Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australasian Science Magazine Issue September 2014

Cover Story: Does Eating Less Extend Life?
Dietary restriction extends the lives of species as diverse as yeast, flies and mice, but is this effect simply due to artificial conditions in the laboratory?
Artist’s reconstruction of Metaspriggina walcotti. Credit: Maryanne Collins
Feature: The World’s Oldest Fishes
Just 6 cm long and lacking fins and bone, the world’s oldest fish looked more like a worm yet it was the most advanced creature on Earth about 518 million years ago.
Feature: Climate Extremes Matter Most for Biodiversity
The world is expected to warm by up to 4°C by 2070, but it is the extreme weather events associated with climate change that threaten biodiversity the most.
Cover of the March 2014 edition of Plant Cell. Artwork by Scot Nicholls, Domokun
Feature: A Protein Is Born
It used to be thought that new proteins only evolved as a result of gradual changes to existing genes, but recent studies are showing that completely new genes and proteins often evolve suddenly. Now Australian researchers have predicted the biochemical events that allowed an enzyme-blocking protein to evolve “from scratch” in sunflowers.
Feature: A Birds’ Eye View of Avian Flight
The “handedness” of birds enables them to navigate a collision-free path through complex environments, with some flying left of obstacles while others prefer to fly right.
What came first: the kiwi or its enormous egg? Credit: Rod Morris Photography
Feature: Flight of the Kiwi
How did large flightless birds such as emus, ostriches and kiwis disperse around the globe? Surprisingly, it seems they flew everywhere.
Feature: Can Microbes Destroy Cancer?
The efficiency of anti-cancer vaccines can be improved by exposing immune cells to harmless bacteria found in the throat.
Australasian Sky: This Month's Star Chart
Your map of the night sky for September 2014.
conSCIENCE: Science in a Fluoro Jacket
Contrary to common perception, most working scientists are not “researchers” and don’t work for public institutions.
The Bitter Pill: A Pharmacist’s View of the “Natural” Route to Health
A growing tendency to sell and even promote alternative remedies and “natural” supplements is putting the reputation of pharmacists at risk, and adding to the burgeoning health costs of the nation.
Directions: Women Face a Thicket of Obstacles
Gender equality in science, technology and engineering will be a long process.
Eco Logic: A Clear Case for Regrowth
Despite evidence that regrowth vegetation has equivalent habitat value to intact vegetation, Queensland has amended legislation protecting high-value bioregions from clearing.
Eureka!: Like OMG!!! Texting Isn’t Ruining Grammar
The use of text slang does not correlate with bad grammar and spelling in young people.
Expert Opinion: Organic Food High in Antioxidants and Low in Toxic Metals
A meta-analysis of 343 studies has found that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants and 50% lower in toxic heavy metals than conventional crops. But are these results biologically meaningful?
The Fit: The Truth about the Average Adult Energy Intake
Nutritional labels on food state that the average adult consumes 8700 kJ/day, but isn’t this a bit low?
Fossil File: The Placoderm Renaissance
Placoderm fish were once thought to be an evolutionary dead end, but new evidence is rewriting their importance to the ancestry of all jawed animals – including humans.
Lowe Tech: Climate Policy in Limbo
The abolition of the carbon tax has stifled investment in renewable energy.
Naked Skeptic: A Denier or a Skeptic?
Deniers are rebadging themselves as “skeptics” by arguing that they are challenging scientific orthodoxy.
Neuropsy: Rebooting the Brain
A study of recovery from anaesthesia finds that returning to consciousness is not a simple path.
Out of this World: It’s Raining on the Sun
It’s raining on the Sun, and the asteroid Vesta may reshape our knowledge of planet formation.
Quandary: Contraception by WiFi
How secure is an implantable chip that enables birth control to be switched on and off with a mobile phone?
Simon Says: Weird Scenes Outside the Coal Mine
The MH17 disaster and the carbon price debate tossed up some surreal juxtapositions.
Up Close: Altered expression: Epigenetics and its influence on human development
Geneticist Dr Marnie Blewitt explains how epigenetics makes us more than just our genes and how gene inactivation can be crucial to our development.
Up Close: Ribosomes: Unlocking the secrets to your cellular protein factories
Nobel laureate Prof Ada Yonath discusses her work on understanding ribosomes – the protein factories that are found in every cell of every living organism.
Up Close: Natural value: Pricing ecosystems, and its implications for conservation policy
Conservation ecologist Assoc. Prof. Brendan Wintle considers the difficult questions and dilemmas that arise in decisions around species and ecosystem conservation, and whether a monetary value can or should be applied to nature.
Online Feature: 99.999% certainty humans are driving global warming: new study
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
Online Feature: Finally, some light relief for the Renewable Energy Target
The Australian government has just received a vitally important report to guide their decisions on the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
Online Feature: Four things you should know about gene patents
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.