Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Catalyst -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

could come up with journalistic angles on a storich

You have to keep reminding yourself that this is a desert. Usually a barren, forbidding place. It's
remarkable enough when the occasional flood event turns the arid centre into shades of green.
Extraordinary when it happens two years in a row.

He, more than anyone else I can think of in journalism, probably bridged the gap between the bush
and the cities.

They'd arrive in the chopper and bring a slab of beer and suddenly find there was a need for it and
they'd sleep out in the shearers's quarters and they told the truth and told it accurately and they
were good blokes.

# Theme music Ahead on Catalyst - the risk of getting cancer from your mobile phone and why sitting
down could potentially kill you.

Mobile Phone Risks

Mobile Phone Risks

Can mobile phones cause cancer? To find out, Mark Horstman sees how phones are tested, watches
brain surgery, and peers very closely at some damaged sperm.

TRANSCRIPT

Narration

Neurosurgeon, Kate Drummond is an expert on brain cancers, how they grow and how to get rid of
them. She's performed thousands of operations like this one.

Assoc Prof Kate Drummond

This morning I'll be removing a brain tumour in a patient who has breast cancer and the cancer has
moved to her brain.

Mark Horstman

It's hard to imagine anything quite as invasive as brain surgery.

Narration

And increasingly, Kate's patients want to know if their brain tumour is the result of using a
mobile phone.

Assoc Prof Kate Drummond

It's in the media all the time and they ask and I tell them that I don't think that there's any
evidence that, that mobile phones have caused their, their cancer.

Narration

But not all neurosurgeons agree.

Dr Charlie Teo

The incidence of brain tumours in this area here called the insular is increasing and an increasing
frequency and younger people. I mean, that's pretty scary.

Narration

Debate has been raging since mobile phones were large enough to need wheels.

Man

Don't put the antenna right against your head.

Man

The worst aspect of mobile phones is that they probably interrupt my meal in restaurants.

Narration

After nearly twenty years in use, they're now so common that if mobiles were dangerous, you'd
expect severe health impacts to be widespread.

Mark Horstman

The latest science says there's a possible link between mobile phone use and brain cancer, but what
do we really need to know to answer that question once and for all?

Dr Joachim Schuz

One of the ways actually to at least see the range of possibilities is to monitor the incidence
rates of brain tumours in the population and by doing this we can actually rule out that there's a
large risk.

Narration

To find out if there's any risk, a large study called Interphone examined the history of mobile
phone use across thirteen countries by fourteen thousand people, half with tumours and half
without. It focused on tumours found in the four types of tissues that most absorb radio waves from
mobile phones.

Dr Joachim Schuz

Overall we didn't see a relationship between mobile phone use and brain tumour risk. So in short
term users of mobile phones, we didn't see any association.

Narration

But they did find an increased cancer risk in the five percent who were the heaviest users - people
on their mobile for more than half an hour every day, for ten years or more.

Dr Joachim Schuz

By the end, what we can only say is that we see the statistical association but we don't know
whether it represents a causal effect or not.

Narration

Even so, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, listed radiation from mobile phones as a
possible human carcinogen. But, the statistics aren't strong enough to convince Kate.

Assoc Prof Kate Drummond

You've got to remember that mobile phones is in the same category of possibly causing cancer as
pickled vegetables and coffee. We're not spending a lot of time researching that and cancer. We
look down the microscope and say okay this is a brain cancer but if we look into the genetics of
that tumour, we know that it's actually many different diseases and so research into defining those
genetics and then looking for therapies that target those specific gene abnormalities I think is
much more important.

Narration

Electromagnetic energy powers our planet and surrounds our lives. We all swim in a sea of energy
waves, both natural and manmade. We're familiar with the dangers of exposure to high frequency
ionizing radiation from nuclear reactions but what are radio waves at the lower frequency end of
the electromagnetic spectrum?

Man

Radio waves from many programs are being picked up by your radio all the time.

Narration

After all, using radio frequencies to transmit and receive information is nothing new. What is new,
is our unnaturally close relationship with mobile phones.

Lindsay Martin

It's probably only in the last fifteen years that billions of people have been putting a low
powered transmitter right next to their head.

Narration

Lindsay Martin measures radiation from mobile phone base stations to check their emission levels
are in line with what the companies predict.

