In this issue

Issue 55

A computer 'expert' helps out at Kakadu
Park managers in the magnificent Kakadu National Park can now consult a computer to foresee the consequences of setting free, or constraining, that potent agent of change, fire. They are using FIRES, perhaps the first-ever expert system installed in an environmental management agency. An expert system is a computerised attempt to mimic the way a human expert deals with a problem.
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Running on petrol-alcohol blends
You may be advised not to mix your drinks, but a Ford Falcon ranging the streets of Melbourne can imbibe a multitude of mixtures of unleaded petrol and ethanol without a hiccup. The Victorian Solar Energy Council believes that, when petrol supplies dwindle in a decade or two, the most practical alternative fuel will be ethanol.
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Children and milk
The old adage that 'breast is best' has received further support from a study conducted in CSIRO's Division of Food Processing. The work has also shed some light on the problem of hyperactive children.
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Researching our tropical rainforests
Staff at the CSIRO's Tropical Forest Research Centre in Atherton, Qld, are studying Australia's tropical rainforests. One of several important conclusions to emerge from the work is that the borders of the forest are not fixed. The forests are influenced by human disturbance, climatic variations, fire and the animals that live in the forests, many of which disperse seeds.
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A legacy of heavy metals
For close to a century, Lake Macquarie, a 125 square kilometre estuary on the outskirts of Newcastle, NSW, has had the misfortune to be burdened with a variable flow of heavy metals - lead, zinc, cadmium, selenium, copper and other pollutants.
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Oil spills leave tell-tale 'fingerprints'
Oil-soaked sediment collected beneath ailing mangroves on Botany Bay in September 1985 bears a molecular signature identical to that of a Bass Strait crude oil.
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Dry swamps and duck-breeding
In the world's driest inhabited continent, wetlands and their associated flora and fauna are things to be cherished. So draining a swamp has often appeared a disaster to lovers of Australia's waterfowl. Biological studies had concluded that many ducks would only breed when the water level was rising, which seemed to fit in with common sense. However, recent studies have challenged that assertion that a rising water level is always necessary for duck-breeding in Australia.
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The chances of your bushland house surviving a wildfire
A neat little circular slide-rule, developed by the CSIRO National Bushfire Research Unit, allows bushland home-owners to assess, realistically, the chances of their hideaway turning into a pile of ashes when the next wildfire sweeps through. The ingenious piece of cardboard, with its four rotating dials, has been dubbed the 'house-survival meter'. It highlights the major factors that contribute to the hazards of living in the bush.
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Dingoes not uniquely Australian
Because dingoes came to Australia a long time ago, about 40,000 years, scientists have assumed that an evolutionary divergence from other canids would have occurred and so obscured the dingo's origin and ancestral lineage.
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