Keeping the lights on; Mayan astronomy; Whisky Academy; bull science; and more

Friday 18 August 2017

Highlights for day seven of National Science Week

446 events and exhibitions, 23 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.







  • Behind the scenes—how do you make an Attenborough documentary?



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

Also today:

National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year saw a staggering 1.3 million people participate in more than 1,800 events and activities.

In 2017, National Science Week celebrates its 20th birthday, with 2,000+ events registered throughout Australia—from insect Olympics in Darwin to ‘Blood’ at Melbourne’s new Science Gallery, to Antarctic science in the Apple Isle—with everything from science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

Visit the National Science Week website for the details of events in your area:

For general Science Week media enquiries:

More about the event highlights

Can science make the world’s most liveable city better?—Melbourne, VIC

Melbourne has ranked as the ‘world’s most liveable city’ for the seventh consecutive year.

What does science and research reveal about Melbourne’s future liveability?

Dr Anthony Boxshall (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist, longtime 3RRR presenter, and Principal Fellow at University of Melbourne) will host a panel discussion of the science of Melbourne’s liveability, from air quality to train tunnels to behavior change. With panelists:

  • Walkability and healthy urbanism expert Billie Giles-Corti

Distinguished Professor, NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Director RMIT Urban Futures Enabling Capability Platform, Director Healthy Liveable Cities Group

  • Architecture guru and lead researcher at the Sagrada Familia Basilica (Barcelona) Mark Burry

Director of the Smart Cities Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology

  • City planner Andy Fergus

Urban Designer for City of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Design, Melbourne Architours

  • Behaviour change researcher Sarah Kneebone

Research Fellow at BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute

Friday 18 August. Event details The event will also be livestreamed online.

Anthony Boxshall and Andrea Hinwood, Victoria’s Chief Environmental Scientist, are available for interview.

Media enquiries: John Rees, or 03 9695 2903

Gattaca: Are your genes your destiny?—Melbourne, VIC

How close is Gattaca to reality, 20 years on from its cinema release? Are we choosing the gender of our children? Are we creating designer babies? Are we profiling people with DNA?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the sci-fi film Gattaca. This modern classic explores the consequences of genetic selection and manipulation on society through the eyes of genetically less-than-perfect Vincent (Ethan Hawke) and genetically perfect Irene (Uma Thurman).

This event is a screening of Gattaca, followed by an expert panel discussion of the science, art and ethics of the movie. Scientists are available for interview.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Media contact: Jacqueline Savard,, 02 9036 3427 or 0406 484 170

Mayan Astronomy—Emerald, VIC

What can we learn about ancient astronomy from the remains of a lost civilisation?

The Mayan Classic period (250 CE- 900CE) was the height of the arts, astronomy, architecture and urbanism for the Maya. Observations of the celestial landscape arise in sculptures, buildings, calendars, numbering, writings and all Mayan cultural expressions.

Mount Burnett Observatory and Emerald Secondary College are hosting a mini festival of astronomy, with telescopes, interactive activities for the kids and a lecture by Dr Javier Mejuto on Mayan Astronomy.

Visiting academic Dr Mejuto (Professor of Cultural Astronomy at the National Autonomous University in Honduras) will share his knowledge of Mayan Astronomy. He will focus on Copan Ruinas—a site known for outstanding architecture and symbolic language that shows the role of time and cosmos in the religion, rituals, and social ends of the Mayan people.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Dr Javier Mejuto and Dr James Murray will be available for interview.

Media enquiries: James Murray, or 0409 703 929

Students learn to spot the bull science—Darlinghurst, NSW

What do the moon landings, global warming and vaccination all have in common? They’re conspiracies perpetuated by scientists, right? WRONG!

This workshop is a contest of intelligence, interrogation and intimidation that sees a lineup of scientists each trying to make their peers believe complete and utter BS. It’s part of the Science Festival at the Australian Museum, teaching critical thinking to secondary students.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Andrew Stephenson, or 0421 400 688

How a science writer turned an ocean adventure into a book, then a play—Darwin, NT

How did the changing chemistry of the ocean become a science writer’s grand adventure at sea with 13 journeys in three years, a best-selling book and eventually a play?