Lindsay Martin

Well here we can see the Optus and the Vodafone signals. A mobile phone base station would
typically be something like twenty Watts per transmitter. Your mobile phone handset is typically
around about a quarter of a Watt when it's at full power and often it might be running at a
hundredth of that. So we might be talking about a thousandth of a Watt.

Mark Horstman

But the issue of course is the proximity to your head?

Lindsay Martin

When the phone's working at full power, it certainly will give you a lot more exposure, even
probably just held in your hand, than will a base station.

Narration

Energy intensity drops dramatically with distance, so energy from even a low power transmitter is
little reduced when pressed tight against your ear.

Measuring how much gets inside your body is the job of this laboratory, established jointly by
Telstra and the Swinburne University of Technology.

Prof Andrew Wood

What we're doing in here mainly is looking at what's called radio frequency dissymmetry and that is
to try and work out the amount of energy that gets absorbed by particular parts of the body.

Narration

Each type of phone is tested for its specific absorption rate or SAR for short. It's a measure of
how much energy is absorbed by each kilogram of tissue.

Prof Andrew Wood

Down here we've got a mobile phone that's emitting radio frequency which is going into here. This
is a representation of the head. It's filled with some solution that represents brain - it's got
the same sort of electrical properties - and this is a probe which lowers down inside the simulated
brain. I can move that to any point inside the head and what it does is it finds the places where
the most energy is being absorbed.

Narration

Measuring energy absorption by the body is one thing, figuring out what effects it has on the cells
is another, and there is no accepted mechanism to explain how phones could cause cancer.

Mark Horstman

Research in Australia is surprisingly sparse. Here at the University of Newcastle, they're doing
something unique, but they're not looking at brain cells. Here, they're looking at human sperm.

Narration

Geoff De Iuliis is a sperm cell biologist.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

In a clinical sense, we wanted to see whether there was any DNA damage in the sperm as a
consequence of the radiation.

Mark Horstman

If we're interested in what mobile phone radiation does to the brain, why are you looking at sperm?

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

Yeah well we, we started out looking at, trying to work out the mechanisms by which the radiation
affects biology and sperm cells are quite a good model for that.

Narration

Sperm cells are basically a clump of DNA with a small outboard motor. They're perfect for these
experiments because any results don't get confused by other cell types.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

In our experiments we're irradiating purified cells in a wave guide and we're doing this for
sixteen hours, so we run it over night and at various powers.

Narration

In the control sample with no exposure to electromagnetic radiation, the sperm are healthy and
swimming vigorously.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

You can see that they're quite happy and, and swimming along.

Mark Horstman

Very fresh.

Narration

And then Geoff shows me the sperm that have been zapped over night with more than ten times the
maximum power output of a mobile phone.

Mark Horstman

Well that's dramatic.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

So ...

Mark Horstman

It looks apocalyptic for the sperm.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

Yeah so as you can see there's still a couple that are hanging on there.

Mark Horstman

Yeah.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

But most of them have lost their motility after they've been irradiated.

Narration

We've seen no radiation, radiation at about thirty Watts per kilogram. Now what does the maximum
phone radiation of two Watts per kilogram do?

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

As you can see there there's maybe a slight decrease of motility but a lot of them are, are still
quite happy.

Mark Horstman

So basically from this you're finding that if you put a mobile phone in talk mode next to sperm for
sixteen hours, you won't see much effect?

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

There's no real effect on motility yeah.

Narration

The cells are then assayed to see how their chemistry is changed. What Geoff has discovered is that
increasing doses of irradiation eventually stops sperm in their tracks by creating chemical
imbalances in the cells.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

The whole mechanism is that the radiation affects the cell's mitochondria. Those mitochondria will
generate these reactive oxygen species, tipping the cell into a state of oxidative stress, then
this state of oxidative stress will then oxidize the membranes which will then lead to your
motility loss.

Narration

Geoff cautions that animal testing is needed to see if this stress happens in other cell types like
the brain, but just finding a mechanism is a key to the puzzle.

Dr Geoff De Iuliis

You know from what I've seen, I think the potential that is there for radiation to affect biology.
Certainly we've, we've shown that. What that means for me and you, you know, I just can't say.

Prof Andrew Wood

It may be that science cannot in fact deliver a clear answer at all and that people may just have
to live with the uncertainty that exists.

Mark Horstman

We all worry about mobile phones frying our brains, but it doesn't seem to stop us using them.
Science may yet find a definitive link between brain cancer and mobile phones but in the meantime,
I'm just holding mine a little further away from my head.

