The quest for the missing proteins in rice

Researchers have identified over 5,700 new proteins in rice and are calling for a global effort to find the remaining missing proteins, in a new study co-authored by Macquarie University.

The international team of scientists from Australia, Iran and Japan say there’s an estimated 35,000 proteins encoded by the rice genome, and yet we still don’t have experimental evidence for 82 per cent of them.

This is important because rice is the major food source for more than half the world’s population, and in order for it to grow in warmer climates and with less water we will need to better understand rice at the molecular level. Continue reading The quest for the missing proteins in rice

The shape of a perfect storm: saving lives by predicting firestorms

Correction: an earlier version stated the tool is being formally trialed by the NSW Rural Fire Service. It is currently in use, but formal trials ended in 2016.

Firestorms are a nightmare for emergency services and anyone in their path. They occur when a bushfire meets a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental conditions and creates a thunderstorm.

Dr Rachel Badlan and Associate Professor Jason Sharples are part of a team of experts from UNSW Canberra and ACT Emergency Services that has found the shape of a fire is an important factor in whether it will turn into a firestorm.

Fires that form expansive areas of active flame, rather than spreading as a relatively thin fire-front, are more likely to produce higher smoke plumes and turn into firestorms, the researchers found.

This finding is being used to underpin further development of a predictive model for firestorms. The model was trialed in the 2015 and 2016 fire seasons by the ACT Emergency Services Agency and the NSW Rural Fire Service, and now forms part of the national dialogue around extreme bushfire development.  

Continue reading The shape of a perfect storm: saving lives by predicting firestorms

Slipped discs: robot shows it’s not all bending and twisting

High res photos available below.  

Video of Dhara and the bending robot available here

Some slipped disc injuries might be caused by movements other than the commonly blamed bending and twisting, according to new research by South Australian engineers.

It’s a finding that will lead to a better understanding of the motions that put people at greatest risk of a slipped disc and help develop more robust guidelines for safe lifting.

Continue reading Slipped discs: robot shows it’s not all bending and twisting

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.

Continue reading Indonesian and Australian scientists test new TB vaccine targets

Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

The possibility of a link between vitamin D deficiency and pneumonia is being investigated in two studies by Indonesian and Australian scientists in Indonesia.

They’re tracking the incidence and severity in early childhood of respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, asthma, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis, in hospitals and the community, in the hope of providing more information for treatment and management for respiratory diseases.

A post-delivery mother with a midwife, after cord blood has been collected
A mother and her newborn with a midwife, after cord blood has been collected. Credit: Mr Noor Qodri H

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five in the country, and around six million young Indonesians suffer from it each year, according to a 2008 study. This collaboration is going to update those 2008 figures, and hopefully lower them – while trying to find the causes of it and other respiratory tract infections. Continue reading Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

Power to the islands

Over sixty-five million Indonesians live off the grid. But what does that mean in the era of micro-grids, batteries and efficient solar panels? And how do communities change with 24/7 energy?

Providing reliable electric power is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the remote islands and landlocked areas of Indonesia and of Australia’s north, a priority for both countries.

But there’s much more to it than installing the right mix of technologies. Bringing night-time activity, television, the internet and smart machines within the reach of people who have never had access to them before involves huge, potentially disruptive changes to their daily lives, their economic and political relationships, their whole culture.

Access to new technologies may have huge impacts on behaviour. Credit: Max Richter
Access to new technologies may have huge impacts on behaviour. Credit: Max Richter

A team of Australian and Indonesian scientists and social scientists is coming to grips with the scope of the problem by studying two sites in Indonesia where a start has already been made on introducing electricity. The seed project is financed by the Australia Indonesia Centre. 

Continue reading Power to the islands

Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull

Melbourne and Indonesian scientists work to improve shipping efficiency

Scientists available for interview in Bahasa Indonesia and English. Video overlay and photos of ferry available below.

Read the release in Bahasa Indonesia.

Every shipping manager wages an endless battle against fouling – the bacteria, seaweed, barnacles and other marine life that take residence on the hull of ships. This biofouling is thought to add more than 20 per cent to the fuel costs of commercial shipping. That’s a big cost for the maritime trading nations of Australia and Indonesia.

Using lasers and a window in a ship’s hull, researchers will assess how quickly the efficiency of the ship declines, and then how to balance fuel efficiency and the cost of putting a ship in dry dock to clean it.

Ships travelling between Java and South Samatra had 30 cm holes installed in their hulls for the research. Credit: Nadia Astari
A ship travelling between Java and South Samatra has had 30 centimetre windows installed in its hull for the research. Credit: Nadia Astari

Continue reading Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull