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Online Feature

De-extinction is about as sensible as de-death

By Corey Bradshaw

Efforts to attempt to bring extinct animals back to life are fanciful.

On Friday, March 15 in Washington DC, National Geographic and TEDx are hosting a day-long conference on species-revival science and ethics. In other words, they will be debating whether we can, and should, attempt to bring extinct animals back to life – a concept some call “de-extinction”.

Why some people get zits and others don't

The bacteria that cause acne live on everyone's skin, yet one in five people is lucky enough to develop only an occasional pimple over a lifetime.

In a boon for teenagers everywhere, a UCLA study conducted with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute has discovered that acne bacteria contain "bad" strains associated with pimples and "good" strains that may protect the skin.

The findings, published in the Feb. 28 edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, could lead to a myriad of new therapies to prevent and treat the disfiguring skin disorder.

Goodbye, for a while, to the Large Hadron Collider

By Nitesh Soni

The Large Hadron Collider has temporarily shut down, but will return stronger than ever.

The lord of the particle accelerator, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), went out of particle collision business for almost two years as of late last week. For particle physicists, Valentine’s Day 2013 will be remembered for the successful completion of phase 1 of the LHC’s operations.

Cryptic Clues: Spot the Difference with DNA

By Angela Lush

Scientists at the South Australian Museum are using molecular techniques to unlock one of nature's secrets – cryptic species.

Cryptic species appear almost identical and you can't reliably tell them apart based on their physical features. Despite their similar looks, cryptic species are genetically very different and can't interbreed.

In recent years, large-scale DNA sequencing technology has become more efficient and affordable and is increasingly being used to more accurately identify species. The technology is a valuable tool that is enabling researchers to reclassify many of the world's species, more reliably identify existing species, and uncover many new ones.

Environmental effects of fracking unclear

By Narelle Towie

CSIRO scientists have highlighted concerns that chemicals produced by hydraulic fracturing could be affecting ground and surface waters.

In a review published in CSIRO’s online Environmental Chemistry journal, researchers say fracking may be unlocking pollutants currently trapped safely in the ground and mixing them with substances injected by mining operations.

Review author and CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Graeme Batley says there is very little understanding of the chemical concentrations or what happens to them over time.

Coldest journey on Earth for explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes

By Ray Cooling

UK explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is taking on one of the world’s most hostile environments and last remaining polar challenges by attempting to cross Antarctica in winter - the coldest journey on Earth.

Having never been attempted, the expedition - consisting of Fiennes and five colleagues - will also provide unique and invaluable scientific research that will help climatologists. Additionally, it will form the basis for an education programme that will reach up to 100,000 schools across the Commonwealth.

Leaving London in December on board the South African ice-strengthened research ship, S.A. Agulhas, the team - led by 68-year-old Sir Ranulph - began its epic challenge to complete the “Coldest Journey” - the first trans-Antarctic winter expedition.

DNA data storage: 100 million hours of HD video in every cup

By Jonathan Keith

Shakespeare's sonnets, Martin Luther King's and Watson and Crick's seminal paper have been encoded in DNA and decoded successfully.

Biological systems have been using DNA as an information storage molecule for billions of years. Vast amounts of data can thus be encoded within microscopic volumes, and we carry the proof of this concept in the cells of our own bodies.

Could this ultimate storage solution meet the ever-growing needs of archivists in this age of digital information?

Abnormal proteins imaged in concussed footballers' brains

Technique may lead to earlier diagnosis and tracking of brain disorders in athletes.

Sports-related concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries have grabbed headlines in recent months, as the long-term damage they can cause becomes increasingly evident among both current and former athletes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of these injuries occur each year.

Despite the devastating consequences of traumatic brain injury and the large number of athletes playing contact sports who are at risk, no method has been developed for early detection or tracking of the brain pathology associated with these injuries.

Tiny reef speedster challenges tuna in the ocean sprint

Tiny coral reef wrasses can swim as fast as some of the swiftest fish in the ocean – but using only half as much energy to do so.

By flapping their fins in a figure-eight pattern, bluelined wrasses can travel at high speeds while using 40 per cent less energy than tunas of the same size.

“For a long time, people thought the best high-speed swimmers were the fishes cruising in open waters, like mackerel and tunas,” says Dr Chris Fulton from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The Australian National University.

“Our study shows that these coral reef wrasses, by virtue of their unique wing-like fins, can maintain very similar speeds at a dramatically lower energetic cost,” he says.

Mining with Liquids

New minerals research at the South Australian Museum is set to change the face of the mining industry, with Head of Earth Sciences Professor Allan Pring and his team working on the concept of ‘liquid mining’.

“Imagine being able to get copper out of an ore body without having to dig any holes – that’s the holy grail that we are working towards,” says Professor Pring.