G'day. How are you?

Mars Curiosity

Mars Curiosity

As the Mars science rover Curiosity touched down on the Martian surface this month, Graham Phillips
was in NASA's control room to feel the tension and excitement.

TRANSCRIPT

Narration

If you thought we were a bit over space probes going to Mars, you're very very wrong. All
afternoon, a media circus has been steadily gathering at NASA. It seems every TV network is here
just to witness the Curiosity Rover landing on the Red Planet. Journalists and producers,
astronauts and celebrities, even game-makers descended. I could land the Curiosity myself.

NASA employee

Raise one of your hands up.

Dr Graham Phillips

OK, ready to launch. Mmm, not easy to land that little Rover. Good thing I'm not in charge of this.
Oh, I've lost the probe! Oh well, you've got a spare haven't you?

Narration

Meanwhile, back to reality.

Dr Graham Phillips

We've got about fifteen minutes to touchdown and the tension's really building. In the meantime
have a look at this story on why we are sending Curiosity to Mars.

Narration

For centuries we've been fascinated by Mars and by Martians.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

We're trying to figure out if we're alone in the Universe and are we the only intelligent creatures
in the Universe, are we the only life forms in the universe and we don't know that.

Prof Paul Davies

Yeah Mars has always been a favourite for life beyond Earth and for the greater part of human
history, people thought that maybe there were not human beings but at least intelligent beings on
Mars.

Narration

Indeed, in the 1800s, astronomers thought they could see canals. That belief persisted until the
1960s when the first spacecraft visited.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

We sent a probe and then got a close up image of the surface of Mars and there were no canals that
were constructed, no Great Walls of China, no pyramids.

Narration

But the absence of little green engineers didn't diminish our interest. By the seventies, we'd
landed on the Red Planet and found a remarkably Earth-like place. Perhaps there were Martian
microbes here. Controversially, one of the Viking Lander's experiments seemed to show that.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

But then other people said well wait a minute, that, these other two experiments, they should've
shown something too, they didn't and so there's been a debate going on.

Narration

Frustratingly, it was a couple of decades before NASA landed again, but then, the first wheeled
robot touched down, the Sojourner. Unfortunately it wasn't looking for life.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

Its mission was to try to figure out what the rocks on the surface of Mars were made of.

Narration

In 2004, twin robots invaded Mars - Spirit and Opportunity.

Art Thompson

They were basically free to roam because they had the radios to talk directly to Earth and in fact
Opportunity is still driving around up there.

Narration

Opportunity has travelled more than thirty kilometres so far. It's not looking for life directly,
it's studying the rock formations for evidence of that necessity of life - water.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

They were looking at landscapes and whole sedimentary layers and cross bedding and said hey look at
that, that's the, that's the pattern we see on Earth when there has been water flowing and a lot of
those clues led to the conclusion that yes there certainly was water on this planet.

Narration

And evidence for a wet Mars kept coming. Phoenix jetted into the Martian arctic in 2008.

Prof Paul Davies

The photographs show that in the past Mars was definitely warm and wet. It had rivers and lakes and
possibly even an ocean.

Narration

And that's good news for would be Martian microbes.

Prof Paul Davies

Three and a half billion years ago, Mars could've been pretty much like the Earth and could've
sustained life at that stage and then the question is could it be clinging on still?

Narration

That brings us to this latest probe - Curiosity - which is a very impressive robot.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

Sojourner was this big, the Spirit and Opportunity were this big and Curiosity is big!

Jordan Evans

It's really a cross between a Mini Cooper and a Humvee. It's the length and overall scale of a Mini
Cooper but it's got the, the width of a Humvee.

Narration

For testing, a duplicate Curiosity had three eighths of the weight because Mars' gravity is three
eighths of Earth's.

Jordan Evans

And that simulates the ground pressure that the rover will have on Mars and we call that our
Scarecrow Rover. That rover we use to see how well it handles climbing in loose sand and in tightly
packed sand and on slopes, driving uphill and driving downhill and traversing a rocky area on
slopes.

Narration

Even landing is different for Curiosity. The previously used bouncing ball method wouldn't cut it
this time.

Art Thompson

This vehicle is too big and too heavy to do that so we're using what's known as a power descent
vehicle or a sky crane.

Narration

First, the probe is slowed by friction as it enters the thin atmosphere. It's protected by a heat
shield. Next, the parachute's released. Then when the craft is about a hundred metres from the
ground, the sky crane manoeuvre begins.

