Monthly Archives: September 2017

Want energy storage? Here are 22,000 sites for pumped hydro across Australia

The Conversation

Andrew Blakers, Australian National University; Bin Lu, Australian National University, and Matthew Stocks, Australian National University

The race is on for storage solutions that can help provide secure, reliable electricity supply as more renewables enter Australia’s electricity grid.

With the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), we have identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) sites across all states and territories of Australia. PHES can readily be developed to balance the grid with any amount of solar and wind power, all the way up to 100%, as ageing coal-fired power stations close.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind are now the leading two generation technologies in terms of new capacity installed worldwide each year, with coal in third spot (see below). PV and wind are likely to accelerate away from other generation technologies because of their lower cost, large economies of scale, low greenhouse emissions, and the vast availability of sunshine and wind.

New generation capacity installed worldwide in 2016. ANU/ARENA, Author provided

Although PV and wind are variable energy resources, the approaches to support them to achieve a reliable 100% renewable electricity grid are straightforward:

  • Energy storage in the form of pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) and batteries, coupled with demand management; and
  • Strong interconnection of the electricity grid between states using high-voltage power lines spanning long distances (in the case of the National Electricity Market, from North Queensland to South Australia). This allows wind and PV generation to access a wide range of weather, climate and demand patterns, greatly reducing the amount of storage needed.

PHES accounts for 97% of energy storage worldwide because it is the cheapest form of large-scale energy storage, with an operational lifetime of 50 years or more. Most existing PHES systems require dams located in river valleys. However, off-river PHES has vast potential.


Read more: How pushing water uphill can solve our renewable energy issues.


Off-river PHES requires pairs of modestly sized reservoirs at different altitudes, typically with an area of 10 to 100 hectares. The reservoirs are joined by a pipe with a pump and turbine. Water is pumped uphill when electricity generation is plentiful; then, when generation tails off, electricity can be dispatched on demand by releasing the stored water downhill through the turbine. Off-river PHES typically delivers maximum power for between five and 25 hours, depending on the size of the reservoirs.

Most of the potential PHES sites we have identified in Australia are off-river. All 22,000 of them are outside national parks and urban areas.

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The locations of these sites are shown below. Each site has between 1 gigawatt-hour (GWh) and 300GWh of storage potential. To put this in perspective, our earlier research showed that Australia needs just 450GWh of storage capacity (and 20GW of generation power) spread across a few dozen sites to support a 100% renewable electricity system.

In other words, Australia has so many good sites for PHES that only the best 0.1% of them will be needed. Developers can afford to be choosy with this significant oversupply of sites.

Pumped hydro sites in Australia. ANU/ARENA, Author provided

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of sites (detailed maps of sites, images and information can be found here):

NSW/ACT: Thousands of sites scattered over the eastern third of the state

Victoria: Thousands of sites scattered over the eastern half of the state

Tasmania: Thousands of sites scattered throughout the state outside national parks

Queensland: Thousands of sites along the Great Dividing Range within 200km of the coast, including hundreds in the vicinity of the many wind and PV farms currently being constructed in the state

South Australia: Moderate number of sites, mostly in the hills east of Port Pirie and Port Augusta

Western Australia: Concentrations of sites in the east Kimberley (around Lake Argyle), the Pilbara and the Southwest; some are near mining sites including Kalgoorlie. Fewer large hills than other states, and so the minimum height difference has been set at 200m rather than 300m.

Northern Territory: Many sites about 300km south-southwest of Darwin; a few sites within 200km of Darwin; many good sites in the vicinity of Alice Springs. Minimum height difference also set at 200m.

The maps below show synthetic Google Earth images for potential upper reservoirs in two site-rich regions (more details on the site search are available here). There are many similarly site-rich regions across Australia. The larger reservoirs shown in each image are of such a scale that only about a dozen of similar size distributed across the populated regions of Australia would be required to stabilise a 100% renewable electricity system.

Araluen Valley near Canberra. At most, one of the sites shown would be developed. ANU/ARENA, Author provided
Townsville, Queensland. At most, one of the sites shown would be developed. ANU/ARENA, Author provided

The chart below shows the largest identified off-river PHES site in each state in terms of energy storage potential. Also shown for comparison are the Tesla battery and the solar thermal systems to be installed in South Australia, and the proposed Snowy 2.0 system.

