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Feature article

Fire, Erosion and the End of the Megafauna

The distribution of dated erosion events in Tasmania

The distribution of dated erosion events in Tasmania over the past 105,000 years in relation to human arrival and the extinction of the megafauna. Note the increase in the number of erosion events after 40,000 years ago and the absence of a peak in erosion events in the cold period around 65,000 years ago. The image of the giant marsupial Zygomaturus trilobus is by Nobu Tamura.

By Peter McIntosh

Tasmania’s erosion history links ancient Aboriginal burning practices with the demise of Tasmania’s megafauna.

Peter McIntosh is Senior Scientist (Earth Sciences) with the Forest Practices Authority in Tasmania.

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A New Reason to Lose Sleep

Could the brain be more vulnerable to apnoea if CPAP therapy is discontinued?

Could the brain be more vulnerable to apnoea if CPAP therapy is discontinued? iStockphoto

By Caroline Rae

Are people with sleep apnoea prone to brain injury from oxygen deprivation?

Caroline Rae is Professor of Brain Sciences at The University of New South Wales and is based at Neuroscience Research Australia. This work was also conducted in collaboration with the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

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Desert Fireballs

An Operational Desert Fireball Network camera station

An Operational Desert Fireball Network camera station on the Nullarbor, with satellite link and solar panel power source. Photo courtesy Geoff Deacon

By Alex Bevan, Philip Bland & Pavel Spurný

An intelligent camera system has been set up to track and recover meteorites in the Nullarbor.

Alex Bevan is Head of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the Western Australian Museum. Phil Bland is a Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. Pavel Spurný is Head of the Department of Interplanetary Matter at the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic.

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Life On Mars?

By Morris Jones

New NASA claims of Martian life in a meteorite discovered in Antarctica haven’t convinced astrobiologists.

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst and writer.

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Climate Change or Natural Variability?

Image of barometer

The long-term trend in annual rainfall for Australia from 1900 to 2009 is upwards at a linear rate of 6.33 mm/decade.

By Robert E. White

Meteorological records since the 1950s reveal a decrease in rainfall that is consistent with anthropogenic climate change, but a different picture emerges when looking at records since 1900.

Robert E. White is Professor Emeritus of The University of Melbourne’s School of Land and Environment.

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Evidence for Indigenous Australian Agriculture

Aboriginal village near the NSW/SA border in the 1840s.

An Aboriginal village near the NSW/SA border in the 1840s.

By Rupert Gerritsen

The assumption that indigenous Australians did not develop agriculture is highly contestable, with a body of evidence revealing that they developed food production systems and in some cases lived in large villages.

Rupert Gerritsen is a Petherick Reader at the National Library of Australia, and author of Australia and the Origins of Agriculture.

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The Young Visionaries

Image of child wearing cataract goggles

Truen Ibbotson experiences what it’s like to have restricted vision using special goggles designed by the Young Visionaries. Photo: Sharyn Wragg

By Mandy Thoo

Early-career scientists are using goggles that mimic common eye diseases to teach primary school children about their vision research and the importance of eye care.

Mandy Thoo is a Masters student in science communication at the Australian National University.

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Microbe Genes Could Curb Livestock Burps

Ruminant methane alone accounts for 31% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

Ruminant methane alone accounts for 31% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

By Graeme Attwood

The DNA sequence of a microbe that produces methane in ruminants provides a target for vaccines and other drugs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

Since their first domestication about 10,000 years ago, cattle, sheep, deer and goats have provided meat, milk and fibre for human use. Products derived from these ruminants are more commonly used than most people realise, with proteins derived from ruminants found in thousands of items ranging from sports drinks and processed foods to products used in oriental remedies.

A Matter of Taste

Image of tongue

While food preferences vary quite substantially in different cultures, hedonic responses to pure tastes in isolation are relatively independent of culture or diet in adults.

By John Prescott

Newborn babies will smile when they first taste sucrose and wrinkle their noses at the bitter taste of quinine. What is the adaptive significance of such innate responses to taste?

John Prescott is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Newcastle.

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It’s a Wiggly, Wiggly Universe

Image of cosmic microwave background

Figure 1. The Cosmic Microwave Background as revealed by NASA’s WMAP satellite. This is a picture of the whole sky in microwaves, and shows the fluctuations of matter in the Universe only 400,000 years after the Big Bang. The sky is covered in little hot and cold spots of size ~1°, corresponding to the distance sound can travel in the early Universe. Image: NASA / WMAP Science Team

By Karl Glazebrook

A map of the universe as it existed six billion years ago is close to completion, and may provide new insights into the physics of dark energy.

In the Beginning there was Light. But there was also Sound and Fury...

13.7 billion years ago our universe began in the Big Bang, when the whole of infinity was compressed to a singular point. While we do not yet understand the moment of singularity, cosmologists such as Stephen Hawking see that as their ultimate quest.