Oz research of note – 7 November 2011

Oz Research of Note

New technology for cleaning up nuclear spills, kids wearing the wrong seatbelts and re-writing the textbook on muscles and are just some of the stories we found interesting in Australian science in the last week.

Marine life in the areas to the north of Australia and elsewhere along the Equator, as well as the waters off Australia’s east coast, have emerged as being at particular risk from temperature changes due to climate change, international marine scientists have warned.

Prof Carlos Duarte, Director, Oceans Institute, The University of Western Australia; Prof John Pandolfi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland, Science

In the largest study of its kind an international group of scientists, including Australians, have unravelled the factors that caused the extinction of iconic Ice Age mammals such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth. The study shows that both climate change and humans were responsible for the mass extinctions of the megafauna 50,000 years ago. — http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=8109 — Dr Simon Ho, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Nature

The number of deaths among post-incarcerated prisoners is a significant public health issue. Ex-prisoners are among the most at-risk segment in the community. — http://www.sciencewa.net.au/3704-first-month-most-perilous-for-post-incarcerated-prisoners.html — Dr Stuart Kinner, Centre for Population Health (Burnet Institute), Medical Journal of Australia

The rate of new cases of lung cancer among women has risen while the rates for men have fallen, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cancer Australia. — http://www.aihw.gov.au/media-release-detail/?id=10737420454 – Report on statistics

One of the laws of nature may vary across the Universe. The study found that one of the four known fundamental forces, electromagnetism – measured by the so-called fine-structure constant and denoted by the symbol ‘alpha’ – seems to vary across the Universe. — http://www.swinburne.edu.au/chancellery/mediacentre/media-centre/news/2011/10/natures-laws-may-vary-across-the-universe — Prof John Webb, Prof Victor Flambaum, Swinburne University of Technology and colleagues at UNSW, University of Cambridge, Physical Review Letters

An Australian study has revealed remanufactured refrigeration and air conditioning compressors produce up to 93 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than new original equipment manufactured (OEM) compressors. – http://news.curtin.edu.au/news/research-could-help-reduce-carbon-tax-for-major-industries — A/Prof Michele Rosano and Dr Wahidul Biswas, Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Curtin University

Research scientists at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens have been able to show there’s hope for the survival of rare plants despite climate change. “We can now extract DNA from plants cells to test the health and viability of the population.” – research by Dr Maurizio Rossetto, Botanic Gardens Trust

For the unfortunate few born with the rare immunodeficiency known as X-linked lymphoproliferative disease (XLP), infection with the saliva-borne Epstein  Barr virus can be fatal. Australian immunologists have now discovered why, and while their finding does not point to an immediate cure for XLP, it does give insight to enhance normal immunity to EBV in the future – with vaccines or prophylactic medicines. — http://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/understanding-kiss-of-death-for-some-improves-outlook-for-others.html — Dr Umaimainthan Palendira and A/Prof Stuart Tangye, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

An evaluation of the recent changes to car child restraint laws has found almost a quarter of children up to seven years of age weren’t wearing the right type of restraint for their age. This was especially the case for three to four-year-old children who were being moved into booster seats or adult seat belts too early. — http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=37604Dr Alexia Lennon, Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety Queensland, Queensland University of Technology

Australian children are among the youngest and prolific users of the internet in the world, according to a new study that compared the experience of Australian children aged 9-16 to those of their European counterparts. — http://cci.edu.au/about/media/media-release-aussie-kids-%E2%80%98earliest-internet-users%E2%80%99 – Prof Lelia Green, Prof John Hartley and Prof Catharine Lumby, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI)

New research from an Australian-Indian collaboration has provided evidence that disputes the widely accepted theory of how India and Eurasia came together. The team used the ANU-designed Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe (SHRIMP) to date zircon crystals from north of the ancient plate boundary between India and Eurasia, and found they were the same age as those from the south. — http://news.anu.edu.au/?p=11891 – Mr Lloyd White, Research School of Earth Sciences and colleagues from the University of Kashmir and the University of Delhi, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems

Australian researchers have developed new technology capable of removing radioactive material from contaminated water and aiding clean-up efforts following nuclear disasters. The innovation could also solve the problem of how to clean up millions of tonnes of water contaminated by dangerous radioactive material and safely store the concentrated waste. — http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=37568 — Prof Huai-Yong Zhu, Chemistry, QUT

A new West Australian study has found that babies born by elective caesarean are more likely to be admitted to hospital with the serious respiratory infection, bronchiolitis, in the first year of life. — http://www.ichr.uwa.edu.au/media/1314 — Dr Hannah Moore, Telethon Institute for Child Health, Perth, Archives of Disease in Childhood

New Australian research has found evidence that playing violent video games leads players to see themselves, and their opponents, as lacking in core human qualities such as warmth, open-mindedness, and intelligence. — http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=23987 — Dr Brock Bastian, School of Psychology, UQ, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

A new study has found the primitive hagfish, also known as a “snot eel” can defend itself by releasing a noxious slime that chokes would-be predators. The long, thin hagfish are almost blind and have no jaws but use tooth-like rasps to prey on dead and dying fish. — http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201111014096/international/study-finds-hagfish-use-slime-choke-predators — Prof Euan Harvey, Oceans Institute, UWA, Scientific Reports

Mothers, sisters and daughters from families with known breast cancer genetic mutations do not all share the same high risk of developing the disease, according to a new international study. Women with the breast cancer genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at least 10 times more likely to develop breast cancer than the average. The new study found that women who do not have a genetic mutation, but are closely related to women who do have genetic mutations are at an average risk of developing the disease. — http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-679 — Prof John Hopper, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne

The popular notion of how muscles function has been turned on its head with the publication of new and revealing ultrasound images. Scientists long believed that muscle fibres lie in straight lines. These new images, however, reveal that muscle fibres in fact buckle when they are shortened and at rest. — http://www.neura.edu.au/news-events/news/researchers-gain-new-insight-how-muscles-work — Prof Simon Gandevia, Neuroscience Research Australia, Journal of Physiology

A new species of spider has been found near Northam, Western Australia—just by chance. The spider has been identified as a new species of trap door spider. Nicknamed the albino trapdoor spider, it was spotted by Grass Valley resident John Cornish on his back veranda in July. — http://www.sciencewa.net.au/3692-new-species-of-albino-trapdoor-adds-to-biodiversity-jigsaw.html — Dr Mark Harvey, WA Museum

Obese people may regain weight after dieting due to hormonal changes, a new Australian study has shown. — http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-674 — Prof Jo Proietto, University of Melbourne and Austin Health, New England Journal of Medicine