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Howdy folks and welcome to semester 2! Hopefully you had a real holiday, unlike the OnSET editors. One of us spent the entire time in bed swathed in blankets, wishing she knew how to hibernate. Another one decided it was all too much and ditched OnSET for the summery Mediterranean. That’s loyalty for you.

As the wind swept through our labcoats and chilled our bones, the only fever in the room was World Cup Fever. Of course, sporting events usually send science students into an enormous panic(unless you consider speed-photocopying a sport). They remind them of their great physical inadequacies and the time that they dropped their yellow bandana into the pool at the junior school swimming carnival. But if there’s one thing that scientists love to do, it’s to argue with each other, and this World Cup provided them with a wealth of opportunities.

soccer ball

Image courtesy of Daniel Lobos from Wikimedia Commons

There was the seemingly neverending stream of refereeing controversies. Missed handballs.  Questionable penalties. Onside goals ruled offside. Offside goals ruled onside. But FIFA continues to resist the uptake of video technologies that have brought a revolution in other sports such as rugby and tennis.  Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, the debate about technology intruding into cultural traditions is not a new one.

Another source of controversy was the Jabulani soccer ball used in the tournament. Complaints about the unpredictability of the new ball were backed up by aerodynamics experts from NASA. You might also want to check out this entertaining video about the drag, turbulence and laminar flow of soccer balls made by the folks at the University of Nottingham.

Every World Cup has its stars. This year, octopuses around the world were delighted to see one of their own rise to celebrity stardom, all thanks to his (seemingly) impressive skills as a soccer pundit. Paul the Octopus correctly guessed all 7 of Germany’s games and Spain’s eventual victory (better than Craig Foster’s record, by the way). If the marine zoologists were happy, however, the statisticians certainly weren’t. Assuming no draws, they point out that a series of 8 random guesses would be completely correct every 1 in 256 times. That might still seem pretty incredible, until you consider the many hundreds of ‘oracles’ that were consulted in this World Cup. And you never hear about the ones that tried and failed.

Then there was every fan’s new favourite musical accessory, the vuvuzela. Fun fact: the vuvuzela is manufactured to produce a B flat tone. So when a group of vuvuzelas (a gaggle?) is played in unison, the resulting drone is the same pitch as a swarm of bees… that’s music to our ears. It also gave some pesky know-it-all physicists a chance to show off their noise-filtering skills. Check out this entertaining video (also from the University of Nottingham) to see how this works.



Hiya folks and welcome to the first Science at OnSET post! These will (hopefully) be regular posts that keep you up to date with the new submissions appearing on the OnSET website. We say hopefully, because it really depends on people like YOU sending us submissions! With these posts, we can help you to navigate through the blinding mass of awesomeness that is OnSET.

It’s also our way of thanking our equally awesome contributors. They deserve every bit of publicity that we can give them. In fact, we commission a titanium statue for every new contributor we get. There will also be a parade. Some critics have told us that this is not an appropriate way to use 93% of our budgetary funds; however, we feel that no token of worship is too extravagant for our mighty contributors.

So what’s up there now?OnSET "cogs" logo

There’s a selection of videos from the SCOM2021 course. No Bones About It is a wacky documentary telling you everything you did and didn’t want to know about bones. Then there is the feature on geo-engineering, a field that is becoming increasingly important for those seeking to fight the effects of climate change. Another video looks at an amazing statistical result called Benford’s law which is used to fight fraud and financial crime.

Most of the rest is stuff from the OnSET archives. For a fascinating introduction to the field of psychology, you can listen to a short interview with Amanda Gorden of the Australian Psychological Society. Or if you’re thinking of going into science communication, check out this interview with the Surfing Scientist Ruben Meerman. [Edit: we are changing servers and our audio links seem to have disappeared in the process. Bear with us while we track them down!]

There’s also a good little selection of articles from the archives. Adrian Pokorny’s piece investigates the distress that organ transplants can cause by changing the recipient’s physical identity. We’ve also put up the first half of Ellie Pratt’s excellent article on the believability of science. Although the piece focuses on evolutionary theory, it is just as relevant to debates in other oft-challenged fields like climate science and genetics. Maybe you’ve got the blues after getting your Session 1 results back, and are in search of some new study techniques. In that case, you might want to read ‘Being Drunk In Exams: A Good Thing?’ If you’re thinking about getting into forensic science, there’s also a great feature on the CSI effect.

Plus lots of things so weird and wonderful that we probably wouldn’t believe they existed if they hadn’t been sent in by people like you. Brain fingerprinting? Female engineers? It’s all here, people.

Submissions Callout!

submissions poster

Designed by Lisa Kava. Copyright OnSET 2010.

OnSET 2010: the first post

OnSET promo poster

Copyright OnSET 2010.

Howdy folks and welcome to OnSET!

What is OnSET, we hear you ask? Officially, OnSET is an online science, engineering and technology review run by students at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. In practice, it is a really really awesome publication that you will soon become hopelessly addicted to for the rest of your studies, perhaps even for the rest of your life.

We know that many of you already spend lots of time thinking about science – in your studies, in your work and in your lives. Our aim is to make you want to think about it. This makes us pretty unique for a university publication.

You are looking at the first prototype of the new OnSET, so please be patient with us. We’re still working on some of the bells and whistles. If you have any technical problems with the site, please let us know at!

So what can you do? If you’re feeling a bit awesome, you might like to peruse through the articles on the homepage. We’ve dug up these pieces from the OnSET archives to give you a taste of things to come.

But if you’re feeling more than just a bit awesome, go to our submissions pages! We really need submissions – articles, videos, artworks, interviews or anything else you have to offer. We’re also looking for a small team of writers to write short pieces for us on a semi-regular basis. If you’re interested, drop the OnSET editors a line at However, they are a pretty mysterious bunch, and there is no guarantee that any reply you receive will make any sense. Word has it that they congregate at the ASB late at night in rainbow-coloured labcoats where they have long-winded arguments about the singular form of Jatz. If you want to learn more about these curious human beings, take a look at their editorial profiles.

Gallery – Grey-sky thinking: Nine extraordinary clouds – Image 1 – New Scientist

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Gallery – Cloners versus sexuals: The great breeding wars – Image 1 – New Scientist

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This is the begining of a new experiment at OnSet to provide an update service for the site in the form of a quicker feedback system where YOU get to add what you think…