Racism, robots, Frankenstein, parasites, and the search for new planets

Media releases, National Science Week

Launch tonight 5.30pm at Docklands, with volcanic link to Frankenstein. Plus 400+ Science Week events around Victoria:

  • Are there habitable planets outside our solar system? Meet NASA scientists and planet hunters
  • The first robot story, staged in a working medical research lab
  • The world’s most powerful laser. Meet Ceri Brenner, the UK physicist pressing FIRE
  • How your brain makes you racist: US neuroscientist Larry Sherman explains prejudice
  • Close-up photos of the beautiful killers of biomedical science
  • Humans 2.0: what’s the future look like for humanity?
  • Can science help us fight the war on waste?
  • Comedy meets the brainstem (the ‘arse end of the brain’)
  • Parasites take over the Art Gallery of Ballarat
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

More on these highlights below, and others at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

Scientists, artists, performers and event organisers are available for interview throughout Science Week. Read on for contact details for each event, or call:

Tanya Ha: tanya@scienceinpublic.com.au or 0404 083 863
Niall Byrne: niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or 0417 131 977

Plus, Victoria’s National Science Week launch—5.30pm Friday 10 August

Science Week in Victoria kicks off with Three Years of Winter: The (Scientific) Story Behind Shelley’s Frankenstein. Monash University geologist Dr James Driscoll tells the story of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia, the geological catastrophe that created the conditions for the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

With Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, and a science photography exhibition.

Where: Magnet Galleries, 1/1 Wharf Street, Docklands. Event details

Media enquiries: Annika Priest, annika@zillaandbrook.com.au or 0413 058 509

About National Science Week

National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year saw 1.2 million people participate in more than 2,100 events and activities.

In 2018, National Science Week celebrates its 21st birthday, with events held throughout Australia—from Corals in the Outback in western Queensland to TAStroFest astronomy in the Apple Isle, and from STEM meets dance in Perth to The Innovation Games at Sydney Olympic Park—with everything from science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

National Science Week 2018 will run from 11 to 19 August. Media kit at www.scienceinpublic.com.au, public event listings at www.scienceweek.net.au.

National Science Week in Victoria: event highlights

Humans 2.0—from future food to an AI dance-off—Melbourne

Augmented brains and bodies, or a return to nature? Cyber or solar? Humans 2.0—what is the future of our species?

Humans 2.0 is an evening of short talks, immersive experiences and science over drinks, exploring wearables, transplantables, cognitive enhancement, robot assistants, genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Hear about new modes of communication, the sports and transport that may be available to future humans, and the sounds of a healthy river. Augment yourself using the latest in AR technology, compete in a dance-off with artificial intelligence, watch your brainwaves, or see the technology restoring sight to blind people.

Check out future artefacts and prototypes while grabbing a drink at the psi-bar. Speak with experts to invent your own stories, ponder our place in an increasingly automated world, and discover how we could feed the planet’s ever increasing human population.

Mini talks include:

  • bioethicist Chris Gyngell on the future of human genetic engineering. Dare we use it?
  • science comedian and neuroscientist David Farmer on blurring the line between dead and alive
  • ex-Pixar virtual reality expert Stephanie Andrews on technologies to expand human imagination and perception
  • urban horticulture expert Chris Williams on why hipsters are here to stay.

Wednesday 15 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Annika Priest, annika@zillaandbrook.com.au or 0413 058 509

Meet the NASA scientists and planet hunters—Ballarat, Bendigo & Scienceworks at Spotswood

NASA scientists are headed to Australia, bringing Saturn to Sydney, new planets to Perth, and more.

Aussie astrophysicist Jessie Christiansen, the NASA planet hunter and ‘Tomb Raider of exoplanet research’ is headed to Victoria to talk about space research, the search for new planets, and how citizen scientists are helping.

What have we learnt from the hundreds of planets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope? How will the information beamed back to Earth continue to advance science once Kepler runs out of fuel this year? Will we find more worlds outside our solar system? Are we alone in the Universe?

