Algorithms normally used to track aircraft, ships and other vehicles are being used to monitor space junk and predict where it will go.
Currently the US Department of Defense tracks around 17,300 objects the size of a softball or larger, orbiting around the Earth at speeds of up to seven kilometres per second.
They can cause serious damage if they collide with something else. Last year a tiny paint fleck caused a crack in a window of the International Space Station.
Continue reading Tracking space junk
Researchers from The University of Melbourne are learning how to modify existing Indonesian and Australian ports so earthquakes don’t do such devastating damage to sea trade.
“What we currently have is a recipe for disaster. Some of the port infrastructure is over 100 years old and wasn’t designed to cope with the loads they are currently bearing, let alone an earthquake,” says Dr Massoud Sofi.
Continue reading Earthquake-proofing ports
A lens just a billionth of a metre thick could transform phone cameras. Swinburne researchers have created ultra-thin lenses that cap an optical fibre, and can produce images with the quality and sharpness of much larger glass lenses.
Continue reading Lenses a fraction of a hair’s width, faster communication and better solar cells
The brainpower of 18 institutions and more than $30 million are expanding the net to detect gravitational waves—disturbances in the fabric of spacetime—and cement Australia’s role in the emerging field.
Continue reading Gravitational waves—looking further
A fleet of autonomous robots is being developed by Queensland scientists to kill crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), and monitor the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
Dr Matthew Dunbabin and Dr Feras Dayoub of QUT are working with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to create the RangerBot, following successful field trials of QUT’s COTSBot in 2016.
Continue reading Robo reef protector
Hearing voices is normal, says Swinburne’s Professor Susan Rossell. But sometimes those voices can cause extreme disruption.
Susan suspects our brain’s ability (or inability) to tune out our internal voice may be involved in the auditory hallucinations experienced by many with schizophrenia.
Continue reading Tuning out our internal voices
Dating of ancient human teeth discovered in a Sumatran cave site suggests modern humans were in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought.
The international research, led by Dr Kira Westaway from Macquarie University and published in Nature, has pushed back the timing of when humans first left Africa, their arrival in Southeast Asia, and the first time they lived in rainforests.
Continue reading Modern humans were in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought
Why is a banana leaf a million times bigger than a common heather leaf? Why are leaves generally much larger in tropical jungles than in temperate forests and deserts? The textbooks say it’s a balance between water availability and overheating.
But it’s not that simple.
A global team of researchers, led by Associate Professor Ian Wright from Macquarie University, revealed that in much of the world the key limiting factor for leaf size is night temperature and the risk of frost damage to leaves.
Continue reading The mystery of leaf size solved
Macquarie University researchers are exploring the earth, oceans, fire and sky to answer big questions of the past and future.
Continue reading Macquarie University
Making motorcycle clothing safer, a robotic arm for stroke rehab, prospecting for gold using prehistoric volcanoes—these are some of the highlights of the past year featured in Stories of Australian Science 2017.
Australian scientists are making silk-derived implants to fix damaged eardrums, and working to stop people going into flood waters. They’re flying unmanned drones to record our reefs in incredible detail, and teaching bots to search out and destroy crown-of-thorns starfish. They’re keeping stored red blood cells in shape, testing water safety with fingernail-sized sensors, expanding the net for gravitational waves, and much more.
Continue reading Stories of Australian Science 2017