In this issue

Issue 36


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Lessons from a solar house
Solar houses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; some use exotic technology, some are of basic design. But all of them try, by drawing on the sun's energy supply, to save on the amount of conventional energy needed.
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What happens to banana prawns?
The banana-prawn fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which started in the late 1960s, nets up to $20 million a year in export revenue. Over the years, annual landings have fluctuated widely, prompting concern about a possible collapse of the fishery.
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A way to speed drainage of coal waste ponds
When you mine coal you leave two problems behind: a hole in the ground and waste. The waste represents the material rejected during processing, and is usually disposed of in ponds, old mine-workings, or landfill areas.
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How marine life copes with a lead smelter
Since 1889, the smelters at Port Pirie on South Australia's Spencer Gulf have been producing lead from Broken Hill's rich ore. Over the years millions of tonnes of lead and zinc have been produced from what has become the world's largest lead smelter.
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A new view of life around the root
Soil detritus — the non-living products and remains of animals, plants, and bacteria — is estimated to contain almost twice as much organic carbon as all the living organisms in and above the soil. Between 5% and 10% of this organic debris takes the form of carbohydrate.
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Furnaces use much energy
Metal engineering is the backbone of Australian manufacturing. By forging, sintering, casting, and heat treatment, our modern-day blacksmiths turn out crane hooks weighing many tonnes and finger-sized medical prostheses. In between are turbine blades for jet engines, steering joints and drive shafts for cars, and many other components for the machinery that works for us.
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Evolution in arid Australia
An Australian fish, the desert goby, can survive up to 27 days in distilled water, and more than 60 days in sea water. It tolerates, at least for short periods, temperatures as low as 5°C or as high as 40°C. When the oxygen concentration falls to a low level in the creek or artesian bore in which it lives, the goby may take refuge among algae giving off oxygen as they photosynthesize. As a last resort, the fish can even breathe air.
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A data bank of Australian resources
In 1979, the CSIRO Division of Water and Land Resources began work on a challenging job: creating a computerized system for storing and analysing a diversity of information about Australia and its people.
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Mitchell grass seems safe
The treeless, rolling downs of south-western Queensland nearly always have some grass cover. Even during drought, hardy Mitchell grass tussocks usually can be relied upon to provide some fodder for sheep and cattle.
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Letters to ECOS
In the article 'Iodine, alcohol, and mental deficiency' in ECOS No. 34, there is a passage which reads: 'Housed in a shed at Glenthorne, a former sheep farm and now the Division's experimental station on the outskirts of Adelaide, the first ewes soon began to chew through the timber of their stalls, as if they could sense that the wood contained some element missing from their official diet (the wood does indeed contain iodine)'.
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Cabbage butterflies: smarter than you think
How does the common or cursed white cabbage butterfly, flitting around the garden, recognize a cabbage? By tasting the cabbage with sense organs on its feet, explains Dr Roger Traynier of the CSIRO Division of Entomology.
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