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

And it could live in the soil in your garden.

..and drinks in space.

To boldly go where no beer has gone before.

? Theme music G'day. Welcome to Catalyst. I'm here at the University of Sydney's School of Physics.
And a little later, Dr Karl joins me to recreate some of Julius Sumner Miller's classic
demonstrations. And what causes the biggest bangs in the universe?

Bone Scaffold

Bone Scaffold

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

Bone is the second most transplanted tissue in the world, second only to blood. While our bones
have the ability to heal a simple fracture, large areas of damage require replacement material to
heal. But donor bone, or bone taken from elsewhere in the patient's body, have drawbacks. Dr
Maryanne Demasi meets a team of bio-engineers at the University of Sydney that has been working on
the "holy grail" for orthopaedic replacements - synthetic bone scaffold.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Did you know that the second most commonly transplanted tissue after blood is bone?

Dr Julian Yu

Bone transplants, or bone grafting is an important and common procedure that we, we use to assist
with bone healing.

Assoc Prof Hala Zreiqat

Lots of people have problems with their bones, and that could be due to disease, injury as it would
occur from an accident, or bone defects we are born with.

NARRATION

Minor damage to bone like a fracture will usually heal on its own. But a large defect needs a bit
of help.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So Julian, this looks like a pretty big break in this bone here?

Dr Julian Yu

Yeah, it is. This is an example of a, quite a nasty tibial fracture. You can see it's in a few
pieces, and that there is a lot of gaps in between the bones. This is the type of fracture that
would benefit from bone grafting.

NARRATION

Substitute bone can be taken from another part of the patient's own body, or transplanted from a
donor.

Dr Julian Yu

There are risks associated with transplantation, such as immune reactions. And although very, very
small, there is a risk of disease transmission with, with donor bone.

NARRATION

Another option is artificial bone. But replicating the properties of living bone tissue is very
tricky.

Assoc Prof Hala Zreiqat

Bone structure is quite porous, so we're trying to develop a material that has the same structure
as in your hip and spine. That is very porous, like spongy material. But at the same time, we need
to create material that is mechanically strong, that can withstand loads and pressures.

NARRATION

Hala's team has developed a material that acts as a structure for new living bone cells to grow
through.

Assoc Prof Hala Zreiqat

We just take calcium silicate, we incorporate the trace elements that we know are important in bone
formation. We mix it together in a slurry, we then cut a template from a foam. We cut it to the
shape and the size that the patients require, we dip that piece of foam in that slurry, then we
fire it up at twelve-hundred degrees in a furnace, so that we melt away that polymer. What we are
left with is the actual structure of the material that we want to implant in the body.

NARRATION

The result is an artificial bone scaffold that encourages natural bone to re-grow.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Not only have they made it porous and strong, they can mould it into any shape you need.

NARRATION

This new material has already been used in animals, with amazing results.

Assoc Prof Hala Zreiqat

When we compare it with the materials we've developed, we have seen very nice bone formation and
healing of the two sides of the defects, which is remarkable.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

That's incredible. How long did it take for that bone to heal over?

Assoc Prof Hala Zreiqat

It started at four weeks, much better at eight weeks, and this is at three months.

Dr Julian Yu

So the new data's very encouraging. It shows more bone healing evident on the x-rays than, than
other types of synthetic bone grafts that we've used in the past.

NARRATION

It's hoped that within two years, this new material will revolutionise the way we repair broken
bones.

Biggest Bang

Biggest Bang

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

After the Big Bang, gamma ray bursts are the most powerful explosions we see in the cosmos. Dr
Graham Phillips reveals the possible explanations of what causes them.

NARRATION

Three, two, one, zero....Who'd have thought the military would end up doing some astronomy?

Dr Graham Phillips

Back in the 1960s, the Americans wanted to make sure the Soviets weren't doing any secret nuclear
testing. So they put a whole bunch of satellites up to detect gamma radiation coming from the earth
- a telltale sign there'd been a nuclear blast. When incredibly, they found many gamma ray blips.

Prof Brian Schmidt

After a while, it became very clear that there were a lot more blips than they were expecting. You
know, the first one they were scared. About number twelve, they were like, 'I don't think the
Soviet Union's blowing up that many nuclear bombs'.

