The wine doctor, women’s brains, drones, and the science of snot

Media releases, National Science Week

Friday 17 August 2018

Highlights from day seven of National Science Week

344 events and exhibitions, 21 online activities, and dozens of great stories.

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


  • A prospective Martian, the science of snot and other gross stuff, insect vision, cats, and more at Princes Wharf 1


  • A glass of Dr Penfold: ask the ‘Wine Doctor’ about Australia’s history of wine as medicine
  • Getting into women’s heads: how the brain
    affects women’s health and wellbeing

How virtual reality helps biomedical researchers ‘walk’ through the human body


  • Comedy meets the brainstem (the ‘arse end of the brain’)
  • Meet the UK plasma physicist firing the world’s most powerful laser and making it useful


  • Who will win the ultimate drone challenge? Grand Final today
  • Australia’s lost megafauna make a return as shadow puppets


  • Moving climates: theatre, dance and digital art that deals with the data of disaster

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

Also today:

More than 2,000 events and activities are registered throughout Australia—from Corals in the Outback in Queensland, to events 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

Tasty science, snotty science, Antarctic secrets and the man headed to Mars, all at the Festival of Bright Ideas—Hobart

  • Grossology: the science of snot, pus, wee, saliva, ear wax, blood, vomit, burps, farts and boogas—with ABC’s Lish Fejer
  • Mars One candidate Josh Richards on getting ready to live on the red planet
  • A lot of hot (and cold) air, and occasional humour, with Jeremy Just
  • How Tasmania’s flora, fauna and landscape have changed over the last 100,000 years
  • How science can help find solutions for Hobart’s traffic congestion
  • Questacon’s tasty science
  • What happens after you flush?
  • Gardens through the (multiple) eyes of an insect
  • A virtual reality tour of Hobart Town in the 1820s
  • Is there more to cats than eating and sleeping?
  • What secrets are hidden in Antarctica’s ice and snow?
  • Meet scientists from Tasmania’s top research institutes
  • Plus litter, LEGO, retro engineering, bush adventures, 3D printing, eels, eagles, and more.

These are just some of the speakers, activities and displays at the Festival of Bright Ideas, all under one roof at Princes Wharf 1 on Hobart’s waterfront.

Friday 17 August (schools day). Event details

Saturday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Sarah Bayne, or 03 6226 2716

Wine as medicine: an Australian perspective—Sydney, NSW

Why did Australia have so many ‘Wine Doctors’; how was wine used to help transport convicts to Australia; and why were vineyards planted in Australia’s lunatic asylums, and no where else in the world?

Philip Norrie traces the medical history of wine and its unique history in Australia, including where and when the first vineyard was planted in Australia.

Friday 17 August. Event details

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

The science of women’s brain health—Double Bay, NSW

Oxford-educated neuroscientist Sarah McKay is interested in how the brain develops during infancy, childhood and the teenage years (including the onset of puberty), and the health and mental health of the ageing brain.

Understanding how the brain grows and changes through the stages of life is key to health and wellbeing. This is not a talk about the differences between male and female brains. Rather Sarah is interested in what happens inside the brains and bodies of women as they move through the phases of life, and the often-misunderstood effects of female biology and hormones.

Her book The Women’s Brain Book: The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness weaves together findings from the research lab, case studies and interviews with researchers working in the disciplines of neuroendocrinology, brain development, brain health and ageing.

Friday 17 August. Event details

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

Practically virtual—Randwick, NSW

Practically Virtual showcases how virtual reality is helping scientists, lecturers and teachers in universities and research organisations—from cell biology to mining engineering and from biomedical research to data visualisation. This week-long expo event also invites the broader public to join in.

Virtual reality allows scientists to ‘walk’ through the landscape of the human body and look up-close at cancer cells or race down the aorta alongside red blood cells towards the site of a stroke.

Virtual reality is assisting the ongoing research from (amongst others) UNSW’s Medicine, Science, Engineering and Art and Design faculties, as well as research organisations such as the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The main Practically Virtual expo will be at the UNSW Biomedical Precinct on the Kensington Campus in Sydney. Staff from the Museum of Human Disease will also take a mobile version on a regional roadshow during National Science Week and beyond.

