Our Changing World
Thursday 3 March 2011, with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna
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
The Mana Bioblitz comes to an end this weekend (Sunday 6 March), after a month-long survey of the biodiversity of Mana Island, Titahi Bay and the surrounding coast and sea. Scientists and the general public have been involved in collecting and identifying as many species as possible, ranging from fish to invertebrates and birds. Alison Ballance joins Te Papa botanists Leon Perrie, Antony Kusabs and Barbara Polly on Mana Island as they look for naturalised plants and lichens, talks with Bioblitz organiser Allie Burnett, and finds out from Department of Conservation ranger Sue Caldwell about the 'value' of the Bioblitz to Mana Island.
It is not too late to get involved - midday on Sunday 6 March is the deadline for collecting, and identification will continue during that afternoon at the Old Cable House next to Titahi Bay. There is also a full schedule of fun family events planned for both days of the weekend - click here to find out more about the Bioblitz closing weekend.
Antony Kusabs (left) and Leon Perrie collecting naturalised plants on Mana Island (images: A. Ballance)
Full Body Vibration Plate
American grid iron players use them on the side lines to stay warmed up, stroke victims use them for rehabilitation, and some people even use them to lose weight.
Called full body vibration plates, they're the focus of Darryl Cochrane's research.
Ruth Beran went to Massey University in Palmerston North to see whether these machines are beneficial, finding that they do increase flexibility and muscle temperature, making them good for rehabilitation and for sports people before a game. However, it is unlikely that using them would result in weight loss, although vibration plates may be useful for people who are just starting an exercise regime.
Sir Anthony Leggett and the Chemistry Variety Show
Nobel Prize-winner Sir Anthony Leggett(left) was one of the speakers at a Chemistry Variety Show, held at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Friday 11 February for an audience of 1400 enthusiastic high school students. He was in Wellington as one of the delegates at the Fifth International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, held at the same venue in February.
Our Changing World was there to record Sir Anthony Leggett's speech in which he described his career path and the fortuitous events that lead to him winning a Nobel Prize. Richard Blaikie, Director of the MacDiarmid Institute kicked off the proceedings.
Speakers at the Chemistry Variety Show, from left to right: Richard Blaikie, Sir Anthony Leggett, John Watt and Kerstin Lucas (images: VUW Image Services)
The rest of the Chemistry Variety Show is also available to listen to, including presentations by John Watt on nanotechnology and Victoria University of Wellington's Kerstin Lucas about colouring wool with gold nanoparticles. In addition, Ruth Beran had a quick chat with some students afterwards to find out what they thought of the show.
Microbes in Thermal Soil on Mount Erebus
Alison Ballance under the Blue Dome in Hut Cave, on the upper slopes of Mount Erebus (image: A. Ballance)
Waikato University's Craig Cary is a microbiologist with a special interest in 'extremophile microbes'. His work has taken him to deep sea vents, and more recently to the Dry Valleys and Mount Erebus in Antarctica. Mount Erebus is an active volcano with a lava lake at the summit (3794 m), one of just three such lava lakes in the world. Craig Cary is in the second year of a Marsden-funded project to determine microbial biodiversity in thermally heated soils at Tramway Ridge, where soils are 65ºC, and in ice caves closer to the Lower Erebus Hut where the soil temperature is a cooler 10ºC. Alison Ballance hitches a helicopter ride up the mountain, and talks to Craig Cary about his work during a visit to Hut Cave, an ice cave with a spectacular 'blue dome' ice roof. You can lisen to a previous interview with Craig Cary in the Dry Valleys here.
Tall ice towers formed above steam vents on the upper slopes of Mount Erebus (left), and the microbe team outside Lower Erebus Hut with the summit of the volcano above (images: A. Ballance)
Web-Only Feature - Culturing Erebus Microbes
Master of Science student Chelsea Vickers is part of the team working with Craig Cary on Mount Erebus soil microbes. Alison Ballance catches up with her at Scott Base to find out about her project to culture the microbes under different conditions in the lab.
Seaweek this year has the theme 'Back to the Future! The culture, history and traditions of the sea. Kia kaha tangata moana'. You can find out about Seaweek events in your area here.
If you live in Wellington, Victoria University's Coastal Ecology Laboratory in Island Bay is having an open day on Saturday, and the Bait House in Island Bay will be open on Sunday.
Marine biologists celebrate the launch of volume 2 of the Inventory of Biodiversity by looking for new species of cumacean, restoring Antarctic's historic huts, zoonoses and disease detection work, and a model of the anaesthetised brain.
Audio from Thursday 3 March 2011
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
Mana Bioblitz ( 12′ 54″ )
21:06 Te Papa botanists join a big effort to record how many species occur in Titahi Bay, the nearby sea area, and on Mana Island
Full Body Vibration Plate ( 10′ 40″ )
21:20 Darryl Cochrane is researching whether exercise on full body vibration plates is beneficial
Sir Anthony Leggett ( 14′ 56″ )
21:34 Nobel laureate Sir Anthony Leggett speaks to 1400 school students about his career and tips for winning a Nobel Prize
Web Only Special - Chemistry Variety Show ( 43′ 40″ )
21:40 Richard Blaikie, John Watt and Kerstin Lucas speak at a Chemistry Variety Show and students share their opinions afterwards
Mount Erebus Extremophile Microbes ( 13′ 24″ )
21:46 Waikato University's Craig Cary studies soil microbes living in warm thermal soils near the summit of Antarctica's Mount Erebus
21:50 Waikato University student Chelsea Vickers is trying to culture soil microbes as part of Craig Cary's Erebus research