Can we better predict disasters and protect power stations? Stopping gran from falling over and other stories

Bulletins, Media bulletins

On Monday and Tuesday we’re holding three media briefings at Earth on the Edge, the huge earth science conference on in Melbourne covering prediction, survival and ‘The World versus Man’.

Join us online or in the room at the Melbourne Convention Centre. The sessions are being run by the Australian Science Media Centre.

And on Sunday, we’re issuing our latest Fresh Science story. “You’re going to fall over soon – a new technology to stop falls before they happen could help the elderly stay in their own homes longer” Details below.

Plus two public events in Melbourne. On Monday evening hear firsthand from experts on geological sciences and disaster management. It’s a free event at Melbourne Town Hall presented by Melbourne Conversations.

Then on Tuesday evening discuss how well journalists and scientist coped with reporting the year’s natural disasters over a beer at the Clare Café in Rathdowne Street – details at

Finally some interesting stuff coming up last week of July – an international botany conference ranging from genetics to the future of wine under climate change. And Asian psychiatry – from the cutting edge of research to the blending of modern and traditional approaches.

Predicting natural disasters from a shaking earth: 10.30 am on Monday morning, 4 July

There seems to have been another natural disaster almost each week as recent earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions have impacted on millions of people around the world.

Scientists continually monitor the globe for seismic ripples but are we actually getting any better at predicting where, when and how big the next catastrophe will be?

Join the briefing to ask questions such as:

  • Can anyone really predict earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions? If not, why not and will we ever be able to?
  • Knowing the epicentre of a shake only seems to be part of the problem, can we say how much damage they will cause?
  • Australia has been affected before, how likely are we to see another earthquake or tsunami?
  • Can we be forewarned enough to organise mass evacuations days in advance? Or to accurately predict that an event will happen in a few years’ time?

Super-structures! What it takes to survive a natural disaster: 12 noon on Monday, 4 July

Natural disasters are bad enough, but what happens when they knock down our desalination plants and crack open our power stations?

The recent situation at the nuclear plant in Fukushima is just one example of what can happen.

Governments, businesses and the public need to know whether our most important structures can be made invulnerable to the worst disasters, or whether they can ever be built anywhere that is safe?

Join the briefing to ask questions such as:

  • How much damage can these events cause – is every big structure just a disaster waiting to happen?
  • Can a city such as Christchurch be quake-proof?
  • How do you protect against nuclear disasters when there are earthquakes and volcanoes to contend with?
  • Should we just accept that places near fault lines and volcanoes will never be safe and stop trying to live in areas that will always pose a risk?

The World vs Man – who does more to affect the climate: humans; volcanoes, underwater vents, forest fires etc? 10.30 am on Tuesday, 5 July

More details on Monday on this one.

How to join in

All three sessions will be online via the Australian Science Media Centre’s usual portal, or in person at the Melbourne Convention Centre. Check the details at

Conference program available at:

Follow the IUGG conference on twitter – #IUGG2011

Media assistance for these stories:

You’re going to fall over soon

A new technology to stop falls before they happen could helping the elderly stay in their own homes longer

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have developed a simple way of predicting the likelihood of an elderly person falling in the near future, allowing action to reduce the chances of it happening.

One in three persons over the age of 65 in Australia falls each year. The cost of treating them last year was estimated to be close to $850 million.

“By asking elderly people to perform three normal everyday physical activities and one test of their reactions, and then observing how well they do, we can estimate their likelihood of falling,” says Dr Stephen Redmond from UNSW’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering. “Their performance is measured by a small device worn on their waist. This allows the test to be done at home, at any time, by anyone, without supervision. It’s a big step forward from existing clinical assessments.”

Email me for more details –

Coming soon in Melbourne

At the XVIII International Botanical Congress, 23-30 July, scientists will report on research from the molecular level to global food security and environmental change. The program also includes public lectures on: the future of wines under climate change;, strategies for conserving the 20 per cent of plant species faced with extinction yet of vital importance for our lives; botanical illustration as botanical education; and how an Atlas of Living Australia contributes to research and policy making.

A lunchtime debate on Wednesday 27 July asks: can we solve tomorrow’s environmental and energy problems by using life itself?
Jeff Powell, University of Sydney, and Kirsten Heimann, James Cook University, will argue that we should prioritise research into microbes to find solutions to problems such as  climate change while David Mabberly from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London and Kevin Thiele, Curator of the WA Herbarium will be speaking for the plants.

More info at

Asian psychiatrists will meet in the 3rd World Congress of Asian Psychiatry 2011 from 31 July – 4 August. The opening address will be given by The Hon Ted Baillieu, Premier of Victoria, and 2010 Australian of the Year Pat McGorry will talk on the mental health of teenagers and young adults. Psychiatrists from many specialities will discuss the latest findings in psychiatry research relevant to practictioners in the Asia Pacific region – representing over 40 countries that host over 60% of global population.
This congress will blend philosophy, the practical and the spiritual, venerable Eastern wisdom and cutting edge Western science with demonstrated dynamic results.

More info at