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(generated from captions) Can people really die from a curse? Remotely controlled operations. outside the operating theatre. Performing heart surgery from

G'day. Welcome to Catalyst. we meet the father of solar cells, Also on tonight's program, and Paul has more from Antarctica. from the feet of a dead penguin? Just what can you learn And even more from closer to home. in these brick pits Very famous fossil that was found over 100 years ago. Maryanne Demasi watches an operation But first up, conducted by remote control.

pulsates with rhythm. MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: A healthy heart But Des's heart doesn't. and skipping beats You can feel your heart racing and doing all sorts of funny things. with a heart condition Des was diagnosed 150,000 Australians. which affects over It's called atrial fibrillation. is a condition that's characterised Atrial fibrillation by an irregular heartbeat, impulses arising in the atrium. and it's due to abnormal electrical of the heart The atrium is the top chamber with each electrical signal. that contracts are disorderly, If the electrical signals pump blood around the body. the heart doesn't effectively go into fibrillation, ANDREW: When the atria to form pools. then that allows blood and create blood clots, It can become stagnant leave the heart and if those blood clots that causes a stroke. and go to the brain, for example, Des was living an active life. It wasn't that long ago that I was doing obedience with my dog. Well, 12 months ago, I was doing beach fishing. All that's come to a halt. Why do you get emotional? You get frustrated with yourself. when you're pretty active... Um, especially you're limited to what you can do. ..and it comes to a halt, and then severe end of the spectrum ANDREW: He's at the most with regards to atrial fibrillation. through your open mouth. Give me some big, deep breaths you've been in it, ANDREW: The longer to get you out of it, the harder it is and that's the case with Des. Desmond's only option now is surgery. those electrical signals, Doctors will attempt to short-circuit which seem to be causing the problem. doctors perform a procedure MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: To do this, called radiofrequency ablation. ANDREW: That is where we try the veins at the back of the heart and electrically disconnect that lead into the left atrium. important in the initiation We know that these veins are electrical impulses. and maintenance of these abnormal This is not a new technique, plan to do it is. but the way in which surgeons this state-of-the-art They'll be using robotic navigation system, in Australia. the only one of its kind than manually, It's much easier to control that degree of precision. and it does give us reduction in procedural time, Our early data shows a slight with increased experience, however, we're hoping that, to come down further. that that's going Desmond is having his final checks in his heart to ensure that there are no clots the surgery tomorrow. which may complicate That's it. Big swallow for us. down his throat They put an ultrasound to access images of his heart. and the heart looks pretty good. So, no clots, essentially, do that procedure tomorrow. So, Dr McGavigan can No problem. and Desmond is fairly relaxed. It's the day of the operation, Doctors begin by feeding a catheter of Desmond's heart. all the way up to the top the catheters in the heart, ANDREW: Once we've got all and leave the operating theatre, we then set the robotic arm using a three-dimensional joystick, and then, I can navigate the ablation catheter within the chamber of interest. to anywhere using this 3-D navigation system? So, how much more accurate is it it moves it 1mm, Well, for every 3mm I move my hand, millimetre-by-millimetre movement, so we can really get that precise when you consider which is very important is only 3mm in diameter. that each of these lesions Is it channelling the schoolboy and the computer games? playing with the joystick (Laughs) I think that must have helped. the software creates MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: Skilfully, a 3-D map of the heart, X-rays to see what's going on. which means you don't need as many the surgeons can do it And importantly, from the safety of the room outside. By using this robotic system, for the patient, it not only halves the radiation dose by 80%. it reduces exposure to the doctor on to the upper vein Might just move the ring and stay scrubbed for a while. alternate at the controls MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: Two surgeons during the five-hour operation. to avoid fatigue dots where you've ablated the heart? MARYANNE: Andrew, are all these red ANDREW: Yes, that's right. a 3mm lesion or scar Each red dot represents the catheter tip that's created by heating up using radiofrequency energy. you've been successful So, how do you monitor whether or not at disabling those signals? that these signals here Well, we're hoping to see and eventually flat-line. start to reduce This is a chance MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: pierce a hole in the heart that the surgeon may accidentally when the catheter singes the tissue. by applying too much pressure reduces that risk. But this robotic system you're getting good