Canadian science journalist Alanna Mitchell, author of Sea Sick, provides her insights into the art of turning complex science into compelling stories.

Renowned for her investigative reporting on science and social trends, Alanna Mitchell uses a combination of humour, facts and entertaining storytelling to highlight the crises facing our world’s oceans, discovering along the way that that we won’t find the solutions we need for the high-carbon world we’ve created until we rewrite the story about how it all ends. Ultimately the answer lies in culture – in emotion and psychology and all the other things that make us uniquely human. It is art that has the potential to take us on journeys we could never take any other way.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Also Saturday 19 August. Event details

And Sunday 20 August. In conversation with Robyn Williams from ABC’s Science Show. Event details

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

Is a quota system the best way to promote more women in STEM? Let’s hear from them—Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA

What do established female research leaders and PhD students starting their careers think about the gender equity debate? What do they think about proposals to promote women in science and academia by using a quota system?

Discussing their thoughts are four professors: microbiologist Melissa Brown, forensic and analytical chemist Claire Lenehan, biomedical engineer Karen Reynolds, and ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) and vision scientist Justine Smith.

They’re joined by PhD students Jessica Buss, Shee Chee Ong, Olivia Davies, and Sarah Marshall.

Moderated by Prof David Day, Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Flinders University.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Event enquiries: Maria Parappilly, or 08 8201 5842

Big Picture Energy at Queensland Museum—South Brisbane, QLD

Will we be able to afford to keep the lights on? What’s Australia’s energy crisis all about?

Find out at the Big Picture Energy talks, with experts from the Australian Energy Market Operator. Joel Gilmore will talk about battery storage, and Jenny Riesz will talk about the practicalities of transforming Australia’s electricity.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Heidi Jones,, 07 3842 9388 or 0416 273 279

Jellyfish beauty and beast; Costa talks dirty; and inside an Attenborough doco: science over drinks at BeakerStreet@TMAG—Hobart, TAS

  • Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis talks sex and sensuality in the garden.
  • What’s really involved in filming an Attenborough nature documentary?
  • Jellyfish—beauty and the beast in one animal.

BeakerStreet@TMAG is a pop-up science bar at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, featuring hands-on workshops, engaging talks, SCINEMA short films, live music, science storytelling, delicious booze and food, and plenty of prominent local and visiting scientists to chat with over a drink.

See full line-up for each night online

Friday 18 August. Event details

Also Saturday 19 August. Event details

And Sunday 20 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Margo Adler, or 0468 789 933

The science behind Tassie’s whisky boom—Strahan, TAS

Sullivans Cove Distiller, Heather Swart, and Director of the Tasmanian Whisky Academy, Anne Gigney explore the science behind Tassie’s whisky success.

Heather will talk about what makes great whisky, and as a self-confessed whisky geek, share some of the secrets of what makes Sullivan’s liquid gold some of the best in the world. She also talks about the role of raw ingredients—the barley, the water, the climate, the wood—and how distillers make decisions.

Anne will share a few insights about the industry and her own experience helping people who want to learn the art or start their own distillery.

Friday 18 August. Event details

Media and event enquiries: Anne Gigney, or 0419 431 280

Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey—national

Are you a slave to your smartphone? Or have you mastered your mobile? Researchers want your help to build a deeper understanding of our relationship with our smartphones.

Take part in Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey—the online project for National Science Week.

How has having a smartphone changed your life? Has it made your life easier? Or harder? How much time do you spend on it? Does it help you connect (or disconnect) with people? And could you live without it?

The survey will run on the ABC website for two weeks until Friday 25 August. Join in by heading to the Smartphone Survey website at

Several researchers and science communicators are available for interviews.

Media enquiries: Suzannah Lyons, 03 9398 1416 or 0409 689 543.