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January/February 2016: A Royal Rose Cushion

Craft article and original tapestry pattern for Creative with Workbox Magazine. Issue 153.

December 2015: Shoot for the Moon

November 2015: I've been busy making a new website and updating the news for the Independent Research Association of New Zealand. Check it out at

See IRANZ's latest enewsletter: Connections. With a round up of research news from New Zealand's independent science sector

November 2015: Cancer sniffing bears

October 2015: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in practice

September 2015: Unpacking the Universe

August 2015: Pasta annihilation

Something a bit different. Yes, I know it's antipasto, but that doesn't work for a particle physics joke, does it?

Queen Elizabeth rose tapestry. Credit: Louise Thomas

August 2015: A right royal tapestry

The Queen Elizabeth rose is my favourite. Blousy big pink blooms present themselves mostly in long-stemmed clusters – like chummy little ballerinas, who had dressed themselves with varying success and then can’t go anywhere without their mates. This new pattern is available as a nine-page PDF for NZ$6.90.

July 2015: League of Lock Pickers
It's one of the more unusual commissions I've taken over the years; the June/July 2015 issue of The Shed magazine is featuring a group of Wellingtonians who like to get together to pick locks for fun. They are mainly IT security specialists who have developed an interest in physical security (and finding the flaws in it) as an intellectual pastime. As one of them puts it, "You are solving a puzzle where you can’t see all the pieces".

Allan Wilson Centre
2014 Annual Report

I was pleased to help the Allan Wilson Centre with their annual research report at the end of 2014. I'm very disappointed the Government has not renewed their funding this year and they will close at the end of 2015.

Imaging evolution: Mathematics of life

Marsden Fund winners review:

When genomes collide
The adaptive potential of small populations
Use it or loss it: flight-loss in insects
Evolution of cancer

Biotech Learning Hub Science News

December 2014: Mutating genes to detect cancer
Medical researchers from the UK, the US and Canada have developed a new tool that identifies mutating genes to detect the early stages of oesophageal cancer.

Science Learning Hub
science news
Science news for ages 12 to 16 years

GPS Satellite. Credit: NASA

December 2014: Quantum Clocks
Having the right time is unbelievably important for technologies that involve positioning and navigation such as global positioning systems and space navigation or for synchronisation in the world of high-frequency frenzied financial trading. To get it all exactly right, an international team of physicists is proposing a network of atomic clocks linked at the quantum level, which they say would be more accurate and stable than any individual atomic clock on Earth.

Samples of Louise's work

"Put it to them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” - Joseph Pulitzer.

I'm up for writing just about anything. Having written over a thousand published articles in the last 20 years, mostly about science, the following is a brief snapshot of recent work that is available online. If you would like to hire me, but would like to see a portfolio of work aimed at a particular age group or area of science first please let me know. I am not afraid of diversity and am currently writing a novel and a craft book, both to be finished in 2016.

Website content
Magazine articles
Newspaper articles

Website content

Client: Biotech Learning Hub

Biotechnology news for ages 12 to 18 years.

01/12/2014: Mutating genes to detect cancer
17/11/2014: Heart attack bacteria
04/11/2014: A genome for ewe
20/10/2014: Making male mosquitoes
10/09/2014: Forget the bad times: potential drug for PTSD
25/08/2014: Engineered microbe can convert grass to fuel
11/08/2014: Understanding P addiction
21/07/2014: Triclosan gets up your nose
08/07/2014: Flu drug effectiveness questioned
30/06/2014: Family tree geography goes genetic
25/06/2014: Global report on antimicrobial resistance
17/06/2014: Designer chromosome
11/06/2014: Botox to treat asthma?
03/06/2014: Melanoma risk gene identified
27/05/2014: Come over to the dark side (of chocolate)
20/05/2014: Faster anthrax detection
13/05/2014: Antibacterial mushrooms
07/05/2014: Study of NZ-developed MS drug
01/04/2014: Programmable antibiotic ‘smart bomb’
25/03/2014: Engineered virus effective against breast cancer
19/03/2014: Bones inspire ultimate building material
14/03/2014: Is the post-antibiotic era now here?
03/03/2014: On-the-spot HIV diagnosis
25/02/2014: Dragonfly wing model for antibacterial material
18/02/2014: Bee-pollinated fruits have longer shelf life
11/02/2014: NZ scientist nominated for World Technology Award
04/02/2014: Engineering antibodies against HIV
29/01/2014: NZ bionic leg company to be sold
23/01/2014: Single gene a heart stopper

Loads of news archives. Check them out at:

Client: Science Learning Hub

Science news for ages 12 to 18 years.