Prof Lawrence Krauss

And it was a big mystery - suddenly we discovered, round the whole sky, there were bursts of
energetic gamma rays coming at us that maybe last a second or less. And no-one had the slightest
idea what they were due to.

NARRATION

A few decades of study, and a dedicated space telescope, have revealed the blips are due to massive
detonations on the far side of the cosmos.

Prof Brian Schmidt

These are the most powerful explosions that we have ever seen in the universe.

Prof Lawrence Krauss

And the fact that we can see them means more energy is being emitted in those few seconds than
essentially, our sun is emitting in its lifetime.

Prof Brian Schmidt

A single gamma ray burst for a second or two can outshine the rest of the visible universe. Rather
than put its energy in all directions, it puts it out as a jet.

NARRATION

When that jet happens to be pointed directly at us, we see a very bright burst of gamma rays.
What's the explanation? Well, one possibility is neutron stars. These are the corpses of dead suns.
Their matter is incredibly dense. If you could grab a handful, it'd weigh as much as a mountain.
Now sometimes, neutron stars find themselves orbiting each other. It's an unstable relationship.

Prof Brian Schmidt

That causes them to get closer and closer on each orbit. When they get really close together, they
go, 'whrp' ...

NARRATION

They merge, and create a gamma ray burst. Another explanation for a GRB, as they're known, is an
exploding star, a super-nova - but one on steroids.

Prof Brian Schmidt

I like to call them super-duper novae, they are also known as hyper-novae. But we think these
things occur when stars much, much bigger than the sun die. And when they run out of nuclear fuel,
they have a very exciting end, because they're going to form a black hole.

NARRATION

As matter is thrust on to the forming black hole, a prodigious amount of energy is released.

Prof Brian Schmidt

We always think of nuclear energy being the strongest thing in the universe - uh-uh. Gravity is
much, much stronger. And that gravity can take the material and throw it down onto the black hole,
and so you end up with a nuclear bomb that is much, much stronger than a nuclear bomb the size of
the sun going off.

Dr Graham Phillips

So, how likely is a gamma ray burst in our neck of the galaxy? Well, something like three or four
of these happen every day, somewhere in the universe. But that translates to about one in every
hundred million years in our Milky Way galaxy. And for that to happen close to the sun, well, we'd
have to be pretty unlucky.

Prof Brian Schmidt

But you don't know when it's going to be your bad day, I guess, and that would be a bad day. The
good news is, we wouldn't have much notice. We would just go, 'Oh okay, wonder what that is?' And
then that would probably be the end of things.

Ahead on Catalyst, making the best beer for astronauts...

I am Julius Sumner Miller. I teach physics.

Back in the 1960s, Julius Sumner Miller was a household name and the face of science on TV. His
passion and mad professor antics delighted viewers as he inspired a generation of science
enthusiasts, young and old, with the famous phrase...

Why is it so?

G'day, Karl. You're the Julian Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney. What's your job
all about?

Like his, except I'm promoting science to a new generation in a new way.

Ah, fantastic. And this room's pretty special, isn't it?

This is the theatre where he shot those original episodes way back in the '60s and '70s.

Some of those props are from Why Is It So? Yep

. The university kept them in good nick so we can still use them today.

I recognise these hoops. What exactly are these for?

To start off, you see there's a bit of a circle there. They've all got the same shape. Then there's
more of the circle and a bit more then, of course, a complete circle. But let's start off with this
one here. (Imitating Miller) What do we have here, Meerman?

OK. We've got a bunch of rulers.

Now pull them over here. They're all at the same angle. (Imitating Miller) So, Meerman, tell me
what you see. W

ell... Aha. OK. So the shorter the ruler, the faster it swings. The longer the ruler, the longer
the period.

And what happens here, Meerman?

OK. Right. Those swing with exactly the same period. But you'd think that the big circle would take
longer.

Isn't that amazing?

That is amazing. As are these beautiful old tuning forks. I recognise these.

Look at this. What do you see there?

Oh, fantastic. 'Professor Julius Summer'. T

hat is his signature. What you have here is a wooden box - empty, closed end, open end, so it's got
an air cavity inside with a tuning fork on top as a bit of a resonator. We put it up against an
identical box so they can talk to each other through the air. Tuning fork here, tuning fork there,
orange ping-pong ball. And here we go... Let's see what happens.

