Science

December 2012

Quad bike safety experts meet at UNSW
20 December 2012
Thirty of the world’s leading experts in quad bike safety assembled at UNSW this week as part of a project to improve the safety of the vehicles.The $1 million quad bike crash performance research,...
2012 Faculty of Science staff excellence awards
20 December 2012
The UNSW Faculty of Science has celebrated the outstanding contributions made by its staff during 2012, with staff excellence awards handed out by the Dean, Professor Merlin Crossley.This year, for...
New neighbours? Closest single Sun-like star may have habitable planet
19 December 2012
One of the closest stars to Earth, Tau Ceti, may host five planets - with one in the star’s habitable zone  - an international team of astronomers has discovered.Only 12 light years away, Tau Ceti...
Nobel Laureate presents prize to high school students
14 December 2012
It’s not every day that school students get to present their science project to a major scientific conference, and rarer still to receive a prize for it from a Nobel Laureate.That was the happy...
Opinion: How to Improve Excellence in Research Evaluations Process
12 December 2012
There is a lot to celebrate in the results of the Excellence in Research for Australia 2012 evaluations. And everyone is talking them up, with almost no one complaining. It's a bit like a birthday...
New ideas about the evolution of homosexuality
12 December 2012
When I give talks about the relevance of evolution to modern life, I can count on one regular question interrupting an orderly transition from lecture theatre to bar. Sometimes it comes with a “bet-...
Veena Sahajwalla wins Innovation Challenge award
12 December 2012
Professor Veena Sahajwalla has won the $30,000 top prize in the Innovation Challenge awards run by The Australian.A passionate recycler, she was honoured for her patented “green steel” process, in...
Nerd Nite Becomes Popular Sydney Event
11 December 2012
Dr Jessica Grisham, a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Psychology, is helping bring science to Sydneysiders in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, with the establishment of a local version of the...
Red Carpet Awards for Young UNSW Researchers
11 December 2012
UNSW has hosted its inaugural Postdoctoral Academy Awards for researchers in Medicine, Science and Engineering whose names don’t often get up in lights.If it’s good enough for movie stars, why not...
Top Science Student Wins Prime Ministerial Award
5 December 2012
Advanced Science student Mukhlis Mah has won a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Award, receiving up to $53,000 to study and undertake an internship in China.  Designed to enhance students’ global...
The Princess and The Pregnancy: Fully Sick News
5 December 2012
Your ancient Greek-Latin binomial for the day is hyperemesis gravidarium (HG for short) - a particularly extreme form of pregnancy sickness (or morning sickness). Brought to you today by Catherine,...
An Explanation of Biogeography
4 December 2012
How did you get to work today? I walked to the station, caught a train, then walked to a bus stop and hopped on the 891 express.All this time, while I was travelling, I moved in space – in fact a...
Leading science journalist joins UNSW
4 December 2012
Deborah Smith, the former Science Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, has joined UNSW as journalist in the Faculty of Science, the Dean, Professor Merlin Crossley, has announced.Deborah, who will...
Sydney harbours a surprise: fish thrive amid pollution
4 December 2012
Despite heavy human impacts – including record-breaking toxic sediments and rising nutrient pollution - Sydney Harbour’s marine life is richer than in more pristine marine parks nearby, new studies...
Are You Furious? Body Cues Reveal More Than Faces
3 December 2012
As social creatures, non-verbal communication through facial expression is important in portraying emotions – and because of this, it’s interpreted rapidly and accurately.Regardless of culture,...

