Art meets astrophysics, Tassie tigers, superbugs, and mythbusting the Hulk

Media releases, National Science Week

Monday 17 August 2020

Highlights from day three of National Science Week

332 events, 578 competitions and online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

Researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country.

  • Sydney: Radiation and the human body: will it turn you into the Incredible Hulk?
  • Launceston: The Tassie tiger’s secrets revealed by its hair
  • Melbourne: Real whodunnits: what’s fact and fiction on crime TV shows and disaster movies?
  • Sydney: Is there life on other planets, and how did life on Earth begin?
  • ACT and NT: Your selfie from space
  • Perth: Flying doctors: how do you save lives while flying thousands of metres above sea level?
  • Melbourne: Black holes, dark matter, tipping points and new horizons: art collides with astrophysics
  • Adelaide: How do superbugs get super-villain powers?
  • Gold Coast:  What do warming waters and weird weather mean for whale sharks?

Plus, it’s the first school day of Science Week 2020

National: The secrets of whale snot, and other mysteries of the depths – schools go Deep Blue.

Read on for more on these, including event contact details.

Also today:

Coming up:

Essential meds, future factories, and the science of your pinot noir—see a preview of Tuesday’s highlights.

National Science Week 2020 runs from 15 to 23 August. Media kit at Or visit the National Science Week website for more events and activities:

More about the event highlights

Becoming ‘The Incredible Hulk‘ and debunking other myths about radiation—Sydney, NSW

In movies, if you’re exposed to radiation you may develop superpowers, but is this what happens in real life? Why aren’t there more radioactively induced superheroes and villains roaming the earth?

Join environmental radiochemist Dr Gillian Hirth and a panel of other radiation experts in an online event to explore how radiation effects the human body and how this invisible energy helps people in everyday life.

Dr Hirth is the current Chair of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and Chief Radiation Health Scientist of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Monday 17 August Event details

Thylacine hair: new observations—Launceston, TAS

Find out the latest secrets of the iconic Tassie tiger.

A recent conservation treatment of a newly discovered skin has provided an important opportunity to document the appearance and structure of its hair.

In this session, museum conservator David Thurrowgood will describe the history of the skin reveal what it tells us about the extinct Tasmanian carnivore.

Monday 17 August Event details

Forensic Science: Fact vs. Fiction—Melbourne, VIC

Are disaster movies and TV crime dramas true to real forensic science? How do they know who died? And how do they know whodunnit?

Join journalist and radio presenter Virginia Trioli and specialists Dr Richard Bassed and Professor David Ranson from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine as they put fictional sleuthing under the microscope.

Dr Based and Professor Ranson were in the team that used genetics to identify the body of Ned Kelly. Both have been instrumental in identifying victims of the world’s most traumatic events, including the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the MH17 Ukraine plane crash, the war in Bosnia, and Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires. They will compare what we see on our screens with the true world of forensic science.

Monday 17 August. Event details

Life among the stars—Sydney, NSW

How did life in the Universe begin? Did life on Earth start in deep sea vents as previously thought or in hot springs on land as more recent evidence seems to show? Are there other habitable planets or moons? And what should we look for and where should we look for signs of alien life?

Meet exoplanet expert Chris Tinney and origin of life researcher Martin Van Kranendonk in this online event as they share the latest findings on these fascinating questions.

Hear the latest research about the origins of life on Earth and the growing treasure trove of ‘exoplanets’- different sized planets that orbit around other stars – discovered by scientists thanks to innovation, persistence, and meticulous measurement.

Monday 17 August Event details

Chris Tinney and Martin Van Kranendonk are available for interviews.

A day in the life of the Royal Flying Doctor Service—Perth, WA

Ask the doctors, nurses and pilots of Perth’s Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) what it’s like to be part of the team … on the ground and in the air.

This online webinar is an opportunity to learn more about the RFDS and see how science, technology, engineering and maths subjects apply in the workplace.

