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Science Deadline: Science in a Trump presidency

Science Deadline: Science in a Trump presidency, physicist's prediction rings true and fellowships awarded
Issue 399, 11 Nov 2016


New from the SMC

In the News: What might Trump mean for science?

Reflections on Science: On the frontline in the Anthropocene

In the News: Marsden Funds of $65.2m

In the News: Peninsular predator-free research


New from the SMC global network

UK SMC

Expert reaction: Device that restores movement to monkeys with paralysedlimbs

Expert reaction: Vaping and smoking

Expert reaction: Growth rate of atmospheric CO2

Expert reaction: Antibody therapy in pregnant mice with Zika

Australian SMC

A new look for the Alice Springs satellite antenna

Whale on the menu for ancient Greenlanders

Knowing risk factors could help catch melanomas

Study identifies global river protection gaps


President may Trump science
As the USA and the world adjusts to the idea of a Trump presidency, what could it mean for science?

International media were quick to dissect the potential implications for health and the environment with the election of Donald J. Trump to the US presidency.

Speaking to Nature immediately after the election, Michael Lubell - director of public affairs for the American Physical Society - expressed deep concern. "Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had...the consequences are going to be very, very severe."

Given Trump has expressed scepticism about anthropogenic climate change, many commentaries have focused on the potential for him to pull US support from the Paris climate agreement or put the Keystone XL pipeline back on the table. He has already appointed climate sceptic Myron Ebell to lead his transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA would be a prime target for Trump, wrote University of Michigan Energy Institute director Mark Barteau on The Conversation, particularly through the Clean Power Plan and the limits it sets on carbon emissions from power plants.

Meanwhile, Scientific American has considered how quickly the President-elect could unwind the Affordable Care Act (not so quick especially if there is no clear agreement on a replacement) and The Washington Post reported on concerns electric vehicles and Tesla could be set back by a refocus on fossil fuels.

Read a summary of yesterday's coverage about Trump and his potential effect on science and Sciblogs' John Kerr on the immediate reaction.

Quoted: NZ Herald

"For example the earwigs, together with their mind-controlling parasites are likely well established in the roses in your back garden."

University of Otago's Professor Neil Gemmell
on Marsden funded research on brain-washing parasites.


Gas 'droplets' theory confirmed
Ground-breaking theoretical work from New Zealand researchers has been confirmed experimentally in Germany.

University of Otago physicist Professor Blair Blakie led a team of physics researchers theorising that under certain conditions gases can form into stable droplets, as liquids do.

The Otago researchers published their theory in Physical Review A earlier this year, where they determined that an extremely cold gas of highly magnetic atoms will self-bind into gas droplets that stabilise themselves, even in vacuum.

Now German researchers have proven the theory experimentally, in research published this week in Nature.

Professor Blakie said the new ability to produce gas droplets could open the door to a range of potential applications.

"These droplets could, for example, form pristine nano-laboratories for performing chemistry reactions or making highly precise measurements of magnetic fields."

To form droplets, specific conditions were needed, he said. "We worked out that it had to be at a temperature of a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero, a density more than a billion times lower than liquid water (about 100,000 times lower than air), and in a suitably adjusted magnetic field.”

Under those conditions, the gas will develop into filament-shaped droplets that persist as stable packages even after the gas is released from its container.

Professor Blakie's research was supported with a Marsden Fund grant, awarded in 2015.


Policy news & developments

Extended seabed submissions: The period for public submissions on Trans-Tasman Resources Limited's application to mine iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight has been extended until December 12.

Wilding funding boost: An additional $1.87 million will go into tackling wilding pine control in central Canterbury, with a focus on Craigieburn, Porters and the adjoining Arthur's Pass National Park.

Smart agriculture: A new technical advisory group is being created to advise the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on how to accelerate the use of smart agriculture technology.

Future fisheries: A discussion document called The Future of our Fisheries has been released by MPI and is open for public consultation until December 23.

NZ's newest research fellows
Ten new fellowships have been awarded to early- to mid-career researchers, alongside other fellowships for emerging researchers and those at the peak of their career.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships - administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - provide funding of up to $800,000 per researcher over five years for salary and research costs.

This year's recipients include three Victoria University of Wellington researchers, including Dr Huw Horgan who will research the role of water in the flow of ice sheets.

