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Quantum computing taps nucleus of single atom

A team of Australian engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has demonstrated a quantum bit based on the nucleus of a single atom in silicon, promising dramatic improvements for data processing in ultra-powerful quantum computers of the future.

Quantum bits, or qubits, are the building blocks of quantum computers, which will offer enormous advantages for searching expansive databases, cracking modern encryption, and modelling atomic-scale systems such as biological molecules and drugs. When coupled together these qubits will give rise to exponential increases in computing speeds.

The world-first result, published in Nature, brings these machines one-step closer, describing how information was stored and retrieved using the magnetic spin of a nucleus.

Colour-changing dragons to reveal their secrets

By Tim Thwaites

A study of why animals change colour could enable scientists to develop bandages that change colour in response to slight changes in the temperature of the wound.

Devi Stuart-Fox is attracted to show-offs. “I’m just really fascinated by animals with fabulous colours and ornaments.” And ever since she was a teenager living in a bushland setting in an outer Brisbane suburb, she has also been delighted by lizards. She used to keep them as pets.

New evidence lifts the stakes on the meat vs fish debate

By Hugh Barrett

Two recent papers have shed more light on the benefits of fish oils and the reasons why red meat might be bad for you.

We have all been told that eating fish is good for you and equally, that eating red meat is bad. But is this true? And if so, why? This has been the subject of much research over the past 60 years. Two recent papers, one about the benefits of fish oils and the other about the reasons why red meat might be bad for you, have helped shed more light on the matter.

Don't bury the benefits of research to improve the health system

By Stephen Leeder

The McKeon review sets out a ten-year strategy to better integrate health and medical research into the public health system.

Chemical looping: a carbon capture technology for the future

By Colin Scholes

Chemical looping, a low carbon technology for the fossil fuel industry, is increasingly been viewed as a competitive technology in carbon capture and storage, with the successful completion of pilot plant trials in the USA.

As the world increasingly transitions to a low-carbon economy, it is becoming important for fossil fuel-based industries to develop ways to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. To do this many fossil fuel-based industries, and in particular coal-based power stations, are promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is where the CO2 generated from coal combustion is separated from the power station’s flue gas and sequestered for long-term storage.

Biodiversity in a Pellet

The South Australian Museum is tracking the biodiversity of our outback wildlife species in a curious manner – by studying regurgitated food pellets from owls.

A dedicated team of experts and volunteers has been working on the project for many years and has identified new species to help the South Australian Government design better conservation programs. By analysing the indigestible material in the pellets, the team has provided a clearer picture of which rodents, marsupials, birds, reptiles, frogs and arthropods live where, and how they fit into the food chain of the ecosystem.

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.