Category Archives: News Story

NASA’s Asteroid Initiative hits rocky ground

For those of you still recovering from watching THAT asteroid-induced tidal wave take out a father and daughter as they calmly contemplated their imminent deaths (see the movie “Deep Impact” for details), the idea of grabbing asteroids in space might make you sigh with relief.

In April this year, NASA announced a budget proposal for the “Asteroid Initiative”, which would use robotic technology to capture small asteroids that are hurtling towards Earth. After capture, the asteroid would be placed in a stable orbit around the Moon. Astronauts could then visit the rock to take samples or use it as a sunny stopover on future journeys to Mars.

The proposed launch date for the capture craft is 2017-ish.

But in the last few weeks, debate around the Initiative has hotted up. NASA announced a Grand Challenge to find out more about asteroid threats to our planet and now the space agency is being told to take a chill pill. Scientists are disgruntled because they weren’t consulted. They think the mission should be more clearly defined or it could end in disaster. On top of this, of course, there’s always the issue of cost.

If capturing an asteroid sounds like sci-fi to you, here’s a shortened version of how it would work…sorry about the music…I couldn’t resist.

Music credit: Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod

NASA’s full animation can be viewed hereOriginal NASA animation was developed at NASA LaRC & JSC.

Signalling molecule regulates women’s fertility and cancer of the uterus

News Story

A signalling molecule important for fertility in women could also be involved in cancer of the uterus, a Melbourne researcher has found.

Associate Professor Eva Dimitriadis, from Prince Henry’s Institute, says her research shows the molecule, interleukin 11 (IL11), is one of the factors important for the successful attachment or implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

She says the focus of infertility research is often on the quality of the embryo but the attachment of the embryo to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is also important.

Dimitriadis says she decided to look at endometrial cancer because IL11 belongs to a family of molecules that are involved in cancer cell invasion.

She says endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, yet there are no suitable screening tests and treatment options are limited.

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Scientific study tests whether acupuncture can help menopausal hot flushes

News Story

A Melbourne doctor has started a trial of acupuncture for menopausal women after finding many of her patients did not want to take hormone replacement therapy.

Dr Caroline Ee, a general practitioner and acupuncturist from the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, has already completed a pilot study of 23 women but needs more women for this study.

“I tried using acupuncture for a few women who were flushing and they felt a lot better,” Ee says.

Ee says there is controversy about universities teaching complementary medicine, but that it is important to look at these treatments because many people use them.

“Our study is one of the examples of the ways in which we are using very strict scientific principles to examine an old therapy,” she says.

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Can online brain training improve mental processing in the over 50s?

News Story

Training delivered online can boost the mental processing of the over 50s, a Swinburne University study has found.

Professor Con Stough’s team at Swinburne University of Technology asked 34 Australians aged between 53 and 75 to complete 21 days of training using a popular online program.

They found a 10 per cent improvement in mental processing speeds for two of the tasks tested.

Stough said this improvement was a good start but further studies were needed.

He said “crystallised intelligence”, or stored knowledge, does not begin to decline until after 60, whereas “fluid intelligence”, or speed of learning, decreases after the age of 21.

Stough said the online training would help fluid intelligence.

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