If you are ever in Adelaide make sure you go and have a look at this painting. Not only is the composition of the fish so unusual and eye-catching, the colours and fish are spectacular.
Another unusual feature of this painting is that is was done in oil. Most natural history paintings at the time were in watercolour. In fact this is thought to be the earliest oil painting done in Australia.
John Lewin came to Australian in 1800 and was the Artist in Residence for the colony of NSW. The shark shown in the painting, a Scalloped hammerhead shark, was named Sphyrna lewini after Lewin in 1834.
This painting shows the fish arranged on the shore at Kirribilli Point (where the Governor General and the Prime Minister have their Sydney digs) and in the background is Dawes Point where the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge now is.
Now for some fishy facts: The fish in the painting must have been common to the harbour waters. They are from top: snapper, hammerhead shark, crimson squirrelfish, estuary perch, rainbow wrasse and sea mullet.
A clear change in salinity has been detected in the world’s oceans, signalling shifts and an acceleration in the global rainfall and evaporation cycle.
In a paper published today in the journal Science, Australian scientists from the CSIRO and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, reported changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear fingerprint of climate change.
Lead author, Dr Paul Durack, said that by looking at observed ocean salinity changes and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models, they determined the water cycle has strengthened by four percent from 1950-2000. This is twice the response projected by current generation global climate models.
“Salinity shifts in the ocean confirm climate and the global water cycle have changed.
“These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming,” said Dr Durack, a post-doctoral fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
With a projected temperature rise of 3ºC by the end of the century, the researchers estimate a 24 per cent acceleration of the water cycle is possible.
Scientists have struggled to determine coherent estimates of water cycle changes from land-based data because surface observations of rainfall and evaporation are sparse. However, according to the team, global oceans provide a much clearer picture.
“The ocean matters to climate – it stores 97 per cent of the world’s water; receives 80 per cent of the all surface rainfall and; it has absorbed 90 per cent of the Earth’s energy increase associated with past atmospheric warming,” said co-author, Dr Richard Matear of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship.
“Warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere is expected to strengthen the water cycle largely driven by the ability of warmer air to hold and redistribute more moisture.”
He said the intensification is an enhancement in the patterns of exchange between evaporation and rainfall and with oceans accounting for 71 per cent of the global surface area the change is clearly represented in ocean surface salinity patterns.
In the study, the scientists combined 50-year observed global surface salinity changes with changes from global climate models and found “robust evidence of an intensified global water cycle at a rate of about eight percent per degree of surface warming,” Dr Durack said.
Dr Durack said the patterns are not uniform, with regional variations agreeing with the ‘rich get richer’ mechanism, where wet regions get wetter and dry regions drier.
He said a change in freshwater availability in response to climate change poses a more significant risk to human societies and ecosystems than warming alone.
“Changes to the global water cycle and the corresponding redistribution of rainfall will affect food availability, stability, access and utilization,” Dr Durack said.
Dr Susan Wijffels, co-Chair of the global Argo project and a co-author on the study, said maintenance of the present fleet of around 3500 profilers is critical to observing continuing changes to salinity in the upper oceans.
Even though Australians eat more dietary fibre than many other western countries, bowel cancer is still the second most commonly reported cancer in Australia with 30 new cases diagnosed every day.
“We have been trying to find out why Australians aren’t showing a reduction in bowel cancer rates and we think the answer is that we don’t eat enough resistant starch, which is one of the major components of dietary fibre,” Dr Topping said.
These findings, published in the latest issue of The Journal of Nutrition, reinforce the fact that dietary fibre is beneficial for human health, but go further to show that fibre rich in resistant starch is even better.
“It’s not just the amount of fibre that we eat that’s important, but the diversity of fibre in our diet,” Dr Topping said.
“We studied various sources of resistant starch, including corn and wheat, and the results suggest they could all protect against DNA damage in the colon, which is what can cause cancer.”
“Research suggests that improving our diets could go a long way to reducing our personal risk of developing this disease, which would also have the follow-on benefit of reducing healthcare costs associated with bowel cancer.
