Final frontier exam: is it fit for space?

A new network to put space technology through its paces has been set up, to make sure Australian-developed products can withstand the radiation, vibrations, temperatures, and vacuum of space travel. Checking that equipment can cope with cosmic rays, solar winds or sudden radiation showers is critical as companies vie to be a part of the … Continue reading Final frontier exam: is it fit for space?

How spinifex grasses got their ring shapes

Scientists say they may have solved a longstanding mystery of how Australia’s iconic spinifex got its distinctive ring shape. It seems the grasses die off in the middle due to a build-up of pathogenic soil microbes. “People generally think about the beneficial effects of soil microbes, which can help plants access water and nutrients,” says … Continue reading How spinifex grasses got their ring shapes

COVID vaccines: where the bloody hell are we?

Australia’s vaccine rollout program is now being overhauled due to new recommendations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. Based on the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the Federal Government has recommended that people under 50 preferentially receive the Pfizer vaccine over AstraZeneca. This follows similar decisions made by regulators in Germany, Norway, Canada, the … Continue reading COVID vaccines: where the bloody hell are we?

The jab is jumpin’

The first 300,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab landed at Sydney airport last Sunday. The AstraZeneca vaccines will be batch tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and their rollout is set to begin by next Monday, says Minister for Health Greg Hunt. “It’s an important step, always subject to the quality testing, always subject … Continue reading The jab is jumpin’

Sombre state of our climate

If you’re looking for a bit of good news at the end of a tough year it’s probably best if you don’t seek it in the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and CSIRO’s latest State of the Climate report, just released. Key trends detailed therein include continued warming of Australia’s climate, an increase in extreme fire … Continue reading Sombre state of our climate

“Hidden” thoughts in visual part of brain

How much control do you have over your thoughts? What if you were specifically told not to think of something – like a pink elephant? A recent study led by UNSW psychologists has mapped what happens in the brain when a person tries to suppress a thought. The neuroscientists managed to ‘decode’ the complex brain activity … Continue reading “Hidden” thoughts in visual part of brain

Tim Jarvis on Human-wildlife conflict

It’s 84 years since the last known Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), died at Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart. Locked out of its sleeping quarters by its keepers, it died in its cage, alone, as temperatures plummeted overnight. In 1996, on the 60th anniversary of this inauspicious date, 7 September was declared National Threatened Species Day … Continue reading Tim Jarvis on Human-wildlife conflict

The myth of ‘living with’ a level of COVID-19

Disease management terms like ‘elimination’ and ‘eradication’ have been used in press conferences and media coverage since the start of COVID-19. While these terms seem familiar, they are technical public health terms which mean something very specific in an infectious disease context – and misuse of the terms can be at best confusing, or at … Continue reading The myth of ‘living with’ a level of COVID-19

Why people get sick in virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) technology – which can immerse people in real or imagined environments via a head-mounted display (HMD) – has expanded possibilities for how people can learn, communicate and relax. Not just a source of entertainment, VR is now used across education, skills training and medical rehabilitation. In many cases, VR is used to … Continue reading Why people get sick in virtual reality

The zoonotic diseases closer to home

With genetic analysis suggesting COVID-19 originated in animals before it spread to humans, now is a good time to bear in mind zoonotic diseases are closer to home than people might think, says a UNSW researcher. Whether it’s bin chickens raiding rubbish bins, pigeons flocking to alfresco dining leftovers or cuddles with the family pet, animals … Continue reading The zoonotic diseases closer to home

Faking a smile is almost as good as the real thing

From Sinatra to Katy Perry, celebrities have long sung about the power of a smile – how it picks you up, changes your outlook, and generally makes you feel better. But is it all smoke and mirrors, or is there a scientific backing to the claim? Research from the University of South Australia confirms that … Continue reading Faking a smile is almost as good as the real thing