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Your first hug: how the early embryo changes shape

Video showing how the early embryo changes shape will help selection of embryos for IVF.

When you were an embryo, just 8-cells large, your eight roundish cells did something they had never done before – something that would determine whether you survived or failed. They changed their shape.

The cells became elongated and compacted against each other, before returning to their rounded shape and dividing again and again.

Australia needs fundamental research to build a great country

By Jonathan Borwein

It's taken only 2 months for misgivings about the Abbott government's approach to science policy to be confirmed.

Like many scientists, I was apprehensive in advance about the Abbott government’s approach to science policy. Would it be pragmatic but fact-based or would it be ideological and politically driven?

Sadly it has only taken two months to discover that it is the latter.

Study links intestinal bacteria to rheumatoid arthritis

Bacterial disturbances in the gut may play a role in autoimmune attacks on the joints, pointing the way to novel treatments and diagnostics

Researchers have linked a species of intestinal bacteria known as Prevotella copri to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, the first demonstration in humans that the chronic inflammatory joint disease may be mediated in part by specific intestinal bacteria. The new findings by laboratory scientists and clinical researchers in rheumatology at NYU School of Medicine add to the growing evidence that the trillions of microbes in our body play an important role in regulating our health.

To dye for? Jury still out on tattoo ink causing cancer

By Ian Olver

There is no doubt some of the chemicals in tattoo ink have been associated with cancer. But should we be worried?

Scientists have recently raised alarm over the possibility that some inks used for tattoos contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Big Australian media reject climate science

By Wendy Bacon

One third of articles in Australia’s major newspapers do not accept the consensus position of climate science: that human beings are contributing to climate change.

Australia has the most concentrated press ownership in the world. What does that mean for significant issues such as climate change?

In 2011 and 2012 we at the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at University of Technology, Sydney collected data on climate science coverage in ten Australian newspapers. We published the results yesterday in a report: Sceptical Climate: Part 2.

Viewing Catalyst's cholesterol programs through the sceptometer

By Justin Coleman

Was the ABC wrong to air a program that might encourage people at risk of heart disease to stop taking cholesterol-reducing medications without consulting their GP?

On the past two Thursdays, the ABC’s Catalyst program set off a chain reaction of protest from sections of the medical community, aghast that the non-medical media would question the accepted wisdom that dietary saturated fats kill people and statins – medication to lower cholesterol – save lives.

Quantum computing becomes more than just spin

The building blocks of a quantum computer have been created and tested in a high tech basement at the University of NSW, and within a few years Andrea Morello and his colleagues expect to have a small working prototype.

People have speculated about the potential of quantum computers for decades—how they would make child’s play of constructing and testing new drugs, searching through huge amounts of data and ensuring that information was fundamentally secure.

Saving young lives by the million

Professor Ruth Bishop has been named the 2013 CSL Florey Medallist for her discovery of the rotavirus responsible for the deaths of half a million children each year.

By their third birthday, just about every child in the world has had a rotavirus infection. Every day about 1200 children die from it; half a million children every year. That’s changing. We’re fighting back thanks to a discovery made in 1973 by a quiet Melbourne researcher—this year’s winner of the 2013 CSL Florey Medal.

It’s not a jungle out there: rocking the ecological boat

If you were a pharmaceutical company searching for a natural plant compound to use as the basis for a new line of drugs, where would you begin?

Until recently, this question was a no-brainer. Everyone knows that tropical forests contain the widest diversity of species, all fighting for survival and defending themselves physically and chemically against being invaded or eaten. So the tropics should naturally provide the greatest selection of biologically active compounds.

“No,” says Angela Moles, a pioneering young ecologist from the University of New South Wales, who is transforming our understanding of the plant world and overturning some of the dogmas of ecology.

Fighting cancer by the numbers

Terry Speed doesn’t expect to see headlines reading “Statistician cures cancer” any time soon. But he knows that the right mathematics and statistics can help researchers understand the underlying causes of cancer and reduce the need for surgery.

A mathematician and statistician, he has written elegant theoretical papers that almost no-one reads. But he has also testified in court, helped farmers and diamond miners, and given biologists statistical tools to help them cope with the genetic revolution.

Twenty years ago biologists looked at one or two genes in isolation. Today they can track thousands of genes in a single cell, but to understand the results they need tools of the kind that Terry develops.