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Current science stories

Can a brain scanner fit into an ambulance? Innovative Adelaide-based manufacturer Micro-X has received funding to develop a game-changing portable brain scanner from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Vaccine comments from the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences

COVID-19 vaccines will protect individuals, families and communities: Expert health and medical science leaders welcome vaccine roll-out, but caution that the vaccines alone are not enough.

At cosmic noon, puffy galaxies make stars for longer: Galaxies with extended disks maintain productivity, research reveals.

The secrets of 3000 galaxies laid bare: Completion of Australian-led astronomy project sheds light on the evolution of the Universe.

Tackling cancers through mystery molecules and genetic fingerprints – Metcalf Prize winners announced.

Vaccines alone won’t keep Australia COVID-safe, review finds: Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences urges multi-pronged response for 2021

It’s time to find out what works for women in STEM: A Guide to Evaluating STEM Gender Equity Programs launched

No more than 10 a week and 4 a day…

Official site at www.nhmrc.gov.au/alcohol. Copies of all resources for media available here.

National Health and Medical Research Council confirms new national guidelines for reducing the health risks from drinking alcohol.

Graphics available via links below.

The guidelines are the result of four years of extensive review of the evidence on the harms and benefits of drinking alcohol.

They replace the previous version, published in 2009. They will underpin policy decisions and public health messaging for many years to come.

“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink,” says Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of NHMRC.

“We’re providing advice about the health risks so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives.”

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, adds: “Every year there are more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia, and more than 70,000 hospital admissions. Alcohol is linked to more than 40 medical conditions, including many cancers.

“Following the guidelines keeps the risk of harm from alcohol low, but it does not remove all risk. Healthy adults drinking within the guideline recommendations have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.”

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Why plumbers and teachers should have a say on designer babies and genetically enhanced potatoes


Content available:
Image and caption,
Extended quotes from selected authors as supplementary content,
Genepool release – Filmmaker becomes co-author on paper published in top international journal, ‘Science’,
Paper details
– Media release below

Ethical and social implications of powerful DNA-altering technology are too important to be left to scientists and politicians, researchers find.

Illustration by Alice Mollon

Designer babies, mutant mozzies and frankenfoods: these are the images that often spring to mind when people think of genome editing.

The practice – which alters an organism’s DNA in ways that could be inherited by subsequent generations – is both more complex and less dramatic than the popular tropes suggest.

However, its implications are so profound that a growing group of experts believe it is too important a matter to be left only to scientists, doctors and politicians.

Writing in the journal Science, 25 leading researchers from across the globe call for the creation of national and global “citizens’ assemblies”, made up of lay-people, tasked with considering the ethical and social impacts of this emerging science.

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Flexible phone screen chemicals kick off new industry partnership for South Korea and Australia

Seoul firm KISCO and CSIRO invest in Melbourne’s Boron Molecular, taking CSIRO precision chemistry to new global customers

Launch: 3pm KST, 4pm AEST, Thursday 9 July 2020, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Seoul and via Zoom
With His Excellency James Choi, Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea.

KISCO manufacturing facility
Credit: KISCO

The next generation of flexible phone screens and other high tech products are one step closer to development following a partnership agreement between Melbourne company Boron Molecular; South Korean chemical company, the Kyung-In Synthetic Corporation (KISCO); and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. KISCO and CSIRO will both take a minority shareholding in Boron Molecular.

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Hot qubits made in Sydney break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

A proof-of-concept published in Nature promises warmer, cheaper and more robust quantum computing. And it can be manufactured using conventional silicon chip foundries.

Full media kit here.

Dr Henry Yang and Professor Andrew Dzurak: “hot qubits” are a game-changer for quantum computing development.
Credit: Paul Henderson-Kelly

Most quantum computers being developed around the world will only work at fractions of a degree above absolute zero. That requires multi-million-dollar refrigeration and as soon as you plug them into conventional electronic circuits they’ll instantly overheat.

But now researchers led by Professor Andrew Dzurak at UNSW Sydney have addressed this problem.

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Should Australia allow mitochondrial donation?

  • Public events in Sydney 11 Nov, Melbourne 18 Nov and online
  • Case studies/patients also available from the Mito Foundation.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is inviting all Australians to provide their views on the use of a new assisted reproductive technology that might assist in preventing certain rare mitochondrial diseases but which requires careful ethical and social consideration. Consultation is open until Friday 29 November 2019.

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2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science: don’t call us.

For information about the 2019 Prizes please visit www.industry.gov.au/pmscienceprizes.

We had a great run with the Prizes from 2004 to 2018. But all good things come to an end. So please don’t contact us for media information, go straight to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science at media@industry.gov.au. We will be at the dinner on 16 October waiting with bated breath to find out who the 2019 winners are. 

15 years ago, Peter McGauran, Gemma Allman and Virginia Cook placed their trust in us to publicise the Prizes when Science in Public was in its infancy. As awareness of the Prizes has grown so has Science in Public. Please read on for some comments on our journey with the Prizes and for our thanks to the many people who contributed.  Or jump to the next post to access profiles of past winners. 

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Anaemic star carries the mark of its ancient ancestor

Australian-led astronomers find the most iron-poor star in the Galaxy, hinting at the nature of the first stars in the Universe.

A visualisation of the formation of the first stars. Credit: Wise, Abel, Kaehler (KIPAC/SLAC)

A newly discovered ancient star containing a record-low amount of iron carries evidence of a class of even older stars, long hypothesised but assumed to have vanished.

In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, researchers led by Dr Thomas Nordlander of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) confirm the existence of an ultra-metal-poor red giant star, located in the halo of the Milky Way, on the other side of the Galaxy about 35,000 light-years from Earth.

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Earth recycles ocean floor into diamonds

Is the sparkler on your finger recycled seabed? Photo: Flickr CC/Stephen Durham

Most diamonds are made of cooked seabed.

The diamond on your finger is most likely made of recycled seabed cooked deep in the Earth.

Traces of salt trapped in many diamonds show the stones are formed from ancient seabeds that became buried deep beneath the Earth’s crust, according to new research led by Macquarie University geoscientists.

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It’s not just fish, plastic pollution harms the bacteria that help us breathe

Plastic pollution can harm both the micro and macro-organisms living in our oceans. Photo: Kevin Krejci

Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean.

Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology tonight.

“We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr Sasha Tetu.

“Now we’d like to explore if plastic pollution is having the same impact on these microbes in the ocean.”

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