NASA’s recently launched Terrestrial Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover planets around the nearest and brightest stars, providing new opportunities for discovery

Audiences will hear from NASA scientists and planet hunters at a series of events hosted by Australian National University Mt Stromlo Observatory astrophysicist Brad Tucker.

Monday 13 to Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Brad Tucker, brad@mso.anu.edu.au, 02 6125 6711 or 0433 905 777

Art of Science: the beauty of killers and cures up close—Federation Square, Melbourne

Humanity’s deadliest foe—the mosquito— was caught on camera by scientists Qike Wang and Julie Healer from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s annual Art of Science exhibition at Melbourne’s Federation Square showcases stunning images and videos captured by Australian medical researchers tackling some of the biggest challenges facing global health. The images shine a light on biomedical exploration and discovery traversing the vast and complex research areas of cancer, infectious diseases and immune disorders.

See how blood vessels sprout from a piece of bone grown in the laboratory, watch breast cancer cells as they attempt to run riot in other parts of the body, and be unsettled by a writhing parasite ‘playground’ captured under the microscope with an iPhone.

Friday 10 to Sunday 19 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Arunee Wilson, wilson.a@wehi.edu.au or 0478 714 757

Scientists-turned-photographers are available for interviews.

RUR 2020: Robots from a classic sci-fi play in a real-life lab—St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC

The 1920s science fiction play Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Čapek introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English language. It was set in a factory-lab that fabricates flesh and blood artificial people from a special gel-like substance.

This ​August​, Melbourne biomedical research centre ​BioFab3D​ and immersive theatre company PlayReactive​ present a new play by local writer ​Rohan Byrne—​RUR 2020. Staged in a real laboratory​, this modern reimagining of Karel Čapek’s century-old masterpiece delves into the ethics of biofabrication—the manufacture of living tissues in the lab—and asks what price society is willing to pay in pursuit of a miracle cure. A Q&A forum will follow the performance on Thursday 16 August.

Thursday 9 to Sunday 19 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Alexandre Guérin on alexandre.a.guerin@gmail.com or 0406310861.

Rohan Byrne (writer), Georgia Symons (director) and Cathal O’Connell (BioFab3D manager) are available for interviews.

You and your racist brain—Melbourne

Are humans wired to be prejudiced? Ask a neuroscientist.

In large part, racism stems from the human brain’s tendency to engage in prejudice, a process that allows our brains to make judgments based on visual information in milliseconds. These preconceived ideas about other people are based on instinct, rather than reason or experience—and they have a basis in neuroscience.

But why does the brain do this? More importantly, can we use what we know about the neuroscience of prejudice to overcome this reaction, potentially developing methods to combat prejudice and end racism?

Join Larry Sherman, a Professor of Neuroscience at the Oregon Health & Science University, who will explain how our brains react to people who are ‘different’ and explore possible ways to overcome the automatic prejudice that contributes to racism in our society.

Saturday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Annika Priest, annika@zillaandbrook.com.au or 0413 058 509

Waste away: the future of garbage—Melbourne Museum

Is your refuse truly waste or is it a resource? EPA has gathered together a panel of experts to discuss the future of waste.

Waste is a hot topic for Australia, with China taking less of our collected recylable materials, plastic bag bans coming into force and calls for plastic straw bans, new discussions of ‘waste to energy’, and growing stockpiles of waste in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia.

The panel will discuss the future of waste, giving people the opportunity to hear from the experts and ask questions about waste opportunities and technologies. Is it truly waste or is it a resource? How can science be used to solve Australia’s waste problem?

Panellists include Ruby Chan, Inventor of ‘Moducware’; Mark Glover, Director and CEO of Renewable Carbon; Barry Sullivan, Business Development Manager, Renewables Downer Utilities Australia; and Trevor Thornton, Lecturer, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin.

