Conventional wisdom has it that Ivan Pavlov made dogs salivate to the sound of a bell, discovered the conditioned reflex, and laid the foundations for behaviourism, an austere creed that ruled the mind to be off limits for science. Almost all of this is false. Pavlov’s bell was in fact a sophisticated adjustable buzzer. The ‘conditioned reflex’ is a mistransla ... More
What is the definition of the postmodern concept known as cybernetics? Englishman and mathematician Thomas Rid, a professor in the War Studies department at ...More
Ashley Hay reviews 'In Love with Betty the Crow: The first 40 years of ABC RN's 'The Science Show'' by Robyn Williams
When David Attenborough's memoir Life on Air was published in 2002, the magazine I worked for arranged for me to interview him. By then I had been interviewing people for a while and thought myself quite unflusterable. I keyed in the number, listened to the dial tone. And then it was as if the call had been answered by God (interesting, as an atheist). My r ... More
Alexander von Humboldt, who died in 1859 at the age of eighty-nine, was not only the most famous scientist of his day but also one of the world's best-known figures. He met often with political leaders, from Thomas Jefferson in the new United States to King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, and he expanded outwards from his bases in Paris and Berlin to pursue variou ... More
In 2010, writing in Westerly, Carmel Lawrence despaired about the lack of science writing in the collection of 'best non-fiction' of the year that she had been asked to review. It wasn't, she concluded, for want of material. Science writing had undergone a huge resurgence in popularity at t ... More
'Knowledge', asserts Peter Doherty, quoting Francis Bacon, 'is power'. Since 1996, having demonstrated his outstanding Nobel Prize contribution to the discovery of the nature of cellular immune defence and continuing research on viruses and immunity, this famous medical veterinarian has produced four books to enlighten a general audience on such matters as pandemics ... More
The story of Graeme Clark and the cochlear implant is often seen as the exception to the research trope lauding the brilliance of Australians at basic research but lamenting their ineptness commercialising these opportunities. This book is an adulatory story of Clark’s life.
Clark’s exceptional and driven journey is breathlessly relat ... More
To complement the essays, commentaries, reviews, and photographic essay in this issue, we asked a group of leading environmentalists, scientists, commentators, and writers what they regard as the most urgent action needed for environmental reform.
There is an urgent need for widespread recognition of the interrelationship between the ... More
Over at the academy, the lecture is not what it used to be. Colourful slides and short videos accompany the spoken word, and this audio-visual feast can be ordered take-away, lecture recordings instantly downloadable from the university’s ‘learning management system’. Students sit, laptops open, alternating their gaze between the lectern and the web. Many stay ... More
In the current fad for omnibus histories of absolutely everything, designed to replace ancient metaphysics, perhaps, or answer some marketing brainwave, no one has succeeded in quite the way Christine Kenneally has. She approaches her task with a very specific enquiry: what is the interplay between genetics and human history? Searching for an answer, she uncovers wo ... More