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Alert: you may be living in a simulated universe

By Geraint Lewis

Are our lives real or is the universe just an enormous computer simulation?

As a cosmologist, I often carry around a universe or two in my pocket. Not entire, infinitely large universes, but maybe a few billion light years or so across. Enough to be interesting.

Of course, these are not “real” universes; rather they are universes I have simulated on a computer.

The basic idea of simulating a universe is quite simple. You need “initial conditions” which, for me, is the state of the universe just after the Big Bang.

Caring for Giants of the Deep

By South Australian Museum

The South Australian Museum's marine mammals team will study parts of a minke whale that has washed up at Ceduna on the state's west coast.

Locals spotted the four-metre long whale and contacted the Museum and Environment Department.

Museum zoologist Dr Catherine Kemper says it's the first Minke Whale to wash up on South Australian shores since 1998.

"This will have enormous scientific value. We haven't had a specimen in 14 years and we will be able to determine which species of Minke Whale it is. Our studies help to define whale behaviour and often lead agencies to develop management plans."

Drawing ahead of cancer

By Science in Public

Mark Shackleton has been awarded the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.

When he was five, Mark Shackleton’s grandmother asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. “I am going to cure cancer,” came the confident reply amid raucous family laughter.

Although he’s not there yet, the winner of the 2012 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, Dr Mark Shackleton, is already changing the way researchers view, approach and treat cancer.

The physics of a gas-powered world

By Science in Public

Eric May has been awarded the 2012 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

Fifty years ago, natural gas was usually burnt off because it was too expensive to transport it long distances to customers. Then liquefaction became practical. That made the exploitation of Western Australia’s remote gas reserves possible. The gas can be transported as liquid natural gas (LNG) at 1/600th the volume of the original gas.

Today, Australian LNG is powering the economic transformation of Asia. It’s the cleanest fossil fuel. And Professor Eric May is on a mission to make it cleaner still.

Astronomer Wins PM's Prize

By Science in Public

Ken Freeman's research has made a galactic impact.

In April 2010, an unusual party was held under the clear skies of the Namibian desert. It was an international science conference to celebrate the 70th birthday of Professor Ken Freeman, the Duffield Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University’s Mt Stromlo Observatory, a man regarded internationally as Australia’s most renowned astronomer.

Historical treasures in a modern pest: the Black Rat story

By Angela Lush

The genome of the Black Rat will provide a clearer picture of its role in spreading disease, and will help policymakers prepare for possible outbreaks in the future.

They scuttle under houses and along fences. Their beady eyes peer out from behind leafy fronds and they often draw screams from the faint-hearted.

Helmets won't cure football's concussion headache

By Caroline Finch and Andrew McIntosh

There is currently no evidence to show that helmets prevent concussion or more serious head injury in sports like AFL and rugby.

We’ve heard a lot about concussion this AFL season, with claims that too many knocks to the head can cause mental illness, calls for more research into the possible link between football concussions and long-term brain injury, the enforcement of mandatory headgear for junior players in s

Two degrees is too much for most coral reefs


A modelling study by an international collaboration of scientists has concluded that increasing global temperatures to 2 degrees above pre-industrial global temperatures will be too hot for two-thirds of the world's corals.

The study published in international journal Nature Climate Change reveals that only strong action to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions plus an assumed ability to rapidly evolve will save some coral reefs.

Not taking strong steps to mitigate carbon dioxide, however, is certain to destine most coral reefs to loss by mid to late century.

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet and provide critical services such as coastal protection, tourism and food to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

How the cheetah got its stripes

By Stanford University Medical Center

Feral cat study identifies a biological mechanism responsible for both the elegant stripes on the tabby cat and the cheetah's normally dappled coat.

Feral cats in Northern California have enabled researchers to unlock the biological secret behind a rare, striped cheetah found only in sub-Saharan Africa, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the National Cancer Institute and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. The study is the first to identify a molecular basis of coat patterning in mammals.

On the ball: does the AFL need to design a better footy?

By Hans Westerbeek

The AFL commissioned has a comprehensive review of the critical performance characteristics of Australian Rules footballs – the first for more than 30 years.

In the game of Australian Rules Football (as with other football codes), few pieces of equipment are more important than the football itself.

And yet the relative attention paid to the ball by the AFL is quite at odds with the equipment’s importance and the amount of money the league turns over. In fact, it’s been well over 30 years since the AFL last looked at the specifications and standards that determine and prescribe how an Australian football should be manufactured.