A tall glass of milk to line the stomach. Bouts of water between drinks. Pre-loading with carbs. Everyone, it seems, has their own tried and true method for preventing hangovers (how often they actually work is a different story altogether). But sure-fire ways of sidestepping the dreaded headaches, nausea and general discombobulation that can follow drinking sessions are rarely scientifically studied, instead living in the realms of onions-in-your-socks-to-prevent-colds-type remedies.
Yes, the search for a miracle prevention of hangovers has been fruitless – until now.
The pears have it
We’ve been researching pears with Horticulture Innovation Australia to discover the hidden benefits of the humble backyard fruit – beyond being cheaper than apples.
As well as finding that pears can lower cholesterol, relieve constipation and have anti-inflammatory effects, it also appears they can ward off hangovers AND lower blood alcohol levels.
In what could be one of the greatest ‘stumbled upon’ scientific findings since we discovered fast WiFi, this secret pear power has the potential to stimulate Friday afternoon pear purchases world-wide.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves…
We spoke to Professor Manny Noakes, our lead researcher on the project, to get the full slice on pears.
Are there any types of pears that work better than other? And what’s the best way to consume them?
At present, studies have only investigated the Korean (or Asian) pear, which has long been used as a traditional remedy for alcohol hangover. A number of compositional differences have been noted between the Korean pear and Western pear varieties, so further studies are needed to confirm these findings to determine whether these results could be replicated using other pear varieties. So far the effect has been seen from consuming 220ml Korean pear juice, although consumption of whole pears may produce a similar effect.
How exactly do the pears prevent hangovers – how did we find this out?
There may be several ways by which pears could prevent hangovers. Our review has uncovered both animal and human studies trying to answer this question. It appears that the factors in Korean pears act on the key enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to speed up alcohol metabolism and elimination or inhibition of alcohol absorption. In particular, reductions were seen in blood acetaldehyde levels, the toxic metabolic thought to be responsible for the hangover symptoms, with pear juice consumption.
What hangover symptoms can pears prevent?
Overall hangover severity, as measured by a 14 item hangover symptom scale, was significantly reduced in the Korean pear group compared to those having a placebo drink, with the most pronounced effect seen on the specific symptom of ‘trouble concentrating’.
Can I pear-binge after drinking to cure my hangover?
NO. The effect was only demonstrated if pears were consumed before alcohol consumption. There is no evidence that you can consume pairs after drinking and avoid a hangover.
And remember, the very best way to not get a hangover is to not drink in the first place.
Manny also warns this is only a preliminary scoping study, with the results yet to be finalised. Ultimately, her team hope to deliver a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on pears, pear components and relevant health measures. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Still thirsty for more? Here’s some other ways we’re helping Australians with their diet and health.
When I say ‘science’ you say ‘beaker’. When I say ‘science’ you say ‘white lab coats’. When I say ‘science’ you say ‘microscopes’. Why is it so few people say ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ and ‘collaboration’?
Science is the essential building block for a smart society and it’s got much, much more to offer than the high-school science stereotype that plagues us.
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where we’re headed, about our science masterplan for the next five years, and for us, science and innovation are inextricably linked.
But there are some challenges around Australia’s ability to be innovative. Currently Australia ranks 81st in world rankings for innovation efficiency. This is the bang for our buck we get when we transform innovation investment into results. If Australia ranked 81st in the world in a sport, ANY sport, we’d be outraged. Even New Zealand is ahead of us in this game.
Australia needs to pick up the game on ‘breakthrough innovation’ by creating new products and services – and potentially whole industries. We want to be at the centre of this, as the linchpin between business, government and the community.
And we’ve identified ways in which we’ll succeed in this new vision:
We already have 5,000 of the best and brightest minds in Australia. The great ideas are out there, we just need to find them. This year we crowd-sourced ideas from our staff, customers and thought leaders to set the direction for our 2015-2020 strategy.
Innovation is a team sport. We want to increase our connection with universities and other research organisations. We want more student engagement, to bring dynamism and vibrancy to our work culture.
True disruption comes with risk-taking and agility. We’ve set up a targeted fund for new commercial venture ideas from our people. This intensive accelerator program will involve external entrepreneurs, investors and some of our large industry customers.
We always have to start the conversation by asking the questions – who is the customer, what value do they need, and are we delivering? Our science should always deliver real impact.
Yes, real impact – the kind that makes your life better in some tangible way. This is not something new to us; we are well positioned to be Australia’s innovation catalyst. We are, after all, Australia’s largest patent holder and we’ve got 90 years of science impact under our belt.
