Risking cancer to avoid nano-sunscreen and heads-up on SKA and World TB Day

Media bulletins

Welcome back – this is my first 2012 bulletin for journalists interested in science.

Australians risking skin cancer to avoid nanoparticles

And yet the latest research reported in Perth this week suggests they have little to fear from ‘nano-sunscreens’.

More than three in five Australians are concerned enough about the health implications of nanoparticles in sunscreens to want to know more about their impact. And while the initial scientific information released suggests little cause for alarm, it does justify the community’s confusion.

That’s the message that emerges from a survey and three research papers on nanoparticles in sunscreens presented at the 2012 International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN) in Perth this week.

Researchers also reported that claims of the dangers of nano metal oxides in sunscreen might be overstated. A team from RMIT and Nanosafe Australia released studies using human cells that show zinc oxide and titanium oxide particles used in sunscreens are as well-tolerated as zinc ions and conventional chemical sunscreens in human cell test systems.

The Cancer Council of Australia reports that we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with over 440,000 people receiving medical treatment for skin cancers each year, and over 1,700 people dying of all types of skin cancer annually. The full release is online here.

SKA announcement expected soon

Australia is bidding against South Africa and New Zealand to be the home of the Square Kilometre Array – the biggest, most sensitive telescope ever built. It’s a $2 billion project.

The word was that the decision will be announced this month. I’m now hearing suggestions that we’ll be waiting until April.

If you’re going to be reporting on this, we’ve got lots of background info – take a look at our collection of astronomy stories in print and on our website. In particular take a look at the sections on radio astronomy and the Square Kilometre Array.

Leaders of science meeting in Vancouver – AAAS Conference 2012

The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference is the largest general science conference in the world and there’s always a big media contingent.

We’re holding an informal dinner for journalists at the conference in Vancouver this year. It will be on Sunday 19 February.

If you’re planning to be in Vancouver for the conference, we may have still have room for you at dinner.

Email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au for more info.

Tasmanian scientist home from the LHC

Allan Clark grew up in Tassie, but for 20 years he’s been based in Switzerland at CERN – and he’s been working with the Large Hadron Collider.

He’s the Director of the Department of Particle Physics at the University of Geneva and a Fellow at CERN.

His research has concentrated on the collision of hadrons at the highest possible energies, using particle accelerators. With his team, he’s made major contributions to our understanding of particle physics.

He’s visiting Tasmania next week and giving some public lectures – 14 Feb in Hobart, and 15 Feb in Launceston.

The Large Hadron Collider: Revealing the fundamental nature of our world

In a 27 kilometre-long circular tunnel beneath the Franco-Swiss border sits the world’s largest physics experiment: the Large Hadron Collider. This experiment aims to uncover some of the remaining secrets of our Universe, illuminating the nature of the fundamental forces and particles that make up our world.

Allan’s talk will outline the Standard Model, currently our best physical theory of matter and forces, and then describe some of the first physics results from colliding protons close to the speed of light inside the Large Hadron Collider.

Australian scientists fight TB – World TB Day, March 24

  • In 2010 8.8 million people became ill with TB and 1.4 million people died from the disease.
  • TB is the number four cause of death among women worldwide.
  • In Australia, TB still infects around 1,000 people each year.

But we’ve had some successes: since 1995, 46 million people have been successfully treated and up to 6.8 million lives saved through short-course chemotherapy.

In the lead-up to World TB Day on March 24, the Centenary Institute will be promoting the WHO’s StopTB campaign by talking about the work Australian scientists are doing on prevention and a cure for TB with institutes in Vietnam and China. We’ll have some news stories through March.

More information about the Centenary Institute’s campaign at www.tb.org.au or follow @CentenaryInst on Twitter.

Hone your communication skills at the ASC conference

Australia’s science writers and communicators are meeting in a few weeks at the 2012 Australian Science Communicators Conference in Sydney from Monday 27 February to Wednesday 29 February.

Most of Australia’s Chief Scientists will be there including the big cheese of Australian science himself, Ian Chubb.

Registration is still open – more details, and a full conference program, at: www.2012conf.asc.asn.au

Maths for the future: Keep Australia competitive

Researchers are calling for action to save maths.

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb says there’s a crisis in the classroom, where the supply of graduates in maths, statistics and science falling far behind demand.

Doug Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) says that medical research discoveries in cancer and other diseases are driven by highly skilled maths-trained scientists, particularly in the growing field of bioinformatics.

Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt says that maths education was vital to the mining and construction industry.

They all spoke at a two-day forum called “Maths for the future: Keep Australia competitive” held this week in Canberra by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.

For more, contact AMSI: http://www.amsi.org.au/main/contact-us