(Vibrating chime) It's now vibrating like that's one vibrating.

Yeah, so the vibrations go from there. A big mass of air moves here. This moves this mass of air,
which moves the tuning fork which moves that. Isn't that amazing, Meerman?

So enchanting it delights the soul, as the good professor would say. Stick around because we're
doing more of Professor Julius Sumner Miller's favourite demonstrations, but first here's Tanya
with the mystery of the flesh-eaters.

Mystery of the Flesh Eaters

Mystery of the Flesh Eaters

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

It lives outdoors and attacks during hot summer months, usually after a heavy rainfall. These few,
meagre clues began a decade long hunt for the cause of an shocking infectious disease. Tanya Ha
reports how Dr John Gerrard tracked down the culprit responsible for vectoring a virulent flesh
eating bacteria into humans.

NARRATION

Max Byles never saw what bit him. But a week later, he lay fighting for his life in a Gold Coast
hospital.

Dr John Gerrard

It was unlike any infection which I had ever previously encountered, or which I had ever read about
in any textbook.

NARRATION

Something was eating away at his tissues inside and out.

Dr John Gerrard

He had lumps on his lower limbs, his upper limbs and his trunk, in association with high fevers.
And we detected an abscess that was growing in the left lobe of his liver.

NARRATION

The strange parasite in Max had been causing similar wounds in patients across Australia and the
US. But what was it, and where did it come from?

Tanya Ha

It lives outdoors. It attacks during hot summer months, and usually after heavy rainfall. These few
meagre clues started an infectious disease hunt that lasted nearly a decade.

Max Byles

I went to go home, but couldn't move me right leg properly. It was all limp on me. And by next
morning, I had a lump coming out on the side of my stomach. Went a bit silly in the mind. And the
first person I knew at hospital was Dr Gerrard.

Dr John Gerrard

High fever ... Are you, are you feeling any better at all?

Max Byles

I don't know, I think I feel a little bit better.

NARRATION

To find out what was infecting Max, blood and tissue samples were taken to the hospital laboratory
for culture. A few days later, a distinctive, but unknown bacterium covered the agar plates.

Dr John Gerrard

That looks ah, quite unusual. Some swarming around the edges.

NARRATION

DNA sequencing revealed a genetic match to a genus of bacterium known as Photorhabdus.

Dr John Gerrard

Which means 'light rod' in Greek. What that means is it glows in the dark.

NARRATION

John took a swab of the bacterium, drew the letter 'B' and headed into a dark room.

Dr John Gerrard

It seemed a little unlikely, and we felt a bit silly about it at first. Within a few minutes, lo
and behold, this letter, the letter 'B' appeared before our eyes. It was really quite magical.

NARRATION

Known as an insect pathogen, Photorhabdus normally lives inside a small worm. The worm attacks by
penetrating the skin, or cuticle, of the insect. Once inside, the worm vomits up the Photorhabdus
bacterium. Toxins released by the bacterium kill the insect and preserve its body. The worm them
multiplies, and uses the insect cadaver for food.

Attacking a human is vastly different to attacking an insect. So it seemed that perhaps this
bacterium was carried by a different vector.

Tanya Ha

And one that might live in a common garden environment - perhaps a spider.

Dr John Gerrard

Almost all of the patients had been involved in some form of outdoor activity prior to infection. I
collected water samples, I collected soil samples. Samples of the manure of animals. I collected
insects, spiders. It really just led nowhere. It was really quite naïve that you could go to a, to
a farm and think that you would just find this organism in any simple way.

NARRATION

It was at this house in Kingscliff where John finally got his break. Never before had a patient
been able to pinpoint exactly where they were when the infection occurred.

Tanya Ha

So what were you doing when you originally got the infection?

Greg Burton

Oh, I was digging a hole here, for this post.

Tanya Ha

So whatever it was, it was in the ground here?

Greg Burton

Yeah.

Tanya Ha

It probably still is.

Greg Burton

Yeah, well all I did was dig the hole for this.

Dr John Gerrard

He had been building a fence on the boundary of his house, using just his right hand as a scoop.

NARRATION

And just a few days later, the flesh on Greg Burton's right hand had been eaten away.

