Archive for the ‘Science in the News’ Category

I blogged about my first day of volunteering at the World Science Festival Brisbane here. Now for a rundown on Day Two of volunteering. 

My one and only shift for the day was with the Microbiologist Apprentice program at QIMR Berghoffer where high school kids and their parents looked at the anti-microbial properties of plants, and used a fluorescent product to detect if the bacterial cells were alive or dead. The attendees even got to do a sixteen streak inoculation of an agar plate with the sample bacterial culture. 

I helped seal their plates and clean up the lab afterwards. It was very cool to be back in a micro lab. It all came rushing back. And I got to catch a glimpse of some small agarose gel tanks and PCR machines. It takes me back! It’s been eleven years since I was in a lab!

Then it was on to Southbank to catch up with a good friend and some Street Science. We saw some fluorescent coral, some starfish, hermit crabs, a 3D printer and all kinds of cool science and engineering stuff. I would have loved this stuff when I was a kid and a teenage science nerd! No wonder the kids love Street Science! 

Can’t wait to be involved in the Festival next year!


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Over the weekend of 12th and 13th March I volunteered and checked out the World Science Festival Brisbane held in the cultural precinct at Southbank, Brsbane, Australia. Wow! An awesome experience!

My girl and I headed in to Southbank (the festival’s main location and home to Brisbane’s cultural precinct comprising museums, art galleries, the state library and performing arts centre) on the Saturday. As I was on my shift, my girl checked out Street Science (science shows, displays and demonstrations in the cultural forecourt near the Brisbane River). 

My shift was at QAGoMA (the Queensland Art Gallery-Gallery of Modern Art) as part of the Art Conservation Apprentice Program – a behind the scenes and practical look at preservation and conservation of artworks. Participants put broken ceramics back together and learnt about mourning and preserving photographic works (testing the pH of mounting boards, microscopic examination to find out how the photograph was printed). 

Fresh from my shift I met up with my girl for lunch Greek street food. Then it was on to see Dear Albert, a play written by Alan Alda based on Albert Einstein’s personal letters. He had a tumultuous love life, and was a passionate scientist and comedian. Fascinating! 

Next it was more Street Science – we saw Australian tarantulas and golden orb spiders being gently placed on willing kids’ hands – such fascination and lack of fear! Kids sifting through piles of rock and bones experiencing palaeontology, 3D bioprinting, robotics, reef conservation and the science Olympiads. 

Then to round out the day we saw Loggerhead turtles hatching from their eggs and earlier hatchlings swimming in tanks. Amazing! The hatchlings were to be released off the coast of Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast where it was hoped they would catch the current and evade predators. 

On Sunday my shift was in the Whale Mall at the Queensland Museum. It was a kids activity – the Lego Tower Challenge – build a tower strong enough to hold a pile of text books. The kids has so much fun. So lovely to see kids of all ages, genders and background getting stuck into building. Fun but exhausting! After my shift I wandered around Street Science then caught up with my parents for a late lunch. 

What a day! What an experience! Privileged to have been involved. Can’t wait for next year. And no I didn’t get to meet or see Alan Alda. Maybe next year?  



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Some photos of advertising in South Bank, Brisbane in the lead up to World Science Festival Brisbane – 9th to 13yh March 2016.



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It seems a long time since I heard that the World Science Festival (a beckon and bench mark for science communication public engagement activities) was coming to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia – see my           The World Science Festival & Alan Alda (!!) Coming to Brisbane post. But now it’s here! And it’s on. The World Science Festival Brisbane (WSFB) starts today (9th March Brisbane time) and continues until Sunday (13th March).

The WSFB website describes the Festival – ‘The inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane will bring some of the world’s greatest thought leaders to Queensland, showcase local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region, and host the brightest and the best from previous events in New York.’

‘At the World Science Festival Brisbane, the biggest stars of science will present the beauty, complexity, and importance of science through diverse, multidisciplinary programming that is the World Science Festival signature…..’

And I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be a volunteer for the Festival. I will volunteering at two events over the weekend. And am hoping I gain some invaluable and practical science engagment experience. 