Jordan Evans

We essentially have a jetpack that goes around the rover. We call it the descent stage and it
lowers the rover, Curiosity, by rockets until it's about twenty metres above the surface.

Narration

Curiosity is released and lowered down by nylon cables. It's a crane hanging from the sky. The
rover unfolds and gently comes to rest on the red dirt.

Jordan Evans

The power descent vehicle will then break away and fly off and land and she's done and the rover is
now set to drive off on her own.

Narration

She's sitting in Gale Crater, named after early Australian astronomer, Walter Gale, but it's the
mountain here that NASA's interested in.

Jordan Evans

Mount Sharp is roughly five and a half kilometres high and it is a layer of deposits much like the
Grand Canyon. Scientists believe there was a period in the past where it was very wet and then
obviously now it's very dry and as we climb up that mountain, we should see that boundary between
the period when Mars was very wet and the period now.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

It has a radioactive supply so it's not limited to solar power so it has a lot of power. It has
about ten times as many scientific instruments.

Jordan Evans

We have a very high powered laser which we will be using to look at rocks from up to ten metres
away. We can fire the laser into a rock, turn the rock into plasma and then using a spectrometre we
can look at the gas and determine what the composition of the rock was.

Narration

That big question, is there life on Mars, is on Curiosity's list.

Assoc Prof Charley Lineweaver

It's kind of like a roving chemical set in which they're going to mix and match some things, pull
in samples, see if, see if anything resembles the type of reactions that Earth life would have.

Narration

If life is on Mars too, given the right ingredients on other planets, life must be easy to form.
That would be an immense discovery.

Prof Paul Davies

So this is a critical issue because the whole question: are we alone in the Universe, hinges on
whether life forms easily or is really hard and we don't know the answer to that.

Narration

Back at NASA, we're in the final moments of the nerve-wracking landing sequence.

Voice in control room

Parachute deploy. We are in powered flight. Down to 50 metres per second, 500 metres in altitude.
Expecting bridal cut shortly. Touch down confirmed!

Dr Graham Phillips

They pulled it off! That was an incredibly difficult landing.

Narration

I've never seen so many excited scientists. Already, these brilliant high res images have been sent
back. No doubt in the coming months, this chemistry lab on wheels will stun the science world.

Sitting Is Deadly

Sitting is Deadly

Sitting down for prolonged periods of time can shorten our lifespan and regular exercise might not
counteract the damage.

TRANSCRIPT

Narration

When you think about living dangerously - smoking, drinking and other risk taking behaviours may be
the first things that come to mind. But if your days are anything like mine, one of your deadliest
habits is one you indulge in most of your waking hours. It's sitting. Yes, sitting.

Anja Taylor

Just think for a second about how many hours a day you sit. The tally may horrify you.

Narration

Most of us sit down for breakfast. We sit for our daily commute, sit down at our desks for a good
eight hours and when we get home after a tiring day, we just can't wait to sit down.

Assoc Prof David Dunstan

We've come to the reality now that we are a nation of sitters and for, for many people, they're
sitting for longer than they're actually sleeping.

Narration

Researchers at the Australian National University and Sydney University have put a figure on just
how deadly sitting can be.

Professor Emily Banks

So we followed two hundred thousand people aged forty five and over and over a three year period
around five thousand of those people in the study died.

Narration

About seven percent of the deaths could be attributed to prolonged sitting.

Professor Emily Banks

What we found was that those who sat for prolonged periods of time, were more likely to die in the
three years following the survey, than those who sat for shorter periods.

Anja Taylor

What about somebody who sits for more than eleven hours a day like me?

Professor Emily Banks

So we know that of the people who sat for eleven or more hours a day, they had a forty percent
increasing risk of death compared to the people who sat for fewer than four hours.

Narration

People who sat for more than eight hours a day, were at a fifteen percent greater risk of early
death.

Professor Emily Banks

And this was actually after we had accounted for things like age, smoking and as many other factors
as we could think of.

Anja Taylor

They may sound like frightening statistics but the really depressing thing is even if I do the
recommended daily amount of exercise, it still doesn't cancel out the negative effects of sitting.

Narration

But don't stop exercising. In the study, those who exercised regularly, were still at an increasing
risk of early death the longer they sat but being inactive only adds to the risk. Those who didn't
exercise and sat the most, fared worst of all. So what exactly is it about sitting that's so bad
for you? At the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, trial participants have been
taking it easy.

