2011 Year in Australian Science

From the ABC Science Program

DISASTERS
La Nina caused flooding across large parts of Australia.
Cyclone Yasi, one of the largest tropical storms to cross the Australian coast.
Devastating Christchurch earthquake, which has geologists re-evaluating what lays beneath New Zealand’s surface.
Japan earthquake resulting in a tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.
31 October 2011 was the day the Earth’s human population passed the 7 billion mark.

Shining bright

The discovery of two interstellar clouds of gas thought to contain elements from the universe’s birth.
Squeezing light past the quantum limit.
Neutrinos appearing to travel faster than the speed of light.
Mmonster black holes and the discovery of a star that shouldn’t exist rounded out the top five.
Closing in on the Higgs boson, creating light out of nothing and teleporting Schrödinger’s cat.
Finding Earth-like planets three times; peering deep inside red giants, confirming how some supernova form and discovering a planet made of diamond.
Astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
China launched its proto-type space station called Heavenly Palace into orbit.
NASA eased its Messenger spacecraft into orbit around Mercury and launched the SUV-sized rover Curiosity to Mars.

Animal smarts

Asian elephants are as clever as chimpanzees when it comes to teamwork.
Pigeons can count, wasps and crows never forget a face, and dogs can sniff out cancer.
Emperor penguins use Mexican waves to stay warm, shrimp use rap to entice a mate, and that Tasmanian tigers weren’t capable of killing sheep.

Climate Change
Australian government passed a carbon reduction scheme.
Arctic sea ice reached a new low.
Australian scientists announced a successful carbon capture trial.

What’s good and bad for you

Drinking cocoa is good for memory, eating fish is good for the heart; comfort eating staves off depression and green tea may shave a few points off ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Too little salt is bad for you, sex may kill you, exercise could damage your heart.
Laughter really is the best medicine.

Drowning in friends and data

The more Facebook friends you have, the bigger your amygdala; and the site is a reliable method of measuring an individual’s ‘personality score’.
US researchers estimate we already have close to 600 exabytes stored on discs, chips and hard drives. And in May, German researchers announced they had transmitted data at a rate of 26 terabits per second – 260,000 times faster than the NBN.
Comic Sans font improves learning and some phone numbers elicit an emotional response.

Palaeontology
Found – one set of enormous eyes that roamed the oceans, Lucy the hominid was not a swinger and that Archaeopteryx is once again top of the evolutionary bird tree.

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