Media releases

Better emergency responses by removing social bots

Image credit: Mehwish Nasim

Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what’s happening in real time

Mehwish Nasim, University of Adelaide

Researchers have created an algorithm that distinguishes between misinformation and genuine conversations on Twitter, by detecting messages churned out by social bots.

Dr Mehwish Nasim and colleagues at the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide say the algorithm will make it easier for emergency services to detect major events such as civil unrest, natural disasters, and influenza epidemics in real time.

“When something really big is going on, people tweet a huge amount of useful information,” says Mehwish.

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Family matters in autism outcomes

Lauren Lawson, La Trobe Univcersity

Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find.

Autistic children with autistic siblings have better cognition than those who are the only family member with the condition, researchers have found.

Importantly, the outcome does not depend on birth order.

Although previous studies have identified that having autistic siblings leads to better cognition for individual children with the condition, it was assumed that the order in which the children were born was a significant factor.

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Researchers use sound to deliver drugs

A technique adapted from telecommunications promises more effective cancer treatments.

Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT

Drugs can be delivered into individual cells by using soundwaves, Melbourne researchers have discovered.

Adapting a technique used in the telecommunications industry for decades, Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT, and colleagues, used the mechanical force of sound to push against cell walls and deliver drugs more effectively than treatments currently in use.

The new technique aids in silencing genes responsible for some diseases, including cancer, by switching them on or off.

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Star-quake vibrations lead to new estimate for Milky Way age

Data gathered by NASA’s now defunct Kepler telescope provides a solution to an astronomical mystery.

An artist impression of the Milky Way, showing the thick and thin discs.
Credit: NASA/JPL Caltech/R.Hurt/SSC

Star-quakes recorded by NASA’s Kepler space telescope have helped answer a long-standing question about the age of the “thick disc” of the Milky Way.

In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of 38 scientists led by researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions (ASTRO-3D) use data from the now-defunct probe to calculate that the disc is about 10 billion years old.

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Faecal pellets and food remains reveal what ghost bats eat in the Pilbara

Alba Arteaga Claramunt, University of Western Australia.
Photos of 2019 Science in Public Event at the Brisbane Hotel in Perth. Photos Ross Swanborough.

UWA, Curtin university and Perth zoo researchers have discovered that Australian endangered ghost bats in the Pilbara (WA) eat over 46 different species.

Its diet is very diverse ranging from small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Researchers used a new approach by combining two methodologies: DNA analysis of faecal pellets and classification of dried food remains.

They receive their name due to their pale grey colour and “ghostly” appearance. They are top-level predators and very important for the ecosystem.

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Citizen scientists deserve more credit, researchers argue

Academic journal rules are penalising citizen scientists and indigenous knowledge, say US and Australian scientists.

Listing indigenous citizen scientists as co-authors on a cane toad paper proved challenging.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Citizen scientists should be included as authors on journal papers, researchers say.

In a paper published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a team led by biologist Dr Georgia Ward-Fear from Macquarie University in Australia and Dr Greg Pauly from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles argues that newfound respect for indigenous knowledge and changes in technology mean that non-professionals are taking greater roles in science work.

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When reefs decline, parrotfish thrive

Researchers find familiar species pave the way for coral regrowth

Parrotfish numbers rise as reef quality decreases.
Credit: Kendall Clements

In contrast to most other species, reef-dwelling parrotfish populations boom in the wake of severe coral bleaching.

The surprise finding came when researchers led by Perth-based Dr Brett Taylor of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) looked at fish populations in severely bleached areas of two reefs – the Great Barrier Reef in the western Pacific and the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

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‘Magic crystals’ to enable our electric car future

Australian invention promises massive boost to lithium production

CSIRO and Monash University’s Matthew Hill received the Solomon Award for developing ‘magic crystals’ with dozens of applications from cleaning gases and liquids to mining and drug production.


Cheaper cleaner lithium mining for future cars and batteries is the newest application. It’s being developed with US company Energy Exploration Technologies (EnergyX).

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When cells forget how to die – a hallmark of cancer

Andreas Strasser and David Vaux win $50,000 CSL Florey Medal for Lifetime Achievement for identifying cell death triggers and using them to fight cancer.

  • Past CSL Florey Medallists include Graeme Clark, Ian Frazer, and Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren.
Professor Andreas Strasser with Professor David Vaux. Image credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

In the late 1980s to early 1990s, two Melbourne scientists, Andreas Strasser and David Vaux, discovered the molecular processes that cause billions of cells in each of us to die every day. They showed that some cancer’s cells can evade this process of programmed cell death and ‘fail to die’. So far, their findings have led to powerful new treatments for leukaemia and opened a new field of research which generates 25,000 papers every year. And, they say, there is still much to learn.

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Spin doctors: Astrophysicists find when galaxies rotate, size matters

Sky survey provides clues to how they change over time.

A simulation showing a section of the Universe at its broadest scale. A web of cosmic filaments forms a lattice of matter, enclosing vast voids. Credit: Tiamat simulation, Greg Poole

The direction in which a galaxy spins depends on its mass, researchers have found.

A team of astrophysicists analysed 1418 galaxies and found that small ones are likely to spin on a different axis to large ones. The rotation was measured in relation to each galaxy’s closest “cosmic filament” – the largest structures in the universe.

Filaments are massive thread-like formations, comprising huge amounts of matter – including galaxies, gas and, modelling implies, dark matter. They can be 500 million light years long but just 20 million light years wide. At their largest scale, the filaments divide the universe into a vast gravitationally linked lattice interspersed with enormous dark matter voids.

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