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Astronomer Wins PM's Prize

By Science in Public

Ken Freeman's research has made a galactic impact.

In April 2010, an unusual party was held under the clear skies of the Namibian desert. It was an international science conference to celebrate the 70th birthday of Professor Ken Freeman, the Duffield Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University’s Mt Stromlo Observatory, a man regarded internationally as Australia’s most renowned astronomer.

Historical treasures in a modern pest: the Black Rat story

By Angela Lush

The genome of the Black Rat will provide a clearer picture of its role in spreading disease, and will help policymakers prepare for possible outbreaks in the future.

They scuttle under houses and along fences. Their beady eyes peer out from behind leafy fronds and they often draw screams from the faint-hearted.

Helmets won't cure football's concussion headache

By Caroline Finch and Andrew McIntosh

There is currently no evidence to show that helmets prevent concussion or more serious head injury in sports like AFL and rugby.

We’ve heard a lot about concussion this AFL season, with claims that too many knocks to the head can cause mental illness, calls for more research into the possible link between football concussions and long-term brain injury, the enforcement of mandatory headgear for junior players in s

Two degrees is too much for most coral reefs


A modelling study by an international collaboration of scientists has concluded that increasing global temperatures to 2 degrees above pre-industrial global temperatures will be too hot for two-thirds of the world's corals.

The study published in international journal Nature Climate Change reveals that only strong action to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions plus an assumed ability to rapidly evolve will save some coral reefs.

Not taking strong steps to mitigate carbon dioxide, however, is certain to destine most coral reefs to loss by mid to late century.

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet and provide critical services such as coastal protection, tourism and food to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

How the cheetah got its stripes

By Stanford University Medical Center

Feral cat study identifies a biological mechanism responsible for both the elegant stripes on the tabby cat and the cheetah's normally dappled coat.

Feral cats in Northern California have enabled researchers to unlock the biological secret behind a rare, striped cheetah found only in sub-Saharan Africa, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the National Cancer Institute and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. The study is the first to identify a molecular basis of coat patterning in mammals.

On the ball: does the AFL need to design a better footy?

By Hans Westerbeek

The AFL commissioned has a comprehensive review of the critical performance characteristics of Australian Rules footballs – the first for more than 30 years.

In the game of Australian Rules Football (as with other football codes), few pieces of equipment are more important than the football itself.

And yet the relative attention paid to the ball by the AFL is quite at odds with the equipment’s importance and the amount of money the league turns over. In fact, it’s been well over 30 years since the AFL last looked at the specifications and standards that determine and prescribe how an Australian football should be manufactured.

Fishing in the Desert

By Angela Lush

Scientists have gone fishing in desert boreholes and found some unique ecosystems and evolutionary adaptations.

When you think of deserts you don't normally think of fishing, but that's exactly what Dr Steve Cooper and his collaborators are doing in the deserts of Western Australia. What they've caught could help to answer some of the biggest questions in evolutionary biology.

Cave of the Monkeys find complicates our Asia story

By Darren Curnoe

Did our Asian story just get more complicated?

An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Fabrice Demeter and co-workers describes a new modern human skull from Tam Pa Ling (Cave of the Monkeys) in Laos believed to be between 63,000 and 46,000 years old.

The skull is undoubtedly from a modern human and is claimed by the authors to provide the earliest compelling evidence for modern humans in East Asia.

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.