Science Media Centre Update
Science Media Centre Update
Electric cars - the
'Grandfather of the electric car' to talk shop with media as part of next week's 'Electric Vehicle Day' in Wellington.
On Wed 20 June, the SMC will host a press briefing at Te Papa ahead of a day-long international workshop on electric vehicle technology, organised by APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and the NZ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).
The event will also feature a range of electric vehicles on display for the public outside Te Papa.
Experts on the SMC's press briefing panel -- featuring the aforementioned 'grandfather' Professor C.C. Chan -- will give an overview of global progress in electric vehicle (EV) technology, New Zealand-based EV trials, and a wireless charging technology invented in NZ that's going global.
Diary it in now -- this briefing starts early -- 8:15 a.m. Wed 20 June -- and it's accessible to reporters around the country via web and phone link.
Photo ops of notable personages in electric vehicles will be available for attendees on site.
Further details will be sent to media on Monday. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
On the science radar...
angry lizards, microbial hitch-hikers, post-mortem stem
cells and the brain vs. Hitchcock.
1000 year climate data paper "on hold"
Australian authors of a major paper that uses climate records to reconstruct temperature for Australasia over the last 1000 years, have paused publication of the paper following the discovery of data processing errors by blog readers.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Melbourne, used natural indicators such as tree rings, corals and ice cores to reconstruct temperatures over the last 1,000 years and compared the results to climate models.
which included natural records and research from New
Zealand, was published online in the Journal of
Climate and showed that warming in Australasia since
1950 was greater than in any other period during the 1,000
Lead researcher, Dr Joelle Gergis from the University of Melbourne said of the results:
"Our study revealed that recent warming in a 1000 year context is highly unusual and cannot be explained by natural factors alone, suggesting a strong influence of human-caused climate change in the Australasian region".
But responding to queries raised by the Climate Audit blog, a co-author of the paper, David Karoly, annouced that the study's publication was on hold until the researchers examined the data processing issues in further detail.
A statement sent to the SMC by Professor Karoly states:
"An issue has been identified in the processing of the data used in the study 'Evidence of unusual late 20th century warming from an Australasian temperature reconstruction spanning the last millennium' by Joelle Gergis, Raphael Neukom, Stephen Phipps, Ailie Gallant and David Karoly, accepted for publication in the Journal of Climate.
"The authors are currently reviewing the data and methods. The revised paper will be re-submitted to the Journal of Climate by the end of July and it will be sent out for peer review again."
The study was funded by the Australian Research Council, the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Past Global Changes (PAGES).
major marine reserve plan
Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke this week revealed the Government's proposed final network of marine reserves which - once proclaimed under national environmental law - will increase the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60, expanding the national network to cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters.
"This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations," said Burke.
The new marine reserves take the overall size of the Commonwealth marine reserves network to 3.1 million square kilometres, by far the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world.
The government has held over 250 consultation meetings in the last twelve months but there is still more consultation required, according to Tony Burke,
"We now go through one final 60 day consultation period. It's too late for people to say I want this line shifted or I want this zone painted a different colour. The question now is very straight forward. Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?"
Further information and a map of the new reserves is available on the Science Media Centre website.
Quoted: New Zealand Herald
"Every one of these deaths is a tragedy. While some were not preventable, we can learn from others to help reduce deaths in the future."
Professor Cynthia Farquhar on the 2012 annual report of the Perinatal and Maternal
Mortality Review Committee
Podcast: Transit of Venus episode
The Sciblogs podcast this week is a special edition focussing on the Transit of Venus celebrations that took place in Gisborne last week.
First there was the observation of the transit, which we were fortunate to have great weather for, then the business end of the proceedings with the Transit of Venus forum, where 300 people came together to discuss how we can better use science to boost our economy, foster greater social cohesion and generally encourage a more progressive society.
This special edition was
recorded in Gisborne, featuring interviews and edited
highlights of the forum proceedings. For the full sessions
from the forum, visit the Royal Society of New Zealand
New from the SMC
GM crops allow 'good' insects to flourish: Experts comment on new research showing GM crops that produce pest killing proteins allow other insect populations to increase as they do not require broad-spectrum insecticides.
matter: New research reports that a month's
participation in a meditation programme induces potentially beneficial changes in
a brain region implicated in self-regulation.
In the News:
Diesel carcinogenic: A World Health Organisation agency has unanimously decided, based on the available evidence, that diesel fumes are linked to cancer.
