We need your help! The Total Wellbeing Diet online trial

You new guide to living healthy. Image ©iStock.com/anouchka

You new guide to living healthy. Image ©iStock.com/anouchka

We’re looking for 5,000 Australians (from ages 18 to 74) to participate in a trial of a new online diet program based on our award-winning and bestselling Total Wellbeing Diet.

It’s easy as – by following a simple, customised eating plan and weighing in on the website once a week over a 12 week period, you can improve your diet and wellbeing. And to top it off, we will refund the $99 registration fee when you finish – but only if you’re quick enough to sign up first!

The good news is, we already know that the diet works – over half a million Aussies have already lost an average of 6.1kgs on the diet – so the online program is just making it easier for everyone out there with a smart phone, tablet or computer. We’re running this trial now to fine-tune the system before a wider public release next year.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad - one of the delicious dishes that will be at your fingertips.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad – one of the delicious dishes that will be at your fingertips.

So what’s the deal?

Our new Total Wellbeing Diet online diary is easy to follow and can be customised to suit your tastes, dietary preferences and lifestyle. Food journals are essential for successful weight management, but most journals only count calories. This diary instantly tallies your food groups and shows you where you’re going right and wrong with your eating plan.

The program will also include practical, realistic exercise programs to help maximise weight loss and wellness benefits. And best of all, you can do it all from your own smart phone.

The findings from this three month trial will be used to develop more engaging online dietary programs that can reach many more people, and will also help us assess how we can inspire healthy eating and provide more support to those that need to lose weight – a major goal of the Total Wellbeing Diet project.

We want to make this program as best as it can be… but we need your help.

If you want to get involved, registration starts from 19 October, and the trial starts on 3 November. Remember, you will need to check in each week with your weight to have the $99 fee refunded.

To register for the trial visit: www.totalwellbeingdiet.com

CSIRO has licensed Total Wellbeing Diet to SP Health for the development and management of an online next generation Total Wellbeing Diet program, in collaboration with the Glycemic Index Foundation.


Under a blood red moon … or not

We asked, and you surely delivered. We put out a call for your photos of the lunar eclipse, and got so many that for a moment we were afraid we might break Facebook. Here are some of our favourites.

It was a little cloudy in Melbourne, but Rhonda Baum still managed to sneak a shot through the gloom.

Eclipse through clouds

Image by Rhonda Baum

Clear skies in Port Lincoln helped Peter Knife get this.

Lunar eclipse Port Lincoln

Image by Peter Knife

Meanwhile, in Albury, the eclipse really turned it on for Petra de Ruyter.

Eclipse from Albury

Image by Petra de Ruyter

And Tamworth lived up to its claim to be Big Sky Country.

Lunar eclipse from Tamworth

Image by Ekiama Apalisok-Brice

Some managed to catch the purple tones.

Purple moon

Image by Lisa Belgrave

Lunar eclipse purple

Image by Samantha Bright

Others managed to catch tones we found a little surprising. There’s always one, isn’t there, Peter Feeney?

Green moon

Image by Peter Feeney

We got images from Japan.

Lunar eclipse Japan

Image by Ivy B Ueama

And Indonesia.

Lunar eclipse Indonesia

Image by Muhammad Hasbi Alfarizi

We got spectacular montages.

Lunar eclipse montage

Image by Kelly Wilson

But for some of us, the weather didn’t co-operate at all. Kim Cook was able to remind those of us who missed out that clouds can be beautiful too.

Sunset clouds

Image by Kim Cook

But if we’re honest, we have to admit that Ali Ceyhan spoke for all of us who didn’t get to see it.

Lunar eclipse meme

Image by Ali Ceyhan

Next time, next time … And our sincere thanks to all of you for your photos.

Seven things you didn’t know about Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly skull lasers

Laser examination of what was thought to be Ned Kelly’s skull. Image: Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

  • No one knows when Ned Kelly was born (see page 29)

True. What we do know is that Ned was the third of 12 children born to Ellen Kelly (from three different fathers). There is no clear evidence of his actual birth, but it was most likely 1854 or 1855, near Beveridge north of Melbourne, meaning he was just 25 or 26 when he died.