Assoc Prof David Dunstan

When we are sitting, there's no muscle contractions and, and why is that so important? Well muscle
contraction helps the body's efficiency to clear blood sugar levels, blood fat levels.

Narration

A high calorie meal raises blood sugar levels. In people who sit for long periods, those levels
remain high for hours.

Assoc Prof David Dunstan

Well it's known that elevated glucose levels can lead to inflammation which if repeated on a number
of days or weeks, can lead to heart disease and, and a host of other conditions such as cancer.

Professor Emily Banks

So Andrew we'll do your break and I'll get you up on the treadmill.

Narration

But good news, breaking up sitting time can have a dramatic effect. A light two minute walk every
twenty minutes is enough to lower blood glucose levels by around thirty percent.

Assoc Prof David Dunstan

There was no difference between doing light intensity walking or moderate intensity walking, so it
doesn't appear that there's an intensity issue here, it's the physical movement that's important.
What we need to start to incorporate is more movement throughout the day and an achievable way to
do that is to not focus on having a seated posture throughout the day. I think the problem is that
we have people just sitting throughout the day.

Narration

It sounds impractical but getting people up and moving could be a win win for business and workers.

Anja Taylor

Here at the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, employees are trialling activity-based working.

Narration

In fact, it's the largest example of its kind in the world. Workers here don't have desks or
landlines. Their day is spent roaming between chairs, standing desks and conference tables,
depending on the task at hand. Big glass stairways encourage walking between floors.

Anja Taylor

Do you find that you get up more often than if you had a standard desk?

Employee

Oh absolutely. I move around a lot more in this environment, for sure.

Anja Taylor

For how long would you be sitting for?

Employee

Oh anything up to fifteen minutes at the most I'd say.

Narration

But the new work environment wasn't designed for health.

David Craig

More than anything else it was about introducing a better culture of collaboration. This way people
actually bump into each other, they interact and they innovate more. It just sort of gets them up
and about and thinking.

Narration

It also saves on operating costs and waste.

David Craig

We're using half the energy, we're using less than half of the paper that we did before plus
hopefully you, you know a better healthy outcome.

Assoc Prof David Dunstan

Once we talk about this and highlight the potential hazards, many people are quite reflective on,
on their own lives. I'm more conscious of prolonged periods of sitting now than I ever was.

Narration

As for me, I'm trying hard every day to kick my sitting habit and when there's no seat left on the
train, I smile and consider myself lucky.

Next time on Catalyst, is it possible that Multiple Sclerosis could be cured? According to these
medical mavericks, it can.

I don't like using the word 'cured' because it's sort of tempting Providence, but I feel in my
heart of hearts that the disease is gone.

Closed Captions by CSI - Jacqui Mapoon

This Program is Captioned Live.

Good evening. Craig Allen with an Good evening. Craig Allen with an ABC news update. In just a few
hours news update. In just a few hours time Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should know if his bid
for political asylum in Ecuador is successful. If it is the Australian has little chance of leaving
the Ecuadorian embassy in London without being arrested. The 41 year old's actions have sparked a
serious diplomatic have sparked a serious diplomatic row between Ecuador and the United Kingdom. In
shades of the Tampa incident 11 years ago Asylum seekers rescued by a cargo ship are being accused
of piracy. 67 men were picked-up by one of the Tampa's sister-ships earlier this week. They became
agitated and demanded to be taken to Christmas Island. The men could be among the first to be
shipped to detention centres in shipped to detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea . Two
women who suffered horrific burns during an ultramarathon in Western Australia are now suing the
organisers for millions of dollars. A report handed to the WA government today. Found to the WA
government today. Found the race promoters failed to protect the runners who ended up caught in the
middle of a raging bushfire . The national gallery is showcasing a retrospective exhibition of one
of Australia's foremost art nouveau painters. The works of Sydney Long includes his landscapes.
Nude bathers. And his fascination with flamingoes. To Canberra's weather. Rain at times with two to
eleven degrees. More news in an hour.

WOMAN: You know you've got to do it. She'd want that, wouldn't she? You know she would. So now's
the time, isn't it? You must do it now, for her sake. You know she's waiting for you. Waiting...
Waiting for you to join her. So don't keep her waiting too long. Waiting... Waiting for you to join
her. Do it now. Do it now!

Stop that, Joseph Biddle!

Come on.

MAN: One, two, one, two.