contact, MAN: We want to know that if your contact is too forceful, but you also need to know hazardous. because that's potentially to track above the yellow line, If we see the blue line start that's a warning that too forceful with our contact, we're getting a little bit back a millimetre or so, and we should just pull the catheter the pressure at the catheter tip. and straight away decrease and 300 ablations later, MARYANNE, VOICEOVER: After 4 hours with the results. the doctors are happy for the first time in 18 months, Des is now in normal rhythm but there's certainly a chance that we'll have to come back and consolidate what we've done today. Hopefully the first procedure works, and, yeah, I can get back and live life. GRAHAM, VOICEOVER: Coming up, Jonica with some deadly voodoo magic. PAUL, VOICEOVER: This is Brown Bluff on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. And these are some of the local residents. Sometimes you have to go to the ends of the world to find out about the history of life, and that's something that these little fellas can tell us a lot about. PAUL, VOICEOVER: These are Adelie penguins. I'm on a mission for a colleague back in Brisbane who's looking at the DNA of Adelies to get a better handle on the rate at which DNA changes. And this area is littered with great scientific specimens. This is what I've come to collect - bits of dead Adelie penguin. I've got a permit that allows me to collect the Adelie penguins, but I'm not allowed to touch the live ones. It's the unfortunate dead I'm interested in. PAUL, VOICEOVER: I don't need the whole thing. Just the foot will do. And that's carefully wrapped and labelled for the long trip back to Brisbane. What's so important about these cute little smelly creatures is that they've nested, generation after generation, in the same locality for thousands of years. So, if we can excavate old specimens and find more recently dead specimens, we can look at their DNA and see how much it's changed over time. Well, here you go, David. These are the specimens I bought back for you from Antarctica. PAUL, VOICEOVER: David's new approach is a direct measure of the rates of DNA change, much more accurate than old-school techniques. MAN: We can recover high-quality DNA sequences from them, and they add to our general picture of what the genetic diversity is like in Adelie penguins right here and now. David's new approach is a direct measure of the rates of DNA change - much more accurate than the old-school techniques. So, we have multiple time points between time zero - now - and about 44,000 years. Results from Adelie penguin studies haven't confirmed a number of previous studies. Those rates have been very high - much higher than previous estimates. Previously, when it was thought that rates of change in DNA were slower, the evolution of a group of organisms apparently spanned a longer time, but speed up the rate of DNA change and evolution appears to happen much more rapidly. If rates of molecular change are faster than what we thought, then that affects the structure of the tree over time. At the moment, these unexpected finds and restructuring of the family trees are restricted to the Adelie penguins. But David and his team are applying this technique to other creatures to see if they also have higher rates of DNA change. It could be the beginning of a major rethink on the evolutionary history of all life. JONICA: This is New Orleans, home of Louisiana voodoo. I'm here because I'm interested in whether powerful beliefs can actually change our bodies, our physiology, and voodoo is famous for its ability to heal and to hex! JONICA, VOICEOVER: I want to know, can a belief really heal or kill? And where better to start than a graveyard where I'm meeting Dr Clifton Meador. I'm looking forward to hearing your story. Yeah? JONICA, VOICEOVER: Now, this intriguing case was seen by his first boss, a Dr Doherty. CLIFTON: In 1938, he was approached by this family, a black family, with this man who'd lost about 40lb in weight and was near death. He thought he had tuberculosis or cancer that he couldn't find. The wife approached Dr Doherty and said, 'I really am terrified to tell you, but Vance has been hexed to death by the voodoo witchdoctor.' So, Dr Dorrity thought, thought, thought. Came in the next day and he said, 'Vance, I got the witchdoctor in the cemetery last night, and I choked him until he told me the truth. He rubbed some lizard eggs on your stomach. There's a lizard down there eating your insides up. I'm gonna get that lizard out of you.' So, he drew a syringe of apomorphine, which makes you vomit. Vance vomited and vomited and vomited, and just as he was ending the vomiting, he pulled out of his bag a lizard. Vance, his eyes went wide, he fell back in the bed in a swoon, and he recovered and lived another 15 years. So, is there any convincing explanation? But before I get to the science, which I promise you is every bit as amazing, I'd like to know more about New Orleans voodoo. I mean, does it even still have curses? To be honest, most of my knowledge comes from crappy old films, and I suspect modern voodoo isn't really like that. JONICA, VOICEOVER: Which is why I've come to visit the voodoo museum. Down through here? OK. And right here, this room's about... Wow! Look at this room. JONICA, VOICEOVER: My first big surprise

