This week at Science in Public

This Week

The inventor of the nanocar; the man who unboiled an egg is now unfolding a $160 billion industry; confusing insects so they can’t mate; and more

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Wednesday, 26 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

From a molecular motor to the nanocar and beyond: 2016 chemistry Nobel Prize recipient Ben Feringa is speaking in Melbourne and available for interview today and Thursday. More below.

The man who unboiled an egg: Colin Raston won an IgNobel Prize in 2015 for unboiling an egg. Now he and his team are taking the technology to market. And it’s set to transform the $160 protein folding industry. More below.

A pheromone-based alternative to insecticides; and cleaner, greener household products: Frances Arnold is confusing insects so they can’t mate (a bit like spraying bad perfume). And James Clark wants to take the fossil fuels out of solvents used in paint and cleaning products. More below.

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What could giant batteries mean for Indonesian energy?

The Australia-Indonesia Centre

In response to blackouts and concerns over energy supply, South Australia is getting the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. What exactly does this mean for the future of energy in Australia, and could such an approach work for Indonesia?

“The announcement of the Neoen and Tesla investment in a 100MW/129MWh battery adjacent to the Hornsdale wind-farm in South Australia is ground-breaking, and clearly foreshadows the shape of the Australian energy future,” says Dr Ariel Liebman, Co-Lead of the Australia-Indonesia Centre Energy Cluster and Deputy Director of the Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI).

“However, we shouldn’t get too complacent because there are still significant challenges in turning this kind of activity into business-as-usual.

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Solutions: Dr Alan Finkel’s opening address

Conferences, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Monday 24 July 2017, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Dr Alan Finkel AO delivered the opening address to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Centenary Congress in Melbourne. The speech was titled ‘Solutions’.

Solutions

It is a great honour to pay tribute to one of Australia’s most stable compounds: the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, in its centenary year.

Thousands of chemists, in high concentration, in my home town.

I grew up in the era when junior chemistry kits were the rage and children were encouraged to invent their own fun.

You could say that I was an inventive youth.

And one of the first things I discovered was that magnesium ribbons could be burned for entertainment, and zinc dust and sulphur powder could make rocket fuel.

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Chemical terrorism a stark reality; periodic table on a hair; how water and CO2 can replace toxic solvents; wood waste into green chemistry; and more

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Tuesday, 25 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Nobel Peace Prize winner on eliminating chemical weapons

While the threat of countries using chemical weapons has diminished, “chemical terrorism is no longer a theoretical proposition or even imminent threat, but a stark reality,” according to His Excellency Mr Ahmet Üzümcü.

Winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Üzümcü is the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In 2013, the OPCW along with the United Nations and 30 partner countries participated in an operation to remove all the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic.

Since then, the OPCW has remained engaged in Syria through an ongoing fact-finding mission to establish whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

They’re also keeping a close eye on North Korea, one of only four countries who haven’t yet joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty outlawing the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons. The treaty came into force 20 years ago.

Limited availability for interviews – talk is at 2.30pm.

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Business can solve today’s intractable challenges says Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, but Australia is falling behind

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Business can help make the world a better place by driving the solutions to problems like climate change, food security and rising energy demand.

“I firmly believe that the companies who will lead the 21st century will be the ones that invent solutions to these mounting global challenges,” said Andrew Liveris, speaking last night at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress.

For Dow that’s meant developing a paint that removes toxic formaldehyde from the air, innovative packaging technologies that reduce food waste, and new methods of desalination that allow us to put more of the planet’s water to use.

Last year the company was awarded 754 US patents – eight times the number they were getting a decade ago.

“More and more companies are seeing that we can do well by doing good,” Andrew said.

But we also need governments to set smart regulatory and policy frameworks that enable innovation to flourish, and that’s not happening enough in Australia he said.

According to the World Economic Forum, Australia ranks 25th in the world when it comes to “business capacity for innovation”. And we’re also falling behind in our competitiveness in teaching young people maths and science.

Andrew says our quality of life will go backwards “if all we are is a farm, a hotel and a quarry”.

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Growing bones; inside Chernobyl; Obama green chemistry adviser; Trump’s Aussie mate; from frog venom to TV screens

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

It’s a week of discovering how chemistry is changing our world—international and national speakers are in Melbourne and ready to talk. Here are some highlights and we’ll have daily alerts for you with more people and ideas through the week. Media are welcome.

