Chlorine blamed for growing 'ozone hole'
Chlorine from man-made chemicals appears to be eating away the tenuous fabric of the ozone layer, at least over Antarctica in spring. That is the nearly inescapable conclusion from the most recent set of stratographic measurements made by more than 150 scientists, who flew their most sophisticated instruments into the centre of the ozone hole.
Oil from eucalypts
To walk in Australian native forests (especially in the summer) is to enter a fragrant world. And if you pick and crunch the leaves of many eucalypts, you will be even more aware of the smell of 1,8-cineole, the major component of eucalyptus oil. But cineole is more than just a pretty smell. It may have a whole range of industrial applications as a non-toxic solvent - and be useful in keeping our motor vehicles running.
Solar cars and better batteries
When an odd assortment of 23 solar-powered vehicles glided out of Darwin last November on the inaugural World Solar Challenge - a demanding transcontinental race to Adelaide - the electric car moved one step closer to practicality. This article looks at some of the recent advances in lead-acid battery performance, in particular those that are likely to bring closer the day when electric cars, with solar panels on their roofs, take their place on the showroom floor.
Trees may aid the AIDS fight
Many medicinal substances are of plant origin: common aspirin originally came from willow trees; more effective and notorious pain-relievers are still derived from a compound in poppies; the anti-malarial drug quinine came from the bark of the tropical cinchone tree; and digitalis - the widely used drug for failing hearts - is found in that denizen of English gardens, the pretty foxglove. Castanospermum australe, also known as the Moreton Bay chestnut, or black bean, has been shown to produce a compound with potential to be useful against the virus that causes AIDS.
In quick pursuit of microbes
Stomach upsets are among the milder types of food poisoning; far more severe - and potentially fatal - are conditions such as botulism, which can result from eating canned food contaminated with the bacterium, Clostridium botulinum.
Measuring trace metals on the spot
Want to know how much zinc and cadmium your local oysters contain, the level of mercury in a nearby watercourse, or the quantity of lead and arsenic in the neighbouring soil? Until recently you would have needed sophisticated measurement techniques only available in a laboratory. Now, thanks to collaboration between CSIRO and a Perth company, Chemtronics, a rugged reliable instrument is available for accurate trace-metal analysis in the field. Called a portable digital voltammeter, the self-contained unit can, in a few minutes, measure levels of heavy metals in the 'parts per billion' range.
Watch out for the 'morning glory'
A morning glory may appear as a single huge cylindrical cloud, or come in evenly spaced sets, with up to ten carpet rolls sweeping low overhead at 10 minute intervals. It may travel at up to 60 kilometres per hour and traverse hundreds of kilometres before the heat of the day catches up with it.
At first sight ratty rhythms do not suggest anything very surprising, because researchers have long known about rhythms in most animals (including humans) and plants. But these new ones do not seem to arise within the rats themselves; instead some scientists believe that laboratory rats can display biological rhythms that are determined by the weekly pattern of human activity in the laboratory.
Moths in the wardrobe
If you ever open your wardrobe and find some of your clothes in tatters, the most likely culprit is the clothes moth. It is the larvae that feed so voraciously: the adult moths do not eat at all, and neither stage needs to drink. However, it is not just the wool in our wardrobes that suffers from the attention of these little pests: woollen carpets, popular in the cooler parts of the country, can also be ravaged, and so can any leather goods.