27/11/2014: Quantum clocks
11/11/2014: NZ's fish-eating spider
28/10/2014: NZ student to Mars?
13/10/2014: Mobile phones and sperm
17/09/2014: Hi tech drones copy nature’s design
11/09/2014: Small islands breed big seeds
19/08/2014: Ice-loving sea anemone in top 10 new species
06/08/2014: Ruffling ancient feathers: kiwi’s Malagasy cousin
24/07/2014:Facebook feelings
07/07/2014: Whangarei fruit fly find a worry
30/06/2014: How to raise a willing helper
24/06/2014: Mobile phones a useful tool for tracking epidemics
16/06/2014: Oceans of rubbish
09/06/2014: Ripples in the universe from the Big Bang
03/06/2014: Planet Labs launching world’s largest satellite fleet
26/05/2014: Orange light helps thinking
19/05/2014: Spinsolve making nuclear magnetic resonance accessible
13/05/2014: Are all goals equal?
06/05/2014: Seismic fitness of NZ’s historic buildings
07/04/2014: Wearing out mountains
31/03/2014: Treatments for acid mine drainage
24/03/2014: Earthquake lights a rift phenomenon
17/03/2014: Saving the black rhino
10/03/2014: Academics consider case against sugar
04/03/2014: Sugar on trial
24/02/2014: Is Google making us stupider?
17/02/2014: Middle Earth wasps
10/02/2014: DIY exercise – secret for a long life
03/02/2014: Action needed on NZ’s wasp problem
28/01/2014: Taupō volcanic rock to go on space flight
22/01/2014: People and the planet

Loads of news archives. Check them out at:

Also, see my work on earthquakes:

Inside the Earth
Seismic Waves
Moulding the Earth

Client: CRL Energy

Website content, design and development.

Recent articles:

10 April 2015: CRL Energy and CB3 Mining Services now reaching international markets
22 September 2014: Identifying asbestos in building materials now made easy
13 August 2014: CRL Energy scoops national environmental award
11 November 2013: Challenges to achieving energy system harmony - WEC future energy scenario
01 October 2013: All go for Waiuta arsenic clean-up

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Carbon Capture and Storage: Where are we now? (PDF 5MB).

Proceedings of the International CCS Seminar held in Wellington, 29 April 2009.

The energy we use in New Zealand homes

Alpha 134. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

Science is often thought of as something that is carried out in laboratories, in remote jungles, under the sea or high up in space. We often overlook the science under our noses – for example, we know more about the living conditions of astronauts than we do about the houses in which we live. This ALPHA uses science to explore the ways we use energy in our houses and ask questions about the energy issues that face New Zealand in the future. It provides some sample data from the Household Energy End-use Project (HEEP) to allow you to explore how the energy use in your house compares to other houses.

Our place in space

Alpha 133. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

From missions to the International Space Station to discovering new planets, astronomers, scientists, teachers, technicians and engineers around New Zealand are involved in a variety of space-related research - an industry which, because of our geographical location, is set to rocket ahead in this country.

Download (pdf, 657k).