Monday 17 August. Event details

Satellite selfies in the territories—ACT & NT

You can be part of a selfie from space. A satellite will fly over Australia’s two mainland territories – the ACT and NT – to capture images of giant artworks created by the locals.

Participating schools, businesses, families and individuals can go to an oval, park or backyard and put together designs, posters or logos that are big enough to be seen from space. The satellite will capture the results and upload them to a website for viewing.

High-altitude photos will be taken over Canberra, Darwin and Palmerston, Pine Creek, Katherine, Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Jilkmingan, Mataranka, Barunga, Beswick, Manyallaluk, Jabiru, Gunbalanya, Batchelor, Adelaide River, Ramingining, and Ngukurr.

Monday 17 – Friday 21 August. Event details

Event Horizon Symposium—Melbourne, VIC

This event brings together artists, physicists and cultural theorists to discuss what an ‘event horizon’ is, across topics ranging from black holes, dark matter, tipping points and new horizons.

Keynote speakers will include:

The Event Horizon Symposium, hosted by the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Visual Art and the Science Gallery Melbourne, will coincide with a special themed edition of Australia’s seminal art journal, Art + Australia, exploring the conjunction of art and science.

The symposium will take place virtually, on August 17 and 18. There will also be two live plenary sessions, via Zoom, on Friday, August 21.

Monday 17 – Friday 21 August. Event details

Deadly Slime: a choose-your-own-adventure animated experience—SA

Dive into the slimy battlefront of the war with super-villain superbugs.

Deadly Slime is an online choose-your-own-adventure animation experience, exploring biofilms, the protective coatings bacteria cover themselves with as a defence against our powerful immune systems. Thus armoured, they can quickly evolve into dangerous superbugs. Even with antibiotics, it is difficult to destroy these fortified slime castles.

Navigate your way through a dramatic story inspired by real-life events. Will you make the right decisions and defeat the infection?

Win or lose, you can meet Adelaide antibiotic-resistant bacteria researcher Dr Katharina Richter and surgeon Dr Markus Trochsler for an online Q&A panel event on 26 August.

Monday 17 – Wednesday 26 August. Event details

Science of the sea: whale sharks in a warming planet—Gold Coast, QLD

Find out what makes a whale shark tick. Ask Tim Flannery how climate change is affecting our oceans and what can we do to help. Learn about nudibranchs – the sea slugs that look like they’re dressed for the carnival. Perhaps go on a virtual rock ramble, or hear from experts about humpback whale calving, marine animal rescue, and saving the Great Barrier Reef.

Gold Coast Libraries’ ‘Science of the Sea’ is a program of free online events, including ‘Luminary Lectures’ from high-profile scientists, focused on the ocean, coastline and marine life.


Later in the week:

Samantha Reynolds, Olaf Meynecke, Tim Flannery (limited availability), Peter Mumby and Ocean Connect scientists are available for media interviews.

The secrets of whale snot, and other mysteries of the depths – schools go Deep Blue for Science Week

Marine scientist Vanessa Pirotta pilots drones adapted for collecting whale snot. She’s also National Science Week’s schools ambassador – keen to talk about her work and some of the other amazing pieces of research happening in Australian waters.

Deep Blue: innovations for the future of our oceans is the schools theme for this year’s festival. To mark it, the Australian Science Teachers Association has compiled a massive compendium of lessons and activities focussed on marine science and the ocean-based economy.

The lessons are suitable for kids of all ages, and are downloadable, free, from here. They help students explore the innovative technologies, capabilities and skills needed to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability of our oceans.

More information:

More about National Science Week

National Science Week is one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year 1.5 million people participated in more than 2050 events around the country, in metropolitan, regional and remote locations.

In 2020, the festival is almost entirely virtual, online, DIY and well-spaced. This means most events, large and small, is open to anyone, no matter where they live.

National Science Week 2020 will run from 15 to 23 August. Media kit at, public event listings at