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Current science stories

Designer crops, animals, babies? In Science, why plumbers and teachers should have a say on designer babies and genetically enhanced potatoes.

Elements of surprise: neutron stars contribute little, but something’s making gold, research finds – Colliding neutron stars were touted as the main source of some of the heaviest elements in the Periodic Table. Now, not so much …

Scent of life on Venus
Microbial life may be present in the atmosphere of Venus, according to a paper published in Nature Astronomy today. Here’s our take, from our resident planetary geoscientist, Rohan Byrne @Buildmeaplanet.

Minimising severe injury from blast events on military vehicles: new research provides insights to injury prevention

Technology to make flexible phone screen chemicals kicks off new industry partnership for South Korea and Australia

Can you see the stars?: Tell us what you can see on the longest night, help us map Australia’s light pollution, and set a world record

Cyclones can damage even distant reefs: Research finds current models underestimate the impact of hurricanes and typhoons on coral reef communities

Astronomers see ‘cosmic ring of fire’, 11 billion years ago: Unusual galaxy set to prompt rethink on how structures in the Universe form

All our Science Week stories.

Scent of life on Venus

Artist’s impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks.
Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calçada & NASA / JPL / Caltech

Microbial life may be present in the atmosphere of Venus, according to a paper published in Nature Astronomy today.

(Written by Rohan Byrne, our resident geoscientist. Follow him at @buildmeaplanet)

Traces of a telltale gas called phosphine have been detected in sunlight bouncing off the planet. The gas, a rare chemical sometimes used as a pesticide, has never before been observed on rocky planets other than Earth, where it is almost always a product of life.

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For knee injuries, surgery may not be the best option

Research finds rehab-only treatment yields better long-term results

Image credit: Jack Moreh / Stockvault.net

Knee reconstructions may lead to more problems later in life than non-surgical rehabilitation, researchers have found.

A team led by Dr Adam Culvenor from La Trobe University looked at health outcomes for athletes with damaged anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) – a devastating injury, particularly common among footballers.

ACL injuries require lengthy rehabilitation and up to 12 months on the sidelines. However, many athletes also opt for surgery to reconstruct the torn ligament in the hope that this will get them back to sport sooner and prevent the development of knee arthritis.

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We’re open for business

Science in Public is open for business with a full suite of services including our training, which is available via Zoom, Teams, Skype etc.

The Science in Public team pre-COVID

Our team of six salaried staff are all working from home and we’re working hard to ensure that we can keep everything rolling. Government support is helping.

A few weeks ago, we thought we would be badly affected by COVID and its impact on universities. Today, we realise that we’re luckier than most small businesses. You, our clients, are successfully transitioning to home working. Our work and our products are largely created, stored and distributed online.

The Science in Public team post-COVID

And we hope that there will be a renaissance of interest in science as people recognise its importance in guiding and protecting society. Although many labs are now closed, the business of science goes on: results are still being correlated, and analysed, papers are still being written, submitted and going through peer review; journals are still being published; grant applications are still being compiled; award nominations are still being written.

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Solving a mystery in 126 dimensions

After 90 years, scientists reveal the structure of benzene.

One of the fundamental mysteries of chemistry has been solved by Australian scientists – and the result may have implications for future designs of solar cells, organic light-emitting diodes and other next gen technologies.

Ever since the 1930s debate has raged inside chemistry circles concerning the fundamental structure of benzene. It is a debate that in recent years has taken on added urgency, because benzene – which comprises six carbon atoms matched with six hydrogen atoms – is the smallest molecule that can be used in the production of opto-electronic materials, which are revolutionising renewable energy and telecommunications tech.

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You saw sawfish!

Hundreds of citizen science sightings reveal opportunities to protect Australia’s four iconic sawfish species

Green Sawfish (P. zijsron) – Weipa, QLD 2019
  • New hotspots for green sawfish in Weipa and Karratha.
  • A sawfish nursery in the Brisbane River until about 1950.
  • Evidence that sawfish have not completely disappeared from NSW waters, with a Newcastle sighting.
  • Juvenile sawfish reported down the WA coast.
  • More action needed in Queensland as only one species reported south of Cooktown.
  • A new call to action to step up conservation and assess the impact of net-free zones in Weipa and Queensland’s east coast.
  • And keep reporting your sightings. Together we can save sawfish.
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New clues for allergy prevention by breast milk

Written by Akila Rekima and the University of Western Australia. For the full UWA press release, click here.

A research team at UWA is investigating the complex interactions of breast milk with allergens and baby’s gut immune system.

They’ve found that food-derived but also airborne allergens are present in breast milk. Some do give protection and reduce allergies later in life.

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Australia Day Honours

AC

Margaret Elaine GARDNER

VIC

For eminent service to tertiary education through leadership and innovation in teaching and learning, research and financial sustainability.

Bruce Gregory ROBINSON

NSW

For eminent service to medical research, and to national healthcare, through policy development and reform, and to tertiary education.

Anthony William THOMAS

SA

For eminent service to scientific education and research, particularly in the field of nuclear and particle physics, through academic leadership roles

AO

Larissa BEHRENDT

NSW

For distinguished service to Indigenous education and research, to the law, and to the visual and performing arts.

Shaun Patrick BRENNECKE

VIC

For distinguished service to medical education and research in the fields of obstetrics and gynaecology, and to professional societies.

Rachelle BUCHBINDER

VIC

For distinguished service to medical education and research, particularly to ageing and age-related diseases.

