Sunday July 1, 2012: It’s the day that time stands still. Well, at least for one second.
At 09:59:59 AEST on Sunday morning, our clocks will tick over to 09:59:60 before hitting 10 o’clock. That’s right folks, you’re about to experience a minute with 61 seconds.
Chances are you previously experienced a leap second in 2008, 2005 and 1998. In the past, they have happened more than you may realise. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) is actually based on atomic clocks and our Earth’s wobble on its axis means that occasionally, Earth gets slightly out of sync.
Every so often the people who control time, a.k.a. the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, announce when we need a leap second. Unlike leap days, leap seconds occur simultaneously worldwide.
This year we would like you to share your second. As the quivering seconds hand approaches the hour, consider what you do with your extra time (all 1000 milliseconds of it).
Whether it’s a long leap, you’re reading the Sunday paper or catching the last 30 minutes of McDonalds breakfast, we would like to know.
Take a photo or share a leap second thought by tweeting us with the hashtag #leapsec2012 or post it on our Facebook wall.
And please, be punctual.
Leap second times:
|UTC time||Sat, 30 June||23:59:60|
|Australian East Coast||Sunday 1 July||09:59:60|
|Adelaide, Darwin||Sunday 1 July||09:29:60|
|Perth||Sunday 1 July||07:59:60|
Spangled Emperor: They are yellow to yellowish brown with blue markings on the head and sides of body but the cheeks lack scales.
They grow to about 86cm in length and weigh between 4kg and 6.5kg.
Found in Continental Shelf waters at depths ranging from 2m to 75m. They prefer a hard bottom and in shallower waters they like areas of coral and the sand around them.
Found from south-western Western Australia, around the tropical north and south on the east coast to the central coast of New South Wales.
The picture above is CSIRO’s Dr Rich Pillans about to release a tagged Spangled Emperor in the Ningaloo Marine Park, northwest Western Australia.
Since November 2007, scientists from CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship have tagged over 300 fish in the Ningaloo area off WA’s North West Cape as part of a Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) project.
Research gathered shows that some fish species in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park spend most of their time close to home, staying on the reef rather than travelling significant distances, as was previously thought. Around 40 per cent of tagged Spangled Emperor (an important sport fish, also known as nor-west snapper) remained within hundreds of metres of where they were originally captured. Data also showed that highly mobile species like Gold Spot Trevally and grey reef sharks spent the majority of time within just a few kilometres of where they were tagged.
The research aims to identify what influences the movement patterns and habitat use of fishes in the park, which encompasses the majority of Ningaloo Reef, the largest fringing reef in Australia. The new data on the long-term movement patterns of sharks and other fish in the park will have important implications for future management decisions on the size and placement of sanctuary zones. Currently 34 per cent of the park is reserved as sanctuaries designed to protect marine animals and their habitat from human disturbance.
DON’T FORGET TO ENTER FFT COMPETITION! DETAILS HERE
ENTRIES CLOSE 5PM TODAY
It is about 30,000 light years from Earth but it is moving at an estimated 9.6 million (yes, MILLION) kilometers an hour.
Researchers using three different telescopes – NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton in space, and the Parkes radio telescope in Australia – may have found the fastest moving pulsar ever seen.
The evidence for the potentially record-breaking speed pulsar comes, in part, from the features highlighted in the composite image below. X-ray observations from Chandra (green) and XMM-Newton (purple) have been combined with infrared data from the 2MASS project and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey (colored red, green and blue, but appearing in the image as white).
Pulsars are very cool -They are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth, much the way a lighthouse beam does.
HEREare some audio of a pulsars. One of the audio files is from the pulsar PSR B1937+21. This is the second fastest known pulsar – spinning at about 642 times a second. The surface of the pulsar is moving at about 1/7 of the velocity of light and shows the enormous gravitational forces which stop the pulsar flying apart from centrifugal forces. The fastest-spinning pulsar is PSR J1748-2446ad, which clicks over at about 716 times a second.
CSIRO is looking for journalists who encourage and showcase exceptional reporting which promotes awareness of science to Australians living in rural and regional areas.
The 2012 CSIRO Award for Science Journalism will be awarded for a body of work which publicises scientific advances that have, or will, further the social and economic interests of Australians.
The award is open to journalists who either work in rural and regional areas or those whose work is for a rural or regional audience.
The winner will be recognised for the quality, clarity and breadth of their science journalism and their commitment to telling science stories to the Australian community in support of how complex science is changing the world.
The winner will receive a $5000 travel grant to further their career.
Applications close Friday 3 August 2012.
