Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Online Feature

The ethics of "gifted" genes: the road to Gattaca?

By Julian Savulescu

Recent research out of the UK has identified a genetic “general academic achievement factor”. Using identical twin studies, they found achievement across a wide range of academic subjects was influenced by many of the same genes:

Sustainable oil from algae: the technology is ready, but what about the politics?

By Bojan Tamburic and Arunima Malik

Ultimately, all of the oil we use to power our modern lives comes from living creatures such as algae – albeit ones that lived 3.5 billion years ago, before gradually morphing into fossil fuel.

But when we talk about algae biofuel, we mean the green, renewable and sustainable version, rather than traditional fossil crude oil. The main requirements for making algae biofuel are: lots of sunlight, plenty of space, and easy access to the sea. Australia is an algae gardener’s paradise.

Chief Scientist CSG report leaves health concerns unanswered

By Melissa Haswell and David Shearman

Chief Scientist CSG report leaves health concerns unanswered

The long-awaited independent review of coal seam gas (CSG) in New South Wales, released last week by the NSW Chief Scientist, highlighted many risks and uncertainties around human health from exposure to toxic CSG chemicals.

Despite this, the report concludes the risks can be managed through unprecedented regulation and monitoring.

Four things you should know about gene patents

By Rodney Scott

The Federal Court’s decision that gene patenting is permitted in Australia will have ramifications for all gene patents, even though the case involved only one gene associated with breast cancer.

A gene patent means only the patent-holder has the right to undertake research and development involving that gene. These patents generally last for 20 years.

The full bench of the Federal Court heard the appeal against a ruling that private companies could patent genes in August 2013, after a Federal Court justice dismissed a challenge to the patent for a breast cancer gene, BRCA1, in February.

Finally, some light relief for the Renewable Energy Target

By Iain MacGill

The Australian government has just received a vitally important report to guide their decisions on the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

But it’s not the RET review report of the Coalition-appointed expert panel, led by Dick Warburton, which was released last week.

99.999% certainty humans are driving global warming: new study

By Philip Kokic, Mark Howden and Steven Crimp

CSIRO finds there is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions

There is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, our new research shows.

Published in the journal Climate Risk Management today, our research is the first to quantify the probability of historical changes in global temperatures and examines the links to greenhouse gas emissions using rigorous statistical techniques.

Science and the Coalition: two big policies, one year and no minister

By Matthew Bailes

On science and technology, the Abbott government is somewhat of a paradox.

On one hand, the government passionately believes that deregulating the university sector is essential. By taking caps off fees it hopes this will generate the necessary income to transform the higher education sector into an international powerhouse.

There are no free rides to the future: Australia's Chief Scientist

By Ian Chubb

A transcript of the 2014 Jack Beale Lecture on the Global Environment hosted at the University of New South Wales.

Tonight I want to talk about the future.

I know that it’s not a novel thing to do; not even a new thing to do. Indeed, Hansard records that the word “future” was used 848 times in the Australian Parliament just last June; a number that appears to be the highest monthly count on record.

Australia's astronomy future in a climate of cutbacks

By Lewis Ball

The future looks very bright for Australian radio astronomy but it was somewhat clouded earlier this year when CSIRO’s radio astronomy program took a dramatic hit in the Australian federal budget.

CSIRO has cut its funding for radio astronomy by 15%, down A$3.5 million to A$17 million for the 2014-15 financial year. The result will be a reduction of about 30 staff from the plan of just three months ago.

Fast-tracking access to experimental Ebola drugs

By Glenn Marsh

Several therapeutic treatments are in experimental phases of testing and show great promise in treating Ebola virus infections in animal models.

The current outbreak of Zaire Ebola virus in Western Africa is the largest ever recorded. More than 1800 people have been infected and nearly 1000 people have died. But while drug therapies are close to being available, they may not be ready in time for the current outbreak, even if safety trials are fast-tracked.