Largest identified off-river PHES sites in each state, together with other storage systems for comparison.
ANU/ARENA, Author provided

The map below shows the location of PHES sites in Queensland together with PV and wind farms currently in an advanced stage of development, as well as the location of the Galilee coal prospect. It is clear that developers of PV and wind farms will be able to find a PHES site close by if needed for grid balancing.

Solar PV (yellow) and wind (green) farms currently in an advanced stage of development in Queensland, together with the Galilee coal prospect (black) and potential PHES sites (blue).
ANU/ARENA, Author provided

Annual water requirements of a PHES-supported 100% renewable electricity grid would be less than one third that of the current fossil fuel system, because wind and PV do not require cooling water. About 3,600ha of PHES reservoir is required to support a 100% renewable electricity grid for Australia, which is 0.0005% of Australia’s land area, and far smaller than the area of existing water storages.

PHES, batteries and demand management are all likely to have prominent roles as the grid transitions to 50-100% renewable energy. Currently, about 3GW per year of wind and PV are being installed. If this continued until 2030 it would be enough to supply half of Australia’s electricity consumption. If this rate is doubled then Australia will reach 100% renewable electricity in about 2033.

The ConversationFast-track development of a few excellent PHES sites can be completed in 2022 to balance the grid when Liddell and other coal-fired power stations close.

Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering, Australian National University; Bin Lu, PhD Candidate, Australian National University, and Matthew Stocks, Research Fellow, ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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New survey shows American students’ disturbing ignorance of and attitudes towards free speech

Why Evolution Is True

There’s a new article in the Washington Post by Catherine Rampell reporting a survey of American college students’ views about free speech. The results aren’t pretty. Click on the screenshot below to go to the piece, and you can see other survey results on the Brookings Institution site here.

The take-home message: students in college don’t know much about the First Amendment or how it’s interpreted, and a distressingly large number of them favor either shouting down “offensive” speakers or even committing violence when such speakers appear.

According to the article, the survey was conducted by UCLA professor and Brookings senior fellow John Villasenor, and was supported by the Charles Koch Foundation. Before you start crying “Conservatives!”, note that Rampell says this: “Financial support for the survey was provided by the Charles Koch Foundation, which Villasenor said had no involvement in designing, administering or analyzing the questionnaire; as…

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One more time: no, epigenetics is not Lamarckism

Footnotes to Plato

The standard model, so to speak, in evolutionary theory is known as the Modern Synthesis (MS), which was shaped during the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s by the founders of modern population genetics (Ronald Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane, and Sewall Wright) and by some other legendary names of modern biology (the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, the naturalist Ernst Mayr, the paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, the botanist Ledyard Stebbins, and the eclectic Julian Huxley). As is well known, the MS was the result of the unification between the original theory of evolution by natural selection, proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858, and the then emerging discipline of genetics, resulting from the re-discovery of the work of Gregor Mendel.

The MS marked the death knell of Lamarckism, an obscure and confused set of ideas arching all the way back to the 18th century, and proposed by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. Lamarck…

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A revealing conversation between Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Why Evolution Is True

In April, Brandeis University, under pressure from misguided people decrying Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an “Islamophobe,” as well as from the Council on American Islamic relation (CAIR; an organization that, under the guise of improving those relations, issues veiled threats about offending Muslims), rescinded an invitation for Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree. Hirsi Ali made a dignified  response (here) and refused Brandeis’s invitation to come back some other time to engage in “discussion.”

It was a cowardly move for Brandeis, motivated solely by fear and political correctness. Hirsi Ali is in fact a hero: a woman who has basically given up the possibility of a normal life in the cause of improving the treatment of women under Islam. After the murder of her collaborator Theo van Gogh, and threats on her own life, as well as a political kerfuffle (the Dutch government first rescinded her citizenship because…

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Speed plus control in new computer chip: slowing down light to sound

The Conversation

File 20170918 24064 3bm8hr
You see it, then you hear it: light and sound travel at different speeds. Reeva/shutterstock

Moritz Merklein, University of Sydney; Benjamin J. Eggleton, University of Sydney, and Birgit Stiller, University of Sydney

Light travels fast – sometimes a little too fast when it comes to data processing.

Published today, our paper describes a new memory chip design that allows us to temporarily slow down light to a manageable speed for better control of computer processing.

Light energy slows down to become sound, which allows more control.