“These new studies suggest that increasing the amount of resistant starch in our diets may be one important step along the path to reducing the burden of bowel cancer. It takes about 15 years from the time of the first bowel cancer-initiating DNA damage to the development of full-blown bowel cancer, so the earlier we improve our diets the better,” Dr Lockett said.
The recommended intake of resistant starch is around 20 grams a day, which is almost four times greater than a typical western diet provides. Twenty grams is equivalent to eating three cups of cooked lentils.
“Currently, it is difficult for Australians to get this much from a typical diet,” Dr Topping said.
“We have already had success in developing barley with high levels of resistant starch, and now our focus is on increasing the levels of resistant starch in commonly consumed grains like wheat. These grains could then be used in breads and cereals to make it easier for Australians to get enough resistant starch from their diet.”
Resistant starch is a component of dietary fibre that resists digestion in the small intestine and instead passes through to the bowel where it has positive effects on bowel health. Resistant starch is sometimes called the third type of dietary fibre (in addition to soluble and insoluble fibre) and is found in legumes, some wholegrain breads and cereals, firm bananas and cooked and cooled potatoes, pasta and rice.
Thanks to exceptional strength and toughness, insect silk is potentially a key component in a wide range of new products and applications from composite fibres for the aviation and marine industries, to medical applications including wound repair, drug delivery, and repairing and replacing human tissues such as membranes, ligaments, blood vessels and cartilage.
Bringing the new insect silk products to the global market is the focus of a partnership between CIRO and life science industry supplier, Lonza. The agreement is to advance and market new insect silks for a broad range of medical and industrial applications.
CSIRO is bringing scientific discovery, biomedical and materials science expertise to the partnership, according to CSIRO Business Development and Commercialisation General Manager, Cameron Begley.
“CSIRO has identified a broad range of insect silks that could be produced sustainably and used for a wide range of industrial and medical applications,” Mr Begley said.
“We have found ways to convert the bee silk into a range of different forms, from micro-particles and sponges through to spun fibres that can lead to knitted and woven fabrics.”
Lonza brings its biotechnology and life-science product and service expertise to the partnership and is already providing process development for the recombinant bee silk protein.
“Lonza is excited by the potential of insect silks as a relatively untapped route to sustainable and life enhancing products for our current markets and beyond, and it is encouraging to see such strong projects resulting from our Lonza Innovation for Future Technology initiative,” Allison Haitz, Lonza’s Head of Global Innovation, said.
“Lonza has been very impressed with CSIRO’s research and development work. This is a world class combination with CSIRO’s research team developing new ways of processing silks and achieving continuous strong silk fibre production, and Lonza’s experience and capability in manufacturing to take that research to the marketplace and support the successful commercialisation.”
Razorback scabbardfish: Certainly one of the coolest common names we’ve had. This one is a rare species of cutlassfish- these are predatory fish, long and slender, usually blue or silver in colour and look much like eels.
Not exactly a looker with that overbite. But what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in size- it can grow up to 2.5metres in length. It’s found all over the world but nationally only off Western Australia. It survives off a gourmet diet of anchovy, hake and squid.
We’re not hugely fond of it. A great common name, yes. But we actually selected this sucker on account of its scientific name, Assurger anzac, on account of… well, if we have to explain why then this whole exercise has been a waste of time and we should’ve profiled the clownfish instead.
By Merrin Fabre
Planes are like the whales of the sky. They’re big, they travel through a fluid, and they need a lot of fuel to get them moving. But while there is a lot of krill freely available for whales, the fuel needed to power planes is quite costly.
So what can be done save a little cash and hopefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Reducing the weight of an aircraft certainly reduces the amount of fuel needed for the thousands of take-offs during its service life – and therefore the cost to fly it.
Our researchers in the area of flexible electronics have been working with an airline company to look at ways of potentially reducing the weight and efficiency of planes.