Thursday 16 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Carlie Newman, events@epa.vic.gov.au or 03 8458 2655

A virtual reality tour of the invisible Universe—Melbourne & Richmond

From the outer reaches of the cosmos to the tiny world of the microcosmos, how can you see the science that’s invisible to the naked eye?

Science communicators and researchers, Associate Professor Alan Duffy and Dr Rebecca Allen, will host Immersive Science II, guiding audiences through the Universe and the ripples in the fabric of spacetime, and exploring the nano- and microscopic realms—all with the help of immersive virtual reality technology.

Alan and Rebecca will answer questions from the audience and those submitted via social media. There is a day-time event for families at the State Library, an evening event for adults at the Mountain Goat Brewery, and regional viewing parties and online video streaming.

Sunday 12 and Thursday 16 August. Event details (multiple locations)

Media enquiries: Alan Duffy, aduffy@swin.edu.au

Ceri Brenner: laser power in science, medicine and aerospace—Hawthorn

UK plasma physicist Ceri Brenner is pressing ‘fire’ on the most powerful laser, delivering a packet of light a thousand billion billion times more intense than sunlight on a hot summer’s day. And she’s putting it to good use.

Ceri’s work aims to improve the speed and performance of important imaging technology in healthcare, aerospace, nuclear and engineering—from figuring out how we can ignite a star on Earth for clean electricity generation, to using lasers to scan nuclear waste containers and map any hazardous materials inside.

She’s also exploring how to use laser-driven beams of anti-matter to detect defects below the surface of materials used on airplanes. She has also worked on laser-driven particle beams for cancer therapy.

Friday 17 August. Event details

Media contacts: Rachael Vorwerk rachael@scienceinpublic.com.au or 0408 829 327

Why you’re not dead yet—Melbourne, VIC

Neuroscientist Dave Farmer gives a comedic, educational talk about the arse end of the brain (aka the brainstem) filtered through Jackson Voorhaar’s non-educational comedy mind to help disseminate the information to the layidiot.

Why You’re Not Dead Yet blends science and comedy to explore the  subconscious functions of the brain stem—Dave’s particular area of expertise—with detours into the origin of Frankenstein, the 18th century Italians who invented the battery by accident, and Dave’s insecurity in party settings.

The brainstem is the area of the brain that regulates things like your heart rate, your blood pressure and your breathing. Scientists that study fancy things like consciousness would call this ‘housekeeping’ but Dave calls it ‘Why You’re Not Dead Yet’.

Friday 17 to Saturday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: David Farmer, davidfarmer@protonmail.com or 0468 421 165

Parasite Paradise at the Art Gallery of Ballarat

What role do parasites play in human health? Find out through the research of parasitologists, and the digital art and animation in the work Gula Guri mayin (which means ‘heal the body’) by Indigenous artist Bernard Lee Singleton.

This event involves science-art workshops and brings together scientists, artists and the public to explore the science of parasites and its relation to human health. The program also includes the ‘Parasite Paradise’ interactive display with microscopes and other activities, a Café Scientifique event with science talks over drinks, and a science-art movie making workshop.

Saturday 11 to Sunday 19 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Lisa Jones, Lisa.Jones1@jcu.edu.au or 0405 620 747

Virtual Reef Diver: dive into your computer screen to help scientists—national

Dive online to help the Great Barrier Reef this Science Week—and you could win a GoPro camera!

The ABC’s citizen science project Virtual Reef Diver is celebrating the International Year of the Reef, inviting people to dive through their computer screens into the Great Barrier Reef.

They will review and classify underwater images of the Reef to help scientists identify areas of sand, coral and algae to help build a better picture of coral cover. This work will allow scientists and reef managers to make critical decisions to ensure that the Reef has a future.

The project has been developed by the Queensland University of Technology, in collaboration with a host of scientific and community organisations.

Monday 6 to Friday 31 August. www.virtualreef.org.au

Several researchers, divers and science communicators are available for interviews.

Media enquiries: Suzannah Lyons suzannah@scienceinpublic.com.au, 03 9398 1416, 0409 689 543