This week at Science in Public

This Week

Family matters in autism outcomes: Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find.

Sugar found to boost lethal bacteria: Adelaide researchers find how a bacteria digests a sugar can be key to new treatments

Better emergency responses by removing social bots: Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what’s happening in real time

Hire more LGBTQ and disabled astronomers or risk falling behind, review findsAnalysis finds gender equity among star scientists improving, but big challenges remain.

Researchers use sound to deliver drugs: A technique adapted from telecommunications promises more effective cancer treatments.

Faecal pellets and food remains reveal what ghost bats eat in the Pilbara

Star-quake vibrations lead to new estimate for Milky Way age: Data gathered by NASA’s now defunct Kepler telescope provides a solution to an astronomical mystery.

Citizen scientists deserve more credit, researchers argue: Academic journal rules are penalising citizen scientists and indigenous knowledge, say US and Australian scientists.

When reefs decline, parrotfish thrive: Researchers find familiar species pave the way for coral regrowth.

Better emergency responses by removing social bots

Fresh Science, Media releases

Image credit: Mehwish Nasim

Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what’s happening in real time

Mehwish Nasim, University of Adelaide

Researchers have created an algorithm that distinguishes between misinformation and genuine conversations on Twitter, by detecting messages churned out by social bots.

Dr Mehwish Nasim and colleagues at the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide say the algorithm will make it easier for emergency services to detect major events such as civil unrest, natural disasters, and influenza epidemics in real time.

“When something really big is going on, people tweet a huge amount of useful information,” says Mehwish.

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Family matters in autism outcomes

Fresh Science, Media releases
Lauren Lawson, La Trobe Univcersity

Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find.

Autistic children with autistic siblings have better cognition than those who are the only family member with the condition, researchers have found.

Importantly, the outcome does not depend on birth order.

Although previous studies have identified that having autistic siblings leads to better cognition for individual children with the condition, it was assumed that the order in which the children were born was a significant factor.

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Sugar found to boost lethal bacteria

Fresh Science, Other

Adelaide researchers find how a bacteria digests a sugar can be key to new treatments

Vikrant Minhas, University of Adelaide

The severity of a common and often lethal type of bacteria depends on its ability to process a type of sugar, research from the University of Adelaide reveals.

Streptococcus pneumoniae causes diseases of the lungs, blood, ear and brain, killing an estimated one million people every year. Moreover S. pneumoniae causes otitis media (infection of the middle ear), which devastates Aboriginal populations. It also rapidly develops resistance to antibiotics, making it challenging to treat.

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Researchers use sound to deliver drugs

Fresh Science, Media releases

A technique adapted from telecommunications promises more effective cancer treatments.

Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT

Drugs can be delivered into individual cells by using soundwaves, Melbourne researchers have discovered.

Adapting a technique used in the telecommunications industry for decades, Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT, and colleagues, used the mechanical force of sound to push against cell walls and deliver drugs more effectively than treatments currently in use.

The new technique aids in silencing genes responsible for some diseases, including cancer, by switching them on or off.

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Star-quake vibrations lead to new estimate for Milky Way age

ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions (ASTRO-3D), Media releases

Data gathered by NASA’s now defunct Kepler telescope provides a solution to an astronomical mystery.

An artist impression of the Milky Way, showing the thick and thin discs.
Credit: NASA/JPL Caltech/R.Hurt/SSC

Star-quakes recorded by NASA’s Kepler space telescope have helped answer a long-standing question about the age of the “thick disc” of the Milky Way.

In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of 38 scientists led by researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions (ASTRO-3D) use data from the now-defunct probe to calculate that the disc is about 10 billion years old.

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Faecal pellets and food remains reveal what ghost bats eat in the Pilbara

Fresh Science, Media releases
Alba Arteaga Claramunt, University of Western Australia.
Photos of 2019 Science in Public Event at the Brisbane Hotel in Perth. Photos Ross Swanborough.

UWA, Curtin university and Perth zoo researchers have discovered that Australian endangered ghost bats in the Pilbara (WA) eat over 46 different species.

Its diet is very diverse ranging from small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Researchers used a new approach by combining two methodologies: DNA analysis of faecal pellets and classification of dried food remains.

They receive their name due to their pale grey colour and “ghostly” appearance. They are top-level predators and very important for the ecosystem.

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Citizen scientists deserve more credit, researchers argue

Macquarie University, Media releases

Academic journal rules are penalising citizen scientists and indigenous knowledge, say US and Australian scientists.

Listing indigenous citizen scientists as co-authors on a cane toad paper proved challenging.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Citizen scientists should be included as authors on journal papers, researchers say.

In a paper published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a team led by biologist Dr Georgia Ward-Fear from Macquarie University in Australia and Dr Greg Pauly from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles argues that newfound respect for indigenous knowledge and changes in technology mean that non-professionals are taking greater roles in science work.

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When reefs decline, parrotfish thrive

Australian Institute of Marine Science, Media releases

Researchers find familiar species pave the way for coral regrowth

Parrotfish numbers rise as reef quality decreases.
Credit: Kendall Clements

In contrast to most other species, reef-dwelling parrotfish populations boom in the wake of severe coral bleaching.

The surprise finding came when researchers led by Perth-based Dr Brett Taylor of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) looked at fish populations in severely bleached areas of two reefs – the Great Barrier Reef in the western Pacific and the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

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‘Magic crystals’ to enable our electric car future

Media releases, Other

Australian invention promises massive boost to lithium production

CSIRO and Monash University’s Matthew Hill received the Solomon Award for developing ‘magic crystals’ with dozens of applications from cleaning gases and liquids to mining and drug production.


Cheaper cleaner lithium mining for future cars and batteries is the newest application. It’s being developed with US company Energy Exploration Technologies (EnergyX).

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