No social media, mood food, beating lie detectors tests, and more

Exclude from Home Page, National Science Week

Saturday 14 August 2021

Highlights from day one of National Science Week

469 events and exhibitions, 238 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

Researchers, experts, and performers available for interview around the country.

  • ACT: Can we grow food in space and on Mars? – online event
  • WA: Gut bugs impacting our mental health
  • NSW: Making weeds into salad
  • NSW: The need to delete social media
  • SA: Donut shooting robots at the Showgrounds
  • NT: Can you beat a lie detector test?
  • National: Help find the night owls with your ears

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

Also today:

Coming up:

Mega superfoods, rock stars and researchers, deadly science, and more – see a preview of Sunday’s highlights.

National Science Week 2021 runs from 14 to 22 August. Media kit at Or visit the National Science Week website for more events and activities:

For general Science Week media enquiries:

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

More about the event highlights:

Delete your social media account – now! online (NSW)

We should delete our social media accounts, according to Jaron Lanier, one of the founders of Virtual Reality.

The computer scientist will reflect on his 25 years in the tech industry and what are the emerging technologies coming out of Silicon Valley

Saturday 14 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Sasha Haughan,, or 0405 006 035 or Kym Elphinstone, or 0421 106 139.

What’s for dinner on the way to Mars? – online (ACT)

Growing foods in space aims to provide nutritious meals to astronauts and future space travellers.

Part of the plan is to use a tested and engineered protein called Aquaporin – that turns bodily waste into drinking water. It also helps grow plants in space.

How will this be accomplished?

Ask the experts:

  • Dr Caitlin Byrt, an ANU Institute for Space Mission Specialist based in the Research School of Biology
  • Dr Jacob Humpal, an agricultural engineer developing automated plant monitoring systems for growing plants in space
  • NASA space crop production project manager Ralph Fritsche
  • Mt Stromlo Astro-guru Brad Tucker.

Expert speakers are available for interviews (Ralph Fritsche has limited availability).

Saturday 14 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Brad Tucker,; or Brittany Carter,, or 0401 332 137.

Can you beat a lie detector test? – Darwin City, NT

The team from Counterpilot is testing the science behind lie detectors and how reliable they are.

They are available to discuss whether a polygraph machine can help stamp out fake news and alternative facts.

The group is presenting Truthmachine – a social experiment/immersive experience as part of National Science Week, challenging people to take a lie detector test in a room full of strangers.

Saturday 14 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Matt Fraser, or 0401 326 007; or Amber Forrest-Bisley, or 0405 363 817.

Donut shooting robots compete at the Showgrounds – Wayville, SA

Who can design, build, and operate the ultimate goal-shooting robot?

The SA Student Robotics Club will run a Robot Scrimmage in National Science Week – a program of robotics education, workshops, fun and learning. More than 15 Scrimmage Teams will take on the challenge to design, manufacture, assemble and program robots. The robots will compete to launch ‘donuts’ and score goals, both static and moving targets.

Saturday 14 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Peter Ryan, or 0488 975 288

Science from the swamp to the scrub – online (NSW)

Who was Australia’s very own dinosaur?

Which nocturnal superhero animals only come out at night?

Which backyard weeds can be turned into a salad?

How do ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ seeds travel through the country?

‘From Swamp to Scrub’ take people on a virtual tour through the wetlands of Centennial Park to the woodlands and scrub of Western Sydney Parklands (the city’s biggest backyard) to discover the plants and animals that call Australia’s biggest city home.

Saturday 14 August – Tuesday 14 September. Event details:

Media enquiries: Christian Eckardt,, 02 9339 6664 or 0420 534 053.

Gut feelings – what to eat to improve your mood – Clarkson, WA

Never mind weight loss, your diet can have a direct impact on your mental health.

Learn how choose foods that boost your brain and fight off depression and anxiety in this series of events conducted across Perth’s suburbs.

Your intestines are home to a vast population of tiny organisms, known collectively as the microbiome.

And the mix of your belly bugs strongly influences not just physical but emotional wellbeing – using an internal communications pathway called the Gut-Brain Axis.

Join Edith Cowan University PhD candidates Tina Yan and Jo Rees as they reveal the ways in which the food you eat can improve your microbiome – and the benefits that brings for health and happiness.

Saturday 14 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Pepita Smyth, or 0417 171 551

Tina Yan and Jo Rees are available for media interviews.

Can you find the owls in the night? Researchers recruiting Hoot Detectives – online

Hark, is that an owl hooting?

Researchers are after volunteers to help map five native Australian owl species, by listening to short recordings made in the bush. 

The idea is to hunt for Powerful, Barking, Boobook, Barn, and Masked owls.

The results will provide important information about the range and numbers of these beloved birds of prey. They will also help researchers develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems to use in a new field of science, known as “eco-acoustics”.

This nationwide project is called Hoot Detective, and is produced by ABC Science in collaboration with the Australian Acoustic Observatory for National Science Week.

Tuesday 10 – Tuesday 31 August. Visit:

Media enquiries: Ben Keirnan, or 0408 184 858.

More about National Science Week

National Science Week 2021 runs from 14 to 22 August. First held in 1997, National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year about 1.1 million people participated in more than 1200 events, despite a global pandemic.

In 2021 there will be online events, virtual tours and experiences, DIY science and home-based activities held all around Australia. And there are some in-person events planned in line with local pandemic restrictions.  Media kit at; public event listings at