Tag Archives: Feature

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. 

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Who cares about the blobfish?

Hugh Possingham and his team are making conservation more efficient. They’re helping to save less fashionable threatened species by getting more bang for the bucks donated to cute and cuddly species.

The team of ecologists and mathematicians in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions (CEED) worked with the New Zealand government to assess how to better spend money that is donated to conservation. They’ve shown that by protecting habitats shared by several different species, the money donated to charismatic ones can be stretched further to save other species as well.

Could this koala help save less cute species? 9credit: Liana Joseph
Could this koala help save less cute species? (credit: Liana Joseph)

“The way we currently attempt to save species is inefficient, choosing species that are popular or charismatic, like koalas and tigers, over those that are less well known or even ugly, like the blobfish,” says Hugh, ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of CEED.

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Which prostate cancers can be left alone?

Only 10 per cent of prostate cancers are lethal, but which ones? Australian researchers have tracked the mutations that drive the cancer to spread through the body, and eventually become lethal.

Bioinformaticians can use Circos plots to visualise how cancer genomes differ from healthy ones. Credit: Peter Casamento
Bioinformaticians can use Circos plots to visualise how cancer genomes differ from healthy ones. Credit: Peter Casamento

The research shows they can be detected in the original tumour and even in blood samples. Testing the DNA of prostate cancer cells may help clinicians in the future identify which cancers need to be urgently removed and which ones might simply be monitored.

“Some advanced cancer cells evolve the ability to break away from their original location, travel through the bloodstream and create secondary tumours in another part of the body,” explains Clare Sloggett, Bioinformatician and Research Fellow at the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI). “Cells in this state of metastasis are the most deadly.”

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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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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

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Not to be sniffed at! Nose spray offers pain relief in childbirth

Pain relief during childbirth may soon be delivered via a self-administered nasal spray, thanks to research from University of South Australia midwifery researcher, Dr Julie Fleet.

Well known for its use in delivering pain relief to children and in managing pain in patients being transferred by ambulance, the nasal spray analgesic drug, fentanyl, has now been shown to be effective in relieving labour pain.

Julie Fleet, University of South Australia)
Julie Fleet, University of South Australia

In fact Julie and her colleagues at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide have found that fentanyl nose spray is just as effective as pethidine injections, which are commonly used, but fentanyl has fewer side effects for both mother and baby.

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