Charles Roderick CURWEN

VIC

For distinguished service to the Crown, and to public administration in Victoria, to medical research, and to Australia-China business relations.

Ian Ross DONGES

NSW

For distinguished service to medical education in the fields of epidemiology and rheumatology, and to professional associations.

John Kinley DEWAR

VIC

For distinguished service to education through leadership roles in the universities sector, and to professional organisations.

Gillian Margaret GROOM

TAS

For distinguished service to the community through healthcare, medical research, and social welfare organisations, and to the law.

Jules Mitchell GUSS

NSW

For distinguished service to education and scientific research in the field of molecular bioscience, and to professional organisations.

John Reginald PIGGOTT

NSW

For distinguished service to education, to population ageing research, and to public finance policy development.

Alison Joan RITTER

NSW

For distinguished service to education, to drug and alcohol research and social policy, and to professional medical societies.

Roy Michael ROBINS-BROWNE

VIC

For distinguished service to medical education and research in the field of microbiology and immunology, and to professional groups.

Matthew Roy SANDERS

QLD

For distinguished service to education and research in clinical psychology, and to child, parent and family wellbeing.

Robert (John) SIMES

NSW

For distinguished service to education, and to medicine, in the field of cancer research and clinical trials.

Raymond Louis SPECHT

QLD

For distinguished service to science, and to education, in the fields of botany, plant ecology and conservation.

Geoffrey Wayne STEVENS

VIC

For distinguished service to education, to chemical engineering and environmental remediation, and as a mentor.

Brian Harrison WALKER

ACT

For distinguished service to science, particularly to ecosystem ecology and research, and to professional scientific bodies.

Rachel Lindsey WEBSTER

VIC

For distinguished service to education in the field of astrophysics, to astronomical research, and to young women scientists.

Jeffrey David ZAJAC

VIC

For distinguished service to medical research and education, particularly in the field of endocrinology, and to professional societies.

Robyn WILLIAMS

NSW

For distinguished service to science as a journalist, radio presenter and author, and to education

AM

Bruce Richard BROWN

WA

For significant service to the pearling industry, and to marine research.

Lyndon Mayfield BROWN

WA

For significant service to the pearling industry, and to marine research.

Geoffrey Michael CURRIE

NSW

For significant service to nuclear medicine and medical radiation science.

Stephen Vincent COLES

VIC

For significant service to veterinary science, and to professional bodies.

Christopher John CLEMENTS

VIC

For significant service to international public health through immunisation programs.

Karen Patricia DAY

VIC

For significant service to science education, and to global public health.

Robert John EDGAR

VIC

For significant service to the banking and finance sectors, and to medical research organisations.

Graham John FAICHNEY

NSW

For significant service to science in the fields of animal nutrition and physiology.

Peter Charles FLINN

VIC

For significant service to agricultural research through the promotion of near-infrared spectroscopy.

Anthony John GUTTMANN

VIC

For significant service to the mathematical sciences, and to education

Janice Leona HILLS

NT

For significant service to veterinary science, and to the community.

Geoffrey Ian HUSTON

ACT

For significant service to science, and through pioneering roles with the internet.

Gael JENNINGS

VIC

For significant service to science, and to the broadcast media.

Peter James PLUMMER

QLD

For significant service to higher education, to health research, and to public administration.

Steven Russell RAINE

QLD

For significant service to soil science and agriculture, and to education.

Peter William RIDDLES

QLD

For significant service to science, to biotechnology, and to innovation.

Robert Keith SHEPHERD

VIC

For significant service to biomedical research, and to education.

Richard Ashton WARNER

TAS

For significant service to agricultural research and development.

Roderick Tucker WELLS

SA

For significant service to education, and to the biological sciences.

Ann Felicity WESTMORE

VIC

For significant service to medical history, and to science communication.

Justin John YERBURY

NSW

For significant service to education and research in the field of biological sciences.

Alyson Marie AULIFF

QLD

For exceptional service to the Australian Defence Force in malaria research

OAM

Shane Thomas HUNTINGTON

VIC

For service to science as a communicator

Maria PARAPPILLY

SA

For service to science education, and to women.

Cecily Jane FREEMANTLE

VIC

For service to medical research, particularly to population health.

Christopher John QUINN

QLD

For service to research science in the field of plant systemics.

Michael John WILSON

NSW

For service to community health, particularly to diabetes research.

Public Service Medal (PSM)

Nguyen Thi Thanh AN

For outstanding public service in fostering the Australia-Vietnam bilateral relationship in agricultural research.

Stephen Moile CORDNER

VIC

For outstanding public service to forensic medical and scientific services, training and research in Victoria.

Robert John EDGAR

VIC

For significant service to the banking and finance sectors, and to medical research organisations.

Victor Hutton ODDY

NSW

For outstanding public service to the primary industry sector, and to science, in New South Wales.

James Richard PEARSON

VIC

For outstanding public service to forensic science, particularly to chemistry, in Victoria

Is that plant healthy?

We can’t easily monitor the health of plants, by the time we see that they’re sick it’s usually too late to save that. That’s an issue for your house plants, a field of wheat, orchards and plantations.

Karina Khambatta has developed a way to use the waxy surface of leaves to monitor their health.

Currently the technique uses infrared spectroscopy to study changes seen throughout leaf senescence. Karina has had the opportunity to utilise the infrared microscopy lab located at the Australian Synchrotron to help correlate her infrared studies undertaken at Curtin University, but Karina believes it can be turned into a handheld device that could be used on-farm, like reading a barcode.

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