Light packets were successfully stored as high-pitch sound waves – about 1,000 times higher than ultrasound – in a wire on a microchip. Around 100-fold thinner than a human hair, the tiny wires were designed to guide light waves as well as high-frequency sound waves, known as hyper-sound.

It’s the first time this has been achieved.

The delay of the transferred information packet is caused by the large difference in speed of travel between light and sound. This is something we experience every time we try to determine how far a thunderstorm is away from us by counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder.


Read more: Hold it right there: how (and why) to stop light in its tracks


Why we use light in computing

The new chip design, shown next to an Australian 50 cent piece.
University of Sydney, Author provided

Today even small laptops use multiple processors, such as dual or quad cores. This is even more evident in high-performance machines, supercomputers or large data centres. Dividing computation between several processors is a way to improve performance, known in computer language as parallel computing.

This parallelisation, however, raises new issues: the different cores have to talk to each other and perform in sync, like a big orchestra. Here electronics starts to reach its limits. The connections between the processors suffer from losses and produce heat. This is the main reason why your laptop gets hot.

At industrial scales, the heat is becoming almost unmanageable. Just last month there was an announcement to build the world’s largest data centre inside the Arctic Circle, in order to deal with the heat problem of these centres.

Optical links between processors can help solve this problem: data encoded as light packets can provide large bandwidths, high speeds and do not produce heat.

A blessing and a curse

While the speed of light is of great advantage when sending data over the internet all around the globe, it is a real challenge to master on a small chip.

Light travels 300 metres in just a millionth of a second. To provide a connection between different processors, we need a way stop or delay the light at times when the receiving processor is still occupied. In other words, we need a buffer for light packets on a chip.

But buffering the optical data in common chip designs for electronic memory results in loss of speed and bandwidth.

Our new research shows all the characteristics of a light wave – that is, brightness, colour and phase – can be transferred to a hyper-sound wave, and by doing so can be buffered.

A light packet is converted to a sound wave as it moves through the chip, and then back to light as it exits. University of Sydney, Author provided

One reason for the large data rates achieved using light lies in its ability to carry data simultaneously at different wavelengths, or colours. Using multiple colours is like opening additional lanes on a crowded highway.

What we experience as different colour in the case of light is a different pitch for a sound wave. We show that different colours can be stored as different pitched sound waves, and importantly can be unambiguously identified afterwards.

Sound waves to store information

The basic operation principles of our new design – which features a phenomenon known as delay line memory – are the following:

  • a processor encodes the freshly-calculated data on light packets, and sends it towards the next processor
  • if this processor is still occupied, the light packet is transferred to a sound wave
  • the sound wave travels a hundred thousand times slower towards the processor, giving it the required time to finish the computation
  • the sound wave gets transferred back to a light packet, and can be further processed.

Read more: How scientists invent new colours


This process resembles the operation of the first computers built at the beginning of the 20th century. Here information was temporarily stored in sound waves that propagated in mercury tubes while the processors were occupied.

The ConversationSo as computer chips are reaching their performance limits, the old idea of a delay line-based memory using sound waves is celebrating a comeback. This time it’s not in bulky mercury tubes, but tiny light wires on a microchip that are capable of processing much more data.

Moritz Merklein, PhD candidate in Brillouin optomechanics, University of Sydney; Benjamin J. Eggleton, Professor; ARC Laureate Fellow, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, University of Sydney, and Birgit Stiller, Research Fellow in Photonics, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements

Scientia Salon

Grouchoby Massimo Pigliucci

Groucho Marx, one of my favorite comedians of all time, famously wrote a telegram to a Hollywood club he had joined, that said: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” [1]

I have recently considered sending such a letter to the skeptic and atheist movements (henceforth, SAM), but I couldn’t find the address. Besides, I don’t actually want to “resign,” as I consider myself a skeptic (in the sense of David Hume: one who attempts to proportion his beliefs to the available evidence) as well as an atheist. I am also a humanist, and more recently, a Stoic. [2] Unlike my colleague Neil deGrass Tyson [3] I don’t have a problem with labels, especially self-selected ones, since I find them to be useful heuristics to navigate a bewilderingly complex world.