Here’s just a few examples of how our innovation is already all around you:
1. The smart tech that’s keeping you snug at work.
Our OptiCOOL intelligent control technology uses lots of inputs, like weather, energy pricing and feedback from occupants, to adjust a building’s air-conditioning system and reduce energy consumption. The results? Up to 30 per cent reduction in energy use in 15 million square feet of floor space in Australia. That could include your desk at work.
2. The long-wear contact lenses you put in this morning.
Contact lenses were a game-changer last century, but they were rigid and not for night-time use. In 1991 we spearheaded an international collaboration that looked at using smarter materials to create a product that customers had been asking for. Ten years later and silicone hydrogen soft contact lenses made it onto the market and were an instant success. You’re welcome, eyeballs.
3. The fast WiFi you’re using on your phone or laptop or tablet.
There was life before WiFi? Well, not really. There was something, but it was a bit sad and lonely. Our astronomers set out to solve a ‘reverberation challenge’ to help them piece together the waves from black holes and from that wireless LAN was born. WiFi is now a fundamental part of our modern lives. Just consider how many times you’ve used it this last week.
4. The cotton on your shoulders, or legs, or feet.
Agriculture is a major player in the Australian economy but we’re always looking for efficiencies – less pesticides, better water use, higher yields. Since 1984 we’ve been doing just that, and now Australian cotton has the highest yields in the world, and more than 95 per cent of it is grown from our varieties.
5. The cereal you’re eating that contains more fibre than any other.
If you’re not a BARLEYmax fan, you should be. Our high fibre whole grain has two times the dietary fibre and four times the resistant starch of a regular grain. This superfood has the potential for lowering rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.
To read more about our new five-year strategy, and to find out how you can partner with us, head to our website.
It’s already an exciting time for Australia in the field of astronomy and space science. But we’ve just received an astronomical boost with the announcement of CSIRO’s role with the Breakthrough Prize Foundation’s (BPF) US$100 million dollar search for extraterrestrial intelligence, called Breakthrough Listen.
CSIRO has signed a multi-million dollar agreement to use its 64 metre Parkes radio telescope in the quest to search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Breakthrough Listen will be allocated a quarter of the science time available on the Parkes telescope from October 2016 for a period five years, on a full cost recovery basis.
The Parkes observations will be part of a larger set of initiatives to search for life in the universe. The ET hunters will also use time on the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia, operated by the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and a telescope at the University of California’s Lick Observatory.
CSIRO has the only capability for radio astronomy in the southern hemisphere that can deliver the scientific goals for the new initiative. The Parkes Radio Telescope is essential for the scientific integrity of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). It is ideally situated for a search such as this. The most interesting and richest parts of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, pass directly overhead. If we are going to detect intelligent life elsewhere, it is most likely going to be found in that part of the galaxy towards the centre of the Milky Way.
The Parkes Radio Telescope is also one of the world’s premier big dishes and has outstanding ability to detect weak signals that a search like this requires. It has always been at the forefront of discovery, from receiving video footage of the first Moon walk on 20 July 1969 (which was dramatised in the movie The Dish), to tracking NASA’s Curiosity rover during its descent onto Mars in 2012, to now once again searching for intelligent life.
It has also played a leading role in the detection and study of pulsars, small dense stars that can spin hundreds of times a second, the recent discovery of enigmatic (but boringly named) fast radio bursts, or FRBs, and in the search for gravitational waves.
Parkes also played a leading role in previous SETI searches. In 1995 the California-based SETI Institute used the telescope for six months for its Project Phoenix search. The Parkes telescope provided the critical capability to search the southern sky that could not be accessed using telescopes in the northern hemisphere.
The latest initiative is being led by a number of the world’s most eminent astrophysicists and astronomers. Professor Matthew Bailes, ARC Laureate Fellow at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, will be the Australian lead of the SETI observing team using the Parkes telescope.
The program will nicely complement the existing scientific uses of the Parkes telescope. Although it will take up a quarter of Parkes time, it will benefit the research undertaken during the other three-quarters of the time the telescope is in operation. It will enable even greater scientific capability to be provided to a wide range of astronomy research through both the financial support and through the provision of new data processing and analysis systems and techniques. Incredible advances in computing technology make it possible for this new search to scan much greater swaths of the radio spectrum than has ever before been explored.
Rather than trying to guess where on the radio dial astronomers might receive a signal, they can now search an entire region of the radio spectrum in a single observation. The dramatic increase in data processing capability has also meant that astronomers can analyse telescope data in new ways, searching for many different types of artificial signals. CSIRO is thrilled to be part of this global initiative which takes advantage of the significant advances that have been made in computation and signal processing since the search for extraterrestrial life began. The probability of detecting intelligent life is small but it is much greater today than ever before.
