Science

December 2011

Great weather for ducks: floods rejuvenate rivers and wetlands
19 December 2011
Widespread flooding across the Lake Eyre and Murray-Darling Basins this year has rejuvenated rivers and wetlands and produced an explosion of waterbird breeding, one of Australia’s longest-running...
2011 Faculty of Science Staff Excellence Awards
14 December 2011
 The UNSW Faculty of Science has celebrated the outstanding contributions from its staff during 2011. Mr Malcolm Good from the School of Aviation was awarded the 2011 University of New South Wales...
Biodiversity and climate change - from bad to worse
7 December 2011
A major new scientific review, involving more than 30 scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands sets out our current knowledge of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity...
Academy honours four young UNSW researchers
6 December 2011
Four early-career researchers have been honoured by the Australian Academy of Science with awards as part of the Academy’s 2012 awards for scientific excellence.Three of the winners were from the...
Plunge in CO₂ put the freeze on Antarctica
2 December 2011
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels plunged by 40% before and during the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet 34 million years ago, according to a new study. The finding helps solve a long-standing...

November 2011

OPINION: More water needed for rivers
28 November 2011
The release of the Draft Murray-Darling Basin plan, and the announcement that 2,750 gigalitres would be returned to the environment, was followed by predictable outrage. Irrigators said that the 2,...
Bio-sensors and nanomaterials win top awards
28 November 2011
The Faculty of Science have been honoured with two prestigious national awards by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute at its 2011 Annual Awards Dinner in Melbourne.Scientia Professor and ARC...
Simmons is Scientist of the Year
23 November 2011
UNSW researchers have been honoured by winning six out of the 10 categories in the NSW Government’s 2011 Science and Engineering Awards by, including the main honour of NSW Scientist of the Year.The...
Global warming dominates regional effects of land-use change
20 November 2011
Changes in snow and rain caused by global warming dominate the effects of land-use change on regional climates, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.The study by a team led...
Four new Future Fellows
17 November 2011
Four new Future Fellowships worth $2.6 million – for research projects examining climate change, nanoscience and dingoes - have been awarded to the Faculty of Science in the latest round of grants...
Light from the void: landmark experiment shows space is not empty
17 November 2011
An ingenious experiment in which tiny parcels of light, or photons, are produced out of empty space has confirmed a long-standing theory that a vacuum contains quantum fluctuations of energy.In a...
OPINION: Coal seam gas - filling the knowledge gap
8 November 2011
There are many good reasons why the general public, and in particular farmers, are concerned about coal seam gas (CSG) extraction. There are major gaps in our knowledge about the future impacts of...
Greenhouse gases to overpower ozone hole
1 November 2011
One set of human-created gases is starting to relinquish its hold on Antarctic climate as another group of emissions produced by human activity is starting to take hold, according to a paper in...
UNSW science student wins Rhodes Scholarship
1 November 2011
Eleanor Bath, a UNSW science student with a fascination for evolutionary biology, has won the 2012 NSW Rhodes Scholarship.Eleanor will travel to Oxford next year to undertake a PhD in the field of...
UNSW best in State
1 November 2011
UNSW researchers have been awarded $33 million for 110 projects in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) grants, topping the state and ranking third nationally.The new projects, to...

October 2011

Across the Universe: does physics have local by-laws?
31 October 2011
One of the laws of nature may change with location in the Universe, a study published today in the journal Physical Review Letters suggests.A cherished principle in science - the constancy of...
BACKGROUNDER: The laws of Nature
31 October 2011
A radical discovery by my colleagues and I – reported this week in Physical Review Letters – could help explain why it was possible for life (at least as we know it) to develop on Earth, but not in...
Extreme machine is king of spin
26 October 2011
At long last the first exciting research is starting to happen in an extraordinary machine in the UNSW School of Physics, with the installation of the world's largest cryogen-free vector magnet...
Talk on the birth of stars
26 October 2011
Although our Sun formed about 4.5 billion years ago, star formation is an ongoing process in our Galaxy: Dr Tyler Bourke, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, will explain how...
World population reaches 7 billion
26 October 2011
The world’s population is growing astonishingly fast – adding another billion people in a little over a decade. Is this a triumph of human ingenuity or a recipe for global disaster?Now, with 7...
Archaeopteryx was first bird after all
26 October 2011
The crown of the famous 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx fossil as the first bird has been restored by a new evolutionary tree.In a study published today in the journal Biology Letters, Australian...
ANALYSIS: Of mice and men
25 October 2011
How have humans and mice changed since we diverged about 75 million years ago from a small, furry common ancestor? Apart from the obvious, of course.As a starting point, it’s worth noting there’s...
Komodo dragon has “pussycat” bite but plenty of punch
21 October 2011
The world’s largest lizard – the Komodo Dragon – has an astonishingly weak bite, but a new study has revealed that the key to its killing power is a lethal combination of poison, brute strength,...
Vale Alan Wilton (1953 - 2011)
14 October 2011
It is with much sorrow that colleagues, students and friends at UNSW record the death of Associate Professor Alan Wilton of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.Professor Wilton...
Dating drought or purple patch? How males choose mates
11 October 2011
Males decide how much effort they put into courtship and which females to court based on how many others they have recently encountered and how attractive they were, according to a new study into...
Six years and 12,000 holes: Cyprus mapped
11 October 2011
It was a marathon project that took six years and the collection and analysis of some 12,000 soil samples, but an international team of geologists has managed to create the Geochemical Atlas of...
Black elected to top ISCU post
5 October 2011
One of the Faculty's most senior and distinguished chemistry academics, Professor David Black, has been honoured with election to the post of Secretary General of the International Council for...
FEATURE: Dolphins value good friends and relatives
5 October 2011
Researchers have known for a long time that dolphins associate in something like human “mums’ clubs”. How important is this for successful reproduction compared with the importance of having good...
OPINION:Time for quad bike safety upgrade
4 October 2011
The tragic quad-biking death of an 11-year-old boy from northwest Victoria on Monday takes the 2011 death toll from all terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents to 17.The boy reportedly died after his ATV...