Besides, I’ve been into SAM…

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How Antarctic ice melt can be a tipping point for the whole planet’s climate

The Conversation

File 20170912 26996 15apq9m
Melting Antarctic ice can trigger effects on the other side of the globe. NASA/Jane Peterson

Chris Turney, UNSW; Jonathan Palmer, UNSW; Peter Kershaw, Monash University; Steven Phipps, University of Tasmania, and Zoë Thomas, UNSW

Melting of Antarctica’s ice can trigger rapid warming on the other side of the planet, according to our new research which details how just such an abrupt climate event happened 30,000 years ago, in which the North Atlantic region warmed dramatically.

This idea of “tipping points” in Earth’s system has had something of a bad rap ever since the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow purportedly showed how melting polar ice can trigger all manner of global changes.

But while the movie certainly exaggerated the speed and severity of abrupt climate change, we do know that many natural systems are vulnerable to being pushed into different modes of operation. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, the retreat of Arctic summer sea ice, and the collapse of the global ocean circulation are all examples of potential vulnerability in a future, warmer world.


Read more: Chasing ice: how ice cores shape our understanding of ancient climate.


Of course it is notoriously hard to predict when and where elements of Earth’s system will abruptly tip into a different state. A key limitation is that historical climate records are often too short to test the skill of our computer models used to predict future environmental change, hampering our ability to plan for potential abrupt changes.

Fortunately, however, nature preserves a wealth of evidence in the landscape that allows us to understand how longer time-scale shifts can happen.

Core values

One of the most important sources of information on past climate tipping points are the kilometre-long cores of ice drilled from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which preserve exquisitely detailed information stretching back up to 800,000 years.

The Greenland ice cores record massive, millennial-scale swings in temperature that have occurred across the North Atlantic region over the past 90,000 years. The scale of these swings is staggering: in some cases temperatures rose by 16℃ in just a few decades or even years.

Twenty-five of these major so-called Dansgaard–Oeschger (D-O) warming events have been identified. These abrupt swings in temperature happened too quickly to have been caused by Earth’s slowly changing orbit around the Sun. Fascinatingly, when ice cores from Antarctica are compared with those from Greenland, we see a “seesaw” relationship: when it warms in the north, the south cools, and vice versa.

Attempts to explain the cause of this bipolar seesaw have traditionally focused on the North Atlantic region, and include melting ice sheets, changes in ocean circulation or wind patterns.

But as our new research shows, these might not be the only cause of D-O events.

Our new paper, published today in Nature Communications, suggests that another mechanism, with its origins in Antarctica, has also contributed to these rapid seesaws in global temperature.

Tree of knowledge

The 30,000-year-old key to climate secrets.
Chris Turney, Author provided

We know that there have been major collapses of the Antarctic ice sheet in the past, raising the possibility that these may have tipped one or more parts of the Earth system into a different state. To investigate this idea, we analysed an ancient New Zealand kauri tree that was extracted from a peat swamp near Dargaville, Northland, and which lived between 29,000 and 31,000 years ago.

Through accurate dating, we know that this tree lived through a short D-O event, during which (as explained above) temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere would have risen. Importantly, the unique pattern of atmospheric radioactive carbon (or carbon-14) found in the tree rings allowed us to identify similar changes preserved in climate records from ocean and ice cores (the latter using beryllium-10, an isotope formed by similar processes to carbon-14). This tree thus allows us to compare directly what the climate was doing during a D-O event beyond the polar regions, providing a global picture.

The extraordinary thing we discovered is that the warm D-O event coincided with a 400-year period of surface cooling in the south and a major retreat of Antarctic ice.

When we searched through other climate records for more information about what was happening at the time, we found no evidence of a change in ocean circulation. Instead we found a collapse in the rain-bearing Pacific trade winds over tropical northeast Australia that was coincident with the 400-year southern cooling.


Read more: Two centuries of continuous volcanic eruption may have triggered the end of the ice age.


To explore how melting Antarctic ice might cause such dramatic change in the global climate, we used a climate model to simulate the release of large volumes of freshwater into the Southern Ocean. The model simulations all showed the same response, in agreement with our climate reconstructions: regardless of the amount of freshwater released into the Southern Ocean, the surface waters of the tropical Pacific nevertheless warmed, causing changes to wind patterns that in turn triggered the North Atlantic to warm too.

The ConversationFuture work is now focusing on what caused the Antarctic ice sheets to retreat so dramatically. Regardless of how it happened, it looks like melting ice in the south can drive abrupt global change, something of which we should be aware in a future warmer world.

