Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Odd Spot

Strange science experiments and conclusions

Mussel goo inspires blood vessel glue

A gel based on the mussel's knack for clinging to rocks, piers and boat hulls can be painted onto the walls of blood vessels and stay put, forming a protective barrier with potentially life-saving implications.

Co-invented by Assistant Professor Christian Kastrup while a postdoctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the gel is similar to the amino acid that enables mussels to resist the power of churning water. The variant that Kastrup and his collaborators created, described in the current issue of the online journal PNAS Early Edition, can withstand the flow of blood through arteries and veins.

Bioethics for Halloween

By Michael Cook

Should zombies be euthanased?

Halloween seems an appropriate time to raise the sensitive topic of zombie euthanasia. Kyle Munkittrick, of Pop Bioethics, has outlined the bioethical principles involved.

Eunuchs outlive other men

By Current Biology

Castrated men living in Korea centuries ago outlived other men by a significant margin.

The findings, reported in the September 25 issue of Current Biology, suggest that male sex hormones are responsible for shortening the lives of men, the researchers say.

The evidence comes after careful study of genealogy records of noble members of the Imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty (AD 1392-1910).

"This discovery adds an important clue for understanding why there is a difference in the expected life span between men and women," said Kyung-Jin Min of Inha University.

During war, the old guy will win the elections

By VU University Amsterdam

Candidates’ age can predict leadership during war

Can we predict the presidential election outcomes by simply looking at the age of the candidates? Scientists argue that we can.

In the latest issue of PLoS ONE, researcher Brian R. Spisak from VU University Amsterdam argues that there is an evolved connection between increasing age, increasing status, and the use of dominance tactics to maintain this ageing hierarchy. Further, followers are implicitly aware of this connection, as can be seen through their voting behavior.

Height Associated with Longevity

By Reventropy Associates, Diego, California

A study of Sardinians finds that shorter men live longer.

Sardinians are shorter than people in the rest of Europe and tend to live longer. Sardinia is known as a blue zone, which means it has a remarkably high percentage of long-lived people.

Within Sardinia, there is a group of 14 municipalities that exhibit higher longevity compared to the rest of the island. In addition, as height declines among these municipalities, longevity increases with the shortest municipaliity, Villagrande Strisaili, having the greatest longevity.

Text messages help HIV patients stick to antiretroviral drug therapy

By Cochrane Systematic Review

Patients less likely to miss doses if they were sent weekly mobile phone text message reminders.

Mobile phones could play a valuable role in helping HIV patients to take their medication every day, according to a new Cochrane Systematic Review. The researchers found that patients were less likely to miss doses if they were sent weekly mobile phone text message reminders.

Tsunami Wipes out Science

By Guy Nolch

A new study has examined the effect of the 2011 Japanese tsunami on research output.

The research paper's abstract begins: "Suppose there is a scientist that writes a paper for a peer-reviewed journal. How likely is it that a natural disaster will terminate, change, suspend or discontinue some aspect of this editorial process?"

Pretty likely, you'd think.

Beyoncé is a fly … but why?

By Beth Mantle

What’s in a name? A whole lot of booty, and some Latin.

In mid-January CSIRO announced that a new species of horse fly had been named after pop diva Beyoncé’s bottom. The story generated a real buzz across traditional and social media both in Australia and overseas.

Of course, scientific names don’t usually generate this kind of attention, and understandably so – when was the last time you laughed at a Latin name?

Levitating flies, smelly birds, leaping lizards and time cloaks


Weird and wonderful science

Levitating flies
UK scientists have used a strong magnetic field to levitate flies in order to simulate the effects of weightlessness in space. The flies in the study walked more quickly and more often in ‘zero gravity’ compared with flies on Earth, confirming results from previous space missions. Understanding how gravity affects biological organisms is vital to the success of future space missions.
Source: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Smelly birds