To be the first to discover intelligent life would be a phenomenal achievement not only for the scientific community but for all humankind.
Changing wildlife: this article is part of a series looking at how key species such as bees, insects and fish respond to environmental change, and what this means for the rest of the planet.
As the world warms, animals and plants will shift their ranges to keep pace with their favoured climate. While the changing distributions of species can tell us how climate change is affecting the natural world, it may also have a direct impact on us.
One good example is the disease carried by insects.
Those small, familiar flies called mosquitoes are responsible for much human suffering around the globe because of their ability to transmit diseases.
Could climate change cause these diseases to spread? While this an extremely important health question, the answer is far from simple.
Complicated life cycle
The life cycle of mosquitoes and its viral parasites is particularly complicated.
Only adult females consume blood, and the immature stages (larvae) live in fresh or brackish water, filtering out small organic particles.
The virus undergoes certain parts of its lifecycle inside particular mosquito organs, but also requires other organs in the vertebrate host to complete its life cycle. And to get into a vertebrate, such as us, it relies on a hungry blood-sucking insect.
These viruses always have other hosts besides humans, which may include native and domestic animals. The pathway that these viruses take to infect humans is often via our domestic animals, which are also bitten by the same mosquitoes that feed on us.
In addition, rates of virus transmission to humans is also affected by the human built environment, and also human behaviour.
Because mosquitoes breed in water, changes in rainfall patterns are likely to change the distribution and abundance of mosquitoes, and therefore could affect disease transmission.
Australian climate is characterised by its variability, however we have experienced a general trend towards increased spring and summer monsoonal rain across northern Australia, and decreased late autumn and winter rainfall in the south.
Kunjin virus is mainly transmitted by a small mosquito called Culex annulirostris, the common banded mosquito, in Australia. We are lucky because human infection rarely causes disease, even though Kunjin and the common-banded mosquito are widespread in Australia.
Kunjin’s close relative, the US strain of West Nile Virus is much more virulent, causing more human disease. These viruses are well known for their ability to mutate quickly, so they are always keeping medical authorities on their toes.
Higher than average rainfall and flooding in eastern Australia in the second half of 2010 and 2011 provided ideal conditions for breeding common banded mosquitoes, and in 2011 a dangerous strain of Kunjin appeared that caused acute encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in horses. This disease has only been detected in one human, however this mosquito feeds on both humans and horses.
This new virulent strain of Kunjin also appeared in new areas east of the Great Dividing Range, suggesting other unknown changes in transmission.
As temperatures increase, mosquito activity will begin earlier in the season and reach higher levels of abundance sooner, and maintain higher populations longer. These factors will all probably tend to increase the rate of transmission of Kunjin to both humans and animals.
While flooding may have helped spread Kunjin, drought may have helped another mosquito-borne virus.
It would be simple to assume that drought would reduce mosquito populations by reducing the larval habitat (water), and thereby reduce the incidence of mosquito-borne disease in Australia.
However, this is not necessarily the case. Another Australian mosquito, Aedes notoscriptus, the striped mosquito, is responsible for transmitting Ross River and Barmah Forest Virus in Australia.
The striped mosquito is unusual in comparison to its cousins because it breeds in small containers of water, such as tree holes in natural environments. The main carrier of Dengue in Australia, Aedes aegypti, shares this habit.
These small container habitats abound in Australia’s urban backyard, with water features, water and food bowls for pets, and various toys providing such breeding places.
With the drought, Australians became much more water wise, and installed various water storage devices in their gardens, ranging from buckets left out in a storm, to professionally installed rain tanks. All these are potential habitat for the striped mosquito to breed.
In this case drought has caused an increase in the abundance of a mosquito virus carrier because of a change in human behaviour.
The return of Dengue?
Dengue fever is transmitted in Australia by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. The mosquito is restricted to Queensland, and Dengue fever transmission is restricted to coastal northern Queensland.
Recent modelling predicts that moderate climate change would extend the Dengue risk zone to Brisbane, exposing much larger human populations to risk.
However, before the 1930s, Dengue fever transmission was known south almost to Sydney, and Aedes aegypti was known throughout mainland Australia except the deserts.
Both the mosquito, and the disease, have retreated to Queensland since then, and we don’t know why. What is clear is that we don’t really understand what controls the distribution of Aedes aegypti or Dengue in Australia, but given the contraction of the disease in historical time, it is unlikely that a warming climate will produce a simple response in the insect or the disease.
Australian insects will be affected by climate change, but simple predictions based on increasing average temperatures and changing rainfall patterns miss the important effects of complex biological interactions.
In addition, we are only just beginning to use models that are sophisticated enough to consider how insects might evolve under changing climate.
