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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.

Coal seam gas emissions lower than US: first Australian study

By Damian Barrett and Stuart Day

A CSIRO study offers the first indication of fugitive emissions from coal seam gas wells under Australian conditions.

One of the most common questions Australians ask about coal seam gas is whether the gas wells leak – and if so, how much?

In the first Australian study of its kind, new CSIRO research now gives an indication of how much those “fugitive emissions” might be, and how we can start to reduce them.

Why so many domesticated mammals have floppy ears

By Don Newgreen and Jeffrey Craig

Take a look at several domesticated mammal species and you might spot a number of similarities between them, including those cute floppy ears.

The famous naturalist and evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin even observed in the first chapter of his On the Origin of Species that:

Not a single domestic animal can be named which has not in some country drooping ears […]

And it’s not just the ears. Domesticated animals share a fairly consistent set of differences from their wild ancestors such as smaller brains, smaller teeth, shorter curly tails and lighter and blotchy coats: a phenomenon called the “domestication syndrome”.

Brain Versus Brawn: Evolution of the Bubble-Headed Weakling

By Darren Curnoe

Differences in metabolism explain why humans evolved brains while apes evolved brawn.

One of the most important questions we can ask, and one that continues to take up much of the time of scientists, philosophers and the religious minded alike is, why are humans so different to the rest of the living world?

Philosophers and physicists have even celebrated the appearance of humans 200,000 years ago on the African savannah as marking the arrival of consciousness or self-awareness for the universe.

Born this way? An evolutionary view of 'gay genes'

By Jenny Graves, La Trobe University

New research supports this claim that particular genes influence sexuality.

The claim that homosexual men share a “gay gene” created a furore in the 1990s. But new research two decades on supports this claim – and adds another candidate gene.

To an evolutionary geneticist, the idea that a person’s genetic makeup affects their mating preference is unsurprising. We see it in the animal world all the time. There are probably many genes that affect human sexual orientation.

New genes involved in food preferences will revolutionise diets and improve health

New understanding of the genes involved in taste perception and food preferences could lead to personalised nutrition plans effective not just in weight loss but in avoiding diseases.

WA's court verdict on GM crops is a dose of common sense

By Michael Jones, Murdoch University

The WA Supreme Court has dismissed an organic farmer’s claims for damages from his neighbour’s genetically-modified canola crop.

In a landmark West Australian Supreme Court decision, a farmer growing a genetically modified canola crop has been spared the blame after his neighbour accused him of contaminating his organic farm next door.

CSIRO risks backing the wrong horse as it reacts to budget cuts

By Roger Dargaville, University of Melbourne

What happens to CSIRO when the federal government decides to strip away A$111 million over four years from its A$733 million annual contribution to the organisation’s budget? We are beginning to find out.

CSIRO, which has already suffered many budget cutbacks over the years, is reportedly set to make a series of cuts to its environmental programs, closing eight sites and reducing funding to key research areas including geothermal energy, liquid fuels, carbon capture and storage, and climate change.

Top ten species reveal process of discovery and further mysteries about life on earth

By Susan Lawler

The top ten species of 2014 have been released by the International Institute for Species Exploration.

Check out this Skeleton Shrimp - and try not to have nightmares.
SINC (Servicio de Informacion y Noticias CientÌficas) and J.M. Guerra-García