Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Feature

Feature article

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

The Biggest Losers

An artist’s reconstruction of some extinct Australian animals (clockwise from top left): Genyornis newtoni, Diprotodon optatum, Procoptodon goliah, the thylacine (which survived in Tasmania until 1936), Thylacoleo carnifex (the biggest marsupial carnivore) and the giant lizard Megalania prisca. Image courtesy of the artist Peter Trusler and Australia Post

An artist’s reconstruction of some extinct Australian animals (clockwise from top left): Genyornis newtoni, Diprotodon optatum, Procoptodon goliah, the thylacine (which survived in Tasmania until 1936), Thylacoleo carnifex (the biggest marsupial carnivore) and the giant lizard Megalania prisca. Image courtesy of the artist Peter Trusler and Australia Post

By Richard “Bert” Roberts & Barry Brook

New evidence tightens the noose on humans as the decisive factor in the extinction of the last of the megafauna in Australia and North America.

Prof Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts is an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow in the Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. Prof Barry Brook is the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change in The Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide.

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

In Space No One Can Hear You Sneeze

Image of astronaut

Space is a harsh environment that presents several serious health risks to astronauts

By Elizabeth Blaber, Helder Marcal, John Foster & Brendan Burns

The altered gravity conditions of space can have serious detrimental effects on the health of astronauts. Understanding the cellular basis of this phenomenon could lead to better medical treatments on Earth.

Humans have gazed into the night sky for thousands of years and wondered what the billions of twinkling spots were that they could see. Different cultures have assigned their own meaning to the universe throughout the millennia, but rapid advances in research and technology are only just beginning to further our understanding of the nature and mysteries of the cosmos.

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.

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

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.

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