The science behind special effects

Alpha 130. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

With today’s technology, imagination is the only limit to what can be created on a movie screen. And nowhere in the world is the imagination more unlimited than at New Zealand’s own WETA Workshop and WETA Digital.
Weta Workshop makes models, props and miniatures, whereas Weta Digital creates virtual characters and computer generated special effects. Audiences around the world were awestruck when the Lord of the Rings trilogy hit the big screen. Trees walked, massive armies of men and elves battled evil Orcs, and through it all marched an unlikely fellowship of brave little hobbits, a tall wizard, brave men, an elf and a dwarf and of course the lurking Gollum(aka Smeagol). The special effects were quite simply amazing, and creating them is not only an art but an exact science. Download (pdf, 1,175K)

Working with Science

Alpha 129. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

A science career is more than a job; it is a way of life. By working in a science-related profession you are committing yourself to a lifetime of personal achievement and directly contributing to, at the very least, the prosperity of your country and, at most, the benefit of man-kind. All scientists contribute to the world’s wealth of knowledge. Science careers include all fields of science, engineering and medical science. Traditional science at secondary school is usually taught as biology, physics and chemistry. However, at tertiary level and in the work force, the lines have become increasingly blurred as more and more people specialise in interdisciplinary science such as biophysics, biochemistry, geophysics and geochemistry. Download (pdf, 516K)

Aquatic Nasties in the Water Near You

Alpha 128. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

Alien aquatic plants are invading a waterway near you. If you live in the South Island, infestations of didymo (Didymosphenia geminata), a.k.a rock snot, are plaguing the waterways and regularly featuring in the national news, or if you live in the North Island, maybe your local stream or lake is fouled with alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) or hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum). This Alpha on aquatic nasties also covers algal blooms. Download (pdf, 861K)

Insect invaders and the seduction of scent

Alpha 119. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

Describes the impact of some of the unwanted insect species to New Zealand and describes the mechanisms, including the development of pheromones, in place to detect, suppress or eradicate them. Special reference is made to the Painted Apple Moth, the White Spotted Tussock Moth and the Gum Leaf Skeletoniser.
Download (PDF, 364KB)

Hydrogen - fuel cells — energy

Alpha 118. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

It details the recent development of fuel cells and research worldwide and in New Zealand. Hydrogen as a fuel including its extraction, polluting by-products and possible sourcing from coal are also detailed. Storage, transporting of hydrogen and problems changing to a hydrogen economy are fully outlined along with an explanation of how fuel cells work.
Download (PDF, 490KB)

Alan Cooper — explorer and scientist

Alpha 115. Client: Royal Society of New Zealand

A role model publication about Alan who lead the first team in the world to determine the complete DNA sequence of a mitochondral genome from an extinct species - our moa. Now Director of the Henry Wellcome Biomolecules Centre at Oxford University his work is described as is his time growing up in New Zealand, his education, and the explorations he is engaged in visiting sites to recover materials to continue his work. An exciting narrative with an strong scientific content. Download (PDF, 566KB)

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Gamma Series PDFs for science in New Zealand secondary schools

New Zealand’s role in the International Space Programme: March 2008 was an exciting time for the international space community with the launch of Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which will rendezvous with the International Space Station, and because New Zealand is strategically located it has a vital role to play in the success of the mission.

For whom the bell tolls (and doesn’t stop): Tinnitus, a ringing or other noise in the ears not caused by an external source, is a condition which affects a large number of people. The exact number of those affected is not known as many with a minor form of the condition never seek attention.

Adversity’s Sweet Milk: (82K) A1/A2 Milk debate: It would seem that all milk is not created equal, and that’s even before humans start “adding value” by reducing fat content or adding vitamins, minerals or flavourings. A genetic variation among cattle could be affecting the milk we drink and causing health problems for a few people with particular types of health predisposition. In September 2007, Professor Keith Woodford from Lincoln University released his book, “Devil in the milk: Illness, health and politics, A1 and A2 milk”, claiming that a particular type of milk protein is causing some people health problems and that the dairy industry is doing little to change the situation or to alert consumers of the potential problems. This issue is one that has existed in scientific circles for decades, but Professor Woodford’s book has finally thrust the issue into the public arena. The subsequent media attention has many consumers concerned about the milk they drink. But what are the scientific facts surrounding Professor Woodford’s claims.

"Yucky dirty hands" (433K) It would seem that we New Zealanders, both young and old, are not as good about washing our hands as we would like to believe. A recent survey in a primary school by the NZ Foodsafe Partnership Pilot School Hand Hygiene Campaign (Simmons et al, 2006) revealed that over a third of students did not wash their hands after visiting the toilet.

