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Feature article

Fresh Water Using Geothermal Heat

By Hal GurGenci

Geothermal heat can provide cheap fresh water to homesteads and small townships in the outback by removing salt from brackish aquifers.

Hal Gurgenci is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Queensland, and the Director of the Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, which was established last year by a $15 million grant from the Queensland government.

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Freaks of the Sea

Image of freak wave

In 1978 the German cargo vessel MS München was struck by a freak wave 24–30 metres high. Image from Horizon – Freak Wave courtesy of BBC Worldwide. © BBC/Monkey Experiment

By Murray Rudman

Once the stuff of maritime legend, rogue waves up to 30 metres high have been detected by satellites, posing a significant threat to shipping and oil rigs. Now computational scientists are smashing virtual rogue waves into virtual oil and gas platforms to help design stronger, safer structures.

Dr Murray Rudman is Program Leader of Computational and Mathematical Modelling at CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics in Melbourne.

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Reef Emissions Affect Climate

Image of reef

Reefs produce aerosols that affect rainfall locally.

By Graham Jones & Zoran Ristovski

Coral reefs produce a natural aerosol that creates clouds over the ocean and keeps sea surface temperatures stable – with implications for both reefs and rainforests.

Graham Jones is an Associate Professor in climate science at Southern Cross University, Lismore. Zoran Ristovski is an Associate Professor in atmospheric science at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

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How Australia Dried Out

Image of ancient lake

Sediments of the ancient Lake Bungunnia near Rufus River in western NSW. The white horizon is the dust layer marking the start of arid climatic regimes. Photo: Richard Stanaway

By Sandra McLaren & Malcolm Wallace

Lake Bungunnia, a megalake that existed 1–2 million years ago in today’s Murray–Darling Basin, reveals the story and timing of the onset of arid climatic conditions in south-eastern Australia.

Dr Sandra McLaren and Dr Malcolm Wallace are from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. This article is based on their research published recently in the journal Global and Planetary Change.

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The First Breath

Image of lungfish ribs

The cranial ribs in the Australian lungfish Neoceratodus forsteri are needed to anchor the pectoral girdle, allowing the fish to raise its head to gulp air. Image adapted from Johanson et al. 2005.

By Alice Clement

A new fossil find shows that a global decline in oxygen millions of years ago drove the evolution of air-breathing in lungfishes.

Alice Clement is a PhD student at the Research School of Earth Sciences of the Australian National University and Museum Victoria, where she is studying lungfish evolution and anatomy.

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Entropy Theories in State of Disorder

Image of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking in freefall flight on board a modified Boeing 727 jet that completes a series of steep ascents and dives to create short periods of weightlessness due to freefall. During this flight Hawking experienced eight such periods. Now one of his theories about entropy is in freefall too. Photo: NASA

By Stephen Luntz

Australian researchers have found that there is more disorder in the universe than previously realised – and that one of Stephen Hawking’s assumptions is probably wrong.

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Neutrino Hint from Radioactivity Puzzle

By Peter Pockley

The discovery that the decay rates of radioactive isotopes may not be immutable "constants of nature" could open fresh ways of detecting neutrinos and protecting astronauts and satellites in space.

Read this article in Australasian Science Magazine (print only).

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A Mystery of Astronomical Proportions

By Christine Nicholls

At least one-third of all red giant stars have a mysterious variation in brightness that has astronomers stumped.

Read this article in Australasian Science Magazine (print only).

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Rise of the Machines

By Trevor Lithgow

The cells in our body work because of the many "molecular machines" within them – but where did these machines comes from?

Read this article in Australasian Science Magazine (print only).

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Sea Slugs Turn up Heat on Bleaching

By Ingo Burghardt

Symbiotic sea slugs employ similar zooxanthellae species as corals, offering fresh insights into why heat-stressed corals bleach.

Read this article in Australasian Science Magazine (print only).

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