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Online Feature

Don't bury the benefits of research to improve the health system

By Stephen Leeder

The McKeon review sets out a ten-year strategy to better integrate health and medical research into the public health system.

Chemical looping: a carbon capture technology for the future

By Colin Scholes

Chemical looping, a low carbon technology for the fossil fuel industry, is increasingly been viewed as a competitive technology in carbon capture and storage, with the successful completion of pilot plant trials in the USA.

As the world increasingly transitions to a low-carbon economy, it is becoming important for fossil fuel-based industries to develop ways to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. To do this many fossil fuel-based industries, and in particular coal-based power stations, are promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is where the CO2 generated from coal combustion is separated from the power station’s flue gas and sequestered for long-term storage.

Biodiversity in a Pellet

The South Australian Museum is tracking the biodiversity of our outback wildlife species in a curious manner – by studying regurgitated food pellets from owls.

A dedicated team of experts and volunteers has been working on the project for many years and has identified new species to help the South Australian Government design better conservation programs. By analysing the indigestible material in the pellets, the team has provided a clearer picture of which rodents, marsupials, birds, reptiles, frogs and arthropods live where, and how they fit into the food chain of the ecosystem.

De-extinction is about as sensible as de-death

By Corey Bradshaw

Efforts to attempt to bring extinct animals back to life are fanciful.

On Friday, March 15 in Washington DC, National Geographic and TEDx are hosting a day-long conference on species-revival science and ethics. In other words, they will be debating whether we can, and should, attempt to bring extinct animals back to life – a concept some call “de-extinction”.

Why some people get zits and others don't

The bacteria that cause acne live on everyone's skin, yet one in five people is lucky enough to develop only an occasional pimple over a lifetime.

In a boon for teenagers everywhere, a UCLA study conducted with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute has discovered that acne bacteria contain "bad" strains associated with pimples and "good" strains that may protect the skin.

The findings, published in the Feb. 28 edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, could lead to a myriad of new therapies to prevent and treat the disfiguring skin disorder.

Goodbye, for a while, to the Large Hadron Collider

By Nitesh Soni

The Large Hadron Collider has temporarily shut down, but will return stronger than ever.

The lord of the particle accelerator, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), went out of particle collision business for almost two years as of late last week. For particle physicists, Valentine’s Day 2013 will be remembered for the successful completion of phase 1 of the LHC’s operations.

Cryptic Clues: Spot the Difference with DNA

By Angela Lush

Scientists at the South Australian Museum are using molecular techniques to unlock one of nature's secrets – cryptic species.

Cryptic species appear almost identical and you can't reliably tell them apart based on their physical features. Despite their similar looks, cryptic species are genetically very different and can't interbreed.

In recent years, large-scale DNA sequencing technology has become more efficient and affordable and is increasingly being used to more accurately identify species. The technology is a valuable tool that is enabling researchers to reclassify many of the world's species, more reliably identify existing species, and uncover many new ones.

Environmental effects of fracking unclear

By Narelle Towie

CSIRO scientists have highlighted concerns that chemicals produced by hydraulic fracturing could be affecting ground and surface waters.

In a review published in CSIRO’s online Environmental Chemistry journal, researchers say fracking may be unlocking pollutants currently trapped safely in the ground and mixing them with substances injected by mining operations.

Review author and CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Graeme Batley says there is very little understanding of the chemical concentrations or what happens to them over time.

Coldest journey on Earth for explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes

By Ray Cooling

UK explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is taking on one of the world’s most hostile environments and last remaining polar challenges by attempting to cross Antarctica in winter - the coldest journey on Earth.

Having never been attempted, the expedition - consisting of Fiennes and five colleagues - will also provide unique and invaluable scientific research that will help climatologists. Additionally, it will form the basis for an education programme that will reach up to 100,000 schools across the Commonwealth.

Leaving London in December on board the South African ice-strengthened research ship, S.A. Agulhas, the team - led by 68-year-old Sir Ranulph - began its epic challenge to complete the “Coldest Journey” - the first trans-Antarctic winter expedition.

DNA data storage: 100 million hours of HD video in every cup

By Jonathan Keith

Shakespeare's sonnets, Martin Luther King's and Watson and Crick's seminal paper have been encoded in DNA and decoded successfully.

Biological systems have been using DNA as an information storage molecule for billions of years. Vast amounts of data can thus be encoded within microscopic volumes, and we carry the proof of this concept in the cells of our own bodies.

Could this ultimate storage solution meet the ever-growing needs of archivists in this age of digital information?