Science & Technology
The human impact of COVID-19 has been horrific, and the health impacts of climate change continue to mount. Rather than focus on comparing the scale of these catastrophes, we should heed the lessons of our experience with COVID-19 as we face a changing climate and future pandemics.
If we keep trying to maintain our current growth trajectory, built on a one-off fossil bonanza, we will destroy the already stressed life-supporting systems that sustain us.
In this talk, Potaua Biasiny-Tule will discuss how AI development could impact Māori.
New Zealand has one of the world’s worst rates of a fatal brain disease. Now, scientists hunting rogue genes hope to unravel the 150-year-old mystery of what triggers the disease and how to find a cure.
Biodiversity loss and climate change are paramount global existential threats. A conservation scientist must wield a scientific Swiss army knife to successfully undertake research in these topics that informs policy.
New research is suggesting the outlook for coral reefs remains grim unless we cut emissions fast.
In this talk, hosted by the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science, Michael Witbrock will survey some of the upgrades that most directly predict the path towards broadly capable AI, while looking at indicators that such AI is fairly imminent
If the risk is as small, as it currently appears to be, then we need to ask ourselves if it is worth using these vaccines and if so, in whom.
Marine life is fleeing the equator to cooler waters. History tells us this could trigger a mass extinction event.
Where does Social Media – video, gaming and sharing – sit in the landscape of information technology?
Social media has come a long way since its inception. From Facebook to TikTok today, social media has created a separate field of its own in the vast world of information technology.
We know the damage smoking causes, but we’re yet to conduct conclusive research about vaping. That’s the focus for Dr. Kelly Burrowes for the next three years.
Professor Merryn Tawhai’s work on the virtual lung has led to a vital new tool for medical staff caring for patients hospitalised with serious Covid-related illness.
The synthesis and study of molecules is at the heart of chemical research. One of the most challenging aspects is the development of methods to synthesise molecules for the first time.
Increased urbanisation especially in deltas areas and the demand for freshwater means subsidence will remain a pressing issue in the coming decades.
New Zealand’s native bees and almost all our sea birds could face extinction. Action and research are needed more than ever, write Maria Armoudian and Brendon Dunphy.
In her inaugural lecture held at the University of Auckland, Professor Jan Lindsay gives an insight into her research into volcanoes all over the world
New research shows that SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause significant damage to the olfactory bulb and brainstem and highlights the importance of monitoring the neurological symptoms of COVID-19.
Many New Zealand species are already at risk because of predators and habitat loss. Climate change makes things worse.
Flooding, drought, and rising sea levels are just some of the major climate events that are already affecting millions. One of the major issues, as a result, is how infrastructure in both urban and rural communities will be affected by climate change.
The Emperor’s Institutions: Does COVID-19 vaccine distribution demonstrate the failure of multilateralism?
“Persistent failures must be addressed and overcome in the future if international organisations are to be recognised as meaningful actors promoting global public goods within the international system.”
Charitable donations from rich countries and individuals are welcome – but they won’t ensure fair vaccine distribution unless the drug-patenting system is reformed, too.
Researchers have articulated a way to look at and look after our fresh waterways founded on Matauranga Māori.
The United States is formally back in the Paris climate agreement as of Feb. 19, 2021, nearly four years after former President Donald Trump announced it would pull out.
The role of environmental regulation is to prevent harm to the natural world, not only for its sake but to save humankind from self-destruction.
As New Zealand gets serious about climate change, can electricity replace fossil fuels in time?
How is it that an infection can be worse or different depending on whether someone has another disease? Why does it matter where someone lives? Why does history make disease progression different in different places? Thinking about syndemics helps us answer these questions.
Why are more contagious variants emerging now, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic?
How to cut emissions from transport: ban fossil fuel cars, electrify transport and get people walking and cycling according to Robert McLachlan.
In a new report, the Climate Change Commission has called on the New Zealand government to take ‘immediate and decisive action’ to cut emissions.
Research shows that disease is invariably related to pollution in subtle but intimate ways as Manuel Vallee explains.