September 2011

OPINION: Laureate Fellows offer best recipe for interdisciplinary soup
28 September 2011
Do you ever worry when you are promised something for nothing? I am worried every time I hear - “by collaborating in this multidisciplinary high-level enterprise we can be more than the sum of our...
Professor is winner in women's award
27 September 2011
Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been named as a winner in the 2011 Telstra NSW Business Women’s Awards.Professor Sahajwalla was selected for the Nokia Business Innovation Award. Telstra says...
Climate change: balancing ecology and economy to save species
20 September 2011
More species could be saved from the threat of extinction due to climate change thanks to a new model scientists have developed to guide allocation of conservation funding.An international team led...
Australia's city birds carry highest toxic load: study
15 September 2011
Toxic industrial pollutants contaminate bird eggs in Australia's major eastern cities at levels seven to nine times higher than those in inland areas, a new study has found.The findings raise...
Tough and testing: UNSW Maths Competition still counts at 50
15 September 2011
It's an event so tough that if you are a winner, you may well prove to be a serious contender at world level: welcome to Australia's longest-running and toughest test of young mathematical minds,...
Depression study reveals two sides to illusion of control
9 September 2011
A study into depression is shedding new light on a fascinating facet of human psychology - that we can readily delude ourselves into thinking we control events, even when we know we do not.This so-...
Dingo came earlier and by different route: study
8 September 2011
Australia's native dog – the dingo – may have arrived here much earlier and by quite a different route than previously thought, a new study has found.The study found genetic evidence that dingoes...
FEATURE: genetic role in post-traumatic stress
8 September 2011
When she first sought help at the UNSW Traumatic Stress Clinic, it was clear that Helen Fraser (not her real name) was in a bad way. A survivor of the appalling 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in...
Eureka Prize seeds success
7 September 2011
Macquarie University's Jim Piper and Angela Moles with her Eureka and newborn Macquarie University's Jim Piper and Angela Moles with her Eureka and newborn Vice-Chancellor Fred Hilmer presents the...
Thylacine's weak jaws linked to its extinction
1 September 2011
Australia's iconic thylacine – or Tasmanian tiger – was hunted to death for allegedly killing sheep, but in fact it had such weak jaws that its prey was probably as small as a possum, a new study...

August 2011

Landlubber fish leap for love when tide is right
30 August 2011
One of the world's strangest animals – a unique fish that lives on land and can leap large distances despite having no legs – has a rich and complex social life, a new study has found.The odd...
FEATURE: How many species on Earth?
24 August 2011
An estimated 8.7 million species exist on Earth, according to a paper published today in PLoS Biology. The figure is based on a new validated analytical technique that, it’s said, significantly...
BACKGROUNDER: Search for ancient life rocks on
23 August 2011
A study published in Nature Geoscience yesterday reports the discovery of 3.4 billion-year-old microbial cells in ancient sandstones in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.Some headlines have...
Eureka finalists record haul
12 August 2011
UNSW has a record-breaking 11 finalists in the running for Australia’s premier science awards, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.Outstanding researchers in the fields of computer science, ethics,...
Community ecology: it’s not who you are, but what you do
9 August 2011
When you're a tiny creature in a vast ocean it pays to hang out with the right crowd, regardless of whether they are related to you or not, a new study into the amazingly diverse world of marine...
Beer-barrel bacteria breathe toxic brew
1 August 2011
 Safe, new natural way to clean up polluted groundwater UNSW researchers have shown that they can safely destroy hazardous industrial toxins in groundwater arising from PVC plastic production by...