November 2012

OPINION: Science alone won't change climate opinions, but it matters
28 November 2012
Does scientific knowledge matter in the climate debate? Recent research suggests that it is not “what you know” but “who you are” that counts in making up your mind about climate change.What are the...
Renewable Energy Sector Grows but Barriers Remain
28 November 2012
Energy production must shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources within four decades to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change, a government report has found.The Climate...
The Tree of Life: an Explanation of Biological Classification
27 November 2012
For taxonomists, days often start, and sometimes end, with the question: what is that?Whether you’re an entomologist, staring at a new species of riffle bug from a rainforest stream, or a...
Sisters and Brothers: It's Complicated
27 November 2012
Family life just got even more interesting. Just in time for Christmas, too!Families bustle with the push and pull of conflict and cooperation. But just how profoundly in the end do family members...
One Step Forward, Two Steps back for Asylum Seeker Mental Health
27 November 2012
The recent overhaul of Australia’s immigration policies aims to protect the lives of asylum seekers by removing any advantage of arriving by boat. Whether this goal will be achieved remains unclear...
Finally: Murray-Darling Basin Plan signed into law
23 November 2012
Yesterday, Minister for the Environment Tony Burke signed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan into law, after the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had made the final changes he requested.One hurdle remains...
Treetop marsupial was a real swinger
22 November 2012
It used massive sharp claws to haul its hefty body up trees, hugging the trunk like a bear, and its huge hands and long arms let it hang from branches like an orang-utan – weighing in at 70 kg,...
OPINION: Driver fatigue is as deadly as drink
21 November 2012
Fatigue is a major road-safety problem but it is also one of the most intractable. At least as many deaths on our roads are caused by fatigue as by drink-driving, probably more.We understand a great...
OPINION: Price to pay for freezing fellowships
21 November 2012
It takes a long time, sometimes a lifetime of specialisation, to become a professor. Specialisation and focus is critical and individual scholars sometimes fall in love with their discipline. This...
After 120 years, bizarre grave-robber is identified
20 November 2012
The evolutionary relationships of a bizarre fossil mammal from South America that has baffled scientists for over 120 years have finally been solved, according to a paper published today in the...
OPINION: Is Human Intellect on a Downward Slide?
20 November 2012
Rob Brooks argues that, from where we stand, it is almost impossible to discern what directions human evolution, including the evolution of our intellects, might currently be taking. I would wager...
OPINION: Camera Traps Bring The Wild into Homes
15 November 2012
For 60 years Sir David Attenborough has brought the extraordinary of far off lands closer to home. In some aspects, Sir Dave has brought it so close that the only experiences you miss from not...
Longer-lived sperm produce fitter offspring
15 November 2012
Sperm that swim for longer before fertilising an egg produce offspring with a higher survival rate, a new study has found.The finding suggests that it’s not just the genes they carry but also the...
Excellence all round: we sparkle at Scientist of the Year awards
15 November 2012
Five distinguished UNSW researchers – four of them from the Faculty of Science - have been recognised for excellence across three very different categories in this year’s New South Wales Scientist...
OPINION: China's biggest problem? Too many men
15 November 2012
In the mid-19th Century, two devastating floods of the Yellow River, and the famine that followed, ravaged northeastern China.Outlaw bands, known as nien, attracted young men in unprecedented...
OPINION: Did Homo mark the end of the swingers?
6 November 2012
Just when did our human ancestors come down from the trees to become permanent ground-dwelling apes? Did the evolution of our upright posture and two-footed (bipedal) locomotion mark the end of a...
$29 million in ARC grants
5 November 2012
UNSW has been awarded more than $29 million for 88 projects in the latest round of Australian Research Council major grants to commence in 2013.More than $20 million was received by UNSW researchers...
OPINION: Flooding in the Murray Good News for Farmers
1 November 2012
The history of our development of the Murray-Darling Basin is one of constraining and constricting its rivers’ flows. Many of the basin’s floods are now captured in dams for later constrained...