Using OLEDs – or organic light-emitting diodes – on planes could be a potential solution. OLEDs emit light when an electric current is applied to them.
The advantages of OLEDs are that they are lightweight, efficient and flexible. OLED panels can also emit light across a range of colours and, in contrast to normal light globes, they emit light in a very diffuse and even way – perfect for mood lighting in an aircraft cabin interior.
‘Every kilo of weight saved on a plane saves you money’, says Gerry Wilson the leader of the Flexible Electronics Theme.
‘Light weight flexible electronics could be one way of providing an environmentally friendly solution to reducing the cost of aviation.’
OLEDs are starting to appear in the latest television screens, computer monitors, and small, portable displays such as mobile phones and cameras.
‘One possible use of OLEDs on planes is in seat-mounted TV screens – not only would the screen be lighter (by replacing the glass) but the viewing experience would be better due to the wider viewing angle and better colour rendition’, says Gerry.
It all seems too good to be true. There is still more work to be done to apply these technologies to planes but with planes like the Boeing 747-400ER that carries more than 240 370L of fuel for one long-haul flight there is a definite need to lighten that load.
Goblin Fish: Rarely seen, the Goblin Fish is one nasty customer. It is a close relation of the Stonefish and is very venomous. The fish has a row of 17 spines along its back, which are closely webbed. Get stung by one of these you may suffer shock and even collapse. Also known as the saddlehead.
They live in sand and mud in waters 3m to 50m deep. They grow to about 20cm and are found in Tas, SA, NSW and Southern WA and VIC.
By Merrin Fabre
While some of us have hairy backs (not a good mental image) there are those in nature that are lucky enough to have exoskeletons made of nano-size photonic crystals: back bling.
The lucky beetle – the opal weevil – has evolved to produce 3D crystals that can reflect light at any angle and produce bright, vivid colours that we see as metallic or iridescent.
“Nature has been producing nanostructures, such as the weevil’s crystals, since the dawn of time”, says Amanda Barnard the leader of our Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory.
“I think is it generally assumed that nanomaterials are a relatively new phenomenon but some nanoparticles have been present in animals and minerals for millions of years and are a natural occurrence.”
Amanda, along with Haibo Guo, has just released a book about nature’s nanostructures.
Here is a video of Amanda talking about her work.
The book, Nature’s Nanostructures, looks at naturally occurring nanostructures and it covers the scientific spectrum including entomology, geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, molecular biology and health.
“There is a variety of naturally occurring nanoparticles and nanostructures and nature has been using them for functional technology,” Amanda says.
An example of this is birds that recognise weak geomagnetic fields. The Earth’s magnetic field provides and important source of directional information for many organisms, especially birds. The book looks at magneto-reception found in the beaks of homing pigeons and how the nanostructures in their beaks work as an efficient magnetic field amplifier.
So, once again scientists are looking to nature to find out how things are done so that we can eventually copy it.
“By studying how these nanomaterials are naturally produced we will be one step closer to being able to replicate these materials in a lab environment and exploring their potential applications in science and industry,” says Amanda.
By Sarah Wood
This week is the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s maiden voyage and her sinking.
While there will be endless documentaries on our television, new books (one even written by one of our own CSIRO staff member and best selling Titanic author Daniel Klistorner) and the release of James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ in 3D, something about Titanic just captures people.
It had me thinking about one of our most successful CSIRO YouTube videos You’re on the Titanic when it sinks
At one point this video had over 900,000 views before we moved it over to our official CSIRO channel in 2009. It now has over 486,000 giving it a total of around 1.3 million views, which when you think about it is pretty impressive really.
While the video might seem pretty primitive compared to James Cameron’s Hollywood blockbuster (hey we weren’t working with the same budget) back in 2005 it demonstrated how we’d taken science out of the lab and placed it in the hands of animators.
The software developed by CSIRO to model the water and the martini, uses chaos theory and other mathematical algorithms in a technique called Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH). This method models millions of tiny water particles in a fluid – similar to the way 100s and 1000s seem to flow if you poured them out of a jar.
