Eye of the Storm: Climate Change and the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is dying.

One of Australia’s most spectacular natural wonders is being devastated by the impact of climate change.

Scientists, governments and the media have drawn attention to human induced mass coral bleaching and ocean acidification but have failed to highlight the threat of intense cyclones on the reef.

Healthy Reef (Source: Laura Kent)

A recent paper by researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville rectifies this lack of attention by investigating the threat of the more frequent category 5 cyclones on the Great Barrier Reef. Continue reading

Posted in environment and conservation, SCOM8014 | Comments Off on Eye of the Storm: Climate Change and the Reef

Altering viral genes for safer, higher efficacy immunisation

Immunisation remains a globally cost-effective method for reducing disability, disease and death. But researchers face the constant challenge of increasing both vaccine safety and efficacy. A challenge also seen in parental hesitancy towards child immunisation.

New research has found a way to combat both these aspects: by making the highest efficacy type, live attenuated vaccines, even safer. Continue reading

Posted in health and medical, SCOM1001 | Comments Off on Altering viral genes for safer, higher efficacy immunisation

Eliminating disease or creating super-humans? Three reasons why we should be researching CRISPR

Unlocking the secrets within (source)

The concept of humankind being able to eliminate world hunger, wipe out genetic disease and direct our own evolution is one confined to the libraries of science-fiction, right?

Wrong.

A powerful new gene-editing technology called CRISPR-cas9 (simply referred to as ‘crisper’) has taken the scientific world by storm, and the potentials seem endless. However, those who know of it are divided on its prospective use. Continue reading

Posted in health and medical, new technologies, SCOM1001 | Comments Off on Eliminating disease or creating super-humans? Three reasons why we should be researching CRISPR

In support of shark deterring technology

Shark attacks have been increasing in Australia in the last two decades, scientists put this down to more people in the water, which boosts the likelihood of encountering a shark.

Even though shark attacks are still extremely rare, something about their goriness plays at the forefront of my mind.

Avoiding the ocean is the most effective way to avoid shark attacks. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for the many Australians who, like myself, have seawater running through their veins. A compromise must be reached.

Any measures taken to avoid shark attacks should a) actually work, and b) respect the right of all creatures to exist in their natural habitat. These aren’t ridiculous expectations, but most of our current interventions don’t measure up. Continue reading

Posted in environment and conservation, SCOM8014 | Tagged , , | Comments Off on In support of shark deterring technology

Eating the world healthy again

We should all know by now that eating fruit and vegetables is good for us. Yet a survey done by CSIRO shows that most Australians aren’t getting anywhere near this. If Australia’s Go for 2&5 campaign isn’t working, hopefully research published in PNAS early last year will convince people to eat better for the world.

Currently, the food system creates more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With our growing population, this percentage will increase. If changes aren’t made to the way we consume food in the world there is a real risk that food prices will sky rocket, or worse Continue reading

Posted in environment and conservation, health and medical, SCOM8014 | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Eating the world healthy again

Take your Grandma for a Wii

Can you see your grandparent sitting in that chair?

Aged care can be a lonely & unstimulating experience (source: livinglifeasme)

Depressing, isn’t it.

For many of our beloved older generation, opportunities to stay healthy can be limited due to the constraints of aged-care facilities.

Staffing costs to assist residents in maintaining an active body and mind can be prohibitive. Particularly in government funded facilities, this can make it difficult for our loved ones in-care to get what they need to maximise their health and happiness.

But, there may be a solution. Take them for a Wii! Continue reading

Posted in health and medical, SCOM8014 | Comments Off on Take your Grandma for a Wii

Freshwater may not be so precious in the near future- New desalination tech

“Filling cup with saltwater” Credit: myoutdoorslife

 

71% of the Earth’s surface is water, yet around 700 million people still suffer from water scarcity. By 2030, almost half of the world’s population will be living in high water-stressed areas. While world population is projected to reach 8.3 billion in the same year.

This means there are less clean water to share between more people. Naturally, people are worried about future water security. Clean drinking water is one of our most scarce resources, but scientists may have found a solution to change that.

A group of scientists at the University of Manchester, created a membrane using graphene oxide, it is capable of removing 97% of salt from seawater. Graphene is a thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a special wafer-like formation. Continue reading

Posted in new technologies, SCOM1001 | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Freshwater may not be so precious in the near future- New desalination tech

Global warming good for plants: Fact or fiction?

Western Sydney University’s ‘EucFACE’ experiment enriching a forest with carbon dioxide. Credit: WSU

There is global agreement in the scientific community that climate change is happening, but is it really as bad as it sounds? A recent article by The Blaze suggests global warming is good for plants. They argue that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a main ingredient of photosynthesis, will lead to enhanced growth of crops, making farmers happy.

On the flipside, new research from Western Sydney University says an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is useless if the other ingredients for plant growth are missing – like in many parts of Australia.

So, who’s right?

Let’s check the facts:

Continue reading

Posted in environment and conservation, SCOM8014 | Comments Off on Global warming good for plants: Fact or fiction?

CPASian Chris Ingles revolutionises Middle-earth geology

Ingles & Orthia 2016 Middle-earth mapFor fifty years fans of Lord of the Rings have struggled to make sense of the geology of the world depicted in Tolkien’s work – Middle-earth – in terms of contemporary earth science.

But according to CPAS graduate Chris Ingles – a former earth science and science communication student – they never got it right. Until now.

Chris completed a sci com research project in 2014 re-analysing the geological evidence about Middle-earth from the Lord of the Rings books to better understand the geological history of that world.

What he found challenged the prevailing literature on this topic. In particular, lots of previous writers hypothesised the role of plate tectonics in forming Middle-earth’s many mountain ranges. But Chris used cutting edge geological theory alongside new literary evidence to show this would not be possible.

Here we present Chris’s paradigm-challenging paper, co-authored with supervisor Lindy Orthia.

To cite this work: Ingles C. and Orthia L.A. (2016) A New Synthesis on the Geology of Middle-earth: Genesis, Orogeny and Tectonics. Canberra: Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, The Australian National University. http://sandpaw.weblogs.anu.edu.au/files/2016/06/Ingles-Orthia-2016-Middle-earth-geology.pdf.

Ingles & Orthia 2016 Middle-earth geology

Posted in science and fiction, SCOM3003 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on CPASian Chris Ingles revolutionises Middle-earth geology

How to Time Travel Back to Ancient Lands

Have you ever wanted to look into the ancient past?

Imagine walking through ancient rainforest and stepping back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The good news is, that these forests still exist. However, they are under threat.

Many of you have probably heard of the Wollemi Pine.

One day in 1994 it was stumbled upon in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, by David Noble, a National Parks officer. It was like no other tree he had seen before and was later found to be one of the oldest and rarest trees left in existence.

Australia’s environment has often been noted as unique, due to its isolation after it broke away from the supercontinent Gondwana and Antarctica about 45 million years ago.

Continue reading

Posted in environment and conservation, SCOM1001 | Comments Off on How to Time Travel Back to Ancient Lands