October 2012

Sahajwalla wins Banksia environmental award
30 October 2012
The Banksia Environmental Foundation has announced that UNSW's Professor Veena Sahajwalla has won its prestigious  2012 GE Eco Innovation Award for Individual Excellence.The award cites Professor...
Fantastic field of young tall poppies
26 October 2012
For innovative work in the fields of medicine, science and engineering, UNSW researchers have won six of this year’s nine NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Awards.The prestigious awards, presented by the...
Damage to farms minimal under Basin Plan
26 October 2012
For the first time, scientists at UNSW have investigated the likely impact of planned environmental flows on farmlands and nature reserves around the Murray-Darling Basin.The new study suggests that...
OPINION: Is human longevity due to grandmothers or older fathers?
22 October 2012
Why do humans tend to live such a long time? Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, can last into their mid forties in the wild. Yet somewhere in the last six million years, human lifespans have...
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics Explained
11 October 2012
You may have heard that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of...
OPINION: Helmets and cycleways: the numbers tell the safety story
4 October 2012
We've heard loud voices calling recently for the repeal of the mandatory helmet law for cyclists, as well as calls to either remove existing cycling infrastructure or stop government spending on...
Helmets plus cycleways halve head-injury rate: study
3 October 2012
The combined effect of making helmets compulsory for riders and providing cycleways and other infrastructure has reduced by about half the serious head-injuries associated with cycling in NSW over...
Remembering to Forget: How to Erase Unwanted Memories
2 October 2012
Memories influence our behaviour for better or worse. A traumatic incident, experienced once, can darken our lives for ever more. Drug or alcohol addiction – driven by remembered rewards – can...

September 2012

Young researchers shine at Scopus awards
25 September 2012
From developing futuristic drugs to understanding how nature’s underdogs survive in an evolutionary world that favours the fit, two rising stars from UNSW have been honoured with prestigious early...
Warming ocean could start big shift of Antarctic ice
19 September 2012
Fast-flowing and narrow glaciers have the potential to trigger massive changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and contribute to rapid ice-sheet decay and sea-level rise, a new study has found.Research...
Did a “forgotten” meteor have a deadly, icy double-punch?
19 September 2012
When a huge meteor collided with Earth about 2.5 million years ago and fell into the southern Pacific Ocean it not only could have generated a massive tsunami but also may have plunged the world...
Pollution-eating bugs score at Innovation Awards
12 September 2012
Cultivating bacteria that break down industrial toxins in contaminated groundwater has won researchers the 2012 UNSW Innovation Award.The team, led by Associate Professor Mike Manefield of the...
Much more to happy retirement than money: study
11 September 2012
One of the most common questions people ask when planning for their retirement is how much money they will need, but a more pertinent question is to consider how they want to live, says UNSW ...
UNSW Physics leads from Morgan Freeman’s Wormhole to the Eureka Prize
7 September 2012
Hosted by Morgan Freeman, the documentary series Through the Wormhole explores the most radical theories and the greatest mysteries that have confounded scientific minds for centuries.The series...
OPINION: Alien life: Coming to a planet near you?
4 September 2012
I have been searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial life since the 1980s. I believe that we will probably find it.I'm not a UFO spotter. Nor do I imagine the latest NASA rover, Curiosity, will...
OPINION: Our ancestors might have bred with Neanderthals after all
3 September 2012
An article published in Science on Friday describing a newly assembled Denisovan genome takes an ongoing debate to a whole new level, and finds this anthropologist eating a little piece of humble...

August 2012

Land and sea, the universe and everything: Eureka success
31 August 2012
Research suggesting the laws of physics may vary across the cosmos, science that helps save lives in the surf, and technology to boost the extraction of hydrocarbon have won UNSW researchers three...
OPINION: The value of interdisciplinary research
30 August 2012
Academic research is often justified to governments and the general public on the basis that it contributes to the solution of major problems and helps create a better life for all. But most of the...
UNSW Student to attend World Environmental Summit
29 August 2012
Charlotte Mills is one of two students selected to represent UNSW at the World Student Environmental Summit 2012. The summit will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, in September.The theme for the...
OPINION: Shutting that whole thing down - Todd Akin, rape, pregnancy and abortion
22 August 2012
Like almost everybody else I spoke to today, I was staggered, this morning, to hear Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy. The Missouri Republican, who is running for Senate,...
Richard Kingsford wins Serventy Medal
22 August 2012
Professor Richard Kingsford has been honoured by BirdLife Australia with the award of the D.L.Serventy Medal. He was awarded the medal for his outstanding contribution in the science of ornithology...
Taking a break makes practice perfect
16 August 2012
Trying to learn a piano piece or master a new dance step? Make sure you take good breaks while training because you’ll learn more effectively than if you push yourself and practice non-stop, a new...
Devilish whiskers, coal fungi and forgetful babies: postgrad research competition results
15 August 2012
Using whiskers to monitor the ecology of Tasmanian devils, using fungi instead of machines to extract coal seam gas, and understanding why we can’t remember when we were babies: those are just some...
Study gets good dope on fast germanium transistors
14 August 2012
The next generation of high-speed transistors based on germanium - rather than the familiar silicon - has moved closer with new research revealing how individual phosphorus atoms can be predictably...
Mars landing timely as education project gains $2.9m
8 August 2012
UNSW science communication researcher Dr Carol Oliver has won a $2.9m research grant over two years from the NBN-Enabled Education and Skills Services program.The grant is to build on her Pathways...
New two-virus link to prostate cancer: study
1 August 2012
Two common viruses known to be associated with human cancers are both present – and may even be collaborating with each other - in most male prostate cancers, a new study suggests.The research has...

