The Best of Australian Science: April 2013

It is time to recount April’s highlights, the most read and interesting articles from the month in the fields of science, education, internet technologies, space, and among others.

If you are interested in science blogging and contributing to Australian Science – contact us and check out the Editor’s note.

Until next month’s review,  stay curious, scientifically and artistically passionate. I hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

A Supernova Post-Mortem in Radio Waves by Markus Hammonds

Supernova which are close enough to see with the naked eye are rare beasts. This was, and still is, the only one close enough and visible enough to see properly with modern telescopes, giving us some of the best information we’ve ever had about how an exploding supernova interacts with the dusty interstellar clouds which surround it.

The latest observations of this literally awesome event come courtesy of a team of astronomers working in Australia and Hong Kong, led by Giovanna Zanardo at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). Using CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array in New South Wales, the researchers have published the highest resolution images of the stellar explosion’s aftermath ever taken. More>>


The CO2 Bargaining Business by Kelly Burnes

Does anyone think this 2-degree goal is achievable? You know, that we can keep global temperatures from increasing 2°C? It’s time to admit that it cannot be. It’s time to set new goals. Goals not based on single-digit bargaining at the next climate convention. Some of the world’s nations agreed to limiting global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) over pre-industrial temperature levels four years ago; a voluntary goal. Our approach to tackling climate change has been to put, what seems to be, arbitrary limits on CO2 emissions while not seeking to take accountability for the issues causing those emissions. This goes for both the developed world and the emerging market economies. More>>


New light on dark matter: space station magnet attracts praise by Kevin Orrman-Rossiter

The visible matter in the universe, such as you, me, the stars and planets, adds up to less than 5% of the universe. The other 95% is dark, either dark matter or dark energy. Dark matter can be observed indirectly through its interaction with visible matter but has yet to be directly detected.

Cosmic rays are charged high-energy particles that permeate space. The AMS is designed to study them before they have a chance to interact with Earth’s atmosphere. An excess of antimatter within the cosmic rays has been observed in two recent experiments – and these were labelled as “tantalising hints” of dark-matter decay. More>>


India, Novartis, and Australia’s new patent law by Charles Ebikeme

In October of 2012, Australia commissioned an expert panel to review the appropriateness of the extension arrangements for pharmaceutical patents. “In certain circumstances, pharmaceutical patents can be extended by up to five years beyond the normal patent term. These provisions were introduced back in 1998, and are due for review,” said Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation.

As a consequence, Australia’s intellectual property system has had its most comprehensive overhaul in two decades. The new law comes into full effect on 15 April 2013. Some call it a set of tough new laws that punish and privilege both sides of the equation — an attempt to “raise the bar.” The new law makes it increasingly difficult to obtain a valid patent, increasing the standards required to receive patent protection. More>>

The Schoolchild who Discovered a New Jellyfish Species by Markus Hammonds

While fishing in a canal in his backyard, Saxon found a jellyfish which he recognised as a box jellyfish. This was surprising at first, because no box jellies had previously been found in these waters. With a little help from his father, he carefully collected the fragile animal into a jar and sent it to Merrick Ekins, a marine expert at the Queensland Museum, to be identified.

But Ekins couldn’t identify it. It’s now been confirmed to actually be a new species, previously unknown to marine biologists. This has caused some consternation among locals who may now be thinking twice about swimming off the nearby coast. A few box jellyfish species are notorious for having extremely painful, and in some cases potentially fatal, stings. More>>


 Do animals have minds? (book review) by Kevin Orrman-Rossiter

Virginia Morell introduces us to the scientist and the animals, explaining the studies, the results and some of the trials and triumphs along the way to building an understanding of what the scientists find. The animal and settings we may already have a prejudice about; captive dolphins, elephant memories, chimpanzees and language, dogs and humans, are very carefully presented to ensure that the most compelling results are well presented. The more novel animals, ants and fish for example, are also carefully presented, their novelty makes for an easier presentation. For example I had no preconceived ideas regarding the ability of ants to teach – with no mental hurdle of my to overcome – that chapter was very illuminating. The examples and researchers chosen for these chapters succinctly illustrate what we have learnt about the emotions and intelligence of these animals. More>>


Australia from orbit by Markus Hammonds

From December 19th last year, Chris Hadfield has been living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit roughly 400 km above planet Earth. Seeing 15 sunrises every day as the station tracks its way above our planet, the ISS, to quote Hadfield himself, “weighs 500 tonnes and is the size of 5 NHL hockey rinks, with living quarters for 6 people.”

One of the many things which Hadfield has been doing is to keep the tradition set by previous astronauts of taking fantastic photographs of our planet from above. More>>


The future looks ‘appy’ for Aussie broadband connected homes

The ‘Broadband Connected Homes’ report describes the changing environment of the Australia’s homes, the technologies that are affecting it, and its capacity to support new applications and services.

“When considering over 3.5 million Australians now a use smart device to access the internet and that app downloads are predicted to rise above 40 billion globally in 2013, it’s very clear our love affair with apps has come a long way in few short years. We are now looking at the next era of development by experimenting with what our homes will look like when broadband-enabled apps connect data with multiples sensors and new business services,” said Colin Griffith, Director of ACBI. More>>

Fat to the rescue, is our fat the answer? by Josip Ivanovic

Fat is at the centre of stem cell research that is taking place in all areas of medical treatment from heart disease to worn out knees.
It is amazing to think that the fat we have all tried so hard to avoid holds the miracle cells that can be used to make us better. So how could the wobbly bits we get from that second wedge of camembert help treat some of the most debilitating health concerns in modern medicine? Traditionally stem cells have been extracted from bone marrow (the inside part of the bone) but it has now been discovered that the power source of stem cells is actually fat. Research has revealed that fat holds an incredible 2500 more stem cells than bone marrow. A stem cell allows body tissue to regenerate and repair areas that are damaged. More>>


Don’t forget to check the Weekly Science Picks #25Weekly Science Picks #26Weekly Science Picks #27,  and Weekly Science Picks #28.

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