All posts by Pacharina Perez

Laser light waves point the way to super-accurate measurements

Scientists in Australia and Scotland have discovered a new way to use lasers for measurements, which brings a new level of quantum precision never before available.

The improved sensitivity will enable the next generation of sensors with a wide variety of optical and quantum technologies.

“We have used the wave properties of light to create grainy patterns due to interference, termed ‘speckle’, which offers a sensitive probe of both the light and the environment,” says Professor Kishan Dholakia, who is jointly at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, and the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews.

Professor Dholakia worked with Morgan Facchin and Dr Graham Bruce from the University of St Andrews to ‘scramble’ light into a grainy pattern. They used two techniques – a piece of glass fibre the width of a human hair and a hollow sphere where the light bounces around many times before emerging.

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Humans hastened the extinction of the woolly mammoth

Woolly mammoths were under threat from climate warming but could have survived for 4,000 years longer than they did, if it hadn’t been for humans, a Danish-Australian led research group has found.

 “Humans were a crucial and chronic driver of population declines of woolly mammoths,” says Damien Fordham from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

His research, as a member of an international team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Adelaide and University of Copenhagen, debunks the popular theory that a warming climate critically reduced mammoth populations, leaving so few that humans merely picked off the last survivors at the end.

“Until now, it has been difficult to disentangle the exact roles that climate warming and human hunting had on extinction,” said Associate Professor Fordham.

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Dustbusters get in at the birth of baby planets

Thanks to the latest high-resolution telescopes and instruments, we are now able to study ‘baby’ planets shortly after they have formed.

This is a widespread by-product of the process of star formation itself and occurs within relatively thin and dense protostellar discs made of gas and dust that orbit the newborn star.

The European Union is supporting this research through its Dustbusters program, a global network of astronomical research institutes including Monash University in Australia, where astrophysicists were the first to discover a new planet inside a protoplanetary disc.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, they mapped the flow of gas around the young star known as HD97048 about 500 light years away in the constellation Chamaeleon by looking for where the flow is disturbed by the presence of a planet.

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MAVIS: optometrist to the stars

A new instrument will give Earthbound astronomers a clear view to rival Hubble

An ambitious collaboration led by Australian, French, and Italian scientists, together with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) located in South America, is aimed at fixing the distortion of images on land-based telescopes caused by the Earth’s atmosphere by designing a giant pair of “glasses” to correct the vision of a Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the ESO.

Dubbed MAVIS, standing for MCAO Assisted Visible Imager and Spectrograph, the instrument is designed to correct for atmospheric interference in real time to deliver crystal clear images and provide 3D data portraits of objects millions of light years in the distance.

Once deployed MAVIS will help deliver images that will rival those of the Hubble Space Telescope in detail and clarity, says project scientist Associate Professor Richard McDermid from Macquarie University in Sydney.

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Australia’s time machine gets down to business

As the vast Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope is being built in Australia and South Africa with billions of euros in European funding, CSIRO’s precursor project, the ASKAP radio telescope, is starting a full set of surveys for eight separate science projects.

ASKAP, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory about 800 km north of Perth, consists of an array of 36 radio telescopes, each 12 metres in diameter, giving it a very wide view of the sky.

“It’s one of the most remote places on Earth, far away from terrestrial radio noise,” says Professor Elaine Sadler, principal investigator of one of ASKAP’s science projects dubbed FLASH, for First Large Absorption Survey in H1.

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Tiny lens looks at the heart of the matter

The world’s tiniest endoscope, with a camera lens too small to see with the naked eye, will soon be predicting the risk of heart attacks, thanks to scientists in Adelaide and Stuttgart.

Forget cancer, COVID, or even road accidents, heart disease is the number one killer worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that cardiovascular disease takes nearly 18 million lives a year.

In Australia alone, an estimated 430,000 people have had a heart attack at some point in their lives. Every year, 57,000 Australians suffer one – that’s an attack every 10 minutes.

And after a first heart attack, around 1 in 10 people are likely to be readmitted to the hospital for a second attack within a year.

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Bird brains help cockatoos adapt to an urban environment

How cockatoos adapt to an urban environment

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are not a common sight in southern Germany, but Australian researcher Dr Lucy Aplin is making sure these iconic Australian birds are well known there.

She works at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and has just been awarded an EU grant to delve further into the cognition of the cockatoos – work she began in the suburbs of Sydney.

Dr Aplin’s goal is to understand the birds’ behaviour and social structure using a combination of citizen science and direct observation.

“I study social learning, social networks and culture, mostly in wild populations of birds,” she says. “Broadly, I am interested in the interactions between cognition, social dynamics and transmission of behaviour.”

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Steel by design

Building a more sustainable Europe

A University of Sydney engineering professor is helping change the way Europe thinks about using steel in its cities.

Professor Kim Rasmussen is providing designers, engineers, and other professionals, with powerful tools for innovation in stainless steel structures.

He has spent a working lifetime studying the extents to which steel can be more safely and economically used in construction.

“I’ve always been fascinated by buckling,” he says. “The notion that something can be geometrically perfect but then when you put a small additional load on it the whole thing suddenly buckles is just fascinating to me.

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