Monday 13 to Friday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Derek Williamson,, 02 9385 1522

Why you’re not dead yet—Melbourne, VIC

Neuroscientist Dave Farmer gives a comedic, educational talk about the arse end of the brain (aka the brainstem) filtered through Jackson Voorhaar’s non-educational comedy mind to help disseminate the information to the layidiot.

Why You’re Not Dead Yet blends science and comedy to explore the  subconscious functions of the brain stem—Dave’s particular area of expertise—with detours into the origin of Frankenstein, the 18th century Italians who invented the battery by accident, and Dave’s insecurity in party settings.

The brainstem is the area of the brain that regulates things like your heart rate, your blood pressure and your breathing. Scientists that study fancy things like consciousness would call this ‘housekeeping’ but Dave calls it ‘Why You’re Not Dead Yet’.

Friday 17 to Saturday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: David Farmer, or 0468 421 165

Ceri Brenner: laser power in science, medicine and aerospace—Hawthorn

UK plasma physicist Ceri Brenner is pressing ‘fire’ on the most powerful laser, delivering a packet of light a thousand billion billion times more intense than sunlight on a hot summer’s day. And she’s putting it to good use.

Ceri’s work aims to improve the speed and performance of important imaging technology in healthcare, aerospace, nuclear and engineering—from figuring out how we can ignite a star on Earth for clean electricity generation, to using lasers to scan nuclear waste containers and map any hazardous materials inside.

She’s also exploring how to use laser-driven beams of anti-matter to detect defects below the surface of materials used on airplanes. She has also worked on laser-driven particle beams for cancer therapy.

Friday 17 August. Event details

Media contacts: Rachael Vorwerk or 0408 829 327

Moving climates—Braddon, ACT

The life of a climate scientist—how does it feel to spend your working life dealing with the data of disaster; how does it change you; and how do others perceive you?

Come and explore the inner world of climate scientists, demonstrated through theatre, dance, music and digital art as artists respond to interviews with climate scientists.

Bringing together climate scientists, an actor, dancer, digital artist and composer, the performance is a chance to see a work in progress, give artists feedback on how the work might develop, and discuss the issues it raises.

Friday 17 to Sunday 19 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Robin Davidson, or 0415 464 202

Megafauna: in the Shadow of the Great Beasts—Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

This National Science Week, the Miocene is back on the scene. Back from the dead and ‘live’ as shadow puppets: Northern Territory’s ancient megafauna, including marsupial lions and tigers, mega-crocs, and Dromornis—the biggest bird that ever lived.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) fossil collection and local stories provide the source material for a show that brings Central Australia’s extinct megafauna to life. MAGNT will work with Barking Spider Visual Theatre to produce a captivating shadow puppetry installation to bring to life the stories of the ancient megafauna that once roamed throughout Central Australia over six million years ago. A season of public performances and hands-on arts-science workshops will take place at MAGNT in Darwin during Science Week.

Friday 17 to Saturday 18 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Tessa Duke, or 08 8936 4208

The Ultimate Drone Challenge—Darwin

Drone enthusiasts will battle it out over three days to win the title of the Ultimate Drone King or Queen. They will use drone technology to simplify tasks related to infrastructure inspections, the construction of roadways and forest roads, monitoring gas and oil pipelines and high tension electricity lines, and keeping an eye on shoreline erosion.

Drone software, hardware and engineering are already starting to cater to clients in agriculture, land management, energy, and construction. Drones will soon be boosting crop yields, verifying insurance claims, and assisting in future Hollywood blockbusters. It’s a business sector that’s due to boom by more than 6,000 per cent by the end of the decade.

Join the Young Engineers Australia NT as they celebrate National Science Week 2018 by taking part in The Ultimate Drone Challenge, with two days of knockout rounds, followed by a Grand Final.

Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 August. Event details

Media enquiries: Jaimi-Leigh Acres, or 08 8914 1702