Dr John Gerrard

This was an extraordinary infection that had completely eroded the skin and soft tissue on the back
of his right hand, exposing all the tendons. So I, I knew exactly where to look. I had a hole in
the ground where I could look for this organism.

NARRATION

Nothing was visible in the sand, so John added insect larvae to the samples to tempt out the
pathogen.

Dr John Gerrard

One week later, all the insects had died, and they were glowing in the dark. And about a week
later, first a small number and then hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of tiny
worms began to erupt from these insects.

NARRATION

Dr John Gerrard had his vector.

Dr John Gerrard

It is unheard of for worms to vector infection into humans.

NARRATION

But that's exactly what this microscopic nematode does.

Dr John Gerrard

Looking back, we discovered that most or all of the patients had been exposed to sand or sandy soil
at or near the beach. Well, we don't know what the, the natural prey of this worm is. We don't
believe it's humans, but as yet, that remains undiscovered.

NARRATION

It seems that what we are seeing is an insect pathogen caught in the act of jumping to a human
target.

Dr John Gerrard

Thirty years ago, it was said that the era of infectious diseases was over. And then thirty years
ago, along came HIV. We have avian influenza from birds. SARS originated from civets. We have
become increasingly interested in not just mammals and vertebrates as a source of, you know, of
emerging infectious diseases in humans; but other animals, invertebrates, as a source of emerging
infectious diseases in humans.

NARRATION

Two other well-known insect pathogens have jumped to humans in the past. The results? Anthrax and
the Bubonic Plague.

Dr John Gerrard

I certainly do not believe that this organism is likely to cause a widespread plague. I think we
would have seen that by now, and I'm very happy to allow my children to play in the sand.

NARRATION

All patients have recovered with aggressive antibiotic treatment.

Tanya Ha

Oh, so it ate away that much?

Max Byles

It took years before we actually found out what it was. And then when they said it was a little
worm the size of a pinhead, I couldn't believe it.

NARRATION

Even more extraordinary, it may one day save your life. The molecules used by Photorhabdus to kill
insects and preserve their bodies are yielding hundreds of potential new drug structures - from
anti-fungals to anti-cancer drugs. It's a small invader with a lot to offer science.

Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

Bioluminescence - is a chemical reaction inside a living cell which generates light. From sea
creatures to mushrooms, bioluminescence provides a glowing existence.

NARRATION

How many gulper eels does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They don't need lightbulbs - they're
bioluminous. Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction inside a living cell which generates light.
Most living cells give off some form of bioluminescence, but usually it can't be seen by the naked
eye. Thankfully.

Around ninety per cent of deep-sea critters give off visible bioluminescence, for attraction ... hi,
honey ... repulsion ... ergh ... communication, and illumination.

There's even a genetically engineered species of glowing fish which are sold as pets. But whatever
your ethical concerns, you've got to admit, the future of bioluminescence looks bright.

So, Karl, this was one of Julius's favourite demonstrations, wasn't it?

He loved this one. It was really dramatic because you would use the power of the air to crush this
drum down. In this case what we've got is a 20-litre drum. A Bunsen burner, a few centimetres of
water. The whole thing full of steam and, of course, the steam coming out of the top. So the first
thing is to switch off the heat.

OK. Off with the heat.

Then you chuck the bung in the top and you apply the knockometer.

Alright. Bit of pressure.

There used to be oxygen molecules and nitrogen molecules in there, there's only water molecules in
there. They're gradually, slowly condensing, slowly cooling down, slowly shrinking. And there's
about four or five tonnes of air pressure on this half-square metre here. I think we probably could
do with a bit of extra cooling-down. So can you apply some extra cools? (Imitating Miller) Give us
some cools, Meerman.

Here we go. Cooling it down...

Listen to this. Hear the droplets?

Uh-huh. (Laughs)

Man. Oh, my God.

That's pretty impressive. (Laughs) That's why Julius reacted like this... (Boom!)

It went! Oh, it went! (Laughs) Oh, mama mia. Did it go?

Mama mia. We'll be back with another demo soon. But right now here's Paul Willis with his beverage
of choice in outer space.