July 2011

COMMENT: The perils of living an intense life
27 July 2011
Amy Winehouse's tragic demise on Saturday reanimates so many well-worn stories: about the perils of monumental talent and the pressure of public expectations; about drug addiction and a hell of...
2011 Faculty of Science Dean's List
25 July 2011
In recognition of outstanding academic performance in 2010, Science is pleased to announce the 2011 Faculty of Science Dean's List. The Dean's List is an opportunity to recognise and congratulate...
Massive marsupial fossil find
6 July 2011
Scientists have uncovered a near-complete skeleton of the prehistoric giant marsupial in far north Queensland.  About the size of a rhinoceros, Diprotodon optatum was the largest marsupial that ever...
ANALYSIS: Rebuilding confidence a tough task for Tiger
5 July 2011
The grounding of Tiger Airways over the weekend underlines the difficulties of the airline business.The global airline industry has consistently failed to generate an adequate return on capital,...
New microscope enables "super" science
1 July 2011
Using the only microscope of its kind in Australia, medical scientists have seen for the first time the inner workings of T-cells, the front-line troops that alert our immune system to go on the...

June 2011

$3.7 million gift helps students "see" beneath their feet
29 June 2011
Geologists may not be able to directly see beneath the ground, but thanks to a very generous donation UNSW earth science students will have assured access to the next best thing – special software...
AIR SAFETY EXPERTS MEET AT UNSW
28 June 2011
Leading experts in air safety research and the aviation industry are gathering in Sydney this week for the 2011 World Air Transport Research Society meeting.The keynote speaker is Captain David...
COMMENT: Australia's confused solar policy
25 June 2011
Australia has a huge solar energy resource.Solar collectors spread out over a square 50 km could generate all of Australia’s current electricity demand.Of course in practice, we would need a mix of...
Green light for bike helmets
23 June 2011
Bicycle-related head injuries fell significantly in the months after mandatory helmet legislation came into effect in NSW, and recent calls for a repeal of the laws should be rejected, new research...
Humans have a mighty bite: study
22 June 2011
The robust jaws and formidable teeth of some of our ancestors and ape cousins may suggest that humans are wimps when it comes to producing a powerful bite: but a new study has found the opposite is...
Respect the Science campaign launched
21 June 2011
A new "Respect the Science" campaign aimed at countering misinformation on science has been launched by Science and Technology Australia, the peak professional body representing 68,000 members in...
How to discover a new element
15 June 2011
It is not the same as it used to be, the element finding business. We have discovered and named all the elements from hydrogen (element 1) up to element 112 (copernicium)[1], and last week IUPAC (...
SPECIAL FEATURE: Are humans extinction-proof?
6 June 2011
Does climate change seriously threaten to wipe out the human species if left unchecked? Examining our evolutionary past suggests it might once have been the perfect catalyst for our extinction. But...
Wetlands are bad and good news for Arctic warming: study
6 June 2011
Seasonal wetlands in Arctic regions will initially persist longer due to global warming but then shrink as temperatures rise further, according to new study into how climate change will progress...
Kelp to help understand human impact on marine ecosystems
1 June 2011
Research at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) is focusing on kelp to find out how human-induced environmental stresses might affect the health of our marine ecosystems.Environmental...
Dam risk to Murray-Darling wetlands may be underestimated
1 June 2011
Computer modelling used to develop the Murray-Darling Basin Plan may have significantly underestimated the effects of building dams and diverting water on the internationally listed Macquarie...
Not just "woody weeds" - spreading shrubs have silver lining
1 June 2011
The global spread of native trees and shrubs into open grazing land and abandoned farms can bring unexpected environmental and economic benefits, a major new international study has found.While many...

May 2011

COMMENT: Why bother with a carbon tax?
12 May 2011
The Federal Budget, with its withdrawal of subsidies for renewable energy, has left many commentators wondering if we’ve turned our back on carbon-neutral power. They should focus on the main game...
Great start to the Decade of Action for Road Safety
10 May 2011
The expected injection of more than $2 billion from tonight's Federal Budget to fix road black spots and upgrade rail freight corridors in NSW is an excellent start to the UN Decade of Action for...
COMMENT: Trust us, we're climate scientists
10 May 2011
“Why don’t scientists just get together and figure out what’s going on?”It’s a common question we hear about global warming.The answer is simple: “They have.”The largest effort to pull the relevant...

