All posts by Lydia Hales

Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Many of today’s big questions can only be answered with new mathematical and statistical tools.

That’s what the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers are working on, and they’re finding real-world applications in areas as diverse as:

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Supercharged rice to feed the world

The discovery of C4 photosynthesis at a Brisbane sugar refinery 50 years ago spawned a whole new field of plant biology and is now well on the way to feeding the world.

Professors Bob Furbank and Susanne von Caemmerer are two of the scientists involved in creating ‘supercharged’ rice to feed the world. Credit: James Walsh, ANU
Professors Bob Furbank and Susanne von Caemmerer are two of the scientists involved in creating ‘supercharged’ rice to feed the world.
Credit: James Walsh, ANU

Three billion people rely on rice for survival, but C4 plants like maize and sugarcane grow faster, have higher yields, and are more drought-tolerant.

“C4 plants photosynthesise faster thanks to a biochemical ‘supercharger’ that concentrates CO2 in specialised structures in their leaves,” says Professor Bob Furbank from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

“If we can modify rice to use the C4 pathway, instead of C3, we can improve rice production and double its water efficiency.”

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Indonesian and Australian scientists test new TB vaccine targets

Better vaccines are needed for the global fight against tuberculosis (TB). The Global Fund reports an estimated nine million new cases globally per year of TB, which is second only to AIDS as the world’s most deadly infectious disease.

Indonesia had more than 320,000 reported cases in 2014 according to the World Health Organization, while Australia’s reported cases were just over 1,000. But the rise of drug-resistant TB poses a threat to all countries.

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Brain training to give tendon pain the boot

Footy player, netballer and ballet dancer available for interview

Re-training the brain with painless exercises may be the key to stopping recurring tendon pain, according to Melbourne researchers.

Dr Ebonie Rio
Dr Ebonie Rio

AFL, basketball and netball players are the major sufferers, with tendon pain in the knee debilitating and long-lasting. The injury can sideline a player or cause them to give up the sport entirely.

“More than 50 per cent of people who stop sport because of tendon pain still suffer from that pain 15 years later,” says Dr Ebonie Rio of the Monash University Tendon Research group.

“Our simple exercise is revolutionising how we treat tendinopathy.”

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