is that modern voodoo has hybridised with Catholicism. The spirits and saints are interchangeable. Yeah, voodoo, they believe in God, but they believe that God has retired, that He has delegated to the spirits His old job. Now they're the ones who have to listen to prayers. They're the ones that have to perform miracles, hence, the spirits are the primary focus in what they call voodoo. And this hybridised religion has some brilliant modern twists. Take the bone and skull men - available to parents on request. JERRY: They show up, usually on Mardi Gras morning, and go through a ritual whereby they basically terrorise children, and when they do, they tell 'em, 'Listen to your parents, stay in school, don't take drugs.' They scare kids straight. What a great service. But you could see how the kids could grow up with some pretty powerful beliefs. Meanwhile, I've got a request I'd like to make, and for that, I need someone who can petition the spirits on my behalf. A voodoo priestess. JONICA: So, you're a practitioner. If I want a man to fall in love with me, do I come to you? Yes. (Drum beats) JONICA, VOICEOVER: So, we begin with a fertility dance. Which apparently I'm required to join. And it just gets better. Before I know it, we've made a gris-gris bag. May I break the branches so your soul may not break. And I've got myself one of these. Don't let a man touch this unless you want to give yourself to him. So, this can keep a man interested as well. Yes. Yes. OK. This could come in handy. Thank you. Thank... Be careful. It also makes you fertile too. OK! (Laughs) Alright! I take that caution on board. JONICA, VOICEOVER: But while on my cultural tour, I find plenty of people to talk about the good side of voodoo... Ready. JONICA, VOICEOVER: Everyone clams up when I ask about hexes. JONICA: Do you have people coming to you who've been cursed? I had one last night. Had one last night? Mm-hm. Can you describe anything about it, anonymously? No? The witchdoctor is shunned. And they're still working in modern times? Yeah, uh-huh. We have at least one here in the city. JONICA, VOICEOVER: So, is it all just superstition and coincidence, or does something real happen when strong beliefs take hold? Personally, I've always believed the coincidence explanation. But just outside Detroit, a truly fabulous piece of research is forcing me to reconsider. Now, you may have heard of the placebo effect, where something inactive has a powerful effect on your health because you believe it's active, but have you heard of its evil twin, the nocebo effect? It's basically the opposite effect. Not long ago, Dr Zubieta was running a standard placebo pain test. They injected extra salty water into a cheek muscle... It's like a tooth ache. Like a dull tooth ache. ..and told people they may receive a pain reliever, when, in fact, all they got, basically, was water. Most experienced the placebo effect and their pain decreased. But to the doctors' astonishment, 15% got worse. They suffered the nocebo effect. And this is where the science becomes truly amazing, because they then took these people, injected a tagging dye, and observed the release of natural endorphins, opioids, in their brains. The individuals that had the placebo effect released more of these opioids, and the individuals that had the nocebo effect reduced the release. So, these thought processes actually boosted up or took down the opiates. In your brain. Produced in the brain. Absolutely. That's extraordinary. JONICA, VOICEOVER: Nothing like this has ever been shown before. No wonder Dr Zubieta is excited. So, how powerful is this nocebo effect? It's as powerful as the placebo effect. It can be equivalent to as much as 10mg or more of morphine... Morphine? In most studies. That's incredibly powerful. Yes. I think if you are told something by someone who has the authority, whether it's a witchdoctor or a physician, and you take that in, then I think your entire physiology starts to play around that belief. Now, there is a flip side to this, and that is that belief in belief can also cause harm. If you've got an incurable disease like cancer, studies have shown that positive thinking can make no difference to the outcome, but if you believe you're getting sicker because you're not positive enough, well, that's just stress you really don't need. JONICA, VOICEOVER: Having said that, I, for one, certainly have a renewed respect for the power of our thoughts. Don't think a western education will spare you the spell of the witchdoctor. Do you suffer from: MAN: Mm-hm. Then have I got the medicine for you! The placebo pill. Contains no medicine, but it'll make you feel better. Why? Because I tell you it will. (Applause) MAN, VOICEOVER: And it's not all down to gullibility. In fact, susceptibility to placebos may be in our genes. In a recent Swedish study, 25 people afraid of public speaking undertook a placebo treatment. Two months later 10 of the 25 people were significantly less agitated when speaking in public. Genetic tests showed that eight of the ten had two copies of the gene which creates serotonin in the brain, but none of the other participants did. So, if you're worried