  • Ned Kelly was illiterate (see page 222)

False. There are enough surviving examples of Ned’s handwriting to know that he could write. This myth most likely evolved from the belief that fellow Kelly Gang member, Joe Byrne, penned the famous Jerilderie letter. This letter has been described as Ned Kelly’s ‘manifesto’ and is a direct account of the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated.

Death mask of Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly’s death mask. Image Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

  • How did he wear such a heavy helmet? (see page 135)

If you have ever seen or tried on a replica of one of the Kelly gang’s helmets, you’ll be struck by how heavy they are and how much they cut into the collar bone. The fact is that the weight of the helmet was not meant to be borne on the collar bones at all. The helmets have holes punched on front, back and sides of each helmet, through which leather straps were strung, meaning most of the weight was felt on top of the wearer’s head. Ned Kelly is reported to have worn a woollen cap to pad his head.

  • A film about Ned Kelly was the world’s first feature film (see page 111)

True. It is often reported that Charles Tait’s 1906 film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was the world’s first full-length feature film. Its first screening was at the Athenaeum Hall on 26th of December 1906 and is alleged to have prompted five children in Ballarat to hold up a group of schoolchildren at gunpoint! This resulted in the Victorian Chief Secretary banning the film in towns with strong Kelly connections.  And for many years the film was thought to be lost, but segments were found in various locations, including some found on a rubbish dump.

In 2007 the film was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first full-length feature film.

  • Ned Kelly’s last words were ‘Such is life’. (see page 8)

Many believe that the last utterance by Ned Kelly just before his hanging were three simple word, ‘Such is life’. Whether uttered with weary resignation or an acceptance of misfortune, the notion that the quote is attributed to Ned Kelly survives  today (even inspiring one or two tattoos!)

But what Ned Kelly actually said as his last words is uncertain. Some newspapers at the time certainly reported the words ‘Such is life’, while a reporter standing on the gaol floor wrote that Ned’s last words were, ‘Ah well! It’s come to this at last.’ But one of the closest persons to Ned on the gallows, the gaol warden, wrote in his diary that Kelly opened his mouth and mumbled something that he couldn’t hear.

We will never know exactly what Ned’s last words were – such is life.

Kelly execution

Ned Kelly goes to the scaffold. Image State Library of Victoria

  • Ned Kelly courtroom curse killed the judge  (see page 204)

It is true that judge Sir Redmond Barry died 12 days after Ned Kelly was executed. The two men, Kelly and Barry, had been antagonists for some time, so after being sentenced to death at his trial, Ned Kelly famously replied to Sir Redmond Barry, ‘I will see you there where I go’ or a version of that quote.

Ned Kelly was executed on the 11th of November 1880 and Sir Redmond Barry died on the 23rd of the same month. However Barry’s certificate did not list the cause of death as “curse”, rather it is more likely that the judge died from a combination of pneumonia and septicaemia from an untreated carbuncle.

  • If you have a Ned Kelly tattoo you are more likely to die violently  (see page xvi) 

Depending on how you interpret the forensic data, wearing a Ned Kelly tattoo can be very dangerous! A study from the University of Adelaide found that corpses with Ned Kelly tattoos were much more likely to have died by murder and suicide. But it was a pretty small sample size.

Ned Kelly: Under the Microscope, edited by Craig Cormick, available now, in book shops and online $39.95. Meet the author and  Dr Richard Bassed from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine at Discovery Centre on 19 November. For more information visit: http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Education/Programs/Discovery-Centre/Whats-on/Ned-Kelly.aspx

Celebrating our heroes of science

The IgNobel Stinker

The Stinker. Official mascot of the IgNobel Prizes

The winners of the 2014 IgNobel prizes have just been announced, and there’s an Australian among them. Peter K. Jonason from the University of Western Sydney shared the IgNobel for Psychology with Amy Jones and Minna Lyons, for providing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

We are filled with admiration.

CSIRO wasn’t among the winners this year, but we’re going to take the opportunity to boast about our earlier winners.

In 2011, David Rentz (formerly of CSIRO) and Darryl Gwynne shared the IgNobel Prize for biology, for their groundbreaking discovery that a certain kind of Australian beetle attempts to mate with stubby bottles. Specifically, that male Buprestid beetles (jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles) had a particular attraction to brown stubbies – none of this fancy craft beer in clear glass for them. In true scientific spirit, having noticed this occurring, they took steps to confirm the mating hypothesis. They ruled out the beetles being attracted by beer residue – the stubby bottles were completely dry. Nor were the beetles interested in a discarded wine bottle nearby – suggesting the colour of the bottle was the source of the attraction.

