The Conversation (250)

Study suggests we reclassify the moon as a planet – reopening a centuries-old debate

Will the moon move from servant to equal? Gregory H. Revera/wikipedia, CC BY-SAEvery now and then a scientific paper makes a real splash. We had one recently, to judge from recent headlines. Moon rises to claim its place as a planet' said The Sunday Times on February 19, while the Mail Online asked ...

The destructive life of a Mardi Gras bead

Shiny, colorful bead necklaces, also known as throws,' are now synonymous with Mardi Gras. Even if you've never been to the Carnival celebrations, you probably know the typical scene that plays out on New Orleans' Bourbon Street every year: Revelers line up along the parade route to collect beads ...

Copper is great at killing superbugs – so why don't hospitals use it?

Stainless steel is the metal of choice in hospitals. ShutterstockFantasilandia in Chile, one of Latin America's largest theme parks, has replaced its most frequently touched surfaces with copper to help reduce the spread of germs and protect the health of its visitors. But why? Because copper and ...

Storm Doris: giving dangerous weather a human name makes us more wary, says research

Doris sounds like the sort of name your grandmother might have. It's not particularly scary. But the name now has a rather different association, after Storm Doris' tore through the UK. The Met Office, the UK's national weather forecaster, put much of the country on amber alert' and reported 94mph ...

Claudio Ranieri: sacking Leicester City's manager was unceremonious, ruthless and risky

It seems barely conceivable, but then it is Premier League football, a realm where almost anything seems possible. Ten months after guiding unconsidered, provincial, 5000-1 Leicester City to the Premier League title – arguably the greatest shock in the entire history of the English game – the ...

Mosul is just the first item on Iraq's list of critical problems

The operation to retake Iraq's second city of Mosul from the so-called Islamic State has entered its crucial phase. The Iraqi army, federal police, elite counter-terrorism units, and rapid response troops are operating on the ground, bolstered by discreetly embedded US special forces. The US and ...

Taboo: the East India Company and the true horrors of empire

Scott Free Prods/Robert ViglaskyWhen you left London the East India Company was a trading company,' Tom Hardy's troubled anti-hero James Delaney is warned in the second episode of the BBC's prime-time drama Taboo. Now it is God Almighty.' Discussing the show before it aired, writer Stephen Knight ...

Kraft Heinz's short-lived Unilever swoop is a warning on weak takeover policy

Alan/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SAAnglo-Dutch giant Unilever may have seen off a clumsy takeover bid by Kraft Heinz, but that doesn't mean questions over corporate takeover policy in Britain have gone away. In fact, it was odd that such a discussion was absent from the UK government's recent industrial ...

Ink stigma: the Japanese tattoo artists fighting back

Whether you love tattoos or hate them, the British clearly have something of a penchant for engraving their bodies with inky art. There are a staggering 2,228 tattoo parlours in the UK. Compare this with 2,034 Costa coffee shops or 898 Starbucks, and you begin to understand why tattoo studios have ...

Historic win for the Conservatives puts them on course for a long period in office

The Copeland and Stoke Central byelections have delivered dramatic political developments for Britain. Both previously Labour-held seats, the byelections were triggered by two sitting MPs who took jobs outside politics. The Cumbrian semi-rural seat of Copeland was seized by the Conservatives – the ...

How a rugged Soviet relic became one of the car industry's most iconic survivors

Lada Niva: still going strong. ShutterstockWhen mass market 4x4s first appeared on the scene in the 1970s, I was a little boy. I was in awe of these huge, rugged things that started appearing everywhere. Toyota Landcruisers, Range Rovers, Mercedes G models, Chevy Blazers … they had an air of ...

Claim of link between intelligence and cannabis use in adolescence provides fresh headache for researchers

arindambanerjee/Shutterstock.comChildren with high and medium academic ability at age 11 are more likely to use cannabis in late adolescence compared to children with low academic ability, according to a new study published in BMJ Open. The researchers, from University College London, examined the ...

Why Sufi shrines are targeted by Islamic State

When an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 88 people and wounded hundreds more at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan on February 16, it did not deter the devotees of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the 13th-century Sufi mystic, who draws millions to his tomb in Pakistan's Sindh privince. The attack followed a bombing ...

Do you really want to know what's lurking in your genome?

Gio.tto/Shutterstock.comWould you want to know if you were at a higher risk of getting dementia later in life? Would you want to know that you could die under general anaesthesia, or might die suddenly of heart failure? Would you want to know if you had a higher-than-normal chance of getting cancer? ...

Searching for Corbynism: why no one's quite sure what Labour stands for

As the Labour Party struggles in the search for votes, picking up bruises in by-elections, thinking about its doctrine may seem an indulgence. But Jeremy Corbyn continues to espouse a rather vague political philosophy. It's still not clear what Corbynism is. That's not a particularly unusual ...

