Short Science, November 9, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 November, 2014, 5:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 November, 2014, 5:20am

Physicist to be CERN's first woman director

Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti has been chosen to head CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, that houses the giant Large Hadron Collider "Big Bang" machine, making her the first woman nominated to lead a top global scientific institution in the field. Gianotti won world attention in 2012 for her leadership role in CERN's discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson, the particle that confers mass. She will take up the post in January 2016 as scientists there look to new findings on the origin and make-up of the universe. Reuters


Small islands may amplify tsunamis

Small islands, long thought to be natural tsunami barriers for coast-dwellers, may in fact amplify the waves they are supposed to break, researchers have warned. The findings are of concern, for many coastal communities have settled in areas traditionally believed to be shielded from waves by offshore islands. But simulations of wave motion found that some communities may be at higher risk with the tsunami energy amplified by as much as 70 per cent. The study was published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. AFP


Future looks brighter for French solar power

France has made up some lost ground against its neighbours with the start of construction on what will be Europe's biggest photovoltaic solar power plant. Solar power capacity has grown slowly in France compared to Germany, Spain or Italy. It had 5,095MW of photovoltaic capacity in June, accounting for only 1 per cent of its energy consumption in the first half of the year, compared with nearly 37,000MW in Germany. The new plant in Cestas will be capable of supplying electricity to a city the size of nearby Bordeaux for a year. Reuters


Scientists analyse insect family tree

An international group of scientists has analysed 1,478 genes from 144 species covering all the major insect groups to resolve long-standing questions about the evolution and diversification of the largest and most diverse animal group. The first insects appeared about 480 million years ago at about the same time as the first land plants, the scientists estimated based on the data. That date is 70 million years earlier than the oldest-known insect fossil. The study, a comprehensive insect family tree, was published in the journal Science. Reuters