Download application HERE
The 2011 winner was Sarah Clarke who is the ABC’s national environment and science correspondent reporting for both ABC Radio and Television.
By Simon Hunter
If you thought that black was chic think again, charcoal is fast becoming the colour of choice – well at least at CSIRO. True, we can’t quite compare our labs to the catwalks of Paris or Milan, but this season our designs (scientific) are set to cause quite a stir.
Naturally we’re not referring to fashion, but a new designer material made from charcoal has the potential to transform Australia’s steel industry.
Known as biochar, it’s a charcoal-like substance that can be designed for particular applications in steelmaking. By using different organic matter or biomass, heating it for different lengths of time and at different temperatures we can change its properties.
The smart part is that when used in the production of steel, it helps to reduce emissions by replacing coal and coke, with a greenhouse-neutral and renewable substitute.
Due to its chemical structure biochar is difficult for microbes to break down, which helps to reduce the amount of carbon produced when making steel.
One big advantage in Australia is the availability and supply of sustainable, natural waste that can be used to produce biochar. So far, we have developed the process for producing steel in this way and we’re working with BlueScope Steel and OneSteel to refine it.
And unlike our fashion sense, which is definitely more lab coat than Lacroix, we’re pretty certain this technology has real trendsetting potential.
Listen to Sharif Jahanshahi, leader of sustainable metal production research: HERE
Unmanned aircraft could provide vital intelligence to help Australian authorities fight natural disasters, such as the 2011 Queensland floods, thanks to a $7 million project underway in Brisbane.
Project ResQu brings together the nation’s top aerospace experts from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Boeing, Insitu Pacific and CSIRO.
Associate Professor Duncan Campbell, Director of the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) at QUT, said the project was a world-leading one that would fast-track research to help unmanned aircraft become airborne for routine operations sooner.
“As a result of our research, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) fitted with cameras will be able to help pinpoint communities and people in need of rescue during natural disasters and to regularly monitor the health of the environment such as finding invasive weeds in rainforests.
“This potentially life-saving technology will not only help provide accurate information during disasters but also enable air rescue crews to better target their response.”
He said had UAVs been able to fly in civil airspace during last year’s Queensland floods, they could have played a critical role in assisting in the disaster response.
“Because they can fly for extended periods of time in conditions considered too dangerous for manned aircraft, they are ideally suited to search and rescue activities as well as flood mapping, conducting damage assessments and delivering aid to remote communities,” he said.
“We anticipate completing our research by mid 2014. CASA is currently developing new guidance material for UAS (unmanned aerial systems) and has a longer term project to review Civil Aviation Safety Regulation 101. One of the targets for Project ResQu is to make recommendations to CASA by the end of 2014 for possible inclusion in the updated regulation.”
ARCAA will contribute to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s review of the regulations.
Project ResQu will enable the fast-tracking of research to fit unmanned aircraft with smart technologies to enable them to both sense and avoid other aircraft and to land safely in emergencies. These are currently the two key technical impediments to the greater use of unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace.
Dr Jonathan Roberts, leader of CSIRO’s Autonomous Systems Lab, said the project was also going to demonstrate the use of unmanned aircraft over rainforests for difficult inspection tasks.
“The team will be exploring how small autonomous robot helicopters can be used to find invasive weeds in our rainforests,” Dr Roberts said.
“Insitu Pacific is already using our ScanEagle UAV for marine mammal monitoring off the Queensland coast,” said Andrew Duggan, Managing Director of Insitu Pacific.
“There is significant potential for use of UAVs for other land-based civilian applications if we can get appropriate technology and processes in place for management of the airspace.”
Michael Edwards, General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology-Australia, said Project ResQu highlighted the depth of aerospace and research talent in Australia.
“Australia is leading the world in many aspects of investigating the use of UAVs for land-based civilian applications,” Mr Edwards said.
“Queensland and Australia has a rich seam of aerospace research and development expertise and this project is a great example of how we’re harnessing research for practical applications.”
Professor Campbell said Project ResQu would also conduct studies into the general safety of operations, a key part of the development of regulations to allow the wider use of unmanned aircraft in Australia.
Project ResQu is supported by Boeing Research & Technology-Australia (A$2M) and Insitu Pacific (A$718,000), QUT (A$1.9M) CSIRO (A$1M) and the Queensland Government (A$2M).
