Better than Utopia, what we don’t know about immunity, Sydney’s quantum gurus strike again

Bulletins, Media bulletins


We need to do better than the men and women of Utopia. Our cities work because of good decisions made over the past 150 years – Sydney’s location, Melbourne’s grid and sewage farm (commissioned in 1892), the City Loop. And we can all name bad decisions.

A national urban intelligence centre launching today will harvest the information needed to make smart decisions such as: locating mortgage stress; creating walkable suburbs; planning employment availability; and giving cities like Townsville the water and energy they need to double in size. More below.

Also today – another breakthrough from the team at UNSW inventing quantum computing. Andrea Morello won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Physical Sciences last year. Now he and his colleagues have stored quantum information in silicon for a massive thirty seconds, which is a life time in the quantum world. More below.

Tonight in Melbourne – a briefing on plans for the 2015 UN International Year of Light.

Wednesday – we launch a new way of looking at the human immune system.

From Wednesday – finding gravity waves – a national women in physics tour, visiting all States and the ACT.

Looking ahead

On 29 October the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners will be announced. There are still seats available for working journalists and we can start briefing long-lead publications.

Kind regards,


Big data for urban intelligence 

13 October 2014, launch at 3pm
Woodward Conference Centre, Level 10 Law Building, University of Melbourne, 185 Pelham Street, Carlton

  • Can Townsville secure the water and power needed to sustain a doubling in population?
  • Where are the hotspots for mortgage stress and the locations of affordable housing in Sydney?
  • What makes a walkable neighbourhood in Perth?
  • Can we plan new suburbs that work for residents, councils, and developers in our major cities?
  • What makes Melbourne the “world’s most liveable city”?
  • How can employment issues be managed in Adelaide as the industrial sector restructures?

A new national urban intelligence initiative is giving researchers, planners and policy-makers access to the numbers to answer these questions. AURIN, the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network, gives access to thousands of data sets-from Australian Property Monitors ( to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, from Geoscience Australia to city councils.

It allows researchers to jump in and ask big questions of big data without first spending years getting access to the data. Visualising, mapping and making sense of big data will be made easier through AURIN’s online analytical tools.

This $24 million Australian Government research infrastructure investment will be launched by Dr Ron Sandland, AO and Mr David Gray, Chair of AURIN.

“Australia’s population is likely to top 40 million by mid-century and we are already one of the world’s most urbanised nations,” says Professor Robert Stimson, Director of AURIN.

“Coping with this growth and achieving the sustainable development of our diverse cities is a major challenge. It needs evidence-based research and policy. The AURIN initiative is providing the data, integrated from multiple sources, and the analytical tools needed to make this happen.”

More at

30 seconds – world record for storing quantum information

A quantum computer is another step closer following the latest discoveries of Andrea Morello and his colleagues – published today in Nature Nanotechnology.

Two research teams create quantum bits with more than 99 per cent accuracy that offer parallel pathways for building quantum computers in silicon.  

Results published in two papers in the same issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

Two research teams working in the same laboratories at UNSW Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realisation of super powerful quantum computers.

The teams created two types of quantum bits, or “qubits” – the building blocks for quantum computers – that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99 per cent. The findings have been published simultaneously today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

“For quantum computing to become a reality we need to operate the bits with very low error rates,” says Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak, who is Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, where the devices were made.

“We’ve now come up with two parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon, each of which shows this super accuracy,” adds Associate Professor Andrea Morello from UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.

More at

What we don’t know about the immune system – to be revealed by $39 million ARC Centre

Launch 11 am Wednesday 15 October

Foyer, Building 75, Monash University, Clayton Campus

Our immune system is still a mystery despite the pioneering work of Burnett, Doherty, Cory, Vaux and many other Australians.

Understanding our immune system is central for fighting cancer and infectious diseases. And understanding why our immune system sometimes over-reacts is critical to tackling auto-immune diseases. Yet many of the workings of our immune systems are a mystery especially at a molecular level.

  • How does the prick of a rose thorn trigger inflammation?
  • How does a T-cell recognise a cancer cell?
  • And how does it persuade other T-cells to join the fight?
  • What happens when our immune system over-reacts?
    • How does wheat protein trigger coeliac disease?
    • How do Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases start?
  • How can we persuade the immune system to accept organ transplants?

The $39 million ARC Centre of Excellence for Advanced Molecular Imaging opens on Wednesday with the aim of solving these mysteries.

It brings together five universities to determine for example at a molecular level how individual immune cells are triggered to respond to a threat. The knowledge will open the way to new drugs and therapies.

More at

From Nobel blue LEDS to a UN Year of Light Melbourne briefing event

5.30 pm Monday 13 October

Level 1, The Crossbar Building, Federation Square, Melbourne

Incandescent globes lit the 20th Century. The 21st will be lit by LEDs thanks to Nobel prizewinning blue LEDs. There’s a revolution taking place in lighting – just in time to celebrate the 2015 UN International Year of Light.

Later today we’re holding a briefing session at Fed Square in Melbourne where we’ll hear what Melbourne’s scientists, artists and industry have planned to celebrate light and its uses in 2015. This follows off the back of similar sessions in Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane.

Drop me a line if you’d like a heads up on any of the planned activities, or if you’d like us to keep you in the loop throughout next year.

More about the Year at

Register attend via Eventbrite

Ripples from the dark side of the Universe

Sheila Rowan: 2014 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer

  • In Australia from 15 October to 15 November
  • Visiting Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT, WA, NSW, SA and Queensland
  • Available for media interviews

Gravitational waves are amongst the most elusive signals from our Universe reaching the Earth: “ripples in the curvature of space-time”. The information carried by these signals will give us new insight into the hearts of some of the most violent events in the Cosmos – from black holes to the beginning of the Universe.

Sheila Rowan from the University of Glasgow will talk around the country about experiments to detect gravitational waves.

A global network of gravitational wave detectors – including the UK-German GEO600 detector, the US LIGO detector project, the French-Italian Virgo detector project, and the Japanese detector KAGRA – is now reaching the final stages of construction, with the first data expected in 2015.

As director of the Institute for Gravitational Research in the School of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Glasgow, Sheila will discuss the nature of gravitational waves, how the detectors work and what the data from the detectors can tell us about the Universe we inhabit.

More information and dates at 

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