CSIRO scientists were using the SPH technique to model the fluid and particle processes in big industrial machines when they realised that the software they created could help animators realistically represent fluids in movies.
When animators create water and waves for big budget films like Titanic or Pirates of the Caribbean, the process can take months and hours of meticulous tweaking of wire meshes -the structure over which animators tell the water to flow.
But CSIRO’s methods were much faster and extremely accurate enabling animators to easily and economically create special effects such as bubbles, eddies, spray, smoke and even fire!
So CSIRO created a plug-in for MAYA, the software of choice for high-end 3D animators to allow them access to this technology.
To create this Titanic video our fluid modelling scientists worked with production company Complete Post to test out the plug-in. They also had other leading film companies test the software such Animal Logic and Weta Digital in New Zealand who worked on animations for Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes and TinTin.
While we’ve moved on from Titanic, we’re now modelling other disasters such as tsunamis, dam breaks, floods, mudslides and storm surges and our methods have certainly come a long way!
“In recent years, the huge increase in computer power and speed, along with advances in algorithm development, have allowed mathematical modellers like us to make big strides in our research,” says Mahesh Prakash of CSIRO’s computational modelling team.
Faster and more powerful supercomputers are making it possible to model millions even billions of particles making our videos look far more cinematic! We also have a full time graphics artist on staff that makes our fluid modelling videos look amazing and we’ve even gone 3D to display our videos in all their glory!
If you’ll be in Sydney for the CeBIT IT trade fair from 22-24 May come see our latest videos in 3D on the CSIRO stand.
Check out some of our more recent videos here:
Modelling Dam breaks and Tsunamis and other geophysical events
European Carp: There is nothing to like about these fish. They stink. They breed like Easter Bunnies. They destroy waterways and rivers. They should be wiped out.
Over the years people have tried to convince us to eat them, but not even a beer batter will make these things taste better then a car tyre.
There is nothing you need to know about them except if you see one on your Easter camping trip – kill it.
By Merrin Fabre
Whilst some bacteria can provide health benefits there are others that can do annoying things – like kill you. So in order to save ourselves we should probably kill them first.
So, stand aside bacterial wipes, hand sanitisers and antiseptic sprays there is a new bug zapper in town.
Bring in the plasma flashlight – a torch that emits a plasma jet that kills bacteria on the skin in an instant. Developed by a group of Chinese and Australian scientists, including CSIRO, the flashlight is completely mobile, light, efficient, and works at room temperature.
Due to its mobility it could be used in ambulance emergency calls, natural disaster sites, military combat operations and many other instances where treatment is required in remote locations.
Kostya Ostrikov from CSIRO was one of the researchers working on the flashlight.
“‘The plasma flashlight is an exciting development in potential health treatments,” Kostya said. “It not only inactivates individual bacterial cells but also bacterial biofilms.”
Biofilms are multilayered bacterial colonies which can give the bacterium addition resistance. The plasma flashlight effectively inactivated a thick biofilm of one of the most antibiotic and heat-resistant bacteria, Enterococcus faecalis – a bacterium which often infects the root canals during dental treatments.
“We used an extreme example to demonstrate that the plasma flashlight can be very effective even at room temperature,” Kostya said. ” For individual bacteria, the inactivation time could be just tens of seconds.”
“There is potential for this device to be used to kill pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, spores or fungi.
“It can then be used to clean and sterilise medical equipment and wounds. It could also be used for plasma-assisted coagulation to help heal wounds, plus it could be used to treat cancers such as skin cancer.”
But it doesn’t have to be restricted to medical use.
“This device could be miniaturised and used in hygiene treatments such as toothbrushes or chopping boards in the kitchen,” Kostya said.
One day you could be zapping your bacteria away with your very own plasma toothbrush.
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The ability of oceanographers to study how the Indian Ocean shapes Australian and global climate was helped this week by the arrival in Hobart of a 20-metre South African yacht to take on board a new suite of Argo ocean measuring floats for deployment in the next three months.