Dr Federico Baltar and Dr Virginia Toy from the University of Otago both became Fellows, as did Dr Jenny Malstrom and Dr Nicole Roughan at the University of Auckland.

Three researchers at the height of their career have also been awarded James Cook Research Fellowships. These prestigious Fellowships are awarded to researchers who are recognised leaders in their fields and allow them to concentrate on research for two years.

This year's recipients are Professor Debbie Hay from the University of Auckland, Professor Tim Naish from Victoria University of Wellington and Professor Peter Smith, also from Victoria.

Eight emerging researchers have been awarded Rutherford Foundation Awards, including Dr Francis Hunter from the University of Auckland and Dr Matthew Cowan from the University of Canterbury.

Nature's new ecology journal
Springer Nature has launched a new journal focusing on evolution and ecology.

Nature Ecology & Evolution published its first articles this week, which it has made available free online for November and December.

The journal is headed by Patrick Goymer - formerly the ecology and evolution editor at Nature - and seeks to cover the fundamental science of evolution and ecology as well as the applications to fields including conservation, behaviour and medicine.

Four other journals are being launched at the same time: Nature Astronomy, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Human Behaviour and Nature Reviews Chemistry.

Antimicrobial resistance
Te Pūnaha Matatini will lead an online campaign to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance.

In conjunction with World Antibiotic Awareness Week, Dr Siouxsie Wiles - acting deputy director Te Pūnaha Matatini - is leading an online campaign from 14-18 November.

InfectedNZ will be aimed at starting a national conversation about the health, social and economic impacts of infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance.

Take part in the conversation on Te Pūnaha Matatini's website or follow #InfectedNZ on social media.


New from Sciblogs - NZ's science blog network

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:


New Zealand needs climate leadership

We need to grow trees, stop wasting food, stop burning coal and electrify the vehicle fleet - so says Massey University's Professor Ralph Sims.
Infrequently Asked Questions


“Killer Neandertals” – a wild claim that doesn’t want to go away

Wild claims about Neandertals being cannibalistic, brutal savages seem to keep sticking around, writes Alison Campbell.
BioBlog

Health benefits from eradicating rats, stoats and possums

Otago public health researchers explore health benefits that could spin-off from eradication of introduced pests.
Public Health Expert


Red Zone: Property rights are human rights

Eric Crampton discusses the Human Rights Commission's report on property and human rights in Canterbury following the earthquakes.
The Dismal Science


Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details.

Infected NZ: 14-18 November, online. An online campaign exploring a life without antibiotics #InfectedNZ.

SciComms conference: 14-16 November, Dunedin. This year's Science Communicators Association conference will be held in Otago Museum, showcasing the best in science communication practice and research.

Big data, little organisms: 14-17 November, Christchurch. A joint conference of the NZ Microbiological Society and the Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Fortune favours travellers: 14 November, Wellington. Dr Ceridwen Fraser from ANU will discuss how dispersal drives evolution.

South China Sea: 14 November, Wellington. Many questions remain about the future of the South China Sea, following the arbitral decision between the Philippines and China - Joanna Mossop will lead a panel discussion.

Indigenous research: 15-18 November, Auckland. The International Indigenous Research conference will focus on Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga's key research themes.

Waterways student conference: 15 November, Christchurch. The 2016 Waterways Postgraduate Student Conference will showcase University of Canterbury and Lincoln University freshwater-related research.

Quality care for rural communities: 17 November, Dunedin. Dr Carol Atmore will discuss the Foxley Fellowship she is undertaking, describing and improving hospital care quality for rural communities.

Rivers book launch: 17 November, Christchurch. Catherine Knight's latest book on New Zealand rivers will be launched, with guest speaker Rebecca Macfie.

Keeping pests on a short leash: 17 November, Christchurch. AgResearch's Professor Stephen Goldson will discuss research on a control agent for the Argentine stem weevil and whether the weevil has become resistant to the control.

Tsunami risks - what's the rush? 18 November, Lower Hutt. GNS Science's Dr William Power will discuss areas of high tsunami risk around the Hutt and Wellington regions and local initiatives to protect communities.

Health benefits of dogs: 18 November, Dunedin. Visiting academics Sandra and Randolph Barker will discuss evidence supporting health benefits of human-canine interactions.

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