CSIRO Snapshot: December 2012
Issue 18 / 13 December 2012
  Thermometer Beach Aaron Thornton  
Termite Beetle Pre-packed meal

Merry, merry Geekmas

Geekmas logo

Have you been naughty or nice?

The good news is we're not checking- and we're the ones giving out the gifts this year.

We have irresistibly awesome stocking-stuffers to give away, from cocktail chemistry sets and Spock oven mitts, to microscopes for the iPhone.

No respectable geek should miss out.

Join us on Facebook and solve a science riddle each day to win a prize. We have 78 of them to giveaway over the 12 days of Geekmas... starting today.

The riddle for the first day of Geekmas:

We made a perfectly round sphere to be precise,
Inaccurate measurements do not suffice!
It looks like a mysterious crystal ball,
but will determine the mass of which unit, once and for all?

And today's prize- a Higgs Boson watch for those particle physicists out there... or those who just love a bit of science bling.

Enter now!

And do have yourself a jolly, merry Christmas from all of us here at CSIRO. We'll be back with Snapshot in February.


Mind the gap... for emission reduction


The gap between carbon dioxide emissions and the reductions needed to keep global warming to 2°C or below is becoming wider.

Global Carbon Project leader and our scientist Pep Canadell said the latest CO2 emissions continue to track at the high end of a range of emission scenarios.

Global CO2 emissions have increased by 58 per cent since 1990, rising 3 per cent in 2011, and 2.6 per cent in 2012.

Dr Canadell heads the Global Carbon Project which reported the new calculations in the most recent edition of Nature Climate Change.

"A shift to a 2°C pathway requires an immediate, large, and sustained global mitigation effort," Dr Canadell said.

More here.

There's gold in them thar termite hills!


Termite mounds in the West Australian goldfields have been found to contain high concentrations of gold – a sign there are larger deposits underneath.

“The insects bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit’s fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds,” Dr Aaron Stewart, CSIRO entomologist said.

He said they have found that insects carry metals in their bodies.
“Although the insects may not concentrate metals in their bodies, they actively rid their bodies of excess metals,” he said.

“This process shows up as little stones, much like kidney stones in people. This finding is important because these excretions are a driving force in redistribution of metals near the surface.”

Those little gold diggers.

More here.

Looking for a break in the surf zone


A small team of our oceanographers is using a suite of sensors, radar and video cameras to monitor beach change at Secret Harbour in WA.

Working with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Royal Australian Navy, the project aims to provide forecasts of ocean currents and eddies, and surface and subsurface ocean properties.

Ultimately, we are trying to build a capability to forecast changes in surf zone sand bars and gutters as sea, wind and wave conditions change," says CSIRO's Dr Graham Symonds.

The project will help develop a core capacity in wave and near-shore dynamics comparable with that available in ocean and atmosphere dynamics in Australia.

More here.

The Plague Soldier Beetle... not so nasty


An unfamiliar yellow and green beetle with a soft body may be a source of curiosity if it turns up in your garden. And the chances are, you've seen a few of these around lately.

Will it eat the plants, or bite people? A dozen of the beetles together might start to cause concern. But ten thousand of them festooning a tree are bound to raise alarm. Yet the insect in question won't harm either you or your plants.

Quite the opposite. Recent research has actually found that these little guys, the Plague Soldier Beetle, may help us develop new anti-biotic and anti-cancer related products.

More here.


Pre-packed meal

Lunch is ready, dinner is served.

We have developed two concept meal products using a patented application of an emerging food processing technology, high pressure processing (HPP).

The ready-to-eat meals, developed in conjunction with food industry marketing specialist, Ken Melia of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), were a highlight of the CSIRO-hosted International Nonthermal Food Processing Workshop on 16-17 October in Melbourne.

The workshop examined the opportunities and role of innovative nonthermal food processing technologies and was attended by 170 Australian and overseas food industry representatives.

Such innovation will be important for meeting increasing global food demand, especially in light of a highly urbanised population and lifestyle related health concerns.

Innovation is also crucial to the food processing sector, Australia's largest manufacturing industry.

"We're targeting the quality characteristics of these meals – namely, fresh-like attributes, colour, texture, nutritional content and extended shelf life – to be superior to those of other ready to eat meals on the market," Lloyd Simons, CSIRO Business Development Manager, explained.

Lloyd is fielding inquiries from food manufacturers, equipment and packaging suppliers and retailers to discuss co-development and commercialisation opportunities of the meals with us.

For more information about the workshop, go here or contact Lloyd here.

Scribbly gum tree

The iconic 'scribbles' on the smooth white trunks of Australian gum trees have intrigued and inspired many a scientist and poet for years.

They inspired May Gibbs in her books 'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie' and Judith Wright wrote of them:

The gum-tree stands by the spring/ I peeled its splitting bark/ And found the written track/ Of a life I could not read.

And yet we knew not what caused the scribbles. Until now.

Find out how we discovered the mothy graffiti artist behind these scribbles here.

How can science have a positive impact on human services? We're using evidence-based research and impressive online technology to explore how Australians can receive better services from Government.

Watch the video here.

Did you know the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Prize was an Australian?

Born in Adelaide, Lawrence Bragg was just 25 years old when he shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics with his father William.

The Braggs are the smart minds behind X-ray crystallography.

Find out more on the Helix blog here.


Pucker up. There are more than 1300 species of mistletoe worldwide.

Get more #4oclockfact

Health bites logo

Recipes, tips & facts

Did you know there's a bit of science behind how to best arrange items in your fridge? Or that adding vinegar to your rice (à la sushi) helps lower the GI? What about how to make healthy banana and strawberry popsicles for the little ones?

Health Bites will be your one-stop shop for all our health and nutrition tidbits, including recipes from our Total Wellbeing series.

We'll be launching in less than ten days with a perfect prawn salad recipe, followed by tips on the festive season centrepiece, the turkey.

You can find our Bites on our blog, Pinterest or Facebook.

Aaron Thornton

What a tall poppy

World, meet Dr Aaron Thornton, one of our mathematicians and winner of the 2012 Victorian Young Tall Poppy award.

Aaron is researching new crystals called zeolithic imidazolate frameworkds (ZIFs) that can remove pollutants, like carbon dioxide, from air and water.

Watch Aaron explaining his work here.

Book cover

Living with fire

Hundreds of thousands of Australians spend their lives either threatened by fire, or dealing with the aftermath of it. It is a thread that binds many of us together, even if we have never met.

A beautifully produced new book from CSIRO Publishing- Living with Fire: People, Nature and History of Steels Creek – tells the extraordinary before-and-after story of a small community in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.

It is here that 10 lives were lost and two-thirds of the homes destroyed on February 7, 2009 – a day now known to all Australians as Black Saturday.

More here or watch the video here.

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