Robots and AI could soon have feelings, hopes and rights ... we must prepare for the reckoning

A new population? ShutterstockGet used to hearing a lot more about artificial intelligence. Even if you discount the utopian and dystopian hyperbole, the 21st century will broadly be defined not just by advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, computing and cognitive neuroscience, but how ...

Stoke isn't the end for UKIP – but the big problem it faces is now clear

Byelections are curious beasts in the political jungle. On the one hand, they are objectively minor political events: the replacement of a single MP for however long is left until the next general election. On the other, they become crucibles for bigger political debates; the national played out on ...

A Pax Russica in the Middle East? Putin will have to do more to make it stick

Can Russia succeed where the West has failed, stabilising the Middle East and North Africa through some kind of Pax Russica? The question might have sounded strange not so long ago, but in less than two years, a mix of decisive action, unwavering and often ruthless use of military power, and bold ...

It's our Solar System in miniature, but could TRAPPIST-1 host another Earth?

Artist impression of the Trappist-1 System. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/spaceengine.orgScientists have discovered seven Earth-sized planets, so tightly packed around a dim star that a year there lasts less than two weeks. The number of planets and the radiation levels they receive from their star, ...

Forget La La Land – best foreign language Oscar nominees show the true diversity of cinema

A marriage on the rocks in Iran, a prankster German father and a grumpy old Swede. Landmines in Denmark and a love story in Vanuatu. These stories are all vying for the same prize: that of Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Maren Ade's tragi-comedy Toni Erdmann is favourite to ...

Malaysia says Kim Jong-nam was killed with a chemical weapon – here's what you need to know

A preliminary report from Malaysian authorities has found that Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was killed by the banned nerve agent VX. He died on his way to hospital from Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 2017. It's claimed that two women, who have now been ...

Turnbull turns shock-and-awe on Abbott

Malcolm Turnbull has unleashed massive retaliation against Tony Abbott as appalled Liberals, who can only fear where it will all end, watch the former prime minister tear at the leadership of the man who overthrew him. Abbott will never be prime minister again – at least that's as certain as ...

Explainer: What is VX nerve agent and how does it work?

Little protection against the deadly VX nerve agent. Shutterstock/Bubbers BBThe substance that could be responsible for the death Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was the VX nerve agent, according to preliminary reports from Malaysian police. Kim Jong-nam died ...

Here's what must be done to detect, disrupt and deter phoenix activity in Australia

The construction industry is particularly prone to illegal phoenix activity. AAP/Paul MillerTo stamp out illegal phoenix activity, directors should be required to have identification numbers. And, if they've had many corporate failures, they should be classed in a new probationary category, our ...

Fourteen penalties: Sydney's A-League derby off the pitch

AAP/Dean LewinsLast weekend's A-League derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers was a tense and thrilling game. More than 40,000 spectators cheered on their respective teams, with the match also available to viewers on subscription TV. The official fan groups, Sydney FC's The Cove and ...

Why researchers have a duty to try and influence policy

Very early in my career, I was invited to afternoon tea with the head of the Commonwealth Institute of Health at Sydney University, where I worked. The best bone china was produced and pleasantries exchanged. The agenda soon became clear. He laboured into a parable about the difference between young ...

How the African Union's planned overhaul may affect its ties with China

The 28th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. GCISThe African Union held its 28th Summit in Addis Ababa recently. The meeting was markedly different to previous ones because the organisation showed it was serious about finding practical, lasting ...

Donald Trump, white victimhood and the South African far-right

Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr in front of a statue of Paul Kruger at Church Square in Pretoria. Alon Skuy/The TimesIn the age of smartphones and social media, the spread of ideas as digital memes is global and unpredictable. This includes, for example, Islamic State recruiting followers from across ...

Physical inactivity is hurting the health of people in countries like Kenya. There's a solution

Exercise and a healthy diet provide an overall sense of well being. Reuters.Getting physically active is important no matter where you live: obesity and physical inactivity are serious public health problems – in both developed and developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa the crisis of ...

Our power grid is crying out for capacity, but should we open the gas valves?

There are calls for Australia's onshore gas to flow much more freely. Glen Dillon, CC BYWith high gas prices partly to blame for the electricity blackouts that hit South Australia this month, and gas-fired generators caught short in New South Wales two days later, it is hardly surprising to hear ...

Vital Signs: there's never been a tougher time to be a central banker

Vital Signs is a weekly economic wrap from UNSW economics professor and Harvard PhD Richard Holden . Vital Signs aims to contextualise weekly economic events and cut through the noise of the data affecting global economies. This week: The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia calls for business ...

The search for extraterrestrial life in the water worlds close to home

A likely candidate for life: Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science InstituteThe discovery of seven exoplanets around a star 40 light years from our Sun has raised the possibility that they could harbour life. Why? Because the astronomers who made the discovery believe some of ...

Friday essay: the revolutionary vision of Jane Austen

Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility: a competent moral agent drawing only on her intelligence and experience. Columbia Pictures CorporationIt started with a throwaway line in a conversation with an Adelaide musical entrepreneur. We were planning a day of Jane ...