Creating a safe place for our wildlife to thrive is not only key to preserving biodiversity but also a crucial ingredient for a sustainable world and our own existence.
Nearly one in ten people in the world experienced severe levels of food insecurity in 2019. Meanwhile, a third of all food produced globally (around 1.3 billion tonnes) is wasted, each year.
As the sea level slowly rises, we may wonder: what will happen to our beaches? Will they change, maybe even disappear, or will they simply survive the inevitable rise in the sea level?
New Zealand has continued to garner criticism for inaction on climate change and was recently excluded from the Climate Ambition Summit. This raises the question of whether New Zealand’s climate policy reflects the urgency of the situation.
In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the development of vaccines offer hope for global health action. But the task of distributing the vaccine has multiple human rights concerns, including issues of vaccine nationalism and equitable distribution to marginalised communities.
COVID-19 and climate change are two sides of the same coin. To overcome both we must confront their root cause: an economic system that is killing the planet.
New variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is thought to be driving increased transmission of the disease around the world.
“What has become starkly apparent in the age of the SARS CoV-2 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is that the effective communication of science-based health messages is no easy task .”
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached a new high in infections across the US, across Europe and around the world. But good news is on the horizen with the development of several vaccines.
It might be the world’s biggest ocean, but the mighty Pacific is in peril.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared a climate change emergency in New Zealand. This declaration is non-binding, but Ardern says the motion intends to hold the Government accountable and recognises that they are taking the issue seriously.
What would happen if we cut down the entire Amazon rainforest? Could it be replaced by an equal amount of reforestation elsewhere?
“By declaring a climate emergency Jacinda Ardern needs to inspire hope, not fear.”
In her inaugural lecture at the University of Auckland, Professor Rachel Fewster will give a taste of the diversity of statistical problems in the ecological domain, introduce a charismatic cast of creatures, and give insights into how we can – sometimes – convert baffling volumes of data into interpretable conclusions.
In her inaugural lecture at the University of Auckland, Professor Karen Waldie attempts to answer some of the big questions in the area of developmental cognitive neuroscience.
“High levels of vaccination may be expected to provide our communities with the best possible protection against COVID-19.”
Recent news from pharmaceutical powerhouse Pfizer that a promising vaccine for the COVID-19 virus may soon be made available worldwide, including in New Zealand, has provided optimism in a time of significant anxiety, as infection rates soar internationally.
Immunisation expert Dr Nikki Turner says as we wait for a Covid-19 vaccine, there are other diseases to keep in mind.
Few countries were ready for the pandemic that’s hit the world. So has the Covid-19 crisis taught us anything about ameliorating the threats of climate change?
Listen to a conversation between Cate Macinnis-Ng, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, and Niki Harre, professor in the School of Psychology on how trees respond to climate-related stress.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the world is racing to create a viable vaccine to help control the spread of the virus. Is New Zealand ready for a vaccine? How will it be rolled out? And how effective will it be?
Much of scientific research involves the generation and testing of hypotheses that can facilitate the development of accurate models for a system. In machine learning the automated building of accurate models is desired, however traditional machine learning often assumes that the underlying systems are static and unchanging over time.
In this talk, Professor Tim Dare from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland will discuss why transparency and explainability have become central to data ethics and the reasons there are to question that centrality.
This seminar hosted by the University of Auckland Sustainability Network explores the issue of eco-anxiety and includes speakers from the University of Auckland and AUT who will present current research and approaches to eco-anxiety.
Climate change is causing increased large-scale coral bleaching. That’s because when water is too warm, corals expel the algae living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn completely white.
The search for minerals is leading some corporations to begin mining the ocean floor but scientists warn that this could devastate fragile ecosystems that will have repercussions that we still don’t understand.
There’s been dramatic progress in learning skills, such as object recognition, translation and speech, and in difficult but uncomplicated tasks like playing chess, Go and video games.
“The textile and clothing manufacturing industry comes with a heavy price including environmental pollution and the well-publicised issues around the income and working conditions for workers.”
In the last few weeks, the western part of the United States has experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. Not coincidently, some areas have also recorded the highest temperatures since records began.