MEDIA: Sarah Wood Ph: 02 9325 3227 E: Sarah.Wood@csiro.au
By Crystal Ladiges
A friend of mine who lives interstate recently came to stay with me for a few months. It worked out beautifully for both of us. She had somewhere to rest her head, and I had someone to take my dog Benny for walks around the neighbourhood. And being a 35kg Chusky, Benny is very keen on walks. Long walks. Every. Single. Day.
So, what’s this got to do with CSIRO and science you ask?
Having my friend stay made me appreciate how mutually beneficial this type of arrangement can be – which got me thinking about Enterprise Connect’s Researchers in Business (RiB) program.
Under the program, a CSIRO researcher is ‘embedded’ in an eligible small or medium business for 2 – 12 months, helping to develop and implement new ideas with commercial potential.
It works out well for all concerned. Our researchers get to help solve real-life industry problems, while businesses get access to our scientific expertise, bringing with it competitive advantage.
The RiB program helps break down the cultural divide between business and the research sector, accelerating the adoption of new ideas and technologies to benefit Australian industry.
To top it off, the Department of Innovation will actually co-contribute up to 50 per cent of salary costs (up to $50,000) to fund a researcher’s stay.
So, if you’re a business owner you might want to think about getting a CSIRO researcher in to help with your R&D.
As for me? It might just be time to get a dog walker
By Kim Pullen – Australian National Insect Collection
The edge of a leaf would not normally be a smart place for an insect to lay an egg. A hungry caterpillar or sawfly larva might inadvertently eat it, on its way to demolishing the whole leaf. But amazingly, a trigonalid wasp egg actually needs to be eaten before it can successfully hatch into a larva.
Taeniogonalos venatoria is an Australian trigonalid, found in inland parts of the south-east of the continent. It is a small wasp, marked with yellow and brown on a mostly black body. The female uses a hooked apparatus on the underside of her abdomen to grasp the edge of a gum leaf and insert an egg. That egg will not get any further in life unless it is eaten by a ‘spitfire’, the larva of a sawfly.
Eggs of venatoria are very small, about one-eighth of a millimetre long. The spitfire won’t notice one as it fatefully munches its way along the edge of the leaf. Once inside the spitfire, the tiny egg hatches. The venatoria larva penetrates the gut wall of its unfortunate host and starts to feed on its body substances as an internal parasite.
The host spitfire carries on eating gum leaves until in late winter when, satiated, it leaves the tree together with a writhing mass of other spitfires and they bury themselves in the soil, preparing to change into the pupa stage.
The venatoria parasite in its goulish wanderings inside the spitfire’s body may come across another parasite; it may then start to parasitise that parasite – called hyperparasitism – or simply consume the competitor. It will also cannibalise any other venatoria larva it meets. It continues to grow and eventually breaks out of its poor host but continues eating it from the outside: it is now an external parasite. The cycle is completed when a fresh adult Taeniogonalos venatoria emerges from the soil, and flies off to look for a drink of nectar and a mate.
Bight Skate: A slow growing, large and late maturing skate lives in quite deep waters from about 150m to 700m on the continental shelf from New South Wales to Western Australia – including Tasmania. They live for at least 16 years.
There is not a lot know about the biology of the skate and it could be solitary as an adult and tends to be patchy in distribution.
This species is impacted by trawling but also occupies large areas of lightly-trawled to non-fished grounds along the southern and southwestern coast of Australia. Semi-virgin populations occur in the Great Australian Bight.
Females grow to about a maximum size of 185cm in length and males 156cm.
*Some of the information above is from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
MEDIA RELEASE from Australian Antarctic Division
The 2012 Antarctic Medal has been awarded to four people for outstanding service to the Australian Antarctic program.
The Antarctic medals were awarded to oceanographer Dr Steve Rintoul and medical practitioner Dr James Doube, with a posthumous award for meteorologist Dr Neil Adams. A clasp to the Antarctic Medal was awarded to Dr Graham Robertson.
The Governor General, Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce AC announced the awards as part of Midwinter celebrations today.
As a recipient of the award for a second time Dr Graham Robertson received a clasp to the Antarctic Medal in recognition of his research on ways to reduce seabird bycatch in long line fisheries, including developing an underwater bait setting machine.
Dr Robertson was first presented the honour in 1989 for his contribution to the scientific knowledge of Emperor penguins.
He has spent more than two decades working in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, including long periods in remote field locations and on fishing vessels, often under arduous conditions.
Dr Robertson has been a very influential force in domestic and international scientific forums, including the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Oceanographer, Dr Steve Rintoul, received the award for his leadership and outstanding contribution to science and Australia’s Antarctic program.
He has undertaken 14 marine science voyages, 11 as Chief Scientist and has spent more than 13 months in the Southern Ocean.