Chris Turney, Professor of Earth Sciences and Climate Change, UNSW; Jonathan Palmer, Research Fellow, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences., UNSW; Peter Kershaw, Emeritus Professor, Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University; Steven Phipps, Palaeo Ice Sheet Modeller, University of Tasmania, and Zoë Thomas, Research Associate, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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The death of Cassini

Why Evolution Is True

The spacecraft Cassini was launched nearly twenty years ago—on October 15, 1997—to study Saturn and its moons. After two decades of faithful service, it took its “suicide plunge” yesterday, incinerating itself in Saturn’s atmosphere. Both NASA and the New York Times (100 pix!) have images from the mission, and here are a few. NASA’s images depict the final photos sent by Cassini, while the NYT gives a panoply of pictures over the vehicle’s history. (The head of Cassini imagine was, of course, Carolyn Porco.)

The sites’ captions are indented:

(NASA): Impact Site—Cassini’s Final Image: This monochrome view is the last image taken by the imaging cameras on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. It looks toward the planet’s night side, lit by reflected light from the rings, and shows the location at which the spacecraft would enter the planet’s atmosphere hours later.

(NASA): Enceladus setting behind Saturn:

This view of Enceladus was taken…

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Science or snake oil: is manuka honey really a ‘superfood’ for treating colds, allergies and infections?

The Conversation

File 20170912 3875 hr07v0
Sure it tastes nice, but what else can it do? from http://www.shutterstock.com.au

Nural Cokcetin, University of Technology Sydney and Shona Blair

Manuka honey is often touted as a “superfood” that treats many ailments, including allergies, colds and flus, gingivitis, sore throats, staph infections, and numerous types of wounds.

Manuka can apparently also boost energy, “detox” your system, lower cholesterol, stave off diabetes, improve sleep, increase skin tone, reduce hair loss and even prevent frizz and split ends.

Some of these claims are nonsense, but some have good evidence behind them.

Honey has been used therapeutically throughout history, with records of its cultural, religious and medicinal importance shown in rock paintings, carvings and sacred texts from many diverse ancient cultures.


Read more: Honey could be a potent medicine as well as a tasty treat


Honey was used to treat a wide range of ailments from eye and throat infections to gastroenteritis and respiratory ailments, but it was persistently popular as a treatment for numerous types of wounds and skin infections.

Medicinal honey largely fell from favour with the advent of modern antibiotics in the mid-20th century. Western medicine largely dismissed it as a “worthless but harmless substance”. But the emergence of superbugs (pathogens resistant to some, many or even all of our antibiotics) means alternative approaches to dealing with pathogens are being scientifically investigated.

We now understand the traditional popularity of honey as a wound dressing is almost certainly due to its antimicrobial properties. High sugar content and low pH mean honey inhibits microbial growth, but certain honeys still retain their antimicrobial activity when these are diluted to negligible levels.

Many different types of honey also produce microbe-killing levels of hydrogen peroxide when glucose oxidase (an enzyme incorporated into honey by bees) reacts with glucose and oxygen molecules in water. So, when honey is used as a wound dressing it draws moisture from the tissues, and this reacts to produce hydrogen peroxide, clearing the wound of infection.

The antimicrobial activity of different honeys varies greatly, depending on which flowers the bees visit to collect the nectar they turn into honey. While all honeys possess some level of antimicrobial activity, certain ones are up to 100 times more active than others.

How is manuka different to other honey?

Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) trees, and it has an additional component to its potent antimicrobial activity. This unusual activity was discovered by Professor Peter Molan, in New Zealand in the 1980s, when he realised the action of manuka honey remained even after hydrogen peroxide was removed.

The cause of this activity remained elusive for many years, until two laboratories independently identified methylglyoxal (MGO) as a key active component in manuka honey in 2008. MGO is a substance that occurs naturally in many foods, plants and animal cells and it has antimicrobial activity.

Australia has more than 80 species of native Leptospermum, while New Zealand has one, but the “manuka” honeys from each country have similar properties. There is currently a great deal of debate between the two countries over the rights to use the name “manuka”, but for simplicity in this article we use the term to describe active Leptospermum honeys from either country.


Read more: Manuka honey may help prevent life-threatening urinary infections


Can manuka honey kill superbugs?

The activity of manuka honey has been tested against a diverse range of microbes, particularly those that cause wound infections, and it inhibits problematic bacterial pathogens, including superbugs that are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Manuka honey can also disperse and kill bacteria living in biofilms (communities of microbes notoriously resistant to antibiotics), including ones of Streptococcus (the cause of strep throat) and Staphylococcus (the cause of Golden staph infections).