Methane is a shorter-lived greenhouse gas – why do we average it out over 100 years? By doing so, do we risk emitting so much in the upcoming decades that we reach climate tipping points?
Climate change is 100% human-caused, so it’s 100% human-solvable. Don’t surrender to anxiety.
From now until October 17, Election Day in New Zealand, voters will be getting election poll information from multiple directions. So which ones can be trusted?
Misinformation is rampant about COVID-19 and in some cases, it has caused death, blindness, emergency health issues, and widespread stigma, and social ostracization.
Glaciers around the world are melting — and for the first time, we can now directly attribute annual ice loss to climate change.
The natural sciences that allow us to understand the environment are at the heart of developing strategies to adapt to, survive, and thrive as climate changes.
Why does New Zealand need to focus on genome sequencing to trace the source of its new COVID-19 outbreak?
Genetic surveillance — a technology that uses the genetic fingerprint of a virus to track its spread — is part of the public health response to New Zealand’s new COVID-19 community outbreak and could help pinpoint its source.
New Zealand is on alert as COVID-19 returns. This is what we need to stamp it out again.
“Humanity is not doomed, not now or even in a worst-case scenario in 2030. But avoiding doom — either the end or widespread collapse of civilisation — is setting a pretty low bar.”
Currently, 90% of New Zealand’s seabirds are threatened with extinction. It is a colossal loss and a colossally sad number.
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?
Stringent border controls and mandatory quarantine give New Zealand a good chance to remain free of COVID-19 for months to come, according to new modelling from Te Pūnaha Matatini.
“I was surprised. The streams here are small and New Zealand is supposed to be clean, but the levels were the same as the Danube and the Rhine.”
Effective communication, capable of garnering public support for marine conservation, appears more urgent now than ever before.
Over the past 30 years, the South Pole has been one of the fastest changing places on Earth, warming more than three times more rapidly than the rest of the world.
COVID-19 is being referred to as a “once in a century event” – but the next pandemic is likely to hit sooner than you think.
“If the world does not take action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, the future could be very grim indeed.”
A general purpose AI is inevitable and New Zealand could lead the way as the nature of work is transformed.
Robot caregivers can help maintain independence as we age, but the trick is getting humans to trust them.
New Zealand hits a 95% chance of eliminating coronavirus. However, researchers predict new cases will emerge.
NASA has announced its Artemis programme which should land the first woman and the next man (at least as far as the United States is concerned) on the Moon by 2024.
One of the interesting features of the COVID-19 pandemic is the different incidence rates of the disease and the different mortality percentages, across countries.
Just how hot will it get this century? Latest climate models suggest it could be worse than we thought
The famous telescope is celebrating thirty years of operation.
People and governments have the chance to learn from Covid-19, and build a new sustainable climate future with a watchful eye on our Sustainable Development Goals, writes Professor Ralph Cooney.
Lockdown’s effect on air pollution provides a rare glimpse of low-carbon future.
The latest environmental report on New Zealand’s lakes and rivers reiterates bleak news about the state of freshwater ecosystems, and warns that climate change will exacerbate existing threats.
Grant Christie spoke with Vicki MacFarlane about what kind of problems they are seeing in Auckland Detoxification services and how services are supporting the community during lockdown.
Lillian Ng talks to Marthinus Bekker about building emotional resilience.
The impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems are already evident. But what will the world’s biodiversity look like in the future?
In this podcast, Lillian Ng speaks with Hiran Thabrew and Melanie Woodfield about ways that families can support their children and adolescents.
Lillian Ng explores ways to support psychological wellbeing with Kerry Gibson and Zubeida Mahomedy.
Can we conceptualise a response to the climate crisis from how the world has reacted and responded to covid-19? What can we take from the response to the pandemic to start a new response to the climate crisis?
Lillian Ng explores with Monique Jonas and Phillipa Malpas the implications of moral distress and clinical decision making in the time of COVID-19.
In this podcast, psychiatrists Lillian Ng and Stefano Cali discuss emotional contagion and the potential psychological impacts of a lockdown.
