Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Feature

Feature article

Australian sugary drinks tax could prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes and save 1600 lives

Credit: Daniel Oines/Flickr CC BY 4.0

Most Australians exceed the recommended maximum levels of sugar. Credit: Daniel Oines/Flickr CC BY 4.0

A 20% rise in the price of soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters would save lives and reduce cardiovascular disease in Australia.

By Gary Sacks, Jane Martin and Lennert Veerman

Earlier this year the United Kingdom announced a sugar tax on soft drinks. The tax will come into effect in 2018, with the funds to be used to address childhood obesity.

How Can Heartburn End Up As Anaemia?

By An Duy Tran

Research finds a link between some of the most popular heartburn treatments and iron deficiency, which can lead to anaemia

If you studied chemistry at school, you would probably be aware of the dangers of touching hydrochloric acid. This hazardous, corrosive and smelly chemical comes with a lot of safety requirements including wearing gloves and masks when you’re handling it.

What you may not know is that this toxic substance plays an essential role in our own bodies.

Indigenous Genomics

Indigenous Genomics

By Emma Kowal, Simon Easteal & Mick Gooda

Mistrust is a significant but not insurmountable barrier to the acceptance of genomics by Indigenous people.

In 1994 Indigenous people around the world raised the alarm about scientists who wanted to steal their biological material, patent it and make drugs from it. The scientists were part of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a companion project to the Human Genome Project that completed sequencing of the entire human genome in 2001.

A New Basis for Nuclear Structure

Evidence being sought that the structure of the bound proton and neutron has changed in a nucleus would herald a new paradigm for the structure of atomic nuclei.

Evidence being sought that the structure of the bound proton and neutron has changed in a nucleus would herald a new paradigm for the structure of atomic nuclei.

By Anthony Thomas

The idea that the internal structure of protons might change under certain circumstances is being put to the test, and could help to explain some inconsistencies in theoretical physics.

At the start of the 20th century Rutherford discovered that the atom was largely empty space, with most of its mass concentrated in a tiny nucleus, just one hundred thousandth of the size of the atom itself. The only particles known at that time were the proton and the electron and there was no way for the laws of physics to bind them into such a small volume.

Muscle Memory Discovery Ends “Use It or Lose It” Dogma

New research shows that extra nuclei gained during exercise persist even after a muscle shrinks from disuse, disease or ageing – and can be mobilised rapidly to facilitate bigger gains on retraining.

The old adage “use it or lose it” tells us: if you stop using your muscles, they’ll shrink. Until recently, scientists thought this meant that nuclei – the cell control centers that build and maintain muscle fibers – are also lost to sloth.

Melbourne Observatory Celebrates 150th Anniversary

The Melbourne Observatory celebrates its 150th anniversary this month with a weekend of activities on 23 and 24 November.

Stargazers and history lovers are in for a treat this November when the Melbourne Observatory celebrates its 150th anniversary with a weekend of activities on 23 and 24 November.

A special, colourful historic re-enactment of the opening of the Melbourne Observatory in
1863 will open the weekend’s festivities.

Dressed in period costume, the re-enactment will include the original speeches from the
opening with appearances by the Governor of the day Sir Henry Barkly, Director of the
Gardens Ferdinand von Mueller, and the Government Astronomer Robert Ellery.

Turning Old Tyres into New Roads

Only five percent of tyres are recycled locally in Australia. Picture: Boomerang

Only five percent of tyres are recycled locally in Australia. Picture: Boomerang Alliance

By Holly Bennet, University of Melbourne

With millions of tyres dumped in Australia, a new innovation could turn used tyres into permeable surfaces - helping the environment and our future infrastructure

A staggering 51 million used tyres are discarded annually in Australia, causing environmental and health problems like the sea of stockpiled tyres in Stawell in western Victoria.

Only five per cent of used tyres are recycled locally in Australia, but researchers from the University of Melbourne have teamed up with Tyre Stewardship Australia and Merlin Site Services to come up with an innovative way to reuse the rubber.

How half our brain keeps watch when we sleep in unfamiliar places

By Masako Tamaki and Yuka Sasaki

Poor sleep in an unfamiliar setting may be linked to an important function of the brain to protect the sleeper from potential danger.

Have you ever arrived in a hotel room after a long flight and, despite being exhausted, found it painfully difficult to fall asleep? And even once you managed to get to sleep, did you still wake frequently in the night, or too early in the morning, feeling groggy and desperate?

Researchers have long known about this phenomenon in an experimental setting, terming it the “first-night effect”. Sleep study participants often sleep poorly during their first experimental session in a new environment and sleep quality usually improves dramatically on the second night.

Native Aussie rat survives sticky situation

Picture: Kath Tuft

Picture: Kath Tuft

By Andrew Spence

Their wooden homes are stuck together with pee and have stood longer than the pyramids.

Once abundant across semi-arid regions of southern Australia, the Greater Stick-Nest Rat, Leporillus conditor, was pushed to the brink of extinction in the 20th Century by competition for food from livestock and rabbits and the introduction of predatory foxes and feral cats.

Now the furry little Australian mammal with a blunt snout and large rounded ears is making a comeback.

The rats earn their Greater tag not from their size, they only grow to 26cm and weigh less than 450 grams, but from their large nests.

China’s growing footprint on the globe threatens to trample the natural world

A queue of logging trucks in Southeast Asia. Credit: Jeff Vincent

A queue of logging trucks in Southeast Asia. Credit: Jeff Vincent

By Bill Laurance

China’s unprecedented development schemes are transforming the entire world, yet its leaders assure us these activities will be environmentally and socially sustainable. Should we trust the promises?

Many observers of China’s escalating global program of foreign investment and infrastructure development are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. In an ideal world, China’s unbridled ambitions will improve economic growth, food security and social development in many poor nations, as well as enriching itself.

Such hopes are certainly timely, given the isolationism of the US Trump
administration, which has created an international leadership vacuum that China is eager to fill.