Crucially, there are no reported cases of bacteria developing resistance to honey, nor can manuka or other honey resistance be generated in the laboratory.

There is good evidence manuka honey kills bacteria. Ryan Merce/Flickr, CC BY

It’s important to note that the amount of MGO in different manuka honeys varies, and not all manuka honeys necessarily have high levels of antimicrobial activity.

Manuka honey and wound healing

Honey has ideal wound dressing properties, and there have been numerous studies looking at the efficacy of manuka as a wound dressing. Apart from its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, honey is also non-toxic to mammalian cells, helps to maintain a moist wound environment (which is beneficial for healing), has anti-inflammatory activity, reduces healing time and scarring, has a natural debriding action (which draws dead tissues, foreign bodies and dead immune cells from the wound) and also reduces wound odour. These properties account for many of the reports showing the effectiveness of honey as a wound dressing.

Honey, and in particular manuka honey, has successfully been used to treat infected and non-infected wounds, burns, surgical incisions, leg ulcers, pressure sores, traumatic injuries, meningococcal lesions, side effects from radiotherapy and gingivitis.


Read more – Use them and lose them: finding alternatives to antibiotics to preserve their usefulness


What about eating manuka honey?

Most of the manuka honey sold globally is eaten. Manuka may inhibit the bacteria that cause a sore (“strep”) throat or gingivitis, but the main components responsible for the antimicrobial activity won’t survive the digestion process.

Nonetheless, honey consumption can have other therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and prebiotic (promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal microorganisms) properties. Although, these properties are not solely linked to manuka honey and various other honeys may also work.

What doesn’t it do?

There is a commonly touted belief that eating manuka (or local) honey will help with hay fever because it contains small doses of the pollens that are causing the symptoms, and eating this in small quantities will help your immune system learn not to overreact.

But there’s no scientific evidence eating honey helps hay fever sufferers. Most of the pollen that causes hay fever comes from plants that are wind pollinated (so they don’t produce nectar and are not visited by bees).

There is some preliminary work showing honey might protect from some side effects of radiation treatment to the head and neck that warrants further investigation. But other claims honey has anti-cancer activity are yet to be substantiated.

If you’re putting honey in your hair you’re probably just making a sticky mess. from shutterstock.com

There isn’t any robust scientific evidence that manuka lowers cholesterol, treats diabetes or improves sleep. Although one interesting study did show honey was more effective than cough medicine for reducing night time coughs of children, improving their sleep (and their parents’). Manuka honey wasn’t used specifically, but it may well be as helpful.

Claims that anything helps to “detox” are innately ridiculous. Similarly “superfood” is more about marketing than much else, and the cosmetic and anti-ageing claims about manuka are scientifically unfounded.

Final verdict

If consumers are buying manuka honey for general daily use as a food or tonic, there is no need to buy the more active and therefore more expensive types. But the right kind of honey is very effective as a wound dressing. So if manuka is to be used to treat wounds or skin infections, it should be active, sterile and appropriately packaged as a medicinal product.

The best way to ensure this is to check the product has a CE mark or it’s registered with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (marked with an AUST L/AUST R number).

The ConversationManuka honey isn’t a panacea or a superfood. But it is grossly underutilised as a topical treatment for wounds, ulcers and burns, particularly in the face of the looming global superbug crisis.

Nural Cokcetin, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Technology Sydney and Shona Blair, General Manager, ithree institute UTS

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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BBC’s Today program honors 60 years of science reporting

Why Evolution Is True

Reader Dom called my attention to two BBC pieces on science that were broadcast yesterday, the 60th anniversary of The Today “programme”. The two bits have been concatenated into one 19-minute broadcast, which you can access by clicking on the screenshot below and then clicking the right arrow when you get to the BBC site:

The participants and a brief summary:

Steve Jones (beginning to 10:15), my old mate and emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, reports on how BBC science reporting has changed since he was a young lad listening to the broadcast. In short, he says, it’s become less worshipful and more critical—a change that Jones doesn’t see as entirely salutary. He briefly reviews several big science stories over the last few decades, including the “mad cow” beef scare, Andrew Wakefield’s phony claims about vaccines and autism (Jones sees this as a “The Big Car Crash”…

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