In this issue

Issue 41


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Clouds and climate — a subtle connection
Floating serenely, or boiling tempestuously, clouds roam the skies like free spirits. Although clouds cover half the world's surface, the role they play in the functioning of the earth's climate is far from clear.
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When pine and eucalypt meet
Its natural range is a mere 4000 hectares on the coast of California, but Pinus radiata has made the most of this modest beginning and now covers more than a million hectares of the globe. And this spread is largely due to mankind's intervention.
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Soils shrink, trees drink, and houses crack
Each year in Australia, some 50 000 houses crack, accounting for about 80% of all housing insurance claims. Cracking may be caused by defects in building design and materials, or by inappropriate construction techniques. But, most often, soil movement is the cause.
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Marine bacteria — more useful than we think?
Bacteria ... we are all familiar with these organisms that cause a long list of human maladies, ranging from infected cuts and scratches to bubonic plague. Yet, as agents of decay, they perform a vital role in the biological processes on this planet, recycling essential elements like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the dead to the living.
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Termite colonies — castes of thousands
Not only the parlour floor, but bitumen, plastic- and lead-sheathed telegraph cables, inflated rubber tyres on vehicles, car batteries, and even ivory and billiard balls (not to mention living plants) have variously been nibbled at by northern Australia's giant termite Mastotermes darwiniensis.
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Pellets may solve a fly ash problem
Anybody who has burnt briquettes knows the difficulty that the remaining fine orange ash presents. A puff of wind, and it covers everything.
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Research improves the economics of oil shale
Research into the technology of processing Julia Creek oil shale has improved the economics of the process, bringing closer the day when CSR Limited can turn its lease into an oil-producing enterprise.
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Atlas maps our bird life
Since the arrival of Captain Cook in Australia, at least two bird species — the paradise parrot and a Tasmanian species of emu — have vanished forever. With increasing urban and pastoral development, the threat of extinction now faces other species, like the plains wanderer, the colourful orange-bellied parrot, and the freckled duck.
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Simulating petroleum generation
Oil and natural gas take thousands or even millions of years to form from living matter deposited in sinking sedimentary basins. A vital ingredient in the process is heat: the fossilized organic material known as kerogen, formed from polymerized lipids, lignin, protein, and carbohydrates in decaying residues of biological material, needs to be subjected to temperatures above 130°C over a long period.
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Fish on line
Australia's fishing zone almost equals the country's land surface area, making it the world's second largest national fishing zone. Yet our fishing industry is small, concentrating on a limited number of estuarine, coastal, pelagic (surface and mid-water), and demersal (bottom-living) fish that occur off the relatively densely populated north-eastern, south-eastern, and south-western coasts.
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Shaky ground — or high tide?
Hundreds of years ago, when Galileo rose from his knees after formally recanting the Coperniean, cosmology, he is reported to have muttered under his breath 'Nevertheless, it moves'. Much earlier in history, Pliny the Elder stated in his 'Historia Naturalis' that at Cadiz, near the Temple of Hercules,'... there is a closed source similar to a well, which occasionally rises and falls with the ocean, but at other times does the opposite'.
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