Shaking hands and kissing babies (130K) Unbeknown to many of you, during election campaigning many politicians engage deliberate psychological techniques to get you to vote for them. They engage in these techniques because, most elections, whether it is for a class captain, the leader of a political party, or a seat on council, are based on how persuasive and charismatic the candidate is rather than on any policies they would like to implement, or their abilities if elected to a position of power.

In the Blood: New born Screening (147K): In developed countries around the world, a baby, usually between 48 and 72 hours after birth, is pricked in the heel. The welling drop of blood is dripped onto an absorbent piece of card. In New Zealand we collect the blood onto four circles on the card. The small droplets of blood soak right through the card within each of the circles so that the laboratory the sample is sent to has plenty of material to work with. Below the circles the card contains the baby's name, time of birth, gender, birth weight, gestation age, breast-feeding, and parent details.

Coal - New Zealand's Black Gold (187K) Thousands of years ago, prehistoric man discovered an amazing quality in a black rock - it could burn. This provided them with warmth and a fuel source for cooking. As human society developed, this black gold called coal was also used to fuel kilns for baking clay pottery. Fast forward a few thousand years to the mid 1700s, the Industrial Revolution was fuelled on the back of coal. Ironworks required coal, coal gas was used to power street lamps, and some of the most famous inventions in history were coal fuelled.

The Scientific War on Terror (275K): The events of 11 September 2001 took the world by surprise when two civilian aircraft were deliberately flown into New York’s Twin Towers. Terrorists also attempted to fly a third plane into the Pentagon. The shocking images of the impact, of falling bodies, and the subsequent collapse of the towers were beamed around the world as the event unfolded. The death toll was over 3000. In the years following this act of terrorism, there have been others such as the Bali bombings on 12 October 2002, where 202 people were killed, including 88 Australians, and three New Zealanders; and the London Underground suicide Bombings on 7 July 2005 where 37 people were killed and over 700 injured. This Gamma examines how, in response to these new threats, the technologies needed to prevent, investigate and analyse acts of terrorism and strengthen homeland security has burgeoned in the last five years.

Osteoporosis (863K) Imagine opening a jar of jam – as you wrestle with the top, you hear and feel the bones in your wrist fracture - or reaching into the cupboard for a glass – as you stretch out you experience the excruciating agony of one of the vertebrae in your spine bursting and collapsing on itself. As a young person, you’re probably not worried about osteoporosis. Most think of the condition as only affecting old ladies, giving some a stooped posture. However, elderly women are not the only ones at risk. For some sufferers it means a life of debilitating pain, where bone mass degradation has reached the point where simple movements like bending, walking or stretching can cause brittle bones to break and spinal vertebrae to collapse. Opening a jar of jam is suddenly fraught with danger. There are many risk factors that are commonly associated with the gradual onset of osteoporosis. Some of them can’t be helped (such as being female). However, there are many lifestyle choices which are known to trigger or worsen osteoporosis, and how you live your life when you are young can directly affect whether you develop the condition at all! As yet, osteoporosis cannot be cured; however, it can be partially reversed and can also be prevented.

Lead and you (905K) People have had a troubled relationship with lead since the dawn of human history . It is abundant, easily mined, very malleable, corrosion resistant, and it seems to suit many of the jobs it has been put to – unfortunately, if you get too much of it in your body it can literally drive you mad, blind, or deaf, or even shut down your kidneys, and cause death. It has been used in Roman plumbing and cooking pots, in the solder on cans of food, to make toys, as a paint additive, in toothpaste tubes, in bullets and shot, and in batteries. It has been a common ingredient in glass, crystal, ceramics, pewter, radiation shields, as an alloy in type used in printing presses and, perhaps the most environmentally damaging of all, as an anti-knocking agent in petrol. Many of these uses were thought of in the industrial age, centuries after it was known that lead was poisonous.

