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CSIRO Snapshot: November 2012
Issue 17 / 7 November 2012
  Vials Graph Experiment  
Peacock mantis Map Jobe Watson
 
IN BRIEF

Hendra horse vaccine arrives

Horse

Only a few days ago we launched the world's first commercially available Hendra vaccine for horses.

This vaccine is the culmination of a scientific journey that dates back to the emergence of Hendra virus in 1994.

Sadly, it has claimed the lives of more than 60 horses and four people.

All human infections with Hendra virus have occurred following exposure to infected horses and direct contact with their bodily fluids. We believed vaccinating horses would provide an opportunity to break the chain of virus transmission from flying foxes to horses, and then to people.

The vaccine was developed in collaboration with four international organisations including Pfizer Animal Health and two organisations in the US.

This breakthrough is a testament to the strength of true collaboration and partnership... but it's not a silver bullet.

It's important to ensure that we continue to protect the health of our animals and people.

Read more here or listen to the podcast here.

Deborah Middleton, Senior Veterinary Pathologist

TOP OF THE NEWS

No sh*t - a new test for bowel cancer

Vials

An effective, reliable, affordable blood based test for bowel cancer has been the ultimate aim for many scientists working in molecular diagnostics around the world.

An Australian team has now made a major advance, identifying a biomarker with promisingly high accuracy rates for detection.

"Another screening option for bowel cancer is an exciting development. We'd expect a routine blood test will appeal to many, providing a much needed boost to participation rates for bowel cancer screening," Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Julien Wiggins said.

The test is the result of over five years of scientific collaboration between CSIRO, Clinical Genomics and Flinders University in Adelaide.

More here.

Dinosaurs, deadly blows and dumpling maths

Peacock mantis

Strangely enough, putting that phrase into the Google machine actually takes you where we want you to go.

That is, to the new, thought-provoking and science-loving Helix@CSIRO blog.

Launched only a few days ago, it's already packed full of great articles, quizzes and polls for the young and young at heart.

Find out how and why we estimate the weight of dinosaurs. Or, how the beautiful peacock mantis, pictured above, sucker punches its prey at the speed of a bullet. And yes, one of our authors has even made some awesome Venn diagrams using dumplings.

More here.

Where there's tweets there's fire

Graph

LOL cats and celebrities might be our favourite things to talk about on Twitter, but would you tweet in an emergency?

Some people certainly do.

Over in New Zealand the #eqnz hashtag has its finger on Christchurch's seismic pulse.

We've created software tools to analyse Twitter posts and look for emergencies. The software recently gave Queensland fire services an extra 25 minutes' warning that a grass fire was threatening an outback hospital.

Our social media scientists help organisations gather information from social media and analyse it to:

  • detect emergency situations
  • explore issues that are important to the community
  • look for outbreaks of disease
  • manage company reputations

More here.

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Treetops to laptops with Google Earth

Map

Detailed satellite imagery about Australian landscapes will soon be only a button push away for land managers in community and non-profit sectors thanks to a partnership between Australian scientists and Google.

“Researchers will be able to use Google’s enormous cloud computing power to contribute their expertise and environmental data to deliver easy to use maps and tools for millions of users world-wide,” Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network's AusCover facility director Dr Alex Held said.

One of the tools to be made available in Google's Earth Engine will be a vegetation monitoring tool. It will enable land managers to see if vegetation is in a healthy condition or being impacted by things like pests, diseases, fire or feral animals.

More here.

 

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the business
Jobe Watson

Game on - top athletes to be tracked

There are only two degrees of separation between us and Jobe Watson, captain of the Essendon Football Club (above).

We've signed an agreement with Catapult Sports, a Melbourne-based company leading the world in athlete tracking devices, to take our wireless tracking technology to some of the world's best sports teams. Like Essendon.

Our wireless position location technology solves the problem of tracking athletes indoors where you can't get a GPS signal or in areas where there is interference such as large football stadiums.

The technology was originally developed for the mining industry for tracking staff and vehicles in mines to improve safety.

Athlete tracking systems are valuable for many aspects of sports including game tactics, fitness and player effectiveness analysis and perfecting certain athlete movements.

This deal with Catapult Sports will allow the company to integrate our technology into Catapult's existing athlete tracking devices to assist with tracking athletes indoors.

Catapult already has an extensive list of customers including almost all English Premier League teams, NRL, AFL, American Football and Basketball teams, hockey, rowing, sailing teams and high performance sports research centres.

More here.

ON THE RECORD
Flower

Biodiversity, cybernoses & drones

Why should I care about biodiversity?

This is a valid question, particularly in a world that faces a changing climate.

There are also other things to worry - global food shortages, getting the kids to school on time and exercising.

But we need to recognise that biodiversity is what allows us to breathe, drink and eat.

Steve Morton, Andy Sheppard and Mark Lonsdale explain.

We're developing a bio-electronic nose, or Cybernose, a portable device that can be used to smell.

And what a sensitive little nose we've made. It can detect chemicals at the level of one drop in 20,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Watch the video here.

In what is believed to be a world-first for a non-military drone, an Unmanned Airborne Vehicle (UAV) was able to locate a dummy of a missing bushwalker without human intervention.

Listen to the podcast on the Annual Outback Rescue Challenge and what happened to poor Outback Joe here.

#4oclockfact

The first beer was made by accident in ancient Egypt when bread got wet and fermented

Get more #4oclockfact

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Our People
Gorge

Desert knowledge not lost on us

We often rant about our people- how wonderful they are and the amazing work they do.

Meg Mooney is no exception. On a recent trip to Central Australia, we discovered how Meg's project aims to bring science, language and literacy together in local communities outside of Alice Springs.

By teaching two-way science in schools, in local languages, this project captures desert knowledge for the science community while reviving that knowledge in the local community through the classroom.

More here.

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A QUICK ASIDE
Computer

The broadband connected home

Most of us have broadband in our homes but imagine the health, education and entertainment services we could access if we all had fast reliable broadband access whether we lived in the city or the bush.

A report by our Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation discusses the changing environment of the broadband connected home, the technologies that are affecting it, and its capacity to support new applications and services.

More here.

Ball lightning

Great balls of lightning

Sightings of balls of lightning have been made for centuries around the world- usually the size of a grapefruit and lasting up to twenty seconds - but no explanation of how it occurs has been universally accepted by science.

Even more mysterious are sightings of balls of lightning forming on glass and appearing in homes and in aeroplanes.

Our scientist John Lowke has been studying ball lightning since the sixties. He's never seen it, but has spoken to eye witnesses and in a new scientific paper, he gives the first mathematical solution explaining the birth of ball lightning- and how it can pass through glass.

More here.
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Don't Miss It
Experiment

Fun holiday science for the young ones

Play with robots, launch a rocket or screen print your own t-shirt. Interested? Well, we think your young ones will certainly be.

We offer a whole raft of holiday programs over the summer to keep the little ones entertained, and the bigger ones sane.

Take a look at what's on offer on the CSIRO education website.

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