April 2011

Lens looks OK for short-sighted children
27 April 2011
The progression of myopia – or short-sightedness – in children can be slowed or even halted by wearing special contact lenses that gently reshape the front surface of the eye during sleep at night,...
Weird Australian hammer-tooth marsupial fossil found
20 April 2011
Fossils of bizarre lizard-like, snail-eating marsupials have been discovered by UNSW palaeontologists in an ancient fossil field in the Riversleigh World Heritage area in Queensland. The fossils...
Shame on you: tough-love approach to obesity may backfire
19 April 2011
Tough love may not be the way to motivate overweight and obese people to change their habits for the better, a new study suggests.Indeed, trying to shame such people into healthier eating and doing...
UNSW joins research partnership with steel giant
12 April 2011
Research leading to more sustainable steel production could result from a new agreement signed by one of the world’s top three steel producers and four Australian universities.Shanghai-based...
It's a wrap! Nanowire opens gate to new devices
7 April 2011
In an interesting feat of nanoscale engineering, researchers at Lund University in Sweden and the University of New South Wales have made the first nanowire transistor featuring a concentric metal ‘...

March 2011

Mission to Mars takes students out of this world
31 March 2011
High school students from around Australia will embark on a mission to Mars and learn what it is like to follow science and engineering careers.The simulated mission exhibit, installed at the Sydney...
How to manage the psychological effects of natural disasters
31 March 2011
In the wake of the Queensland floods, the Christchurch earthquake, and the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis, people are asking for advice about how we should manage the effects of disaster...
Academy honours three Faculty researchers
24 March 2011
Three researchers from the Faculty of Science have been honoured by being elected to the Australian Academy of Science,Among 17 new Fellows elected nationally to the Academy for 2011 were Professor...
Rivers buckle under pressure from climate, dams
21 March 2011
Climate change is likely to intensify the alarming rate of degradation of the world’s rivers and wetlands unless water resources are better managed, according to a special issue of the international...
COMMENT: Disaster science and management failed in Japan
17 March 2011
Television images of blank-faced wandering children and adults weeping in grief or stunned into disbelief are heartbreaking. The humanitarian dimensions of Japan's worst natural disaster in nearly a...
Kids' mental health research fund launch
9 March 2011
A growing tally of success emerging from landmark Australian studies to diagnose and treat mental health problems in children is being held back by a lack of public attention and funding, says a...
First indigenous optometrist graduates
8 March 2011
At a ceremony at UNSW today, Investec Bank scholarship student, Jenna Owen graduated as an Optometrist with a first-class pass.  She received a Distinction/Higher Distinction average and was the dux...
Cutting cholesterol: find may yield better treatments
3 March 2011
A promising new way to inhibit cholesterol production in the body has been discovered, one that may yield treatments as effective as existing medications but with fewer side-effects.In a new study...

February 2011

New plastics can conduct electricity
22 February 2011
A newly discovered technique makes it possible to create a whole new array of plastics with metallic or even superconducting properties.Plastics usually conduct electricity so poorly that they are...
Volunteers wanted for vision study
22 February 2011
Do you keep losing your reading glasses? Fed up with searching for brighter light or holding things at arm's length so you can focus on what you are seeing?A research project has raised hope that...
Trauma research among NHMRC best
16 February 2011
Trailblazing UNSW research into understanding, treating and preventing the traumas people can experience after serious accidents and natural disasters has been singled out for acclaim by the...
Three climate experts given top advisory roles
15 February 2011
Three prominent climate scientists from UNSW have been appointed as expert advisors to the Federal Government's new independent Climate Commission.Professor Matt England, Professor Andy Pitman and...
New hope for age-related vision loss
7 February 2011
A possible cause and a potential treatment for one of the most common forms of blindness – age-related macular degeneration - have been identified for the first time in a new study by an...

January 2011

Introduced plants "becoming Australian"
31 January 2011
A number of introduced plant species have become more like natives, suggesting rapid evolution could happen far more frequently than previously thought, according to new research from UNSW.On the...
Conservation icons face regular climate extremes: study
25 January 2011
Climate change this century is expected to place substantial strain on the integrity and survival of some of the world's biologically important conservation regions, with most experiencing monthly...
Major floods recharge aquifers
24 January 2011
While major floods can cause terrible damage and losses, they can also recharge groundwater supplies in aquifers.Recharge of groundwater helps ensure sustainability of water resources for town water...
How to stand out in a crowd, lizard-style
20 January 2011
If you've ever tried waving to someone distant in a bustling crowd, you'll have some idea of how hard it can be for small rainforest animals to signal to each other with so many other distractions...
A furnace affectionately known as Brittany
18 January 2011
Venture into Laboratory 202 of the School of Materials Science and Engineering and you'll encounter a squat metallic machine that must be the only furnace in the world with components that include a...