July 2012

City suburbs, not parks, most attractive to little bats
31 July 2012
The greatest diversity of small insect-eating microbats in the Sydney region is not in the national parks that ring the city but in its western suburbs, according to a new study.The key difference...
UNSW stands out in Eureka Prize line-up
31 July 2012
In subject areas as diverse as preventing drownings at the beach and understanding the cosmos, six Faculty of Science researchers have been singled out as finalists for next month’s prestigious...
Bright future ahead with new research Fellows
27 July 2012
Overcoming pathological fear, our ancient human roots in China and understanding the dynamics of Antarctica’s ice sheet are among the 19 research projects pursued by UNSW’s newest Future Fellows....
$1 million to boost quad bike safety
24 July 2012
The NSW Government will spend $1 million on research to try to reduce the number of quad bike deaths across the State.The Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, says the money will be used...
Packed house for Nobel astronomer
20 July 2012
Demand for seating was far greater than the available supply yesterday in a packed house for Professor Brian Schmidt, who delivered the Dirac lecture at the UNSW Kensington campus.An audience of...
Actually, cycling rates are up
18 July 2012
OPINION: A recent report, which has attracted significant media attention, suggested that cycling participation rates in Australia declined between 1985/86 and 2011. That analysis, however, did not...
Adapting to drought and flooding rains
18 July 2012
Water defines our continent. Like crazy paving, our rivers carry it as they criss-cross the landscape, from the tops of catchments to their bottoms. It governed the distribution of our first people...
Helping family is key for social birds
11 July 2012
Social birds that forgo breeding to help to raise the offspring of other group members are far more likely to care for their own close relatives than for more distant kin, a new study has found.The...
Bush tucker feeds ancient mystery
11 July 2012
As sabre tooth tigers and woolly mammoths were wandering around Europe, unique, giant prehistoric animals were living in Australia – three metre tall kangaroos and wombat-like creatures, the size of...

June 2012

Tell-tale El Niño signal detectable 18 months ahead
25 June 2012
The origins of the El Niño climatic events that usually bring extended hot, dry conditions to much of Australia are detectable up to 18 months beforehand, a new study has found.This is nine months...
Reach of blindness prevention initiative to be expanded
19 June 2012
Since opening its doors to the public in late 2009, the Centre for Eye Health (CFEH) has assessed more than 10,000 people in NSW and the ACT identified by their optometrist or ophthalmologist as...
Success in Australia-India Strategic Research Fund
19 June 2012
Staff in the School of Materials Science and Engineering have been awarded two projects under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.Of only seven grants were awarded this year across Australia...
Crying for Science
13 June 2012
Work is underway to discover whether human tears can play a role in the early diagnosis of breast and prostate cancer, as well as confirming if a person has a predisposition to developing the...
Venus nears its moment in the sun, but what’s a transit anyway?
5 June 2012
As you’re reading this, people all over the world are gearing up to witness this century’s final transit of Venus. Over a period of around six hours and 40 minutes tomorrow, from early morning until...
Transit of Venus - Open Day at UNSW
5 June 2012
It won't be for another 105 years that Venus will pass in front of the Sun and Sydney has a prime viewing position to witness the Transit of Venus tomorrow (Wednesday).UNSW Astronomy Outreach is...

