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Online Feature

University challenged for giving undeserved credibility to alternative therapies

By Various signatories

Some of Australia's most prominent doctors, medical researchers and scientists have put their names to a letter criticising a university's decision to teach an alternative medicine course as if it were science.

Thirty four of Australia’s most prominent doctors, medical researchers and scientists have voiced their concern that the public are at risk of being misled about health treatments after another Australian university announced plans to teach an “alternative” medicine course as if it were science.

Doctors and scientists have written to Central Queensland University (CQU) criticising the university’s decision to train chiropractors, deploring what they see as a trend to offer courses in the sciences and health that are not supported by valid scientific evidence.

Black holes might exist, but let’s stay sceptical

By Craig Savage

Peruse the astrophysical literature and you could be forgiven for thinking black holes exist. But do they really?

What makes a black hole special is its event horizon: a no-return gateway to an unknowable elsewhere. If you pass through you are lost forever, in the most complete way, from the universe you left behind. It’s a boundary to the knowable universe.

The recent debate about faster-than-light neutrinos has reminded us that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim that the universe has internal boundaries is extraordinary. So what’s the evidence for event horizons?

Rare Occurrence of Humans Harboring Two Flu Strains Simultaneously in Global Flu Hot-Spot

By American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

While dual infections in Cambodia did not produce new strain, study cites need for continuous tracking against risk of different influenza viruses combining to create a new pandemic.

Researchers conducting influenza-like illness surveillance in Cambodia have confirmed a rare incidence of individuals becoming infected with a seasonal influenza and the pandemic strain at the same time, a reminder of the ongoing risk of distinct flu viruses combining in human hosts to produce a more lethal strain, according to a report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. A pandemic strain is a type of flu against which people have little or no natural immunity.

The future of Australian science – a Nobel Prize winner’s view

By Brian Schmidt

Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt reflects on the state of Australian science.

Despite my American accent, I have lived in Canberra longer than anywhere else in my life. And a lot has changed in the past 17 years.

When I arrived in Australia in 1994, it was a well-off country separated by vast oceans from the rest of the world. Today, Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, gateway to the fastest growing part of the world economically, Asia.

We have come of age. The world is rapidly changing, and Australia is in a unique position to shape its future for the century ahead.

A higher calling, but does altitude training work?

By François Billaut

Some professional sporting teams spend the off season at high altitude, but how effective is this?

You might have heard about athletes and other sportspeople absconding to high-altitude locations for training.

Indeed altitude training has become the training-method-du-jour for sporting codes around the world. But does it actually work? And do athletes benefit from it?

Hypoxia – a condition whereby the body is deprived of adequate oxygen – has been used for decades as an additional stimulus to training by endurance athletes to:

Google has changed the way students research – and not for the better

By Sunanda Creagh

A US study found that students use research databases like they use Google — which limits the results they turn up.

Many university students use scholarly databases like they would Google, revealing an astonishingly poor understanding of how to refine searches for better research results, a US study has found.

The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project, a two-year study of the student research process involving five US universities, included extensive interviews with students, librarians and other academics in an effort to better understand 21st Century student research habits.

The Future of Astronomy

By Bryan Gaensler

Bryan Gaensler predicts what we will have learnt about the universe in 40 years time.

When I reflect back on what we thought we knew at the start of my research career in the mid-1990s, I sound like a wizened octogenarian, recalling a simpler time long ago. Only 15 years ago, the big debate in astronomy was whether the universe was 10 billion years old or 20 billion years old.

If you had asked me back then where we might be by the year 2011, I and most other astronomers would have said, without hesitation, that by 2011 we would finally know whether 10 billion or 20 billion years was the true age of the universe.

Budget: Did universities get their fair share?

By Tim Mazzarol

Stronger higher education spending will help Australia become a ‘clever country’.

The Gillard Government has reiterated its commitment to education in this year’s budget, and universities in particular.

Universities with regional campuses were the biggest winners, receiving $110 million.

The budget offered some useful investments in strategic projects, such as the square kilometre array (SKA) telescope and a boost to the CSIRO. There were also some useful tax incentives for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

Whole grains are better for you but they're no panacea

By Kristina Nelson, Lily Stojanovska and Michael Mathai

Eating whole grain foods is considered better for your health than refined grain foods, but whole grains may have a role in inflammation.

Eating whole grain foods, such as oats and grainy breads, is better for health than refined grain foods such as white bread or pizza. But whole grains are also thought to have a role in inflammation.

Whole grains comprise three main parts: germ (the embryo), bran (husk), and endosperm (the part of the seed that’s the food store for the embryo). They have more fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds than refined grains, which have the germ and bran removed.

Food for fitness: is it better to eat before or after exercise?

By David Bentley

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding food intake and exercise – is it better to eat beforehand or afterwards? And what type of exercise benefits most from eating?

Eating before exercising is important for preparing to and recovering from exercise, especially in athletic competitions. Food contains potential energy or fuel that helps muscles continue to contract during exercise, especially exercise of long duration (more than 60 minutes).

But it’s common for people to not eat before exercise because they tend to be concerned it will make them feel sluggish, or cause cramps or an upset stomach.