Birdflu (PDF, 290k). Dangerous Chickens – The (Asian) bird flu pandemic.In 2004, bird flu, also known as avian influenza, has become a major health scare in Asia, causing several human deaths and the culling of millions of chickens. In some countries, i.e. Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, in an effort to halt the rapid spread of bird flu in domestic poultry flocks, it has been reported that chickens have been burnt or buried alive in sacks. This has outraged animal rights groups around the world. However, the threat to human health and to Asia’s poultry products market is very serious. In January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that bird flu has the potential to be a more serious problem than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Bird flu is caused by an influenza virus and is not related to SARS (which is caused by a corovavirus). However, both viruses originally occur in animals and can spread to humans.

Drinking water (213K) + resource sheet (7K) Essential to life, water is everywhere – it even comes in bottles. People in cars and on bikes, students in class rooms, office workers and posties are sucking on sipper bottles to get their eight glasses a day. Homeowners are installing water filters, and an office or gym without a water cooler is almost non-existent. The bottled water industry alone has seen New Zealanders consuming about 40 million litres in 2003 at a cost of over $20 million. Consumers are paying more for a litre of water than they pay for petrol – but are they pouring their money down the drain? People see bottled water as being ‘healthier’ and the good old kitchen tap is getting a bad rap. However some common practices with sipper bottles and home water filters may actually be causing health problems.

Meningitis (PDF, 220k). Meningococcal Disease - It's a killer. New Zealand is in the grip of an epidemic, and has been since 1991. The epidemic is caused by a bacterium (a kind of germ) called Neisseria meningitidis or meningococcus. In the last two years just over 1100 mostly young people in New Zealand have contracted the meningococcal disease and more than 40 have died – that’s an average of one person dying every two weeks. Since the beginning of the epidemic over 4750 people have fallen ill and over 200 have died. A vaccine to stop the bacterium causing illness has recently been developed and it is undergoing trials to ensure it is safe and effective.

Anthrax.(828 KB) Description of the bacterium and effects of infection. The range of forms of anthrax that can affect humans and animals and the visible symptoms.

Madcow: (290K) What is BSE ? Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), often referred to in the media as mad cow disease, is an infectious, incurable and fatal disease which slowly attacks the brain and nervous system of cattle. BSE, a novel disease which emerged only recently, is an example of the group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Some of these diseases have been known for centuries while others have been discovered only recently. They used to be known as “slow virus diseases” because of their extremely long incubation period, but it is now known they are caused by a totally novel type of disease agent.

The promise of stem cell research. (147KB) Imagine a world where Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy can be easily treated with little more than an injection of the appropriate stem cells. Imagine if spinal injuries, brain damage, rheumatoid arthritis or even juvenile diabetes could be repaired after a few days in hospital, or that any damaged organ could be repaired. It could be that within the next few decades certain organ transplants will become obsolete medical procedures.

Organic food. (320KB) Written by Louise Thomas and Alma Hromic. Organically grown food is produced without, or with a minimum amount of, artificial fertilisers and pesticide sprays. In the past decade, the popularity of organically grown food has grown enormously. Stores selling it have sprung up across the country, and supermarket shelf space given over to organic produce has increased. This surge in popularity of organically produced foods can be attributed to a number of causes. People are becoming more worried about the effects of spray residues on the soil habitat and on the food they eat. Some also cite the pollution of waterways by synthetic fertilisers as a reason to go organic. The United Kingdom’s Mad Cow, and Foot and Mouth epidemics, and the current world-wide swing against genetically modified (GM) foods can leave the consumer with the impression that there is something nasty happening down on the farm - and they are seeking alternatives. But are all the concerns about conventional agriculture based in fact, and is the organic alternative preferable or even that different? 

Weight of the world: obesity declared a global obsession. (226KB) Trends in New Zealanders putting on fat – reasons, both biological and environmental. Dangers and strategies for reducing waistlines. Fat, no longer a feminist issue, has become a global epidemic. Never in the history of the human race have so many people been so fat. Unfortunately, New Zealanders are amongst the fattest in the world, with more than half the adult population either overweight or obese. The problem appears simple— we are becoming less active and taking on more calories than we need. However, the reasons for this are complex and the solutions not easy. Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not about being rich and well-fed. In adults, it is often related to poverty, low economic status and exclusion from the health system.

