Our Changing World
Thursday 6 May 2010, with Alison Ballance & Ruth Beran
9:06 pm Thursday 20 June: Our Changing World
In a world first, a New Zealand vision scientist has discovered that playing Tetris under controlled conditions may be a cure for lazy eye in both children and adults. While some might query whether a video-game played close up is good for eyesight, Ben Thompson from the University of Auckland has proven otherwise, with the popular tile-matching game helping to train both eyes to work together. Lisa Thompson spoke with Ben and trial participant Jane Brock, who is seeing improvements in her vision first-hand.
At GNS, ion beams are being used to force atoms into solid materials and change their properties, for example making them harder, or more compatible with the human body. Ruth Beran meets John Futter to see some of the projects he is working on.
Since kaka were introduced to the fenced sanctuary Zealandia in 2002 they have grown in numbers to more than 200, and have become a regular sight in parks and gardens in central Wellington. Kerry Charles has just completed her Masters degree at Victoria University, investigating the damage kaka are inflicting on some urban trees, and Alison Ballance joins her in the Botanic Gardens to find out more.
Dillon Mayhew from Victoria University explains how the mathematics of codes and ciphers allows us to transmit volumes of information accurately and securely electronically around the world.
On This Programme
'Fiery Ice' or Gas Hydrates
Gas hydrates, sometimes called 'burning ice' or 'fiery ice', and also known as clathrates, are ice-like solids of water and natural gas, usually methane. They are attracting significant interest in the geoscientific community because they may be a future source of energy. Gas hydrates were only recognised in the 1970s but are now known to be abundant. They form as a result of high pressure at depth, and are found buried hundreds of metres within ocean floor sediments. In New Zealand they occur off the east coast of the North Island and off Fiordland.
In the run-up to the international workshop 'Fiery Ice from the Seas' taking place in Wellington next week, Alison Ballance talks with workshop organisers Ingo Pecher and Stuart Henrys from GNS about New Zealand's methane hydrates, how they study them, and the time frame for developing them as an energy source. Victoria University Masters student Tom Golding also talks about the results of his summer job at GNS.
Left: burning gas hydrate recovered from the seafloor offshore western USA (Image courtesy of IfM-GEOMAR).
Dr Charlie Paull will give a talk on gas hydrate research at 7.30 pm Monday 10 May on the Pipitea Campus of Victoria University in Lecture Theatre 2, Rutherford House, 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington.
Origins of Life
From left to right: Pat Edwards, Geoff Jameson and David Penny in front of the NMR machine, and the cell being used for the experiments.
Scientists believe that RNA rather than DNA formed the basis of life, and Massey University'sGeoff Jameson, Pat Edwards and David Penny are looking at the single-stranded molecule to try and answer some fundamental questions. Having already shown that life is more likely to have originated under cold rather than hot temperatures (for example, in icy cold water rather than hot smoking volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean) they are testing RNA under combinations of both temperature and pressure to determine how life on Earth may have originated.
Chatham Island Dune Restoration
Wharekauri Beach with pingao and Chatham Island sow thistle planted in the foreground (image: A. Ballance)
The Department of Conservation has been running two dune restoration projects on the main Chatham Island for nine years. Introduced marram grass has been removed by spraying, and replaced by native species. The project was originally designed to create better habitat for the endangered Chatham Island oystercatcher by re-creating more open beach conditions, but is also proving to be a useful threatened plant conservation project. DoC ranger Bridget Gibb talks to Alison Ballance about Chatham Island forget-me-nots, Chatham Island sow thistle, pingao or golden sand sedge, as well as shore spurge, and shows her the Chatham Island akeake planted at the back of Wharekauri Beach to recreate coastal bush.
The New Zealand Dune Restoration Trust has information about other dune restoration programmes around New Zealand.
Bridget Gibb with self-seeding sow thistles, and plantings of Chatham Island forget-me-nots (images: A. Ballance)
At the Malaghan Institute of Medical Researchlasers are being used to sort cells for scientists trying to develop treatments for diseases like cancer, asthma, and arthritis. They are used in a technique called flow cytometry, where cells are suspended in a stream of fluid and then passed by an electronic detection apparatus.
Ruth Beran meets with Kylie Price (pictured right) who runs the Flow Cytometry Suite at the Malaghan Institute and Jo Kirman who is using the equipment in her search for a better vaccine for tuberculosis.
Fossil hunting in the Wairarapa, the tidal energy potential of Cook Strait, creating glass for medical imaging, and 3D laser scanning of Moriori dendroglyphs or tree carvings on the Chatham Islands.
Audio from Thursday 6 May 2010
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
Gas Hydrates or 'Burning Ice' ( 13′ 00″ )
21:06 Only discovered in the 1970s, methane hydrate deposits on the sea floor could be an important source of potential energy
Origins of Life ( 12′ 50″ )
21:20 Massey University scientists are looking at RNA to try and determine under what physical condtions life originated on Earth
Chatham Island Dune Restoration ( 12′ 24″ )
21:34 Sand dune restoration projects are returning native sand-binding plants to Chatham Island dunes
Sorting Cells ( 13′ 08″ )
21:46 At the Malaghan Institute, lasers are being used to sort cells for scientists developing treatments for various diseases