There’s a distinction between social isolation and loneliness writes professor of gerontology, Vanessa Burholt. The key is to create intergenerational connections during this time of physical isolation.
Infectious diseases expert Mark Thomas explores some of the options open to New Zealand.
“Studies of numerous antiviral treatments and potential vaccines are already underway. Never has science advanced so much in such a short period of time to combat an epidemic.”
In this podcast, psychiatrists Lillian Ng and Rob Shieff discuss fear, anxiety and our responses to them.
With basic mathematical models, researchers can begin to forecast the progression of diseases and understand the effect of interventions on disease spread.
Viruses are the most common biological entities on Earth. Experts estimate there are around 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them.
New Zealand has a dirty rivers problem. In 2017, two-thirds of the country’s rivers were deemed too polluted to swim in. Given this, research is being carried out to find ways in which the country can attempt to clean up its rivers.
How did coronavirus spread across the world? Why is it so bad? Beth Linas explains.
The poles are warming faster than the rest of the planet, causing extreme weather events in the Northern hemisphere.
There is no overarching consensus on what is defined as organic internationally.
Biocontrol may help bees where other interventions, like chemical pesticides, have failed
Global alarm is increasing around the growing spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. How did it begin? How dangerous is it?
The impacts of climate change – in particular, the consequences of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events on all life should be abundantly clear.
How serious is the new coronavirus pandemic? Are we set for a global pandemic? Helen Petousis-Harris investigates.
With Climate Change, will volcanic eruptions become more frequent moving forward?
New research out of the University of Otago has revealed that increasing the uptake of plant-based diets in New Zealand could have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
China is experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus which has so far killed seventeen people and infected a further four hundred and forty.
The intensity and breadth of the wildfires in Australia have drawn attention to the effects of climate change and the need for greater commitment to counter the global environmental crisis.
George Perry explains the uptake in wildfires globally and how we can adapt to our changing environment.
Why do volcanoes erupt and can we forecast future activity? Phil Shane explains the science behind volcanoes.
In this lecture hosted by the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland researchers discuss how knowing what your genes do can guide the development of future personalised medicine for prevention and treatment of mental health conditions and type 1 diabetes.
Why did White Island erupt and why was there no warning? Shane Cronin explains what happened.
As it becomes obvious that society’s use of fossil fuels needs to be addressed, renewable sources of energy have been celebrated as a way for the world to break its fossil fuel dependence.
In a chapter taken from the new book “A Careful Revolution: Towards a Low-Emissions Future,” David Hall discusses how to tread carefully as the world undertakes what amounts to a climate revolution.
Professor Simon Thrush talks about safeguarding our ocean ecosystems from tipping points.
Gilbert Wong looks at the forces shaping the future of food and how research is contributing to what’s likely to be on our plates in 2030.
A new Lancet Countdown report presents the lifelong health consequences that a child born today will face from climate change.
On October 22, former MP and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, who now leads Greenpeace Aotearoa New Zealand, delivered the 2019 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture at the University of Auckland, looking at institutional reform options for dealing with climate change, in light of Parliament’s recent passage of the Zero Carbon Bill.
A new bill intends for terminally ill New Zealanders who have less than six months left of life, the option of requesting and receiving an assisted death from a qualified medical practitioner if they fulfill certain eligibility criteria.
Deadly fires across California over the past several years have shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and safety issue.
A new report has been released by the Child Poverty Action Group detailing food poverty and how it affects children in New Zealand.
As California burns, oceans rise, storms intensify, and Greenland’s glaciers melt, the world continues to try to identify solutions to the ongoing climate crisis.
A group of researchers has found that there are definite and viable sources of freshwater under our oceans.
Grant Galbreath looks at whether New Zealand can transition to a plant-based future?
Are surfers selfish when it comes to looking after the environment?
2018 saw the worst ice melts in New Zealand since the 1980s. But why are glaciers declining in Aotearoa? Mitch Fuller speaks with doctoral student Lauren Vargo about her research into glacial melting.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world – but how much does advertising have to do with it? Jim Mann is calling for greater government regulations around how food is advertised, especially to children.