Space Beer

Space Beer

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

80,000 space fans are booked on commercial suborbital flights from 2012 and it's likely that a few
of them will want to savour a beer whilst enjoying the spectacular view! Until now no one had
actually tested the physiological effects of weightlessness on a carbonated beverage. Dr Paul
Willis meets a group of enterprising scientist-brewers as they take beer where no beer's been
before.

Andy Thomas

Okay, it's turning pink hot out here now, almost white. Okay, can we copy that?

NARRATION

Andy Thomas - the first Australian in space. But there's a technological hurdle to any Aussie who
wants to follow in his footsteps.

Dr Paul Willis

Who's going to provide the beer?

NARRATION

Jason Held is the director of Saber Astronautics, a company that deals in satellite technology. But
recently they decided to tackle something more important - finding the right beer to drink in
space.

Dr Jason Held

This is just something we wanted to do for fun. Beer culturally is the oldest and favourite
entertainment beverage in human history.

NARRATION

So just what are the problems they face in this epic challenge?

Dr Jason Held

It has a few challenges to it. We did want to look at the carbonation level very closely, and just
trying to find that mix of getting a beer which was tasty and, and interesting to drink, but also
comfortable to drink at the same time. With any kind of a carbonated beverage in zero gravity, the
gases and the liquids, they don't like to separate. So what happens is, you feel like you want to
burp, because you have gas in there, but instead of just gas coming out like you would on earth,
with a nice healthy burp, what you get is what's called a wet burp, so the gases and the liquid
come out together, and it's rather unpleasant.

NARRATION

So after many in-depth sampling sessions, the team settled on a good, strong stout with not too
much gas. Now, to put it to the test. One way of testing the beer involves the infamous 'vomit
comet' in Florida, an old passenger jet that flies a parabolic course, giving thirty seconds of
zero gravity. Fun, but messy. Then there's the tower.

Dr Jason Held

Either drink it or drop it.

Prof Ted Steinberg

That's right, let's go.

Dr Jason Held

Alright.

NARRATION

Jason has come to the Queensland University of Technology drop-tower facility, headed up by Ted
Steinberg. By dropping experiments down a tall shaft, they can achieve just over two seconds of
almost-zero gravity. It really is a remarkable piece of work - the only one of its kind in the
Southern Hemisphere, and just one of a handful of similar facilities around the world. And it's not
just for studying beer.

Prof Ted Steinberg

We look at fluid dynamics, fire safety or combustion, nano materials formation, materials
synthesis, boiling, phase change, space beer - there's a whole variety of phenomena we look at, all
of which require a reduction in the gravity level during study.

NARRATION

But Jason is interested in what happens to beer in those precious two seconds of micro-gravity.

NARRATION

On-board cameras reveal what happens inside the capsule.

Dr Jason Held

We really aren't sure where the level of carbonation is where it would be comfortable enough to
drink. So at the end of the day, you could get rid of all the carbonation in the beer, and you have
an alcoholic tea.

NARRATION

Which sounds fine for Pommy astronauts, but a beer without bubbles? That's un-Australian. While the
smooth, not-too-gassy stout is currently the front-runner for the space beer, this is a work in
progress, and changes to the recipe are still being tested. We'll keep you posted.

Dr Paul Willis

So that's the secret of taking beer into space. And I'll drink to that.

Astronaut

Cheers, Paul.

These patterns here are in the sand made by Boeing. Can I have a go at this one?

Be my guest.

You beauty. So you sprinkle on a bit of sand - beautiful. And then...

Take her away.

We'll pinch the plate a little bit, give it a bow and let's see what happens.

Some of these guys are jumping a centimetre or more!

(Shrill scraping)

Now, these are Chladni plates, named after Ernst Chladni. You get a lump of metal and vibrate it.
And what you're looking at is - what are normally imperceptible - vibrations in the plate that are
expressed through the beautiful medium of sand!

They jump where it's vibrating, but they move to where the plate's sitting still. Well, thank you
very much for this trip down memory lane.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Fantastic fun. And here's a look at what's on next week. Bamboo clothing...

It looks good and feels good, but is it really green?

..PMS...

What goes so wrong in the brain once a month?

..and our playmates of the future.

They're trying to make computers more like us.

Go to our website for more on anything you've seen on Catalyst. And for exclusive extras, why not
follow us on Twitter or Facebook? See you next time.