This Sunday, 5pm

  • Meet Trump’s ‘Aussie mate’ Andrew Liveris—Australian-born, US-based chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, who Trump has appointed to lead his American Manufacturing Council. Liveris is not doing any media interviews but you can see and report his talk at 5pm
  • Opening of the RACI Centennial Chemistry Congress: 2,500 chemists, three Nobel Prize winners.

Monday 24 July

  • How seaweed and frog venom led to today’s OLED phone and TV screens. Andrew Holmes discusses what’s next for plastic electronics and solar energy
  • Molly Stevens grows bones—Molly is a tissue engineer growing bones, cartilage, nerve and heart tissue for regenerative medicine and bio-sensing. Last December she announced a patch that could fix a broken heart
  • Obama White House insider, and father of green chemistry, Paul Anastas on how we need to design smarter to create a sustainable society. For example, we need non-toxic solar cells, and biofuels that don’t compete with food production
  • New solvents from wood—invented in York, made in Tassie. The world needs good solvents for everything from cleaning the house, to making drugs, and miracle materials like graphene. York University’s James Clark has invented a new solvent that’s now being made in Tasmania.

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What have we achieved in 100 years of chemistry? And what’s next?

RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

9 conferences and 2,500+ chemists under one roof

  • What’s the role of chemistry in shaping the economy, now and in the future?
  • What is e-drug discovery and what will it offer medicine?
  • Can chemistry help save the planet through energy storage or cleaner production?
  • How will chemistry address the challenges of the 21st Century?

In two weeks, Melbourne will host the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, celebrating the 100th birthday of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and bringing nine national, regional and international conferences under one congress roof.

Visiting speakers include:

  • ‘Trump’s Aussie mate’ Andrew Liveris – Australian-born, US-based chairman and CEO Dow Chemical Company, who Trump has appointed to lead his American Manufacturing Council.
  • Nobel Prize for Chemistry (2005) winner Robert Grubbs (Caltech), who won for his work on a multistep reaction process and catalysts to help it. The benefits can be cleaner, cheaper and faster reactions.
  • His Excellency Mr Ahmet Üzümcü – Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner)
  • Frances Arnold (Caltech) – American scientist and engineer, and a pioneer of ‘directed evolution’, which uses chemical engineering to create useful biological systems such as highly reactive enzymes or microorganisms that convert biomass to alternatives fuels.
  • Martyn Poliakoff (University of Nottingham) – a green chemistry research leader working with supercritical fluids – gases compressed under so much pressure that they have properties of both gases and liquids. Martyn is also a star of the YouTube series The Periodic Table of Videos.

If you’d like to attend the conference, media passes are available—contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah@scienceinpublic.com.au to register.

We’ll be tweeting news and interesting content from the Congress from @RACI_HQ and using #RACI100.

For more information about the Congress itself, visit the website: www.racicongress.com.

First female scientist to win the David Syme Research Prize in over thirty years

Media releases

Fighting drug resistant bugs with ‘tyre tracks’

Cynthia Whitchurch discovered that dangerous bacteria in biofilms follow each other like ants, or 4WD drivers following tracks in the sand. Then she showed she could create microscopic tracks on medical devices to limit the spread of the bacteria that cause infection. Based on her work, new types of catheters are being developed that are less likely to become infected.

Cynthia Whitchurch in her lab. (Credit: UTS)

For these and other discoveries, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) scientist Associate Professor Cynthia Whitchurch has been jointly awarded the David Syme Research prize for the best original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology, produced in Australia during the preceding two years. The prize was established in 1904 by a bequest from the publisher of The Age. It is administered by The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science.

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Radar-in-a-suitcase makes bridges safer

Australian science stories, Stories of Aus Sci, The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Assessing ageing bridges just got safer and easier, thanks to a high-tech radar device that fits inside a suitcase.

Developed by Dr Lihai Zhang of The University of Melbourne as part of a collaborative research project supported by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, the IBIS-S radar technology can scan a bridge in 15 minutes from a kilometre away with an accuracy of 0.01mm, quickly assessing its condition and stability.