Maternal mortality: The annual report of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee has highlighted suicide as a leading cause of maternal death during or shortly after pregnancy.
Marine Protection: The Australian Government has released details of its final Commonwealth Marine Reserves Networks Proposals, revealing plans to create the world's biggest network of marine reserves.
Some of the highlights from this week's posts:
Scientific publishing, with a twist
- PeerJ, the new kid on the open access block is, "a
completely different way of thinking of how authors and
journals work together to put scientific results out there,"
according to Fabiana Kubke.
Building Blogs of Science
There's a little black spot on the sun
today - Peter Dearden reports back on the good and
the bad from the recent Transit of Venus forum.
The prejudiced journalist - Some
journalists try to make an interview fit their story, rather
than vice versa. Ken Perrott points out a doozy.
Science communication - they're doing it
in Slovenia, too - Grant Jacobs, international
SciBlogger-at-large, stumbles on a bit of science
communication at the 'Centre Eksperimentov'.
Code for Life
Please note: hyperlinks point, where possible, to the relevant abstract or paper.
Protected species lose fear of predators: Otago researchers have found that New Zealand robins from rat-free Ulva Island show little fear of (fake) rats, while their counterparts on Stewart Island - where rats are present - display a healthy caution around predators. The authors note that predator awareness is not innate and appears to be lost in one breeding generation. They say this raises questions over whether established populations on island sanctuaries are appropriate sources of animals for reintroductions back to the rat-infested mainland.
Dairy dilemma: Western diets
high in saturated dairy fats may increase the prevalence of
immune disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, in
people with a genetic susceptibility to such problems. Mouse
trials suggest some of the upward trend in complex immune
disorders over the past 50 years -- thought to related to
changes in microbial communities within humans -- may be
triggered by diets high in milk-fat, which changes the
composition of bile acid.
up pigeon homing: University of Auckland researchers
have shown that attaching magnets to the beaks of homing
pigeons disrupts their navigation, causing them to shift
their homing direction several degrees to the right. However
the confusion is short-lived, with the pigeon's correcting
their flight path and managing to get home without too much
trouble. The research adds to a growing body of research
indicating that birds rely - at least in part - on the
earth's gravitational field for navigation.
- Fear factor: Extensive new research has used human and
animal studies to examine the link between an enzyme, FAAH,
and the experience of fear. Researchers found that blocking
the action of FAAH in the rat brain can calm rodents
presented with frightening stimuli. The researchers then
backed these findings with new human brain imaging and
genetic studies - conducted in New Zealand - which found
that people who carry a weaker version of the FAAH gene were
more likely to keep their cool under
Counting carbon in
windbreaks: Rows of windbreak trees between paddocks
are scattered throughout rural New Zealand, but the
contribution of these trees to carbon sequestration has been
difficult to measure. Researchers from Lincoln University
have developed a method which uses satellite imagery to
estimate the total carbon tied up in the biomass of
windbreak trees. Although their test case using the
Canterbury plains is preliminary, the authors anticipate
that it could be adjusted to measure carbon in windbreaks
across New Zealand.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Researchers have used uranium-thorium dating to show that
some cave paintings in northwestern Spain could have been
created by Neanderthals. One painting in the series was at
least 40,800 years old, and others were done up to 5000
years later, according to an Australian researcher. A
podcast on the research, video and other photographs are
available, as is an embargoed press briefing for
journalists. Contact us for more details.
up: New research shows that despite suggestions that
calcium supplements can hurt heart health in old people,
combining the calcium with Vitamin D can reduce their rate
of mortality - potentially increasing life expectancy. The
reduced mortality was not due to a lower number of broken
hips and other fractures, but represented a beneficial
effect beyond the reduced fracture risk
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
Some of the policy highlights from this week:
Primary industries report: Primary sector export revenue is expected to decline in 2012/13, according to the latest Situation and Outlook report from the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Mental health looks ahead: The Mental Health Commission has published 'Blueprint II', a pair of papers setting out a vision for how New Zealand can improve the way it supports and helps people with mental health and addiction issues over the coming decade.
Upcoming sci-tech events
• Royal Astronomical Society of New
Zealand Annual Conference 2012 - 15-17 June,
• APEC Electric Vehicle Connectivity Workshop - 20 June, Te Papa, Wellington
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.