Dr Rintoul’s work has improved the world’s understanding of the workings of the Southern Ocean and its significance in the global climate system.
He has most recently proved that deep Antarctic water is becoming fresher and warmer at a much higher rate than previously thought – an observation of crucial importance for future climate predictions.
Dr Rintoul is a part of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and much of his work feeds into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
Medical practitioner Dr James Doube received the award for outstanding service to Antarctic expeditions to Macquarie Island.
Dr Doube was the Station Doctor, Search and Rescue Leader, Field Training Officer and Watercraft Operator over a period of more than 3 years.
He has an exceptional level of skill across a variety disciplines including generalist medicine, expedition medicine, public health and occupational medicine.
Dr Doube has been described as “an inspiration to other doctors practicing remote medicine”.
Meteorologist and scientist Dr Neil Adams has been awarded a posthumous Antarctic Medal.
Dr Adams was the Manager of the Bureau’s Antarctic Meteorological Section and spent three decades supporting Australia’s Antarctic program, including three summers and one winter in Antarctica.
Dr Adams developed forecasting infrastructure which underpins the Bureau’s Antarctic forecasting service including the polar Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) suite; the observational data and NWP model output viewing system; the Australian Antarctic Division aviation-based Automatic Weather Station network; and the Bureau’s satellite facilities in Antarctica.
Dr Adams exceptional abilities as a forecaster contributed immensely to the achievement of scientific programs across many years. He was crucial to the safe work of Australian’s in Antarctica, with his forecasts supporting the Australian Antarctic Division’s station, traverse, shipping, flights and deep field activities.
Dr Adams passed away in March this year.
The Australian Antarctic Medal was established in 1987 and is an award in the Meritorious Service Awards category of the Australian Honours System.
It replaced the (British) Imperial Polar Medal and its variations which date back to 1857 for service in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
By Angela Beggs
Let me just say that in my primary school days the term slag had a completely different meaning than it does here now – one more closely related to the production of saliva than that of steel.
If a classmate turned to me and declared they have a pilot plant that processes 100 kilograms of slag per minute, I’d be running for cover with my lunch box strapped to my head as protection.
Thankfully, this slag story has a far more promising and dryer ending than the last scenario could have.
In the steel industry, slag is a high volume by-product from the metal smelting process. A steelworks that produces one million tonnes of steel a year also produces around a quarter of a million tonnes of molten slag.
Slag is commonly air-cooled in large pits and then used as a material for road works, but another cooling process uses water to produce granules for cement production. This process reduces the greenhouse gas emissions involved, but it consumes large amounts of water and can cause nasty air pollution.
Dry granulation, on the other hand, saves the water that would have been lost to the atmosphere, estimated at up to 60 gigalitres (that’s 60 billion litres!) a year for the steel industry globally.
In dry granulation, molten slag is poured on to a spinning disc and broken up into droplets. When the droplets contact the air, a heat exchange takes place in which the air becomes hot and the slag cold. The process captures the heat and uses it for other purposes, like electricity production.
All of this while reducing the world steel industry’s gas emissions by around 60 million tonnes per year.
Our dry slag team is now working with leading international engineering companies to conduct industrial scale piloting that will involve processing one tonne of slag per minute.
Now, where’s my lunch box?
The slideshow above is from a Google search of Barramundi – there are more photos of men in hats holding a Barra than you can poke a stick at.
Barramundi: A species widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific region from the Persian Gulf, through Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia.
Known locally as Barra – they have large, silver scales, which may become darker or lighter, depending on their environment. Their bodies can reach up to 1.8m long.
(news@csiro recently found that “Barra” can be used in almost any circumstance in Northern Australia)
Q: How are you feeling?
Q: What are you doing today?
Q: What did you do last night?
Q: When will you get that report to me?
“I can’t be barraed doing that.”
Barramundi are demersal, inhabiting coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons and rivers; they are found in clear to turbid water, usually within a temperature range of 26−30C. This species does not undertake extensive migrations within or between river systems, which has presumably influenced establishment of genetically distinct stocks in Northern Australia.
Barramundi are mainly a summertime fish, but can be caught all year round, and may be found frolicking in mud. They are usually targeted using both hard and soft-bodied lures.
They feed on crustaceans, molluscs, and smaller fish(including its own species); juveniles feed on zooplankton. It lives in rivers and moves to estuaries and tidal flats to spawn.
At the start of the monsoon, males migrate downriver to meet females, which lay very large numbers of eggs (several millions each). The adults do not guard the eggs or the fry, which require brackish water to develop.