May 2012

Grazing snails rule the waves: marine study
31 May 2012
Coral reefs and seashores largely look the way they do because large fish and urchins eat most of the seaweed that might otherwise cover them, but a major new study has found that the greatest...
Facelift for Physics Research Areas
30 May 2012
The space occupied by two of the School of Physics’s key research departments has been given a major facelift as part of a $3.2M project completed by UNSW Facilities this month.The work involved a...
New type of biosensor is fast, super-sensitive
29 May 2012
A whole new class of biosensor that can detect exceptionally small traces of contaminants in liquids in just 40 minutes has been developed by a UNSW-led team of researchers.Known as a...
Analysis: Why are climate zones shifting towards the poles?
28 May 2012
The Earth’s principal climatic zones appear to be shifting poleward. If this continues, as climate models project, the weather patterns that give rise to deserts in the subtropics and stormy wet...
Obituary: Professor Stephen Angyal - a chemistry legend
24 May 2012
The Faculty of Science records with sadness and regret the recent death of Professor Stephen Angyal, a distinguished former Dean and outstanding figure in Australian chemistry. Professor Angyal was...
Surf safety video reaches 250,000 viewers
24 May 2012
More than 250,000 people from around the world have now watched an award-winning UNSW-TV video on beach safety, featuring UNSW surf scientist Dr Rob Brander.The five-minute video, titled Don't Get...
Managing the world’s rivers – improving accountability and transparency
17 May 2012
Rivers are often the most difficult of natural resources to manage because they extend over thousands of kilometres and involve many stakeholders - but a new international publication aims to...
Air pollution may be driving expansion of tropics
17 May 2012
Black carbon aerosols and ozone, both man-made pollutants emitted predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere’s low- to mid-latitudes, are most likely pushing the boundary of the tropics further...
Triple whammy: ocean warming, La Niña, and cyclone produced Queensland floods
16 May 2012
A record La Niña event coupled with tropical cyclone Tasha generated most of the record deluge of rain that devastated much of Queensland in December 2010, but a new study has found that another big...
Secret soil cracks linger underground
15 May 2012
Deep cracks in soil that appear during long dry spells can remain open underground even after they have visibly sealed on the surface, a new study has found.The results could have important...
Veena Sahajwalla appointed to Climate Commission
15 May 2012
Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, of the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering, has been appointed as a commissioner on the Australian Government's Climate Commission.Announcing the...
Comment: Bisexual dolphins? No: just stay-at-homes
14 May 2012
Media reports on recent research into social alliances among male dolphins took a strange and unexpected turn, as Professor Rob Brooks explains:A few weeks ago a big story about dolphins beset the...
You can’t play nano-billiards on a bumpy table
14 May 2012
There’s nothing worse than a shonky pool table with an unseen groove or bump that sends your shot off course: a new study has found that the same goes at the nano-scale, where the “billiard balls”...
Bigger and brainier: did dingoes kill thylacines?
3 May 2012
Direct attacks by introduced dingoes may have led to the extinction on the Australian mainland of the iconic marsupial predator, the thylacine, a new study suggests.A comparison of museum specimens...
Herds of large marsupials in the treetops
3 May 2012
Sheep-sized ancient relatives of modern-day wombats lived in Australia’s treetops 15 million years ago, according to new research led by Dr Karen Black from the University of New South Wales.The 70...
Opinion: the mining boom Australia will miss - asteroids
2 May 2012
There will be a future mining boom, as heralded in recent media stories. But this mining will take place in a location even more hostile than the Australian Outback – space.More specifically, the...

