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Staff and alumni from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary Science were recognised at the recent Australian Veterinary Association's awards ceremony at its annual conference in May. Twenty-three awards were presented across a number of areas, with almost half of those awards presented to current or former staff or graduates of the Faculty.

Measuring the size and age of the universe has won University of Melbourne Professor Jeremy Mould and his international colleagues the prestigious 2009 Gruber Prize for Cosmology, announced by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation overnight in the United States.

Professor Jeremy Mould of the University of Melbourne’s School of Physics shares the prize worth $US500,000 with Wendy Freedman, Director of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Pasadena, California, and Robert Kennicutt, Director of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England.

The award recognizes the astronomers’ leadership in the definitive measurement of the Hubble constant, which explains the expansion rate of the universe since its beginning, thus connecting the universe's size with its age.

The findings of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project in 1999 have since been confirmed and recognized as one of the most important measurements in astronomy.

The expansion rate of the universe has been hotly debated since Edwin Hubble’s original discovery in 1929 that galaxies were rushing away from each other at a rate proportional to their distance, i.e. the farther away, the faster the recession.

“We were able to greatly improve the accuracy of the measurement, “says Professor Mould. “We are receiving this prize now because a lot of additional work has confirmed our findings, allowing the prize givers to be very confident of our results.” 

During 10 years of research the Mould, Freedman and Kennicutt team used the Hubble Telescope to observe 18 galaxies out to 65 million light-years. They discovered almost 800 Cepheid variable stars, a special class of pulsating star used for accurate distance measurement. Although Cepheids are rare, they provide a very reliable "standard candle" for estimating intergalactic distances. The team used the stars to calibrate many different methods for measuring distances.

They ultimately measured the Hubble constant at 72 km per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is 3.26 million light years, and a light year is about 5.9 trillion miles) with an uncertainty of 10 percent. This means that a galaxy appears to be moving 160 thousand miles per hour faster for every 3.26 million light-years away from Earth.

On this information they were able to estimate the age of the universe to be 13 billion years old. The universe's age is calculated using the expansion rate from precise distance measurements, and the calculated age is refined based on whether the universe appears to be accelerating or decelerating, given the amount of matter observed in space.

The resolution of the decades-long debate about the value of the Hubble constant is enabling scientists to answer fundamental questions about the universe.

“What the Hubble constant also does is to tell us the density of the universe. This controls the future evolution of the universe, which is accelerating,” says Professor Mould.

Measuring the Hubble constant was one of the three major goals for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope before it was launched in 1990.

Professor Mould’s current work continues in further clarifying the reliability of the Cepheid variable stars as a measurement of light and distance of galaxies.

Freedman, Kennicutt, and Mould will receive the Prize on August 4, 2009, at the opening ceremony of the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

BIO Information
Jeremy Mould is a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, working in the astrophysics group of the School of Physics.

Previous appointments include Director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in the US, Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University, Director of the ANU's Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology's Palomar Observatory.

Professor Mould has been strongly connected with the Hubble Space Telescope program. He was co-Principal Investigator for the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project on the Extragalactic Distance Scale.  The goal of that project, completed in 1999, was to measure the Hubble Constant, and thus the age and size of the Universe.

He is author of more than 400 research papers in professional journals.

Measuring the size and age of the universe has won University of Melbourne Professor Jeremy Mould and his international colleagues the prestigious 2009 Gruber Prize for Cosmology, announced by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation overnight in the United States.

City dwellers and farmers must work together to improve water efficiency, or the food demands of our growing population will not be met says Associate Professor Malano. “Water efficiency is everyone’s business, both city dwellers and farmers. If nothing is done about managing our state’s water more effectively then the consequences could be very severe,” he says.

“With the population of Melbourne expected to reach five million, we could end up with a situation where we simply can’t satisfy the city’s water demands and our agricultural areas simply can’t satisfy our growing food demands.”

Associate Professor Malano says one of the best tools for ensuring more efficient use of our water is an aggressive pricing policy. He was not alarmed that the cost of water is set to increase by up to 100 per cent during the next five years, instead saying that a more aggressive pricing policy would encourage businesses, especially water intensive industries, to recycle more water. “There are certain types of water uses that require specific quality, but recycled water for example can be used easily for agricultural purposes,” he says.

“The plan to use 100 per cent recycled water is going to become a necessity. We need to look at all the sources of water that we have, and think about using them in different ways.”

The Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC), jointly based at the University of Melbourne, has been internationally recognised for its leading research and education programs.

 Professor Mike Sandiford of the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences questions whether Australia has enough uranium to supply the growing global nuclear power industry, as an alternative to fossil fuels.

BHP is set to develop Australia’s first and biggest uranium mine in more than 20 years, in Western Australia. The plans have been submitted after the Liberal West Australian Government's removal of the longstanding ban on uranium mines.

“Australia has by far the largest reserves of uranium of any country in the world. It is not the biggest supplier but this new mine will make it amongst the biggest suppliers and expand the reserves that we have to meet the growing demand for uranium,” Professor Sandiford says.

“There is a concern however that our uranium supply might not meet the demand provided by growth of nuclear reactors around the world.”

Professor Sandiford says there is an urgent need to generate new stationary energy supplies to replace fossil fuels.

"Nuclear energy is having a resurgence. More and more countries are looking at meeting growing demand for stationary energy by building reactors.”

“The consequences of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are severe. We need to look at all alternative possibilities, for which nuclear is one of them. However it will be no good converting our stationary energy supply to nuclear if we couldn’t supply the uranium.”

Professor Sandiford adds that there is also an urgent need to understand how to deal with the waste. He says there is hope that future technologies could more efficiently burn some of the waste.

“It could turn from waste to resource but at the moment it’s accumulating at a rapid rate, at the cost of future generations.”

“I think we should develop technologies to secure it and there is a great deal of opportunity in Australia to do so.”

“Other parts around the world provide equally stable geological environments to provide a home for all the waste, which should go back in the earth from which all the uranium came.”

 

A group of global health experts have united to pressure the World Health Organisation into including a process of mass vaccination into its management strategy for cholera outbreaks in Africa as the deadly disease spreads.

The announcement of a $57 billion deficit by the Federal Government on Tuesday did not surprise Associate Professor Mark Crosby; but the decisions to delay policies such as maternity leave and a pension increase have.

“It seems strange that the Government has decided to delay certain policies because if it’s a good idea why not start now?” he says.

“The effect of delaying these policy delays will have a minimal effect on revenue and taxes, as while some changes will cost the government, some are revenue raising.”

Associate Professor Crosby also said claims from the Liberals that they had built up a large surplus from which Labor are now spending is not accurate.

“While some of the reforms introduced by the Liberals – such as the GST – were good from an economist’s perspective, from 2002 onwards they simply got lucky. There was a lot of money coming in and they didn’t really use it as well as they could have,” he says.

“The challenge for the Labour party now is that they are in office during much more difficult times and will be forced to make difficult decisions.”

 Despite this, Professor Crosby says Australia is starting from a very strong position – even with such a large deficit - when compared to most global economies.

Associate Professor Mark Crosby is a lecturer in Economics at the Melbourne Business School.

A new study has revealed that mother birds can provide an early advantage to the chicks that they have sired with their non-social partner (known as extra-pair offspring).

The spread of integrated technology in buildings is helping to make living and working conditions more comfortable, as David Scott explains.

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