Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Online Feature

Defining ‘human’ – new fossils provide more questions than answers

By Darren Curnoe

Study finds evidence for new evolutionary line of prehistoric humans in East Asia.

The origin of the human species remains one of the most fascinating and difficult topics of modern science.

One of the main reasons for this is a continuing lack of agreement about how we should define ourselves. In other words, what is it that makes us human (or, scientifically, Homo sapiens)?

State of the Climate 2012

By Rob Vertessy and Megan Clark

The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have released an updated summary of Australia’s long term climate trends.

Australia’s land and oceans have continued to warm in response to rising CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

This is the headline finding in the State of the Climate 2012, an updated summary of Australia’s long term climate trends released by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology today (14 March 2012).

The long-term warming trend has not changed.

Next generation of pharmaceuticals might make good use of shark antibody proteins

By La Trobe University

International collaboration evaluates new antibody technology

Australian research into shark antibodies that holds out the potential for new drugs and diagnostic agents is a step closer to realising its goal following an agreement with international diagnostic and pharmaceutical giant, Roche.

The pioneering work, which has attracted world-wide interest, is based on research led by Associate Professor Michael Foley at the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS).

It builds on discoveries over the last decade that shark antibodies could offer a lot of advantages over existing therapies in the fight against cancers and autoimmune diseases.

Desalination: Priorities for research in the Pacific

By Colin A. Scholes

‘Desal’ technology has been in place on Pacific atoll nations since as early as the 1980s, so why did recent droughts invoke a state of emergency? Current reverse osmosis desalination research focuses on the needs of the industrial world, which are far removed from the challenges faced in developing tropical nations.

Inventing life: patent law and synthetic biology

By Alison McLennan & Matthew Rimmer

The field of synthetic biology poses a number of challenges for patent law.

With promises of improved medical treatments, greener energy and even artificial life, the field of synthetic biology has captured the public imagination and attracted significant government and commercial investment.

This excitement reached a crescendo on 21 May 2010, when scientists at the J Craig Venter Institute in the United States announced that they had made a “self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell”. This was the first living cell to have an entirely human-made genome, which means that all of the cell’s characteristics were controlled by a DNA sequence designed by scientists.

Innovation in China: The best and worst of times

By Cong Cao

Research misconduct is "serious and widespread" among Chinese scientists.

'It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." The opening line of English novelist Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is perhaps an apt description of the status of innovation in China today. In terms of political stability and volume of research funding, few would argue that China is currently in the throes of "the best of times", free from the upheavals and setbacks that checkered the first 30 years of the modern People's Republic of China.

Research in Practice

By Barry Leviny

What does a scientist do day-to-day? Barry Leviny talks to a biomedical researcher to find out.

I grew up reading about scientists. I know the story of Archimedes finding what the King’s crown was made of after an idea he had in his bath. I know the story of Newton’s inspiration about gravity after the apple fell and I know Gallileo saw ‘ears’ on Saturn when he looked through his telescope. I know all these things, and yet I didn’t know what a modern scientist actually does each day. I remember science at school, but I can’t imagine most scientists today getting to work, turning on their Bunsen burner and waiting for their first beaker of reagent to turn pink.

Censoring influenza research: gagging scientists could put lives at risk

By Ross Barnard

Tying the arms of our scientists behind their backs will put lives at stake and set a dangerous precedent.

Researchers working on a pathogenic strain of avian flu (H5N1) have agreed to pause their work for 60 days so international experts can discuss the safest ways to proceed. But it’s important to ensure that this voluntary moratorium doesn’t provide a platform for censorship of the research which has already faced calls for suppression of data from a US government agency.

Protecting Top-Priority Habitats Can Also Ease Poverty

By Conservation International

First global estimation of biodiversity benefits from habitats to humans
finds flows valued at $1 trillion per year to poor communities.

Protecting the land of highest priority for biodiversity conservation also delivers significant, life-sustaining services and income to the world’s most impoverished people, according to a new study published this month in the journal, BioScience. Yet conservation efforts and poverty alleviation efforts are both at risk of failing, since this ‘natural capital’ is grossly undervalued in the global marketplace.


Social Media Tracks Disease Epidemic More Effectively

By American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

New Study on Cholera in Haiti Demonstrates for First Time Tweets, Blogs and News Feeds Can Track a Disease Epidemic in Disaster Setting More Rapidly than Traditional Methods

Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti that has already killed more than 6500 people and sickened almost half a million, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.