April 2012

Opinion: "I can change your mind": look elsewhere for experts
27 April 2012
Last night the ABC premiered the fascinating documentary “I can change your mind about climate”, in which Nick Minchin, the recently retired Liberal senator, and Anna Rose, the co-founder of the...
Extreme astronomy: new telescope on high in Antarctica
24 April 2012
The first of three Antarctic survey telescopes has been successfully installed at one of the coldest and most remote places on Earth - at the highest point of the Antarctic Plateau.The remotely...
Top oceanographer Trevor McDougall joins UNSW
21 April 2012
One of the world’s leading oceanographers, Dr Trevor McDougall, is joining the UNSW Faculty of Science as a Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics.Dr McDougall has also just been...
Analysis: Rolling the climate dice
17 April 2012
Imagine a six-sided die with four red faces, one green face and one blue face.I am going to roll the die, and before rolling I will ask you to predict which colour it will land on: red, green or...
How the Pacific Ocean leaks: study
16 April 2012
A state-of-the-art ocean model has been used in a new study to conduct the first detailed investigation of oceanic water flow between the Pacific and Indian Oceans via the south of Australia. This...
Murray-Darling Plan lacks transparency: scientists
13 April 2012
The volume of water needed to secure the long-term sustainability of the Murray-Darling river system cannot be identified clearly due to a lack of transparency in the proposed Murray-Darling Basin...
Changing climate can affect fish fertility
10 April 2012
Warmer water temperatures can greatly increase the reproductive capacity of the widely distributed pest fish species gambusia, or mosquito fish, a new study has found.Male gambusia exposed to high...

March 2012

Male dolphins build complex teams for social success
27 March 2012
Male dolphins not only form a series of complex alliances based on their close relatives and friends but these alliances also form a shifting mosaic of overlapping geographic ranges within in an...
New clues to extinction of Australia’s giant fauna
23 March 2012
Humans may have played a significant role in the extinction of Australia’s prehistoric giant animals, suggests a new study published in the journal Science.New evidence obtained by analysing a 130,...
First count of nation’s waterbirds released
22 March 2012
UNSW researchers have identified Australia’s most important wetlands for waterbirds, following one of the most extensive aerial surveys of its kind in the world.Teams of observers in light aircraft...
Sharp rise in cases of new strain of whooping cough
21 March 2012
Australia’s prolonged whooping cough epidemic has entered a disturbing new phase, with a study showing a new strain or genotype capable of evading the vaccine may be responsible for the sharp rise...
Mystery human fossils put spotlight on China
15 March 2012
Fossils from two caves in south-west China have revealed a previously unknown Stone Age people and give a rare glimpse of a recent stage of human evolution with startling implications for the early...
Opinion: We should have been prepared for the Fukushima tsunami
13 March 2012
A year ago the Tōhoku-Oki earthquake and resultant tsunami hit the Japanese coastline, triggering the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.A year on, many questions are being asked about how bad...
Global warming threat to coral reefs: can some species adapt?
10 March 2012
Coral reefs are among the ecosystems most severely threatened by global warming, but hopeful new evidence has emerged that some coral species may be able to adapt to warmer oceans.In a study...
Obesity surgery: losing the weight but not the stigma
9 March 2012
Obese people who lose weight will encounter far less social stigma and may even be seen as fitter than if they had been lean all along, but they may still face prejudice relating to how they lost...
Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe
8 March 2012
A proposed new time-keeping system tied to the orbiting of a neutron around an atomic nucleus could have such unprecedented accuracy that it neither gains nor loses 1/20th of a second in 14 billion...

February 2012

Y chromosome: odd man out but hanging on
23 February 2012
There’s something degenerate in every male (no, seriously). We members of the facial-hair-bearing sex carry, among the 23 pairs of chromosomes in every one of our cells, an odd pair of sex-...
Single-atom transistor is “perfect”
20 February 2012
In a remarkable feat of micro-engineering, UNSW physicists have created a working transistor consisting of a single atom placed precisely in a silicon crystal.The tiny electronic device, described...
Protein that directs cholesterol traffic identified
3 February 2012
A protein that directs traffic within human cells has been identified as playing a key role in the accumulation of so-called “bad” cholesterol, according to a new study.Little is known about how...
A new planet that’s potentially able to host liquid water
3 February 2012
A new planet that is the most likely candidate yet identified to be able to host liquid water has been found by an international team of astronomers.The planet, GJ 667Cc, lies only 22 light-years...

January 2012

Wires shrink to atomic scale
6 January 2012
The narrowest conducting wires in silicon ever made – just four atoms wide and one atom tall – have been shown to have the same electrical current carrying capability of copper, according to a new...