about making a speech, just pop a sugar pill and hope you've got the right genes. Marvellous institution, marriage. Still, who wants to live in an institution? (Booing) MAN: The driving force for my ongoing interest in solar energy has been that no-one has really identified a sustainable way of generating the energy that we're going to need in coming decades and centuries, and this way of creating energy is perhaps the only one that is capable of generating energy in the quantity required, and without pollution. I think the whole photovoltaic technology itself is a bit magical. You know, sunlight just falls on this inert material, and you get electricity straight out of it. I started the photovoltaic group here at the University of NSW in the '70s. I'm now executive research director. So, I'm involved in a cross-section of research that goes on within the centre, ranging from technology that's being commercialised, or very close to being commercialised, to technology that mightn't see the light of day for another 20 years or so. When I was an undergraduate student, I got interested in microelectronics. Which was then in its very early days. It was a really booming industry, and quite an exciting one to be involved with. However, as I matured, I came to the view that this idea of building better TV sets and so on probably wasn't the area that I was interested in devoting the rest of my life to. So, about that time, I discovered photovoltaics. Our initial idea was just to contribute to the development of the technology, but as the group grew, we realised that our unique approach to making the cells gave us a real opportunity to reach a milestone that had long been regarded as the four-minute mile of photovoltaics - 20% efficiency. A bottle of champagne was cracked every time we managed to eke one little percentage point higher, and then in 1985, we made the first 20% efficient solar cell. NEWSREEL: Professor Martin Green of the University of NSW has achieved what no other scientist has achieved so far. It is an extraordinary breakthrough. For over 20 years now, we've held the outright efficiency record for the best ever silicon device, which remains the mainstream of commercial technology. This is what we call first-generation technology. So, this is a wafer of silicon, and as you can see, it's very thin, but this is the technology that you'll find in most of the commercial product, and on the roofs of homes around Sydney and so on. With the second-generation product, you've actually got something that's very much thicker, but most of that thickness is glass, which is cheap. So, the layer of silicon that's deposited onto the glass is, in fact, over 100 times thinner than the wafer. So, in the long term, this second-generation technology has the potential for a much lower cost. MAN, ON PHONE: Hello. Are you there? Hello, Tommy? I'll be home for tea about half-past seven, OK? Oh, you'll be home at 7:30? OK, love, see you then. NEWSREEL: The long-term application of these cells is much more ambitious, and that is to replace coal as a source of energy for our power stations, and that could be just 10 to 15 years away. MARTIN: I guess it's probably taken a little bit longer than I thought, but the progress over the last ten years in particular has really been quite exceptional. 16 years ago, these cells behind me became the first to be connected to the power grid in NSW. The university had to get a licence the same as a big power-generating company would have to get. So, it does give me a great deal of satisfaction to see the transformation of the industry over those 16 years. As each day passes and you see the momentum that the industry is picking up internationally, you know, my assessment of the technology as one that will provide a major source of energy during this century will actually prove out to be true. PAUL, VOICEOVER: If you've ever driven south out of Sydney on the Princes Highway, you'll recognise these. They're all that's left of an extensive set of brick pits that operated in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. PAUL, VOICEOVER: Little remains of the pits now. They've been filled in and turned into playing fields, but in one corner, there's this. It's a memorial to a very famous fossil that was found in these brick pits over 100 years ago. It was the most complete skeleton of a labyrinthodont amphibian found anywhere in the world. It's about 220 million years old, and lived in a broad river estuary at the beginning of the age of dinosaurs. The original specimen was sent to London to the British Museum of Natural History, where it's still on display today. Perhaps it's time this specimen was returned to Australia. What do you think? GRAHAM, VOICEOVER: Next time on Catalyst, working out the wet doggy wiggle. You will need a scientific calculator, a ruler, and your dog. And after 30 years, maths has finally revealed the quickest way to complete that cube. Remember the website where you can view and download stories, or why not watch Catalyst on demand with iView? And of course, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. I'll see you next time. Closed Captions by CSI *