In a lecture given at the University of Auckland, Professor Judith Bessant speaks about her work looking at techno-human futures and how this could affect work cultures moving forward.
A New Zealand study has found that those who use nicotine e-cigarettes in conjunction with other nicotine supplements such as patches have a higher chance of quitting than those who don’t.
Often thought of as the king of the ocean, shark populations are on the decline the world over, while their habitats have been affected by human contact.
How is climate change affecting the oceans and marine life? What are the interactions between the earth, the atmosphere, and the ocean, and how does that affect human life? What measures can people take to prevent massive environmental damage?
This week, a report on the health of trans and non-binary New Zealanders revealed some alarming statistics into psychological distress, discrimination and ongoing barriers to health services.
They are known to get drunk on berries, fall out of trees, and hang around humans, but Kererū have become something of a New Zealand icon.
New research from the University of Otago has revealed that cannabis use is in decline among young people in New Zealand. The research showed that between 2001 and 2012 lifetime use of the drug among teenagers dropped from 38% to 23%.
What are the biophysical limits to New Zealand’s food and energy future? Mike Joy says people need to do a lot less of what they are doing now if New Zealand is to have a sustainable future.
Are we living in a climate of ignorance when it comes to discussing climate change? Joel Rindelaub seems to think so.
Low-lying Pacific islands in atoll archipelagos such as Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati are likely to adapt to the effects of climate change rather than simply sink beneath the waves.
How do we measure pain, anyway? Jeremy Delahanty investigates.
Brettina Mrusek asks if we can we clean up earth’s orbit before it’s too late.
New research involving kelp DNA has suggested a novel way to measure and potentially predict previously unknown locations that may be prone to earthquakes.
As the quest to combat plastic pollution continues, new research has explored the potential for developing environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic, like sulphur polymers.
In the past decade, cancer research undertaken at the University of Auckland has changed lives. Our top scientists say it has now entered the next frontier and there’s hope that cancer could eventually be brought under control.
A new study led by Kieran D. Cox and researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia confirms a logical but cringe-worthy conclusion: humans are consuming plastic.
Kate Mackrill explores what is known as the nocebo effect and whether the media can in fact influence the side effects of medication.
Reforestation can help reverse not one but two planetary crises according to new research from the Earth Innovation Research.
Why are the numbers of insects in fast decline? What does it mean for our food supply and our long term survival? Scientists say climate change is not the only reason. Maria Armoudian speaks with Andrew Dopheide about the current plight of our insect population.
In the ruling against Caster Semenya, bogus science is being used to stifle the vulnerable according to Sarah Laframboise.
Is the transmission of trauma multi-generational? Do children of survivors of mass atrocities have a higher risk of developing psychological disorders?
El Niño has rapidly become stronger and stranger, according to new research involving coral records.
The recently released Global Assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is a wake-up call to all of us when it comes to species extinction according to Wendy Nelson.
In December 2018, the New Zealand parliament passed a bill to create a regulated market for medicinal cannabis and a legal defence for users who take the drug for palliative reasons. But what are the flaws, if any in New Zealand’s new medicinal cannabis scheme?
A recent report has found that our use of cars is harming both our health and our environment. The report, titled Turning the Tide, claims that urgent steps are needed to encourage New Zealanders to walk, cycle, or use public transport.
How did the earthquakes affect the mental health of the people of Canterbury? Ben Beaglehole and Joseph Boden discuss their research.
Norman A. Paradis investigate why it is so hard to find a cure for Alzheimer’s after a century of research into the brain disease.
A recent report from a team of researchers based at the University of Otago has found that our use of cars is harming both our health and our environment. Is it time to give up our cars?
A rise in the global consumption of meat will have major consequences for the environment according to a new paper published in Science.
With much excitement from the press, an international team of astronomers recently announced they had directly imaged the silhouette or shadow of a black hole for the first time. Chris Benton explains why this is important.
Bugs like it hot, and evolve faster when there’s lots of carbon dioxide meaning more mosquitoes according to Max Levy.
