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A round-up of the latest science and news from Australasia.

A dog's colour could impact longevity, increase health problems

New research led by the University of Sydney has revealed the life expectancy of chocolate Labradors is significantly lower than their black and yellow counterparts.

The study of more than 33,000 United Kingdom-based Labrador retrievers of all colours shows chocolate Labradors also have a higher incidence of ear infections and skin disease. Its findings were published in the open access journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology today.

Asteroid Strikes Created Earth’s Oldest Surviving Rocks

Research led by Curtin University researchers has concluded that the Earth’s oldest-known evolved rocks formed four billion years ago when asteroids slammed into the Earth’s crust, causing it to melt.

The research, published in Nature Geoscience (https://goo.gl/X5X7iN), found that the Earth’s oldest granitic rocks, which form part of the Acasta Gneiss Complex in north-west Canada, have compositions that are distinct from those typical of Earth’s ancient continental crust. These differences suggest that they formed through a different process.

Doomed Star Could Fire Milky Way’s First Gamma-Ray Burst

Astronomers at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy have found a star system about 8000 light years from Earth that is the first known candidate in the Milky Way to produce a dangerous gamma-ray burst when it explodes and dies.

The system comprises a pair of scorchingly luminous Wolf-Rayet stars in the southern constellation of Norma, just beneath Scorpio’s tail. One star is on the brink of a massive supernova explosion.

The findings, published in Nature Astronomy (https://goo.gl/2eCfg3), are controversial as no gamma-ray burst has ever been detected within the Milky Way.

Microwave Chemistry Zaps Solar Cells

A microwave experiment with phosphorus has opened the way to more affordable and effective super-thin solar cells.

Hallucinations Associated with Brain Hyperactivity in People with Age-Related Blindness

New research from The University of Queensland has revealed that visual hallucinations in people with macular degeneration are associated with abnormally heightened activity in the visual cortex of the brain. The findings, published in Current Biology (https://goo.gl/NKwnwk), could improve the diagnosis of such hallucinations.

FM Radio Radar Reveals Defence Threats in Space

Astronomers at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) have teamed up with Adelaide company Silentium Defence to develop a passive radar for the surveillance of objects in space.

Foetal Motor Neuron Imbalance Hard-Wires Later Problems

The discovery that motor neuron connections are refined in the weeks before and just after birth, and are crucial for normal development later, could lead to a better understanding of developmental disorders such as autism and epilepsy.

A/Profs Peter Noakes and Mark Bellingham of The University of Queensland made the discovery during research into the motor neurons that control breathing.

Shell-Crushers Perfected Feeding During the Cambrian

Evolution has explored many approaches to eating prey, and discarded almost as many, but one group of marine arthropods optimised the biomechanics of their feeding structures more than half a billion years ago according to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (https://goo.gl/33T3Ea).

Amendment of Act Would Give Defence Department “Unprecedented Powers to Regulate Research”

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) has warned that proposed changes to the Defence Trade Control Act would severely impact on international research collaboration. The proposal includes controls over the supply of any technology, without explanation, and the power to control publication of research in scientific journals.

Qubit Reader Brings Quantum Computing Closer

The development of a compact sensor that can access information stored in the electrons of individual atoms brings scalable quantum computing in a silicon chip one step closer. The development, conducted within Prof Michelle Simmons’ group at the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at The University of NSW, was published in Physical Review X (https://goo.gl/3R8vxc).