Do you know what's in the herbal medicine you're taking?

Vitamins are often seen as benign since they're meant to be natural, but the list of ingredients isn't always accurate. from www.shutterstock.com.auComplementary medicine has received a lot of attention in the past couple of weeks. First, a study focused on potential safety concerns about taking ...

Our big cities are engines of inequality, so how do we fix that?

If a second airport creates another centre of activity in western Sydney, then it won't just be air travellers who benefit. Stilgherrian/ CC BYAustralia's global cities are a very large part of the nation's economic success, but they are also generating significantly unequal incomes. Our recent ...

We taught bees to play football so we could learn about their brains

Most people don't often think about bees' brainpower. Bees are generally regarded as tiny unthinking machines, flying from flower to flower, genetically pre-programmed to collect pollen and nectar and make honey. But bees have some impressive cognitive capacities. Bumblebees and honeybees can count, ...

Global series: the post-truth era

How storytelling explains world politics, from Spain to the US What do Nelson Mandela, Chairman Mao and Spanish politician Pablo Iglesias have in common with Donald Trump? They're all master storytellers, who use convenient narratives – replete with plots, heroes and battles of good versus evil ...

South Africa's budget: some good moves, but not enough to fix mounting problems

South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his 2017 budget speech. Reuters/Mike HutchingsSouth Africa's finance minister Pravin Gordhan delivered the country's annual budget amid growing concerns about slow economic growth, the unequal distribution of wealth and a widening budget ...

Why Gordhan's silence on South Africa's nuclear option is a good sign

President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan is standing firm against any political pressure. Flickr/GovernmentZASouth Africa's Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan said very little about the energy sector in his recent budget speech. The word energy' came up only once compared ...

Why we must reduce the prison population rather than build new prisons

The justice secretary Liz Truss has published a new bill to reform the prison and court system in England and Wales. The Prisons and Courts Bill proposes new laws emphasising audits and league tables of prisons and a legal responsibility for both prison staff and the secretary of state for justice ...

Why the time is right to set up an international terrorism court

The global toll of terrorism is rising at an alarming rate. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, terrorist incidents claimed 3,329 lives in 2000 but 32,685 in 2014, and the economic costs of terrorism skyrocketed at least tenfold during the same period. As a result, certain ...

The human brain makes fructose, researchers discover – here's why that might be a big deal

Fructose factory. Jezper/Shutterstock.comResearchers at Yale University have discovered that the brain is capable of making fructose – a simple sugar, usually found in fruit, vegetables and honey. Not all sugars are equal. Glucose is a simple sugar that provides energy for the cells in your body. ...

Warren Buffett's latest stock play is a clue for reading the Trump-era economy

While political analysts and journalists obsess about President Donald Trump's executive orders and their constitutional significance, the investor Warren Buffett has made his judgement clear on how the economy could look during the Trump years. In a massive stockmarket move, he has dumped nearly a ...

Where were all the women in the Stone Age?

The 'Venus of Willendorf' at around 28,000 years old is one of the earliest depictions of women in art . Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SAWere there any women around in the Palaeolithic Era? If popular culture is any guide you'd think not. And even archaeology itself has a long way to go to address a ...

Booksellers, the alt-right and Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos addressing the media this week. Lucas Jackson/ReutersLast year Monash University Publishing released How to Vote Progressive in Australia: Labor or Green? – a book that did quite well for us. Needless to say, it didn't appeal to all readers. The prominent Sydney bookseller Jon ...

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan and Deep Saini on penalty rate cuts

The Fair Work Commission's decision to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for workers in certain industries forebodes a new battle between Labor and the Coalition. Michelle Grattan and University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deep Saini, examine the fallout from the ruling. ...

Hairdressers in rural Australia end up being counsellors too

A farmer might be more likely to chat to her hairdresser about the tough time she's having than seeking professional help. from www.shutterstock.com.auMost people with mental health issues in rural areas don't seek treatment and access to mental health services is limited outside the major cities. ...

California's rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes

California is particularly earthquake-prone, hosting the great San Andreas fault zone. wlscience/ CC BY-SAIn recent weeks, California has experienced unusually heavy rainfall. California is also earthquake-prone, hosting the great San Andreas fault zone. If there is an unusual surge of earthquakes ...

Seeking truth among 'alternative facts'

Part of what I do as an archaeologist is judge between competing claims to truth. Indeed, you could say this is the entire purpose of science. Before we make a judgment about what is true, there are facts that have to be examined and weighed against one another. When Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne ...

Hidden figures: How black women preachers spoke truth to power

Sojourner Truth Memorial in Florence, Massachusetts. Lynne Graves, CC BY-NDEach semester I greet the students who file into my preaching class at Howard University with a standard talk. The talk is not an overview of the basics – techniques of sermon preparation or sermon delivery, as one might ...