnetic fields. Read more>>


The Health Risks of Energy Drinks by Maya Edberg

The slim-lined cans promise an energy hit that will have you flying through your day of study, work or play. Energy drinks are now a popular choice for teenagers and young adults as opposed to a good old cup of coffee. One study found energy drinks are consumed by 30-50% of adolescents and young adults (Seifert SM, Schaechter JL, Hershorin ER and Lipshultz SE). But do these fizzy, sugary and caffeine-loaded “supplements” pose a new range of health risks?

Since the introduction of V and Red Bull to Australian consumers in the late 90’s, a stream of other energy drinks have since followed suit and established a competitive market for a can of soft drink with a hit. The binge-drinking habits of young Australians combined with clever marketing campaigns have also established a culture of combining the energy drinks with alcohol to ramp up a night out to another level. Read more>> 

A Scytale – Cryptography of the Ancient Sparta by Milica Djekic

Going back through time, the Mankind always had the need to transform the message and to keep the information hidden. One of the oldest cryptography tools was a Spartan scytale. It is a tool used to perform a transposition cipher, consisting of a cylinder with a strip of parchment wound around it on which is written a message. The ancient Spartans and Greeks, in general, are told to have used this cipher to communicate during military campaigns. The idea of the scytale ciphering is as follows. The recipient uses a rod of the same diameter on which he wraps the parchment to read the message. Read more>>

Changing Time Zones: The Health Effects of Jet Lag by Maya Edberg

Travelling west will also make jetlag easier to recover from due to the circadian rhythm being temporarily prolonged to about 27 hours, making it easier for the body to adapt (Reilly T). When experiencing a shift of any more than 12 time zones however, travelling east or west does not make a difference. That would be the equivalent of flying from Adelaide to Sao Paulo, Brazil. It would be hard not to pull up a bit rough after a marathon flight such as that.

After travelling east, it is also common for people to have trouble getting out of bed at a normal time in the morning while flying back from the west will result in waking up before dawn (Libassi L, Emad YA). Read more>>

Don’t forget to check the Weekly Science Picks #53Weekly Science Picks #54Weekly Science Picks #55.

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