They then placed several more stubby bottles within range of the male beetles, and found that these too were extremely appealing to the beetles. So appealing, in fact, that they didn’t give up of their own accord, but had to be physically dislodged from making their amorous advances.

This, of course, provides a valuable lesson about the unintended consequences of littering. Throwing away a stubby can cause grave disappointment for beetles.

But these are not our only IgNobelists.

In 2006, Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes took out the IgNobel in mathematics for working out the solution to a problem that has confounded photographers for many years: how many photos do you need to take to be sure no-one is blinking.

They managed to reduce it to a (fairly) simple rule of thumb. For groups of less than 20 people, take the number of people in the group and divide that number by three. If you take that number of photos you can be virtually certain one of them will be blink-free. If the light is bad, divide the number of people in the group by two, because there’s a greater chance people will be blinking whilst the shutter is open.

This doesn’t work as well when the groups get larger: the number of photos grows so large that the group is likely to lose patience. But as they point out, the more people in a photo, the less it matters if one of them is blinking. And you’ll be pleased to know this was all experimentally tested in the canteen at lunchtime.

So congratulations to this year’s winners, commiserations to the losers, and onwards and upwards for the spirit of inquiry that drives improbable research.

Next year, next year …

Things we like

Curiosity:  Person of the Year?

With our radio telescopes tracking her safely to her landing on Mars, naturally we love the latest Mars rover. But what do you think? Should Curiosity be named TIME’s Person of the Year? Or would you rather see the crown go to the Higgs boson? Have your say on their online poll


COSMOS holiday gift guide

While we’re talking particle physics, let the Higgs-teria continue… on your wrist. If you’re finding it hard to buy for the physicist or sci-fi nerd in your life, check out the COSMOS holiday gift guide.

A timeless Higgs boson watch.


Thanksgiving turducken-ducken

While Thanksgiving isn’t huge in Australia, we welcome a new bird-stuffing paradigm. Vi Hart‘s mathematically inspired turduckenen-duckenen mixes the mathematical and the delicious.


The best science books of 2012

To kick off the “best-of” season, Brain Pickings put together a list of the best science books of 2012. They’re an intersection of science, art, design and beautiful graphs.

Delightful and illuminating… Illustrations from ‘The Where, the Why, and the How’.

Things we like

Vermin celebration

How do drugs make us ‘high’? The clever folk at the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah created this animated game to help explain how drugs like marijuana and cocaine affect our brains.

Mouse Party animation

Be safe, go viral

Just the word safety makes most people yawn. How to make it something people care about? A catchy tune and adorable animation always helps. We tip our safety goggles to Metro Trains.

Personal action figure for Christmas?

A 3D printing photobooth in Tokyo now lets you get that gift you’ve always wanted- a little you.

3D action figure

Trippy soap bubbles

Soap bubbles that look like science fiction. Macro photography at its coolest.

Soap bubbles

Eclipse wonder

I think even non-geeks agree there is something very humbling and awe-inspiring about a solar eclipse. If you haven’t seen it already, we bring you totality.

Things we like

Did you see #Hendra trending on Twitter last week? Once we contained our excitement, we noticed some other pieces of awesome across the internets. Here are five, for your oohs, ahs and lols.

Big win for weedy seadragon

This stunner won the 2012 National Geographic Oceans Photography comp. High five to the amateur wildlife photographer Richard Wylie, for snapping the gorgeous photo off Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. His prize is a $27,000 photographic expedition to Alaska.

xkcd: the problem with scientists

If you haven’t yet discovered ‘the webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language’, now’s the time.

xkcd comic

Don’t get your slinky in a knot

For some Aussie slinky science, check out this slinky drop slow-mo from veritasium. Really, it’s HD and awesome.

The Elements, by Theodore Gray

An oldie but a goodie, this iPad app (and book and poster and card deck) is a thing of beauty… and great for a dinner party pop-quiz.

Theodore Gray's The Elements


Cram science factoids into 140 characters and you can write a book solely on Twitter. Here’s a taster “Plain English definition: 1 nanometre is the amount a man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to lift a razor to his face.” Grab the book, or you can follow @science140 on Twitter.


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