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Online Feature

Taking over from evolution: how technology could enhance humanity

By Arthur Saniotis and Maciej Henneberg

Technology offers great possibility of enhancing human capacity.

Human brains evolved over the last four million years in response to the interaction between environmental challenges and behaviours that enabled us to overcome these challenges. But the future of the brain may be more directly in human hands.

Our ancestors became more successful at ensuring their survival with greater behavioural complexity over time. So their bodies grew in size because of more efficient ways of obtaining foods. And the advantages of greater body size and strength provided security from predator attacks.

Marijuana a risk in early pregnancy

By Drug Testing and Analysis

High potency and synthetic marijuana pose real dangers in first weeks of pregnancy

Marijuana is up to 20 times more potent than it was 40 years ago and most pregnant women who use the drug are totally unaware that it could harm their unborn child before they even know they are pregnant.

Writing in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, American researcher’s state the argument that marijuana is a harmless drug is no longer valid due to the emergence of ‘high potency’ marijuana and synthetic marijuana which pose a potential real threat for pregnant women.

New Species Found in World's Harshest Continent

By Alex Parry

First new species found on continental Antarctica for 34 years.

South Australian Museum Scientist Dr Mark Stevens is describing a new species of springtail – the largest known land animal living on continental Antarctica all year round.

It's the first new species of springtail to be found in the Transantarctic Mountains for nearly 50 years and the first to be found on continental Antarctica for 34 years.

Dr Stevens has collaborated with Dr Ian Hogg from New Zealand who collected the specimen on a field trip to the Mountains over summer.

The Dope on DMAA

By Ian Musgrave

DMAA is found in many weight loss and performance enhancement supplements, but it has now been classified by the TGA as a prohibited substance with no therapeutic potential.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has considered a proposal to list 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) as a schedule 9 compound. Schedule 9 compounds are prohibited substances which have no therapeutic potential, for example Heroin (although there is the possibility of therapeutic use for this drug).

New Study Maps Hotspots of Human-Animal Infectious Diseases and Emerging Disease Outbreaks

By International Livestock Research Institute

Maps Reveal Animal-borne Disease as Heavy Burden for One Billion of World’s Poor and Emerging Disease Hotspots in US and Western Europe.

A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an “unlucky” 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a “top 20” list of geographical hotspots.

CERN discovers a Higgs-like particle: let the party (and head-scratching) begin

By Martin White

The discovery of the Higgs boson is the most significant finding in particle physics for decades and is potentially capable of solving a long-standing mystery concerning the origin of mass.

Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva, have announced the observation of a new particle widely thought to be the elusive Higgs boson.

Turf War Over Who Can Claim The Title Of Acupuncturist

By John Dwyer

Doctors and complementary medicine practitioners are at loggerheads over who can use the title acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is popular and no doubt lucrative for its practitioners. The fact that it doesn’t work seems to be of little relevance, and certainly has not curbed enthusiasm for the application of what is, in effect, a superb placebo.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine seem culturally locked into an unshakeable belief in the pre-scientific concepts of a non-existent vital force (Ch’i) transmitted along meridians which, when blocked or imbalanced, cause disease. Trigger spots for acupuncture to correct these problems are said to lie along the meridians.

Rio+20: Who Owns The Green Economy?

By Matthew Rimmer

The Rio+20 summit has raised a number of difficult questions about law and technology.

Science under Siege

By Clive Hamilton

When the denial machine goes after climate scientists it is, as one of them said, like the marines going into battle against boy scouts.

The brutality of the attacks has once again been confirmed by the release of some of the emails sent to Phil Jones, the University of East Anglia climate scientist at the centre of the “Climategate” storm.

The emails make for sickening reading and anyone receiving them would be foolish not to treat the threats as potentially serious.

Australian climate scientists have for some years been receiving the same kind of abuse and threats. Every time Andrew Bolt targets a scientist for criticism he or she receives a torrent of aggression from his legion of followers.

Scientific research spending lags behind smaller countries

By Justin Norrie 
Editor

Nations half the size of Australia spend more on scientific research, have higher employment levels for scientists, and greater appeal to foreign investors, according to a report on Australia’s global standing in science.

Although Australia’s rate of spending on research and development is greater than in France, Canada and Britain, it remains well below the rate in smaller Scandinavian nations, according to the report, commissioned by Australia’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb.