Nanotech changes the world; tall ships bring Darwin to Melbourne; Oppenheimer on Climate Change

Media bulletins

Nanotechnology is here.

It’s at the heart of the chips in your computer and in the new hard disk with all your photos and videos on it; it’s the next generation of (plastic) solar cells; there are nano-gold particles finding cancer cells; carbon nanotubes and much much more.

Australia’s nanoscientists are in Sydney from tomorrow for a week discussing both the benefits and the risks of nanotechnology. They’re joined by dozens of leading international scientists exploring these issues.

And tomorrow evening James O’Loghlin from the ABC’s New Inventors will host a speculative discussion exploring the development, regulation, commercialisation and use of nanotechnology applications.

Tall ship Stad Amsterdam brings Charles’ Darwin’s great, great granddaughter, Sarah Darwin, to Melbourne as part of a recreation of the voyage of the Beagle. She’s running the science program for the voyage. The ship arrives Tuesday morning and Sarah speaks Thursday evening in Williamstown about her ancestor and the science of the voyage.

And Michael Oppenheimer, a long-time member of the International Panel on Climate Change, and Princeton geoscientist is talking in Sydney tomorrow for Sydney Ideas and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, The University of Sydney. His theme: how global warming policy can catch up to global warming science. He’s great talent – here he is on the Colbert Report:

I’ve included contact details for each story below. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on 0417 131 977.

Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

Nanotechnology: a new national strategy

Kim Carr released the National Enabling Technology Strategy. It sets the scene for a week of nanotechnology activity in Sydney at the international ICONN conference.

Here’s a snippet from their release:


The Rudd Government is introducing a comprehensive national framework to guide the safe development of new technologies such as nanotechnology and biotechnology as part of a $38.2 million National Enabling Technologies Strategy released today.

“Technologies like nanotechnology and biotechnology have enormous potential, but we can only realise that potential with the community’s support,” said Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr.

“Health, safety and environmental protection are paramount for the Government. This strategy is about ensuring we meet the highest standards while at the same time maximising opportunities to develop these cutting-edge technologies.

“The responsible development of enabling technologies will support new industries, new export opportunities and, most importantly, new jobs.

“These technologies promise to give us breakthrough medicines, faster computers, new biofuels, stronger and lighter materials, better solar cells, more abundant and nutritious food, purer water, and much more besides.

“They will be worth trillions in the years ahead. It is essential that Australia has a stake in this market.”

The strategy provides a comprehensive national framework with three funding components:

  • $10.6 million to support policy and regulatory development, industry uptake, international engagement and strategic research;
  • $9.4 million for public awareness and community engagement to increase understanding of enabling technologies; and
  • $18.2 million for the National Measurement Institute to improve measurement infrastructure, standards and expertise and ensure that Australia leads the way internationally.

The strategy is available at

Media contacts: Patrick Pantano, Minister’s Office, 0417 181 936, Peter Chesworth, Department, (02) 6213 6058 / 0408 656 830

Nano, nano, nano…this week in Sydney

The 2010 International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2010) starts tomorrow at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour.

Some of the top speakers include:

  • Stuart Parkin from IBM is the king of spintronics – using the spin of electrons to store information. It’s the key to massive increases in computer storage and he’s got some other big ideas – memory that will mean that your computer is instantly on – it never forgets.
  • Andrew Bartholomaeus from Food Standards ANZ will talk about nanoparticles in food – both the new and the old. It turns out that much of our food naturally contains nanoparticles. But what should we do about new kinds of particles.
  • Michal Lipson – whose photonic research could lead to an invisibility cloak, and other more practical applications like optical computing.
  • David Awschalom from the University of California is also talking about spin and ‘engaging diamonds in quantum computing’ – his pun.
  • Chuck Geraci from the US Institute for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is talking about how to protect workers’ health and safety.
  • Tom Faunce from ANU will be discussing the potential of nanotech to contribute to public health – and of the need for good regulation to deal with safety concerns.

And we’ll explore solar panels, nano gold for windows and cancer tests, purifying water and much more.

We’ll also find out what the Australian public thinks about science.

More information about ICONN 2010 is at

Media contacts: We are running the media room at the conference. If you want to talk with any of the speakers, or attend the conference, please contact me on 0417 131 977, or my colleague Margie Beilharz on 0415 448 065.

Big issues about small technologies

ICONN 2010 – Nanotechnology free Public Forum 6-8pm, Tuesday 23 February, Sydney.
James O’Loghlin from the ABC’s New Inventors chairs a free forum exploring how a nanotech product finds its way through development, regulation, commercialisation and use.

The panel members include:

  • a scientist: Prof. Matt Trau from Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • a regulator:  Prof. Brian Priestly from Australian Centre for Human Health Risk Assessment
  • an industry representative:  Dr Stuart Hazell, former CEO of PanBio
  • a consumer:  Tricia Greenway from the Consumer Health Forum

The panel members will broadly map how a new technology goes from development to the public and will examine what happens at each major stage.

There is no need to book. For more information call techNyou Information Service, 1800 631 276.

More information about ICONN 2010 is at

Inspect tall ship Stad Amsterdam, re-enacting Darwin’s Beagle voyage, and interview Sarah Darwin, Tim Flannery and others

Arriving at Williamstown Workshop Pier at 11am on Tuesday 23 February, escorted by local Tall Ships One & All, Enterprize and Young Endeavour.
The press are welcome on board from about 12noon to 2pm, to look over the ship and interview guests.
As part of the Beagle Project the Dutch clipper Stad Amsterdam is retracing Charles Darwin’s Beagle journey for TV station VPRO, who are producing a 35-part TV documentary ‘Beagle, On the Future of Species’. The journey is also a cross-media project which can be traced via webcams, weblogs, widgets, videos, photos, mobile, Twitter and other social networks. Along the way, fossil hunters, DNA researchers, geologists, oceanographers and other scientists are conducting in-depth research to evaluate the current condition of the earth.

Guests available for interview from 12noon to 2pm include:

  • Tim Flannery, conservationist, academic and chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council
  • Daniel Dennett, philosopher and author of Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
  • Redmond O’Hanlon, UK naturalist and author of travel books
  • Hans Fels, Beagle project creator and initiator, as well director of the TV program
  • Richard Slootweg, Captain of the Stad Amsterdam.

For permission to board, you must RSVP to Cleo Ferraira at and hold a photo ID. In your RSVP include your full name and your ID number.

You can interview Redmond O’Hanlon and Richard Slootweg, who are on board now, by Skype.

In conversation with Sarah Darwin, Thurs 25 February

Sarah Darwin is Charles Darwin’s great, great granddaughter and a biologist. She is re-tracing her ancestor’s steps on the Stad Amsterdam. Sarah is available for interviews by telephone.

Sarah, Redmond O’Hanlon and Hans Fels will be speaking at a public reception at 5.45pm Thursday 23 February to celebrate the success of the year-long Evolution Festival and Darwin’s 201st birthday.

The Stad Amsterdam will be berthed at the Pier but will not be open for inspection. Tall ship One & All will be open for tours from 4pm to 6pm and tall ship Enterprize will be open from 5pm to 6pm. The talk will kick off at 5.45pm and the event will close at 7pm. Light refreshments will be provided. The Pirates Tavern will be open till late and food will be available outside the Tavern.

For further information please contact my colleague Sarah Brooker on (03) 9398 1416, 0413 332 489 or

RSVP for numbers by Tuesday 23 February to or 9932 2001.

The Stad Amsterdam will also be visiting Adelaide on 1 March and Perth on 14 March.

Media contact for interviews is Cleo Ferraira at, mobile +31-6-54371197, skype: cleorani, twitter: @Beagle_Cleo

Michael Oppenheimer, lead IPCC author, on Global Warming: science and policy

Michael Oppenheimer, lead author on the Third and Fourth Assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is coming to Australia to talk on climate change science and policy as a guest of Sydney Ideas.

The science shows that climatic changes are due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and that there is a long lag before the full effects are manifest. Society has limited ability to cope with the changes that would occur in the absence of emission abatement measures, and governments agreed in Copenhagen that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.

Michael reviews the evidence and presents a framework for policies at the local, national and international levels to both mitigate emissions and adapt to the level of warming which is inevitable.

Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University, will give a public talk titled ‘Global Warming: How policy can catch up to the science and solve the problem’ on Tuesday 23 February 2010 at 6.30pm in the International Ideas series.

His talk will be introduced by Sam Mostyn, Director, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, University of Sydney.

For more information please contact Katrina O’Brien, Sydney Ideas Media Officer, on (02) 9036 7842 or

Kind regards,