570 Science Week events in NSW New South Wales launches National Science Week with NASA’s mission to Mars; boozy botany; the chemistry of life and death and more

Media releases, National Science Week

8 August 2017, launch at 8.30am at Australian Museum

1 William Street, Sydney. Please enter via Crystal Hall, corner of William and College Streets

With NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane, Australian Museum Executive Director and CEO Kim McKay molecular biology guru Merlin Crossley, Winny the Muttaburrasaurus, and students from Chifley Public School, animals and experiments.

Contact: Claire Vince on Claire.Vince@austmus.gov.au, or 0468 726 910.

Statewide highlights include

  • Can parasitic worms halt MS? Or honey fight superbugs?
  • Sporty science at the Innovation Games
  • The botany of brewing
  • The chemistry of the smell of death, with a modern-day Sherlock
  • Chemistry saving lives and creating jobs
  • Greenhouse or madhouse? What’s holding back climate action?
  • Dinosaurs invade the Blue Mountains, and more…

And more than 570 other events across the state.

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Future Earth, life on Mars, and a gallery full of bloody science

Media releases, National Science Week

August a prime time to talk innovation and science—National Science Week kicks off 12 August

It’s time to plan your coverage of over 1,800 events across Australia for National Science Week from 12-20 August.

We have national touring speakers, and local events everywhere from the Tiwi Islands to Hobart:

  • the man behind the visual effects of Interstellar: Oliver James in Canberra and Melbourne
  • US science writer Dava Sobel, author of books The Glass Universe and Longitude in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Bendigo
  • the 17-year-old inventor of a build-it-yourself tablet, Taj Pabari—in Perth, Darwin and Brisbane
  • Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey—ABC’s national project
  • Australia joins the global Moonhack world record attempt for the most kids coding—national
  • Canadian astronaut and ‘Space Oddity’ Chris Hadfield coming to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne
  • Innovating Energy Summit: Powering Australia’s Future at Parliament House in Canberra
  • art meets science in ‘Blood’, the first exhibition of the new Science Gallery Melbourne
  • Future Earth science lessons in schools; science-themed Brain Break morning teas in workplaces

1,800 events across Australia during National Science Week, with more registered each day, including: [click to continue…]

Wine science, outer-space, hackerspaces, the scent of death, and are you a slave to your smartphone?

ABC projects, Media releases, National Science Week

A taste of some of the 1,800+ National Science Week events and activities around the country.

  • What’s your relationship with your phone? (national)
  • Is your future written in your genes? (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth)
  • NASA scientists and potential Martians on the Red Planet (NSW)
  • Science Gallery International’s bloody Australian debut (VIC)
  • Hunting pests in pantries (WA and SA)
  • Plus many more

International guests

  • Canadian astronaut and ‘Space Oddity’ Chris Hadfield
  • The man behind the visual effects of the movie Interstellar Oliver James
  • US science writer Dava Sobel, author of The Glass Universe, revealing more hidden figures from the history of astronomy
  • English physicist, writer and broadcaster Paul Davies

Local science stars

  • Katie Mack—the astrophysicist J K Rowling follows—will be the Women in Physics Touring Lecturer, before heading back to America in 2018
  • Astrophysicist and science communicator Alan Duffy, Mamamia’s ‘hot astronomer
  • Lee Constable—Steminist, host of Network Ten’s science show SCOPE, and the brains behind Co-Lab: Science Meets Street Art
  • 17-year-old inventor, social entrepreneur and educational pioneer Taj Pabari, who developed a build-it-yourself tablet and creativity kit for kids
  • Forensic chemist and modern-day Sherlock Holmes Shari Forbes, who uses a ‘farm’ of buried bodies to study the smell of death and decay
  • Comedian, science communicator and Mars One candidate Josh Richards

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Smarter electrification: providing energy isn’t enough 

The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Four years ago life in Pulau Bau, a village on a tiny island off North Maluku in Indonesia, was transformed. The community was supplied with electricity via small-scale diesel generators and a state-of-the-art solar energy system with battery backup.

Every house was receiving some electricity—not a lot, but some. But early in 2017 the system broke down, and the cost to repair it (equivalent to AUD$20,000) was beyond the budget of the community.

The Indonesian government is committed to providing energy to all citizens by 2020. It isn’t going to be easy for a 5,150km-long archipelago where more than 65 million people, many in remote communities, currently go without.

An Australia-Indonesia Centre project is working to identify the opportunities and challenges in meeting the real needs of these communities.Technology alone won’t deliver. The solutions will need to be tailored to community aspirations, and be resilient so they keep working when the engineers go home.

“There’s a gap between the provision of technology and the development of capacity to maintain that supply,” says Dr Sebastian Thomas, a climate and sustainability researcher with The Australia-Indonesia Centre and The University of Melbourne who is co-leading the work.
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Gender in the lab: is science inclusive?; making more sustainable fertilisers

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Friday 28 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

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What fly guts could reveal about our health

Media releases

Diet choice, reproduction of fruit flies affected by gut bacteria

Two Macquarie researchers are co-authors on a pair of intriguing papers about fruit fly gut bacteria.

The two new studies reveal that the gut bacteria composition of the common fruit fly affects consumption as well as reproductive behaviour.

The discoveries provide an exciting illustration into how of how microbes can influence the behaviour of host animals, which could be important for understanding gut microbiota and cognitive function in humans in the future.

Dr Fleur Ponton, is the last author on both studies and is based at Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences.

“Beyond the biomedical significance of this research, there are potential interesting applications in the context of invasive and pest species control,” she says.

Macquarie University has a long history in pest control and hosts the Australian Research Council Centre for Fruit Fly Biosecurity Innovation.

The papers were co-authored by researchers from Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences and the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and report that that the gut microbiota of the common fruit fly has a significant effect on their foraging behaviour and reproductive success, and that its influence can be carried down to the next generation.

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Better batteries for electric cars; smartphone testing for diseases & clean water; Nobel Laureate who transformed fuels, plastic and drugs; and more

Conferences, Media releases, RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress

Thursday 27 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

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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’.


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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