We all know climate change is a problem. It is generally portrayed as an exclusively bio-physical issue that will impact things like our weather and oceans, agriculture and water availability. But climate change also has an impact on mental health.
Eileen Reynolds investigates the opioid crisis that has gripped the United States over the last few years.
In New Zealand, recent policy plans by the government show the first steps towards zero-carbon emissions.
For years a myth has been propagated that the MMR vaccine causes autism. However new research has confirmed the link does not exist.
Julie Anne Hope discusses how microplastics are interfering with our marine ecosystems.
Eighteen countries from developed economies have had declining carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels for at least a decade. While every nation is unique, they share some common themes that can show Australia, and the world, a viable path to reducing emissions.
Today is Valentine’s Day but what exactly is love? How have notions of love changed over time? Can love be consciously developed? And how does love for partners, friends, children, and countries differ?
The world is fast running out of fresh water and the results could be very grim.
How will climate change affect our natural world, our society, and our culture? What can we do to halt the looming catastrophe? A panel of experts discusses how climate change will impact New Zealand.
How does culture shape our understanding and treatment of mental illness? Maria Armoudian speaks with Roberto Lewis-Fernandez, Tanya Marie Luhrmann, and Andrew G. Ryder about culture and its impact on mental health.
A medicinal cannabis bill has just past its third reading in the New Zealand parliament. But is it time to also look at recreational use in the country?
On 26 November 2018 NASA’s lander InSight successfully touched down on Mars. But what is it doing there?
Paleoclimatologists are digging into the connections between the collapse of Mayan Civilization and extreme droughts.
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that human behaviour is not rational, not conscious, and maybe completely programmed without our rational thinking.
Fewer crops are feeding more people worldwide and that is not good according to Karl Zimmerer.
We are sending worms into space. But why?
As electric cars and trucks appear increasingly on highways, it raises the question: When will commercially viable electric vehicles take to the skies?
Joseph M. Boden explores how research can inform change with regards to abortion law reform.
It’s not just sleep: circadian rhythms influence your metabolism, circulation and psychology, too according to Jackie Grimm.
Watching violence on screens makes children more emotionally distressed according to new research.
A vaccine that could block mosquitoes from transmitting malaria has emerged. Jonathan Lovell and Wei-Chiao Huang investigate.
Birds, bees, whales, and turtles all use the Earth’s magnetic field to guide their behaviour. Now scientists have learned much more about how. Maria Armoudian speaks with Andres Vidal-Gadea about what has been discovered.
Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report on the impacts of 1.5°C global warming above pre-industrial levels. Tra Dinh explores some of the questions that arose out of this.
Afraid of lions by moonlight and raptors by day, animals will behave in dramatic ways as Cassie Freund explains.
With bird colony collapses and crop failures occurring more frequently, what is happening to life on Earth and how can we address the changes for long-term sustainability?
The popularity of electric vehicles in New Zealand is increasing every year, but is our obsession with electric mobility driving an increase in lead poisoning?
World hunger has risen for three straight years, and climate change is a cause according to Jessica Eise and Kenneth Foster.
With more scientists saying we should give up meat for the sake of the environment, are insects the answer to food insecurity?
2017 saw the highest international tourism numbers in seven years. However, there is a cost as Archana Chand explains.
All scientific indications are suggesting that the Earth is fast reaching a tipping point, a point of irreversible damage to life on the planet. Maria Armoudian spoke with world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen about the science and politics of climate change.
With new technology, mind control is no longer just science fiction as Lily Toomey explains.
What does the discovery of a new dwarf planet tell us about the outer parts of our Solar System?
One of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in physics went to Donna Strickland but why don’t more women win science Nobels?
What next for space travel? Joel Wooten investigates.
Luciana Esteves warns of the dangers of living near the coast and suggests it is time we moved people away from some areas.
The introduction of genome editing signals a dramatic departure from the usual pathway through reproductive care. However, the use of genetic technologies in reproduction is frequently criticised for harbouring eugenic undertones.
In the near future, “meat” could mean a lot more than it does now.
Are we prepared for a global flu pandemic? Mark Ecclestone-Turner investigates.