Healthier trucks and clean air underground—partners in mining technologies

American mines are safer and more efficient thanks to Australian technologies

‘Blood tests’ for big machines

Mining companies across America are increasing the reliability of their trucks, diggers, and other big machines, and saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

They’re giving these big machines regular health tests and comparing the results with a global database for that machine.

The result? They’re fixing machines before they break. This preventative health system was developed by an Australian company, Dingo, which now has 40 people working at its bases in Denver, Brisbane, and Calgary.

Continue reading Healthier trucks and clean air underground—partners in mining technologies

Tracking space junk

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

The mystery of leaf size solved

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

A scarce Sarah: new blood group making transfusions safer

Further research into a rare blood type first recorded in Australia 20 years ago will continue to make transfusions and pregnancies safer for others.

“Now families with the SARA blood type can be tested for the gene and this will help safely manage future pregnancies,” says Associate Professor Catherine Hyland of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

“This genetic testing has implications for others, particularly since similar problems can occur during transfusion or pregnancy for people with similar rare blood types.”

Blood types are more complex than simply combinations of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ with A, B, O, or Rh—there are hundreds of different antigens (proteins and sugars on the surface of our cells) across the 36-plus blood groups.

In the 1990s, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service realised the antigens on a special donor named Sarah’s red blood cells weren’t like any previously recorded. But it wasn’t until 2010 that the unusual antigen was investigated again: the Canadian Blood Service reported that a pregnant woman’s immune system had begun attacking her foetus, which they suspected had inherited the same rare blood type recorded in Australia. Continue reading A scarce Sarah: new blood group making transfusions safer

Stellar immigration

DUNCAN FORBES IS IDENTIFYING ALIEN STARS. CREDIT: PAUL JONES.

If the Milky Way did grow by swallowing up smaller galaxies, then another team suspects it knows where in the Milky Way some of those alien stars are hiding.

Duncan Forbes of Swinburne University of Technology and his Canadian colleague Terry Bridges are using Hubble Space Telescope data to identify clusters of alien stars, using the fact that their age and chemical composition differs from their neighbours.

Continue reading Stellar immigration