Nau mai haere mai.

So much about those early parenting months is a blur, it’s hard to remember what kind of entitlements we “enjoyed” back before paid parental leave was introduced in 2001. We could take time off without pay, and we could share that leave between us. But the pressure to start earning again was fairly strong.

So yesterday’s promise by the Labour Party to extend the existing paid parental leave system to include four weeks for partners might look like a great leap forward. And I guess compared to where we were in the 1990s – up to our eyeballs in nappies and debt – it does. But let’s face it, that’s not a very high bar.

In fact, as Kate Prickett writes today, if Labour holds on to power its policy would only move New Zealand into the bottom half of the OECD, based on how much (and for how long) a partner’s real income is replaced by the proposed scheme. Compared to the Scandinavian “gold standard”, it’s positively miserly.

That’s not to say it isn’t a step in the right direction. Better some pay than none at all. Still, writes Prickett, “the scope and generosity of the policy on offer falls well short of the evidence-backed benefits that appropriately funded partner leave can have for children and their families.”

Also this week we have a fascinating explanation of how “mathematics is a realisation in symbols of the fundamental nature and creativity of the mind”. In other words, maths is us and we are maths. Enjoy, and until next week, mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Editor

Labour’s promise of paid parental leave for partners is ‘the right thing to do’ – but NZ could still do better

Kate C. Prickett, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

All the evidence points to paid partner’s leave having many benefits for children and families – but Labour’s promise falls short on time and money.

Why a ban on cellphones in schools might be more of a distraction than the problem it’s trying to fix

Eunice Gaerlan, Auckland University of Technology

The National Party wants a blanket ban on cellphones in school. But international research suggests improving student engagement is complex, and such a policy might even be counterproductive.

Arithmetic has a biological origin – it’s an expression in symbols of the ‘deep structure’ of our perception

Randolph Grace, University of Canterbury

Humans have been making symbols for numbers for thousands of years. Different cultures developed their own symbols, but all use addition and multiplication, suggesting arithmetic is a universal truth.

Creating ‘sponge cities’ to cope with more rainfall needn’t cost billions – but NZ has to start now

Timothy Welch, University of Auckland

A new report sets out the practical ways New Zealand can improve its urban resilience to flooding due to climate change. But time, rather than money, is of the essence.

Out of the shadows: why making NZ’s security threat assessment public for the first time is the right move

Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato

The Security Intelligence Service needs public support and trust to do its work well. Adding a degree of transparency to it’s annual threat assessment should help.

The ‘number 8 wire’ days for NZ’s defence force are over – new priorities will demand bigger budgets

John Moremon, Massey University

New Zealanders will need to get used to bigger defence budgets – and change their attitudes to the military – if the new national security strategy is to be properly implemented.

Incremental environmental change can be as hazardous as a sudden shock – managing these ‘slow-burning’ risks is vital

Dr Wendy Liu, University of Auckland; Anne Bardsley, University of Auckland; Jennifer Salmond, University of Auckland; Kristiann Allen, University of Auckland; Marc Tadaki, Cawthron Institute; Martin Brook, University of Auckland

Not all environmental change is obvious. But incremental and cumulative changes can be just as harmful as more immediate and observable events, meaning risk management practices need to adapt.

From Oppenheimer to Milton Friedman: how the Cold War battle of economic ideas shaped our world

Alan Bollard, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

The Cold War was an economic standoff as well as an atomic one. The author of a new book describes the minds behind the great ideological battles on that 20th-century front line.

Meeting the long-term climate threat takes more than private investment – 10 ways NZ can be smart and strategic

Kevin Trenberth, University of Auckland

The BlackRock climate fund is a start, but New Zealand needs a comprehensive approach to tackling its various environmental and economic vulnerabilities to the climate crisis.

From our foreign editions

Qantas throws weight behind Voice with travel for ‘yes’ campaigners

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Outgoing Qantas chief Alan Joyce appeared on Monday with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to unveil the livery

Can human moderators ever really rein in harmful online content? New research says yes

Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, University of Technology Sydney; Philipp Schneider, EPFL – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne

New EU rules require social media platforms to take down flagged posts within 24 hours – and modelling shows that’s fast enough to have a dramatic effect on the spread of harmful content.

After Maui fires, human health risks linger in the air, water and even surviving buildings

Andrew J. Whelton, Purdue University

Maui County issued an ‘unsafe water’ alert and urged precautions. Residents can face several toxic hazards from fires, as an expert in the chemical risks from fires explains.

Afghanistan: two years after Taliban takeover the west is letting down the democratic opposition

David Loyn, King's College London

Two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan the west is not doing enough to help exiled leaders form a unified opposition.

Rising methane could be a sign that Earth’s climate is part-way through a ‘termination-level transition’

Euan Nisbet, Royal Holloway University of London

The last time methane in the air rose so fast, Greenland warmed by 10°C within decades.

Why pain is so hard to measure – and how our study of brainwaves could help

Elia Valentini, University of Essex

An objective way to measure pain is the holy grail of pain research. Gamma waves may be part of the answer.

Ditching the young entrepreneur myth: research shows over-50s are the more radical innovators

Virva Salmivaara, Audencia

Contrary to popular beliefs, older entrepreneurs who start a business in their 50s are more likely to create radical innovations than younger ones.

Wallacea is a living laboratory of Earth’s evolution – and its wildlife, forests and reefs will be devastated unless we all act

Jatna Supriatna, Universitas Indonesia

I have spent decades researching this unique region. Without serious conservation, millions of hectares of its forests could transform into desolate wastelands, risking wildlife like the tiny tarsier.

This solar cycle, the sun’s activity is more powerful and surprising than predicted

Daniel Billett, University of Saskatchewan

We’re currently a few years into the 25th studied solar cycle. An 11-year period of sun activity, this solar cycle is more active than previously expected.

Military coups in Africa: here’s what determines a return to civilian rule

Sebastian Elischer, University of Florida

Examining how military coups unfold is crucial to understanding a country’s path back to democracy.