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Magazine articles

And tomorrow's earthquake forecast is . . . .
Position Magazine
While it is not yet possible to accurately predict earthquakes, it is possible to estimate their likelihood or probability based on known seismic behaviours. Collaborative work by New Zealand ’s GNS Science scientist Matt Gerstenberger, ETH-Zurich in Switzerland , the US Geological Survey (USGS), and the Southern California Earthquake Center is revolutionising the accuracy of this type of earthquake forecasting.
October/ November 2007
Read the full article »

The A2 Difference
Unlimited Magazine, November 2006
Biotechnology company A2, specialising in milk and milk products, is reaping the benefits of a revised business strategy that includes a big push in Australia and the US, and new products.  Read the full article »

New Geospatial Strategy for New Zealand
Position Magazine
Radical changes are afoot in New Zealand ’s geospatial landscape. In April 2007, a New Zealand Government Cabinet Committee approved a new geospatial strategy to improve user knowledge of and access to the geospatial assets owned, maintained or used by government for the benefit of the New Zealand geospatial industry.
October/ November 2007
Read the full article »
The Ring of Fire
Position Magazine Cover Story
The deep ocean floor may be where life began. A recent investigation has thrown more light on the colonies of microbes clustered around dark smokers.
August/September 2006
Read the full article »

Exercise Taurus: Phase II
Biosecurity Magazine
In March and April 2005, New Zealand ’s rapid response to a simulated foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak was put to the test with a major exercise code named ‘Exercise Taurus’. Biosecurity New Zealand ran the exercise in two parts, the first testing systems on the ground (see Biosecurity 60:6), and the second testing systems within Government.
Issue 61, 1 August 2005
Read the full article » (PDF 1.38MB)

Big Brother is watching you
MIS Magazine and CIO
An ugly spam incident exploiting Statistics New Zealand’s email gateway as an open relay provided the wake-up call it needed to boost its content security.
February 01, 2004
Read the full article »

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Newspaper articles

Deep south to see partial eclipse

People in the deep south of New Zealand will have the chance to see a partial eclipse of the sun today. Assuming ...
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
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When crocs and snakes roamed NZ

Snakes and crocodiles could have inhabited New Zealand up to 18 million years ago. Geologists working in a fossil ...
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
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Fish-hooks in the case for marine reserves

Pressure is increasing for a network of marine reserves where fishing is banned.
Read the full article »

Kiwi ozone-saver a leader in world campaign

... agricultural fumigant methyl bromide. LOUISE THOMAS talks to a New Zealander in the forefront of the battle. A New Zealander is ...
Wednesday, April 11, 2001
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New plastic gives patients leg up

Two New Zealanders are helping introduce a new type of hard-wearing plastic which is being tested in hip-replacement ...
Monday, March 12, 2001
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Wandering mollusc has Aussies worried

SYDNEY - New Zealand immigrants of a different kind are making their mark in Australia. At last week's Molluscs ...
Sunday, December 10, 2000
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World fish alert, but NZ in better shape

Conserving New Zealand's fish stocks at sustainable levels could pay big dividends if world fishing trends continue. ...
Sunday, July 2, 2000
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Study draws bead on prostate ills

New Zealand has the sixth-highest rate of prostate cancer in the world. It is the most common cancer among men ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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Chilly dinosaur bones start a fire FRONT PAGE

LOUISE THOMAS tells how a prehistoric 'eating machine' is giving scientists new clues on the world's early days. A geological expedition ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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World asthma study blows old theories

Asthma is not giving up its secrets easily. A global study of childhood asthma and allergies involving more than ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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Planets' alignment no threat to life on Earth

Today is a doomsayer's delight. They have predicted earthquakes, the Earth's poles shifting - even the end of the world. ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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NZ study pinpoints new reserves of oil

New Zealand scientists have helped to confirm the potential for new oil reserves off Northland. ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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NZ scientists win GE contract

The Forest Research Institute has beaten overseas competitors to win a contract that will use genetic engineering to fight a moth that is ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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All-out effort to save sealions from nets

Researchers are seeking ways to stop sealions dying in squid nets in the subantarctic fishery. An unacceptable ...
Friday, June 30, 2000
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Site last updated: 1 February, 2016.
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