Merlot-making microbes, health tech, hangry, fifty shades of cray, and more

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Highlights from day four of National Science Week

347 events and exhibitions, 20 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.


  • How do microbes turn grape juice into wine?
  • Why giant cuttlefish do so well in the water near Whyalla


  • How are mobile devices and apps affecting our mental health and how can they be used as a force for good?
  • How will climate change affect whisky?


  • Fifty shades of cray: what does a male fiddler crab do with his enlarged claw?


  • Quantum computing making problem-solving take minutes instead of years—Michelle Simmons
  • Stargazing over wine with Fred Watson


  • Hangry? How hunger affects your behaviour
  • How will apps, mobiles and sensors change healthcare? Harvard professor in Melbourne


  • Pulse check for politicians at Parliament House

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

Also today:

More than 2000 events and activities are registered throughout Australia—from Corals in the Outback in Queensland to at our Antarctic bases, and from STEM meets dance in Perth to The Innovation Games at Sydney Olympic Park—with everything from science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

National Science Week runs until 19 August. Media kit at Or visit the National Science Week website for the details of events in your area:

For general Science Week media enquiries:

Tanya Ha: or 0404 083 863
Niall Byrne: or 0417 131 977

More about the event highlights

Grape expectations: the future of wine—Adelaide, SA

How do microbes make wine taste so pleasingly different from grapes? How can wine last so long? What difference does the bottle cap make to the wine?

How and why has wine changed over the last 200 years? And how will it change in the future?

Ask the wine-loving scientists from the Australian Wine Research Institute in an evening of wine tasting and science story-telling.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Ella Robinson, or 08 8313 6600

Giant Australian cuttlefish in the water near Whyalla—Adelaide, SA

What do we really know about the Giant Australian Cuttlefish? Why did their numbers decline, then rapidly recover in the waters near Whyalla?

University of Adelaide aquatic ecologist Bronwyn Gillanders presents some of the scientific detective work that she and her team have done to unravel the mystery of their decline and rapid recovery.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Ashleigh Glynn, or 0466 389 019

Whisky business at Questacon—Canberra, ACT

Whisky: It’s made from grains, gets old in a barrel, and has travelled to space and back.

Questacon’s whisky enthusiasts are back with the ever popular Whisky Business. Using drams from around the world they will be exploring the science of whisky.

How does the smokiness of whisky relate to climate change? What will happen to whisky when combined with liquid nitrogen? What has Bog Man got to do with any of it? Through comparing and contrasting, science will be closely examined through the bottom of the whisky glass.

Tuesday 14 and Thursday 16 August Event details

Media enquiries: Amelia Coman, or 02 6270 2800

The science of us: your mental health—Canberra, ACT

Technology and social media: how is it affecting our mental health and how can it be used as a force for good for those at risk?

The Science of Us series, presented by the Australian Academy of Science at The Shine Dome, will investigate the science of our lives and our health, from the moment of conception through to death, focusing on some of the issues we face during our lives and what science is doing to resolve them.

Professor Mike Kyrios (Flinders University) will speak about how he is using technology to create digitally delivered therapies to people suffering from compulsive behaviours.

Professor Helen Christensen (Black Dog Institute) will discuss the innovative methods being used for detecting mental health risk, such as anxiety and depression, via social media, and the development of novel interventions for mental health treatment.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Dan Wheelahan, or 0435 930 465

Fifty shades of cray: the secret life of crustacea—Albany, WA

Ever wonder what the enlarged claw of male fiddler crabs are for or what kind of parents crabs are?

Ask Andrew Hosie, an Aquatic Zoology curator at Western Australian Museum.

Finding a mate in the sea can be tricky and dangerous. Crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters overcome challenges with an assortment of behaviours, adaptations and strategies.

This event will explore the world of crustacean reproduction from lifecycles, eggs and larvae to courtship, fending off potential rivals and ensuring that their progeny survives to populate the next generation.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Alena van Schoubroeck, or 08 9841 4844

The quantum computing revolution—Kensington, NSW

“A quantum computer would be able to solve problems in minutes that would otherwise take thousands of years.” – Michelle Simmons.

For many, the field of quantum computing is extraordinarily mind boggling, yet for the 2018 Australian of the Year, Michelle Simmons, it is her life and her passion. She is a quantum computing pioneer, establishing Australia’s first quantum computing company in 2017. She shares her insight into quantum physics and atomic electronics, and its possibilities.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Matt Fraser,, 02 8065 7363 or 0401 326 007

Stargazing over wine with astronomer Fred Watson at The Calyx—Sydney, NSW

Astronomer Fred Watson has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won’t be his fault. Ask him about the science of the night sky over Sydney.

Fred, along with Indigenous educators, will be at and will be at The Calyx building in the heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney for a night of astronomy, star gazing and storytelling surrounded by flowers in the Pollination display.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media contacts: Megan Harvey,, 02 9231 8004 or 0427 288 742

Apps, devices and wearable sensors: optimising mobile health interventions—Bundoora, VIC

Harvard University Professor Susan Murphy explores how data collected through mobile apps can transform the way that we tailor and deliver healthcare treatments.

Mobile devices along with wearable sensors allow us to deliver supportive treatments, anytime and anywhere. Mobile interventions are transforming treatments and preventative health management, including support for HIV medication adherence, assisting recovery in addictions and encouraging physical activity and healthy eating.

The question remains: “When and in which contexts, is it most useful to deliver treatments to the user?” Using data, we can determine if key factors such as location, stress, time of day, mood, ambient noise and so on, impact when and where these treatments are most useful. This talk concerns a new clinical trial design: the micro-randomized trial and associated data analytics for use in addressing this question.

The talk will use multiple mobile health studies including the study, HeartSteps – a physical activity mobile intervention, to illustrate the ideas.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Andriy Olenko, or 03 9479 2609

How does hunger influence our behaviour?—Wheelers Hill, VIC

Hunger and the brain: why do we get hangry?

Physiologist Rachel Clarke from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute explores the science of how the brain responds to hunger and some of the ways this might impact our behaviour.

The drive to eat is essential for survival. Hunger-sensing neurons in our brains control our food intake to ensure we have enough energy for our day-to-day activities. However, these neurons also influence broader behaviours such as anxiety, fear, motivation and learning.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Peter Head, or 03 9561 6211

Pulse check for politicians: HealthLAB visits Parliament House—Darwin, NT

How good is your health? And how do your lifestyle choices affect the health of your body now, in the future and for the future generations of your family?

HealthLAB is a health education clinic on wheels—offering an interactive science education experience that helps people assess their own health in a ‘pop-up’ laboratory.

HealthLAB will be staffed by a range of scientists and health professionals who will teach participants about the science behind the inner workings of their bodies, ways to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and career pathways in science.

Tuesday 14 August. Event details

Media contacts: Melody Song and Paul Dale,