This Program is Good evening, Virginia Haussegger

with an ABC news update. There's new

tension between Tony tension between Tony Abbott and

Malcolm Turnbull after Liberal whips

named and shamed Mr Turnbull for not a named and shamed Md57÷ +cl for not attending several

named and shamed Mr Turnbull for not attending several parliamentary

votes.

votes. Mr Turnbull's accused them of

effectively issuing a press release

saying the email to all coalition

saying the email to all coalition MPS

and senators was bound to be leaked.

His supporters believe it's a delibera

deliberate attempt to discredit him.

Australia's human rights watchdog

called for

Australia's human rights watchdog has called for an end to

called for an end to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. In a

report It says prison-like

report It says prison-like conditions at sydney's Villawood Detention

Centre are contributing to a high

incidence of depression, self harm

and suicide. Katy Gallagher has

pushed for Federal funding for the

Majura Parkway Project in a face to fa Majura Parkway Project  face to

Majura Parkway Project in a face to face meeting with the Prime Minister.

The chief minister didn't leave with

a cheque but

a cheque but nevertheless says she

was encouraged by Julia Gillard's resp

response. The ACT government response. The ACT government hopes

response. The ACT government hopes to start the project in July next year.

Australian actor Bill Hunter Australian actor Bill Hunter received one

one final standing ovation today at a moving memorial service in Melbourne.

As family, friends and fans

farewelled him, he was remembered as a

a warm and generous man

a warm and generous man and a larrikin. To Canberra's weather, partly

partly cloudy a l÷≈zmz Fm 6 s +rra's weather,

larrikin. To Canberra's weather, partly cloudy a high of 15 after a

frosty -3. Sydney 19,

frosty -3. Sydney 19, Melbourne 15, Ad frosty -3. Sydney 19, M╛bourne 15,

frosty -3. Sydney 19, Melbourne 15,

Adelaide 16. More news in an hour. Sydney, post World War II. A city still living in the shadows of the past. A deadly crime wave sweeps through the inner suburbs. Over 100 people are poisoned. And the shocking truth is that most of the killers are women. Three are notorious. Yvonne Fletcher, a blonde seductress with an attraction to bad men. She was on the road to hell, one way or another. Caroline Grills, a jolly grandmother with a deadly secret. It was such an insidious thing that she did to her own relatives, to her own friends. Veronica Monty, a woman on the edge, embroiled in a sex scandal. This was an attempted murder. Very, very serious crime. You know, it was saturation coverage in the press. What is it about this city that turns women into cold-blooded killers? MAN: Read all about it! April, 1952, two Sydney detectives commence a murder investigation. They have no idea how big the case will become, or how many people will die. It all begins with the suspicious deaths of two men. They both have one thing in common...