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

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By Stephen Luntz

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By Stephen Luntz

Brief bites of science news

Soft Drinks Affect Breathing
Soft drink consumption has been linked to higher rates of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr Zumin Shi of Adelaide University used a computer-assisted telephone study of almost 17,000 South Australians to investigate the effect of consuming cola, lemonade, flavoured mineral water or sports drinks on the two conditions. Shi found that 10% of adults reported drinking more than 500 mL/day, and these people were 26% more likely to suffer from asthma and 70% more likely to have COPD.

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By Stephen Luntz

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Excess Iron Linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

By Stephen Luntz

is excess iron a cause or an effect?

Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have been linked to failures in a protein that normally removes excess iron from brain cells. Many obstacles exist to treatment, but the discovery holds out the tantalising prospect of addressing the two most devastating neurological diseases in one go.

Locust Mating a Risky Business

By Stephen Luntz

A wasp targeted copulating locust during the most recent plague.

During the peak of the 2010–11 swarm, Australian locust faced a 10% chance of dying a particularly horrible death if they chose to have sex. Black digger wasps reproduce by paralysing grasshoppers and crickets, dragging them to a burrow and laying eggs inside the body. When the eggs hatch they feed on the still-living Orthoptera.

Planets Are the Norm, Not the Exception

By Stephen Luntz

There are probably many more planets in our galaxy than stars.

There are probably many more planets in our galaxy than stars, according to an international study published in Nature.

Over recent years the subtle movements in nearby stars, triggered by the gravitational effects of their companions, have been used to detect hundreds of planets. The Kepler space telescope, which is watching the dimming caused by planets passing across the face of the Sun, has turned the rate of discovery into an avalanche, with more than 2000 prospective planets revealed last year.

Name Children Simply

By Stephen Luntz

Parents should take care when naming their children.

Easily pronounced names are an asset in life, according to five studies collectively reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. While four of the studies looked at surnames, one detected the influence of both names, indicating that parents should take care when naming their children.

Dr Adam Alter of New York University has made a career studying how fluency affects success. He has previously found that easily pronounced business names attract more investors. Other studies have found that drugs that are hard to pronounce are considered more risky.

Hendra Antibodies Found in African Bats

By Stephen Luntz

The discovery of antibodies capable of neutralising the Hendra and Nipah viruses in African bats has overturned ideas about how the viruses spread.

Hendra and Nipah viruses, sometimes considered one disease, are carried by fruit bats. While there is no record of the bats getting sick, Hendra can be transmitted to horses and then to people, while Nipah can be transmitted directly to people. In both cases the viruses can be fatal.

Browse Briefs

By Stephen Luntz

Brief bites of science news for subscribers only.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Exclusive subscriber news

By Stephen Luntz

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