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Meet the publisher who believes science should be social and research should be read

Media releases, Nature

Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer for Springer Nature, is visiting Australia.

Steven Inchcoombe is the Chief Publishing Officer for Springer Nature, overseeing the publication of over 2,900 journals including influential titles like Nature and Scientific Reports.

Steven was responsible for the Nature Publishing Group’s move into open access publishing, resulting in 60 per cent of their 2015 research articles being open access. Following the merger of the parent company in the same year, Springer Nature became the world’s largest open access publisher.

He was also behind the SharedIt content-sharing initiative which allows authors, subscribers and media partners to share links to the Springer Nature’s peer-reviewed research articles on social network and websites. A 15-month trial of this idea on nature.com led to 1.3 million additional article views.

Visiting Australia from the UK, Steven is speaking about big data, open data and open access publishing, and their value for academic research at a series of half-day symposia and networking events being held this week in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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Naturejobs celebrates Melbourne

Media releases, Nature

The extraordinary diversity of scientific research and collaboration found in Melbourne is celebrated in a Naturejobs supplement which publishes alongside Nature today. It includes an interactive map – based on data from the Nature Index – that reveals the extensive local, national and international links that make the city Australia’s life science capital, and number three in the world for biomedical research after Boston and London. “Our map shows Melbourne’s top 44 research institutions and charts the links between them,” says David Swinbanks, the founder of the Nature Index, the high-quality research publications database behind the map. “It allows users to dive in, explore the networks, and see the impact of each institution’s research.”

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Saving billions of teeth from a blood-eating mouth bug, Pg

Conferences, Media releases

You’ll want to brush your teeth after reading this media release

(Image credit: pixabay.com)

Melbourne is hosting a global conference this week of experts in the fight against a blood-eating bug that’s destroying bone and causing tooth loss in nearly one billion people, including nearly three million Australians.

“Most of us will get a bit of mild gum disease or gingivitis from time to time when ‘bad’ bacteria in our mouths get out of balance with ‘good’ bacteria,” says Professor Eric Reynolds, the Conference Chair. “Bacteria get between our gums and our teeth and an inflammation kicks off. If we’re unlucky then Pg moves in.”

“As this blood-eating bacterium grows in a biofilm (plaque) next to the gums it creates an environment that protects it and other similar bacteria in the plaque. It also changes the ecology of the mouth, setting off a cycle of inflammation and disease leading to the loss of bone from your jaw. Then your teeth fall out,” says Reynolds who is also Director of the Oral Health CRC based at The University of Melbourne. Quarterly scraping of the plaque helps, but doesn’t eliminate the infection in some individuals.

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Media highlights from the 15th World Congress on Public Health

Conferences, World Congress on Public Health

Science in Public was engaged to amplify the World Congress on Public Health: to build the buzz and reach the broader community.

The World Congress on Public Health reached a broad local and international audience, through hundreds of stories in mainstream and niche media—from BBC to Buzzfeed. Highlights included over three hours of national radio, and a feature interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30.

Media coverage

Highlights included:
• Television interviews with Congress speakers on ABC 7.30, Sky News and ABC News 24’s The World.
• A Fairfax media feature on the influence of celebrity on public health.
• ABC Radio National Life Matters opened the show with Congress guests every day for the full five weekdays of the Congress, with further interviews recorded at the Congress for future broadcast.
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Find out how to future-proof cities

Ecocity World Summit, Media releases

Speakers announced for the Ecocity World Summit, Melbourne, July

·      Cooling urban heat islands: in Australia, India and Spain

·      Urban transport politics: how did Canadian cities get through it?

·      Australian housing: we’re (sadly) getting what we paid for

·      Women leading sustainable and resilient cities

·      How will India’s coastal megacities cope with climate change?

100 sessions with 300 speakers from 30 different countries will explore these and many other topics.

How do cities become resilient, and how do you measure it? What are the hidden costs of cheap buildings? Can we increase density without losing green space? Can we grow food on rooftops? And what can cities and sub-national governments do when national governments don’t want a piece of the climate action? All this and more are on the agenda of the Ecocity World Summit in Melbourne this July.

“In Australia, we’ve just come through Cyclone Debbie, and seen severe storms and flooding across the Eastern states,” says Brendan Gleeson, Director of Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Summit co-convenor.

