Catalyst - ABC2/21
Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 8:00pm
We're running out of oil, the backbone of modern economies and the fuel of western civilisation. The challenge that faces us is not only to find a replacement, but to find one that will not contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. What's needed is a clean, green and powerful fuel for the future. Car manufacturers around the world are investing heavily in several fuel alternatives - and one of the most attractive is hydrogen. Dr. Paul Willis examines the many obstacles now being negotiated by Australian scientists keen to drive us into a hydrogen-fuelled future.
Have you ever worried about being taken over by aliens? Well, as Dr Jonica Newby reports this week, it may be more imminent than you think. Scientists have uncovered the remarkable story of a parasite that can take over a rat's brain, making it lose all fear of its mortal enemy - the cat. And with 50% of Australian humans infected by the same parasite, it makes you wonder - can it do the same in us? Are we subject to alien mind control?
Living On Mars:
People have been dreaming of setting foot on Mars for centuries, and NASA has been given the go-ahead to plan for such an expedition. Of course, we've been to the Moon already but a journey to Mars will be much more difficult. Getting there and back will take years and astronauts will have to 'live off the land' on the red planet. For example, they'll grow their own food, make oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere and even manufacture fuel for their return trip to Earth. Yet, despite all these challenges, there could be a human presence on Mars within 20 to 30 years.
Astronomer, Professor Fred Watson is in charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Coonabarabran. He's come a long way from his Yorkshire upbringing where cloudy, dull skies were the norm and the only 'stars' worth a mention were those on the silver-screen. Fred has never looked back and his passion for astronomy is infectious. Whether he's chatting on the radio, in the pub, or to school children, when Fred shares his thoughts about what can be seen through a telescope, it's hard not to become star struck yourself.
Catalyst Cancer Clusters:
Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 08:00pm
Earlier this year, a panel of independent experts stated that the high incidence of breast cancer among women who had worked in the ABC's Brisbane newsroom could not be put down to chance. As a result, the Toowong site was permanently closed down and all production facilities relocated. This major upheaval was due to fears that the site was host to a 'cancer cluster'; a greater than expected number of cancer cases within a particular environment.
Cancer is, of course, a very common disease, but the official recognition of a cancer cluster is extremely rare. So, what is a cluster? Why is it so hard to prove and why is it even harder to pin down its cause? Maryanne Demasi investigates what science is doing to help explain.
The Space Elevator:
Wouldn't this be a great way of getting into orbit? Jump in a lift and push a button: first floor, outer space. Well, as ridiculous as this may sound, astro-engineers are actually working on space elevators. In fact NASA is currently running a space elevator competition, with a million dollars of prize money on offer. Catalyst looks at what would be required to build a space elevator and asks whether such a device is technically possible.
Bridled Nail Tail Wallabies:
It's not often that anyone is able to save a species from near extinction... so this really is a good news story. It's a tale of a shy Australian marsupial that beats the odds and moves back to its homeland. The bridled nail tailed wallaby was thought to be extinct until a remnant population was detected in Central Queensland in the 1970s. This is one of the few success stories in the history of translocating species, and it takes place in the Idalia National Park in Queensland.
Cray Weed Lovers:
Brendan Kelaher and Melinda Coleman spend as much time as they can scuba diving off rocky coastlines and revelling beneath the crashing waves. But it's not just the love of the sea that binds them - they're also entranced by sea weed - or more specifically - cray weed. Meet action couple Brendan and Melinda on Catalyst.