The species is sequentially hermaphroditic, with most individuals maturing as males and becoming female after at least one spawning season; most of the larger specimens are therefore female. Fish held in captivity sometimes demonstrate features atypical of fish in the wild: they change sex at a smaller size, exhibit a higher proportion of protogyny and some males do not undergo sexual inversion.
NOTE: Don’t forget the FFT competition to win Sharks and Rays of Australia. Look at FFT last week for details.
Construction of RV Investigator is moving along quickly and here's the first installment of time lapse footage from the Sembawang Shipyard, where Australia's new marine research vessel is being built.
By Helen Sim
Huw Morgan, who curates this blog, confesses to having eaten crickets and spiders. In Vietnam. Deep-fried. And how were they? “Crunchy.”
Eating insects is something many cultures do. In Australia, bogong moths, honey ants and witchetty grubs have been on the menu. For those who have not yet indulged, consider: insects may in future come to a plate near you.
In the Wall Street Journal last year two Dutch entomologists pointed out the advantages of eating insects. They’re “high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc”, “easier to raise than livestock” and “produce less waste”. (To which one might add, they might be more acceptable to some vegetarians and animal rights activists.It’s hard to imagine a scandal over slaughterhouse practices if the animals being dispatched are mealworms.)
Outraged readers posted their displeasure: “You couldn’t pay me to substitute insects for meat … I’d start raising my own cattle and chickens before that EVER happened.” Someone who’d sampled a few kinds of critters was not impressed: “Sand worms are OK, but they scream for ketchup.”
But eating insects does have advantages – and in a small, densely populated country such as the Netherlands, they must loom large.
Some of those advantages would be shared by cultured muscle tissue – artificial meat – and indeed attempts are being made overseas to develop such a product. Perhaps artificial meat will come into production, and gain acceptability, before “table insects” do.
American food writer Michael Pollan, quoting the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, points out that food must not only be “good to eat” but also “good to think”. Would you eat insects? Would I? I’ve never eaten insects myself: among the molluscs, I’ve happily eaten oysters but drawn the line at snails, even ones raised for the table. We’ve worked hard to keep insect pests at bay, both in the field and on the shelf; worked hard to keep the weevils out of the flour and off our plates. Could we ever turn this loathing around?
The boundaries of acceptability will be shaped by circumstance. World population is increasing by 77 million a year. About 43 per cent of Earth’s land is already given over to cities or agricultural landscapes. If we don’t become more efficient in food production, this amount is set to grow – with possibly dire effects on the whole biosphere, biologists worry. Given this, eating insects may come to look increasingly sensible. Pass the crickets, please.
The CSIRO team that invented a faster system for wireless local area networking – which later became the foundation of Wi-Fi in its most popular form today – has won a European Inventor Award 2012.
Inventors Dr John O’Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr Graham Daniels and Mr John Deane were named as the winners of the ‘Non-European countries’ category of the annual awards for the patented WLAN technology at an awards ceremony in Copenhagen overnight.
The technology, which has given us the freedom to work wirelessly in our homes and offices, is now estimated to be in more than three billion devices worldwide and expected to be in more than five billion devices worldwide by the time the CSIRO patent expires at the end of 2013.
This is the first time an Australian team has won the award since it was launched in 2006.
“We’re thrilled for the team to receive this international recognition for an invention that has had such a significant global impact,” said Nigel Poole, CSIRO’s Acting Group Executive for Information Sciences.
“It’s a technology that has changed how we work and how we live. The rapid expansion of indoor wireless communications is in part possible because of the WLAN technology invented by scientists at CSIRO in Australia.”
The EIA is presented in five categories: Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-European countries and Lifetime Achievement. Fifteen finalists were selected across all categories from almost 200 inventors and teams who were originally nominated, by an international jury comprising leading personalities from industry, science, politics and media.
About the European Inventor Award (EIA)
Launched in 2006, the European Inventor Award is presented annually by the European Patent Office, in co-operation with the European Commission and the country which holds the EU Council Presidency at the time of the award ceremony, which this year is Denmark. The award honours inventive individuals and teams whose pioneering work provides answers to the challenges of our age and thereby contributes to progress and prosperity. Nomination proposals are submitted by the public and by patent examiners at the EPO and Europe’s national patent offices. The finalists and, subsequently, the winners are chosen from among the nominees by a high-profile international jury, which includes prominent personalities from politics, business, media, science, academia and research.
MEDIA: Lou Morrissey. Ph: +61 2 4960 6140. E: firstname.lastname@example.org