The Lady Amber, skippered by Captain Peter Flanagan, has been under charter to CSIRO to seed the Indian Ocean with Argo profilers, in a region east and south of territory where there is known pirate activity. The yacht will take on around 5 to 10 profilers in Hobart for deployment on her return journey to South Africa.
Nearly 3200 Argo profilers report every 10 days on ocean conditions, providing a global map of temperature and salinity for the upper two kilometres of ocean. Australia is the second largest contributor to the international Argo program, behind the United States, with nearly 400 active floats operating in the Indian Ocean and Southern Oceans and Tasman Sea.
The profilers also give observations critical to Australia’s ocean forecast system, operated by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Last year US and Australian naval vessels deployed instruments nearer the Horn of Africa where gaps existed in the global fleet as a result of pirates operating in the region.
According to Dr Susan Wijffels, co-Chair of the international Argo project, distribution of the profiling instruments is a real challenge for oceanographers.
“With shipping companies consolidating their routes and our need to have instruments operating roughly every 300 kms, the charter of the Lady Amber has been critical for us to fill fleet gaps in the Indian Ocean,” Dr Wijffels said.
“The oceans are the fly wheel of our climate system and the international Argo program now provides 3,000 ocean watch towers from which to observe how the ocean is changing year-to-year and decade-to-decade.”
She said the latest published results showing the ocean warming trend extended back 100 years helps vindicates the investment of more than 30 countries in this volunteer observing program. The warming has been detected, grading from .59-degree Celsius at the surface to .12-degree Celsius at 900m depth.
The program is coordinated through the UNESCO and the World Meteorological Organisation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology. Australia’s contribution is through the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship and Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has a regional office in Perth, funded jointly through the Federal and West Australian governments.
French scientist, who coordinates Argo support, said that after a decade of implementation using mainly research vessels and merchants ships, global observing programmes are now investigating green, flexible, free or non-profit based, and dedicated deployment platforms. Lady Amber may take on more Argo profilers in Indian. Plans for operations in the South Atlantic Ocean are already under study.
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For all of you that haven’t heard CSIRO has set up shop in Chile and today the Centre’s Northern Node in Antofagasta will be opened.
We’ve joined with the Chileans to work on some of the challenges for our respective minerals industries – through the CSIRO Chile International Centre of Excellence in Mining and Mineral Processing.
With the support (and combined brain power) of our partners we have dedicated the next 10 years to creating technologies that will hopefully reduce the environmental impact of mining while also increasing productivity.
Why Chile, you ask? Chile has very similar mining environments to Australia, where issues like water scarcity, energy efficiency, arid environments and deeper mines are ongoing challenges.
The CSIRO Chile Centre of Excellence is co-funded by CORFO and supported by the Universities of Antofagasta and Chile, Cicitem and major industry partners Anglo American North S.A. and South S.A., Antofagasta Minerals S.A., BHP Chile Inc, Codelco, Xstrata Copper Chile.
Over the next 18 months, CSIRO will host artist Eleanor Gates-Stuart as she creates her new work StellrScopE.
StellrScopE is a look into the physical and biological traits of plants and through this Eleanor aims to tell the story about the Canberra connection to the science behind Australia’s major food crop, wheat.
“Wheat is something that is such a part of our everyday lives, but we often don’t consider much about it beyond what we see as food products,” Eleanor said. “I want to look at the complex biological structure of wheat and the hundreds of years of research knowledge that we have about wheat to communicate its beauty, complexity and importance.”
Eleanor will be working with Matthew Morell, Future Grains Theme Leader in CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship to understand how the wheat genome affects its physical traits. Also helping her out will be David Lovell, Bioinformatics and Analytics Leader, CSIRO Transformational Biology to explore the role of the information sciences in modern bioscience.
Eleanor’s residency at CSIRO has been made possible by the Centenary Science Art Commission, a commission to produce a major science-based artwork as part of Centenary of Canberra celebrations.
The Centenary Science Art Commission StellrScopE is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government and Australian Government.