Soviet Russia aimed a satellite at Venus. It hit Ashburton.
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Much of New Zealand’s coastal property has an expiry date, with its value set to be wiped off the ledger in as little as nine years’ time, well before sea levels rise and coastlines are redrawn. What will happen to marae and communities by the beach? And why are we still buying—and building—properties right in the danger zone?
If you’ve ever smoothed on a blister pad, popped in a contact lens, or changed a disposable nappy, you’ve probably used a hydrogel—a type of material that can absorb large amounts of liquid. Hydrogels are usually made of petroleum, a fossil fuel. Now, a new hydrogel has been developed in New Zealand from one of the most abundant resources in the country: seaweed. A three-year research programme led by Scion developed the seaweed hydrogel after testing the properties of different species around New Zealand, including the introduced, invasive species Undaria pinnatifida and the native species Ecklonia radiata, which is commercially harvested. Seaweed-based hydrogels have been made before, but never from species that are growing around New Zealand in sustainably harvestable quantities. Scion has licensed the hydrogel to AgriSea, a Paeroa-based company, which is now trialling the hydrogel for use in wound dressings and as a growing medium for seedlings. AgriSea general manager Tane Bradley says seaweed remains an underrated resource: “People don’t realise how cool seaweed is and what we can do with it.”
Bluff Marine Radio operator Meri Leask has been voluntarily answering boaties’ calls for the past 40 years.
The second-oldest collection of Māori artefacts in the world—exceeded only by the one amassed by James Cook—is held in Russia. These 200-year-old treasures have immense value to iwi at the top of the South Island, whose ancestors traded with Russian explorers. Now, there’s a movement to bring these taonga home.
Fire season is coming, and first responders will soon be on high alert around New Zealand. With climate change causing more intense weather, we can expect more extreme wildfires in the future, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage and endangering homes and lives. What is New Zealand’s risk from fire, and how can we better protect ourselves?
Did you ever get a new Fitbit? Did you then spend the next few weeks compulsively checking your wrist, seeing how ‘good’ you’d been that day? Did you take the dog for an extra walk at 10pm just to watch the device tick over 10,000 steps, and go to bed basking in the glow of your achievement because Fitbit, and science, told you that was the minimum distance humans should walk each day to be healthy and live longer? Then welcome. Come on in. Join the club of those of us who’ve been royally duped by health and wellness marketing. Trouble is, there’s little evidence attached to 10,000 steps being better than any other distance to walk in a day. A study of 16741 women in the United States, with an average age of 72, found that after 7500 steps per day, the benefits appeared to level out, at least in the women studied. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that regardless of intensity, those who walked about 4400 steps each day lived longer than those who averaged just 2700 a day, but that this drop in mortality rates plateaued at 7500. Meanwhile, an Australian study of 1697 people aged 55-85 found that benefits generally increased per extra 1000 steps gained. So how did 10,000 steps become popular? It may stem from a Japanese pedometer company in the 1960s which felt that the character for 10,000, 万, looked similar to a running figure. Scientists are now looking at the speed of steps, or cadence, as an indicator of health, rather than distance.
At no other point in human history has the planet been this bright after the sun sets. But artificial lights affect us, and the environment around us, in subtle ways... What happens to us when there’s too much light in the night?
First, you’ll need some ancient seabed that has been buried in the Earth’s crust, cooked up deep down, and then spat out onto the surface. Macquarie University geoscientists studied how diamonds are formed. In experiments recreating the extreme pressures and temperatures found 200 kilometres underground, they demonstrated that seawater in sediment from the bottom of the ocean reacted in the right way to produce the balance of salts found in a diamond. Most diamonds found nearer the Earth’s surface are made this way. “There was a theory that the salts trapped inside diamonds came from marine seawater, but couldn’t be tested,” says lead author Michael Förster. “Our research showed that they came from marine sediment.”
For Melanie Burford, the only New Zealander to win a Pulitzer Prize for photography, the camera is of secondary importance.
New Zealand’s forests were cleared at a record pace, and from this destruction, a sport arose: who can fell a tree the fastest? Competitive woodchopping transformed the labour of forestry into a community event. Now, 150 years on, a diminishing number of axemen and axewomen chop for top honours at A&P shows around the country.
Albatrosses and sea lions, little blue penguins and takahē live next door to humans in Dunedin, a city perched on a knot of land on the Otago coastline.
Tall, dark and lonely, formed from a mountain peak drowned by the sea, D’Urville Island is a rugged sentinel between Nelson’s Tasman Bay and the gentle filigree of the Marlborough Sounds.
Once, trampers emerged from the bush on the Wangapeka to the offer of a cuppa and a yarn.
It seems like an ancient, static hunk of old rock, but the moon does seem to be tectonically active, according to new research based on four seisometers left on its surface during NASA’s Apollo programme. The devices recorded 28 shallow ‘moonquakes’ between 1969 and 1977. A recent paper published in Nature Geoscience analysed them in an attempt to pinpoint their epicentres. Researchers from the United States and Canada compared the epicentres to land features such as fault scarps, loose soil and rock deposits, and boulder movements, and say their findings may mean the moon is currently tectonically active.
Trees give us a better life: they keep us cool, provide habitat, filter carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, help with flood protection, improve our mental health, increase house prices, reduce car crashes and shield us from wind. But trees can be a marker of inequality, too. Auckland Council data from 2017 shows that urban trees cover 18 per cent of the city’s land on average—but that can fluctuate from eight per cent to 74 per cent depending on the suburb. Māngere, Ōtāhuhu, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Papakura had an average of 10.5 per cent tree coverage, while central areas had 19.3 per cent and Devonport and Takapuna 24.6 per cent. How to get the benefits of more trees in our cities, and share those with everyone? Other than discouraging cutting them down, new research from Boston University, published in PLOS One in May, suggests that just planting more trees isn’t enough, as those in cities grow faster but die younger than their relatives in the country. Our understanding of trees is based on intact, rural forests and doesn’t apply to urban ecosystems, say the authors. They conclude that taking better care of existing trees can have more of an impact—in terms of the total biomass of urban trees—than planting loads of new ones.
Rangi Matamua is bringing the astronomical knowledge of his ancestors into the light.
The ocean is our playground, storehouse, transport corridor, driver of weather and coastal change. We’ve learned the hard way that it’s possible for us to exhaust its resources and overwhelm its natural processes. Now, scientists are mapping the web of relationships between the sea, the land and human industry, to figure out how fishing, aquaculture, tourism, land development, and recreation affect its health. What should be permitted, and what prohibited—and where? How can we best strike a balance between using and protecting our seas?
Mānuka honey has exploded in value in recent years, and now it’s a high-stakes business, attracting hive thieves, counterfeit products, unscrupulous players—and triggering a race for the blossom every spring, wherever the trees are in flower.
A surge in New Zealand’s elderly population is on the way, yet health and home-care services are already stretched. A joint research project between New Zealand and South Korea—which is already experiencing the demographic swing that awaits us—is investigating one solution: robots.
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