“We urgently need to safeguard our cities, towns and their people, in Australia and across the planet. The Ecocity World Summit program is designed to bring leading thinkers, researchers and practitioners together to share the evidence, strategies and tools we need to keep our cities liveable and sustainable in the face of global challenges.”

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Smashing the road toll: Easter and beyond

Conferences, Media releases, World Congress on Public Health

World Congress on Public Health points towards safer roads

  • Australia has been a leader in road safety policy but we’re still losing more than 1,200 lives on our roads each year
  • First year of driving critical for keeping adolescent drivers awake, alert and alive
  • Paving the way for autonomous vehicles
  • Aboriginal Australians three times more likely to die on roads: can we close the gap?

Road deaths in Australia peaked in 1970, when 3,798 people died. A long-term downwards trend in road deaths means our road toll is now less than a third of that peak figure, but the road toll and the burden of injuries from road accidents remain a public health challenge.

Globally, the road toll has plateaued at 1.25 million per year, but there are still high fatality rates in low income countries and it’s the number one cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years.  [click to continue…]

International spotlight on Indigenous public health equity

Conferences, Media releases, World Congress on Public Health

Media release from the World Federation of Public Health Associations

Monday 10 April 2017

The World Federation of Public Health Associations has formed its first Indigenous Working Group on its 50th Anniversary.

At the 15th World Congress of Public Health Melbourne conference, 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous conference delegates of the yarning circle unanimously supported in principle the establishment of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Indigenous Working Group.

The Public Health Association of Australia, on Tuesday 4th April 2017, hosted a yarning circle to talk about establishing an Indigenous Working Group. The yarning circle was led by Adrian Te Patu, the inaugural Indigenous representative on the World Federation of Public Health Association (WFPHA) Governing Council.

Once supported by the delegates, the formation of the Indigenous Working Group was accepted by acclimation by the world assembly of Public Health Associations. Under Mr. Te Patu’s leadership, the next steps are to formalise the Indigenous Working Group and develop its vision. [click to continue…]

Demand for Action on World Health Day

Conferences, Media releases, World Congress on Public Health

  •    On public health
  •    On chemical weapons
  •    And a call to Rome in 2020

Today, at the final day of the 15th World Congress on Public Health, delegates from over 83 countries carried by acclamation two Demands for Action.

Demanding that the World’s leaders make the public’s health a priority

  • Improving health outcomes for all
  • Fighting inequity as the primary driver of poor health
  • with political, social, environmental, and economic change across all sectors for better and more sustainable health.

The full text of the Demand is at http://www.wcph2017.com/d/WCPH2017-Melbourne-Demand-for-Action.pdf  [click to continue…]

World Health Day Statement: Meagre Rate Of Newstart IS A Health Issue – Time For A Raise

Conferences, Media releases, World Congress on Public Health

Joint Statement from Anti-Poverty Network SA and Public Health Association of Australia

Info: Anti-Poverty Network SA spokesperson Pas Forgione on 0411 587 663 or at antipovertynetwork.sa@gmail.com.
Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore on 0417 249 731 or at mmoore@phaa.net.au.

World Health Day, Friday April 7th, presents a timely opportunity to address the gross inadequacy of Newstart Allowance, which severely impacts the physical and mental health of the 800,000 Australians receiving the payment.

While none of Australia’s welfare payments are generous, it is alarming that Newstart, at $267 per week (roughly $13,800 per year), is over $160 per week (roughly $8,000 per year) below the poverty-line. It has not been raised in real terms since 1994. [click to continue…]

Thursday’s highlights from the World Congress on Public Health

Conferences, Media releases, World Congress on Public Health

  • congressPouring water on fast food kids’ meals
  • The inside story on Syria and eliminating chemical, nuclear, and bio weapons
  • WHO guru on what globalisation means for health security
  • Labia Library reveals ‘normal’ and fights genital cosmetic surgery trend
  • Providing abortion by telehealth: safe and effective
  • Making Melbourne a global health epicentre
  • Healthy Parks for public health
  • From dental health to MasterChef to Sugar Free Smiles

Thursday 6 April at the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne
Call Niall on 0417-131-977 for interviews

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