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Scientists explore the mind with epigenomic maps

Comprehensive mapping of the human brain epigenome uncovers large-scale changes that take place during the formation of brain circuitry.

Ground-breaking research by scientists from The University of Western Australia and the US, published in Science, has provided an unprecedented view of the epigenome during brain development.

High-resolution mapping of the epigenome has discovered unique patterns that emerge during the generation of brain circuitry in childhood.

Early failure a key to turning back the clock

Fitness among the elderly is improved by a high-resistance circuit training program with fewer but more demanding repetitions at each station.

There can’t be many regimes where early failure is counted as a success. But, as it turns out, Edith Cowan University’s School of Exercise and Health Sciences has been working on a program where early failure leads more efficiently to the fabled fountain of youth.

National Press Club address: Suzanne Cory

By Suzanne Cory

The full text of a speech by Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Science.

This privileged nation enjoys a rich science and innovation heritage, a heritage that has improved our lives and driven new industries.

Through science we can find the solutions to the most pressing problems that we face. Through science we can go to the unplumbed depths of our oceans and out through our solar system and beyond. Through science we can make discoveries that change the course of humanity.

Science and technology are not just the preserve of researchers – they are an important part of all our lives, every day.

Exercise and prosper: lessons about the brain from the bomb

By Alan Harvey, University of Western Australia

New research proves that neurons are created throughout life in a critical part of the human hippocampus.

Until a few years ago, it was assumed that humans were born with the maximum number of neurons that we were ever going to have. There was no chance of self-replenishment as we got older, or if we suffered some sort of neurological disease or trauma. But our understanding of the brain is changing all that and there’s good news.

Sex, Food and Pseudoscience

By Rob Brooks

Sexcereal is a his-and-hers line of breakfast cereals that claims to boost your love life.

What’s she doing with that snake? And what does that have to do with cereal?

“This,” as I believe it is now fashionable to say, “is actually a thing.”

Small Dams Create Bigger Problems

By David Stauth

A global push for small hydropower projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may cause significant losses of biodiversity.

Researchers have concluded in a new report that a global push for small hydropower projects, supported by various nations and also the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, may cause unanticipated and potentially significant losses of habitat and biodiversity.

Top US court blocks patents on breast cancer genes

By John Liddicoat and Dianne Nicol, University of Tasmania

All nine members of the US Supreme Court have ruled that isolated genetic material cannot be patented – unless the material is markedly different to what exists in nature.

The court ruled against Myriad Genetics' patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The primary plaintiff was the Association for Molecular Pathology, although the case was brought on behalf of a range of other stakeholders including medical associations, and breast cancer and women’s health groups.

The US decision may impact on the impending appeal in an Australian in which a Federal Court judge ruled patent claims to isolated genetic sequences were valid.

Catch of the day in Borneo uncovers new species

Scientists have travelled to Borneo to study parasites infecting sharks and stingrays. The study has led to the discovery of many new species, and the data has been used to help Australian aquaria control the spread of parasite infections in the sharks and stingrays they have on display.

An ongoing project investigating the biodiversity of parasites on sharks and stingrays has seen two researchers from the South Australian Museum travel as far as Borneo to work with local fishermen in finding the freshest and most accurate samples. The researchers – Parasitology Collection Manager Dr Leslie Chisholm and Head of Biological Sciences Associate Professor Ian Whittington – were invited to be a part of the study because of their specialist knowledge in monogenean parasites.

Celebrity pandas and tigers hog the extinction limelight

Worldwide, around 20,000 endangered animal species are competing for scarce conservation funds – but just 80 ‘celebrity species’ are hogging most of the attention.

The world has developed a very inefficient way of choosing which animals facing extinction to save, says Professor Hugh Possingham of the National Environmental Research Program’s (NERP) Environmental Decisions Hub and The University of Queensland (UQ).

This has led to extinctions that could have otherwise been avoided, he cautions.

Comet Factory Discovered

New observations of a “dust trap” around a young star solve long-standing planet formation mystery

Astronomers using the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have imaged a region around a young star where dust particles can grow by clumping together. This is the first time that such a dust trap has been clearly observed and modelled. It solves a long-standing mystery about how dust particles in discs grow to larger sizes so that they can eventually form comets, planets and other rocky bodies.