Investing in a deeper understanding of these complex biological webs, and their outcomes for human society, will result in great returns. Our predictions of the future state of Australian plants and animals will become more accurate and we will also improve human health and manage our biodiversity more sustainably into the future.
Wearable tech is everywhere. Take a glance at your colleague’s arm, you may see them sporting a new smart watch. The person sitting next to you on the train might be wearing shoes that count their steps. This technology has captured the imagination and interest of shoppers and inventors alike. And we’re not immune to the trend.
So it should come as no surprise that our scientists have a few wearable projects up their sleeve.
You may recall the electiFIED backpack Mashable featured earlier this year, or perhaps you read about our wireless ad-hoc positioning system (WASP) for tracking athletes? Well, we’re not done yet, because another of our favourite wearable projects is about to go global.
An Aussie aerospace company, TAE, has just signed an agreement to commercialise our Guardian Mentor Remote platform (GMR).
Think of GMR as a combination of Google Glass, Tom Cruise’s gloves from Minority Report and the ComBadge from Star Trek. GMR is an augmented reality technology that uses a wearable computer, helmet-mounted camera and a near-eye display to remotely connect technicians with aviation experts from around the world.
How will it help the aerospace industry? By connecting experts with technicians remotely, companies can undertake aircraft and engine repairs and maintenance without having to fly in specialist engineers or mechanics.
It’s not enough to connect a technician and an expert via a video conference. The GMR system allows an expert to see exactly what the technician is seeing, make suggestions, share technical documents and annotate the information in real-time.
For technicians it will be like having an expert in the room with them, even if they’re in another state or even another country. That means there’s no more waiting days to get aircraft back up and running.
Maintenance is a big issue for the aerospace industry. If a plane’s not operational, it can cost a company up to $12,000 per hour and worse cause massive delays. This is why the likes of Boeing and Aviation Australia have already trialled the GMR prototype. And now that TAE is commercialising this technology globally, our device is set to reduce aircraft down-time and maintenance costs for commercial, regional and defence aircraft operators worldwide.
The GMR is not just limited to the aerospace industry, already we are seeing interest from other sectors including the manufacturing, mining, automotive, paper and pulp and rail industries. It could even be used to provide remote medical assistance for field health workers and emergency scenarios.
For more of our astronomical feats, visit #CSIROSpace
By Indra Tomic
From the moment mankind looked up at the sky we’ve been fascinated by the possibility that we might not be alone in the Universe.
It’s been easy to let our imagination go into hyperdrive. We’ve fallen in love with ET, wanted to have Mr Spock over to a dinner party and dreamt of red cape shenanigans with Superman. Popular culture, and science fiction, have filled our minds with a breadth of extra-terrestrial characters because we want to believe there is more to this Universe than the humble limits of our Earth. After all, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, some very small with only a few million stars, and others possibly having as many as 400 billion stars.
Can we really be the only form of intelligent life out there?
The quest to solve this cosmic mystery has just gotten more interesting… and exciting. Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Yuri Milner and theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking announced in London yesterday that the Breakthrough Prize Foundation will provide $100 million to dramatically accelerate the search for intelligent life in the Universe.
This initiative will be the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth. It will involve an unprecedented survey of the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth and it will scan the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane.
The program is being led by the world’s most eminent leaders’ in astrophysics and astronomy using three of the largest and most capable radio telescope’s in the world, CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope, the Green Bank Telescope and Lick Observatory in the US.
We have the only capability for radio astronomy in the southern hemisphere that can deliver the scientific goals for the new initiative. Our Parkes Radio Telescope has always been at the forefront of space discovery for decades. We received video footage of the first Moon walk back on this day back in 1969, and we helped track NASA’s Curiosity rover during its descent onto Mars in 2012.
Actually, this isn’t the first time Parkes telescope has played a leading role in Searches for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). From February 1995 to March 2004, we were involved in the most ambitious SETI search conducted to date, called Project Phoenix. Even though it was successful in achieving many of its observing goals, there were no signs of ET detected.
The Parkes telescope provides critical and unparalleled capability to search the southern sky, with its ideal location it is perfectly positioned to provide the best and most powerful view of our galactic plane.
The planets have never been more aligned then they are today, making this endeavour possible – the availability of significant observing time on the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescopes; significant developments in the field of astrobiology; and incredible advances in computing technology, making it possible to scan greater swaths of the radio spectrum than even before.
Not only will the program deliver excellent science and contribute to world-leading astronomy, but it’s projects like this that will inspire scientists of the future in the pursuit of an answer to the fundamental question, ‘Are we alone?’.
To read more about our work with the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, have a look at the FAQs page on our website.