Helix @ CSIRO

15 June 2016
by David

Gravity makes the Earth age slowly

The Earth, sitting on a distorted grid that represents the gravitational field.

Earth’s mass bends space-time.
Image: NASA

It’s a science fiction horror story – a young astronaut takes a year-long mission closely orbiting a black hole. When he returns home, thousands of years have passed and everyone he has ever known has been dead for centuries. Is there a hint of truth to this terrifying tale?

This imaginary astronaut’s story is a prediction from Einstein’s theories of relativity. Einstein proposed that the speed of all light is the same, no matter where you are standing, and no matter how fast you’re moving. That means space can shrink and stretch, and the steady tick of time isn’t so steady after all. Continue Reading →

8 June 2016
by David

Fold an ancient Chinese dice

You will need

Someone is cutting out a complicated shape.

Cut out the net

What to do

  1. Cut out the shape – known as the net – along the outermost lines.
  2. Fold and then unfold along each of the lines on the net. They all fold in the same direction, so you don’t need to turn the paper over. Continue Reading →

5 June 2016
by David

Hard work creates simple life

a collection of small round shapes, clumped together.

Scanning electron micrograph of a cluster of Syn 3.0.
Credit: Tom Deerinck and Mark Ellisman of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California at San Diego.

It takes a lot of information to make a human. It’s kept in our cells as DNA, which contains at least 20 000 genes. Some other forms of life can get by with much less DNA and fewer genes. Now one team of scientists think they’re close to making the simplest living thing possible.

The team used a bacterium known as Mycoplasma mycoides, which has a very small set of DNA. The team looked at all the genes in the bacterium and tried to work out which ones were most important. Continue Reading →

20 May 2016
by David

Dogs don’t like hugs

A lady hugging a dog.

Hugging your dog may make it stressed.
Credit: ©iStock.com/Milan Stojanovic

Australians love dogs. About 40 per cent of Australian households have a dog. And if you love your dog, you should give it a hug, right? Probably not, new research shows.

Stanley Coren, a psychologist and dog expert at the University of British Columbia, searched the internet for pictures of people hugging dogs. In more than 80 per cent of the pictures, the dogs were showing multiple signs of stress. Only 10 per cent looked to be having a good time. Continue Reading →

12 May 2016
by David

Try this: How full is choc-full?

A slice of rocky road.

Do some maths and end up with some tasty rocky road!

You will need

  • A small dish, about 2 cups in size
  • Baking paper
  • Butter or spray oil
  • 2 cups of marshmallows
  • ½ cup of peanuts
  • ½ cup of snake lollies, cut into small pieces
  • Scissors or a sharp knife
  • 400 g of dark chocolate
  • Microwave container or saucepan

SAFETY: You don’t need to use peanuts. If you’re making this for someone with a peanut allergy, use more snakes instead of peanuts.

Continue Reading →

2 May 2016
by David

Zippy zappy cars

An electric car outside a big building.

Our new electric cars were built with CSIRO tech!

It’s been really busy at Double Helix headquarters in the last few weeks. We’ve moved office, to the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra. There are lots of cool things at our new workplace, including a whole museum of CSIRO science! And when CSIRO staff need to zip into town or out to a research station, we get to drive around in brand new electric cars.

Most cars burn petrol, releasing pollutants into the air including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. Electric cars run on electricity, stored in batteries. They don’t directly emit any gases into the air – they don’t even use tailpipes! Continue Reading →

28 April 2016
by David

Play Go

You will needA board covered in black and white stones.

  • Lots of black and white counters
  • A Go board. You can download a go board here, or use a chessboard and play on the corners rather than middles of the squares.
  • Someone to play against

How to play

  1. Choose who goes first. The first player plays with black pieces and the second player plays with white.
  2. On your turn, put a piece onto one intersection (a space) on the board. Remove any pieces you’ve captured (see ‘capturing stones’). Then your opponent has a go.

Continue Reading →