Archivo: The Conversation

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be made up of an unprecedented number of antennae spread across two continents for the first time (Australia and Africa). The SKA will see the radio sky with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, enabling us to pick up extremely small and faint objects and probe the more distant universe. It is due to come online around 2023.

To put it in perspective, astronomers anticipate that it will produce as much as ten times the data as global internet traffic. Radio astronomical imaging therefore urgently needs to be re-invented in this ultra-precision and big data context.

Nine out of ten cancer patients die because cancer cells enter the blood circulation, spread and form tumours at distant organs. In circulation, cells can move individually or in a cluster. It is believed that cells moving individually pose the highest risk of forming tumours and are the primary “villains”.

A recent study we published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface shows that this may not be true. Instead, cells that move in a cluster might be the primary “villains”, hence asking for new ways of fighting the spread of cancer.

All spiders are predators, but most of them are small and have rudimentary defences against larger animals that in turn prey on them. Spiders have thus evolved a range of predatory behaviours that, at the same time, allow them to evade the threat of predation. Some of the most effective strategies involve deceiving ants.

To add to a long line of studies demonstrating the more positive effects of video games is a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Vikranth Bejjanki and colleagues. Their newly published paper demonstrates that the playing of action video games – the sort of fast-paced, 3D shoot-em-up beloved of doomsayers in the media – confirms what other studies have revealed, that players show improved performance in perception, attention, and cognition.

Science, like any other field that attracts investment, is prone to bubbles. Overly optimistic investments in scientific fields, research methods and technologies generate episodes comparable to those experienced by financial markets prior to crashing.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Computer security relies on a great number of links, hardware, software and something else altogether: you. The greatest threat to information security is actually people. Why strive to defeat encrypted passwords stored in computers, when those computers’ human users will turn them over willingly?

When we make important social decisions – which political candidate to vote for, whether to trust someone with our money, whether a person is guilty of a crime – we’d like to think we do so rationally, and solely based on relevant pieces of information. After all, given the high stakes involved, we’d be foolish not to take these choices seriously.

And yet, a growing body of research suggests that even these crucial decisions may be significantly influenced by one of the most superficial and seemingly irrelevant factors we can imagine: facial appearance.