WSFB, hosted by the Queensland Museum, will be held in Brisbane annually for three years. A wonderful opportunity to showcase the scientific and research work being undertaken in Queensland and to present the fascinating world of science to the Queensland public – to all walks of life. 

Check out the WSFB website for more information and the program of events.

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I was reading an email last night from the Australian Science Communcators, and I was excited to find out that the World Science Festival will be coming to Brisbane in 2016. The Queensland Museum will host the Festival for three years in Brisbane, and it will be the first time the Festival has been held outside of New York City. My brain has already wondered what the program for the Festival will hold – theatrical and comedic performances and academic talks on all things science. A science festival for adults! Yes! I have an avid interest in making science fun for adults. Science centres don’t don’t draw my interest that much as the exhibitions are aimed towards children). Celebrating science, making it fun, and using multiple communication channels to represent science, scientists and contributions to society, medicine and knowledge is one of the pinnacles of science communication practise for me. In one of my science communication courses taken last year I made an 8 min podcast about science cabaret and making science fun for adults. I interviewed a physicist-science communicator who sung songs about science, and a local Queensland band (the Ragtag Band) who were performing a series of cabaret shows (called Do It For Science) featuring songs about science and burlesque performers. 

And just to spark my interest even further (and get me into fangirl mode), Alan Alda who played Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H (one of my favourite shows) will be at the Festival!! Alan is on the Board of the Festival and has been an advocate for science literacy and science communication. He was also instrumental in setting up the Alan Alda Center for Commnicating Science at Stony Brook University in the U.S. As described  on the Center’s mission we page, the Center “works to enhance understanding of science by helping train the next generation of scientists and health professionals to communicate more effectively with the public, public officials, the media, and others outside their own discipline.”

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I attended a rather interesting talk yesterday on global climate change, science communication and the misinformation techniques used by climate change skeptics. The talk was given by John Cook, a climate communication research fellow at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia. John Cook is the lead author of a significant paper on climate change consensus entitled Quantifying the Consensus On Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Impressively the link to the paper was tweeted by Barack Obama! John Cook also created the website Skeptical Science and runs The Consensus Project which is described as “a peer-reviewed citizen science driven project conducted by volunteers at the Skeptical Science website.” (The Consensus Project, 2013).

The abstract of the paper (Cook et al, 2013) reads as follows –

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.

In summary, the study found that 97% of papers that stated a position on human caused global warming endorsed the consensus that humans are causing global warming. The significant consensus amongst scientists through peer reviewed papers and extensive scientific evidence of global warming and the influence humans have had on this surely indicates human involvement in global warming. Hopefully this paper’s findings, the communication of this message, and innovative ways to combat misinformation from climate change skeptics and associated conservative media and politicians will enlighten the public to the reality of climate change.

As I sat in the auditorium and listened to the misinformation used by climate change skeptics and I thought how terrible it is that scientific data and the scientific methods is suffering. What does the public think of science? Does conservative media influence the public to trust science less? I was immensely inspired to pursue science communication as a career, as there is such an important role for science communicators, especially in combating misinformation campaigns and presenting evidence that will enlighten the public and governments.

20130920-063900.jpg (Source – The Consensus Project)

Cook, J, Nuccitelli, D, Green, S, Richardson, M, Winkler, B, Painting, R, Way, R, Jacobs, and Skuce, A (2013) Quantifying the Consensus On Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature, Environmental Research Letters 8:1-7

The Consensus Project (2013) Retrieved from theconsensusproject.com

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I was fascinated to hear of the discovery of 50 million year old fossilised bones of crocodiles and fish, along with fossilised plants and shells in the Brisbane suburb of Geebung. Workers on a construction site for a railway overpass discovered the fossils last month in an oil shale layer at 15m below the surface. See the ABC News article – Workers Make Surprise Find In Brisbane

According to ABC News, Professor Suzanne Miller, chief of the Queensland Museum said that the find is “very unusual to find materials being uncovered in these urban sites. I mean, most discoveries of this nature are found miles from anywhere.” Professor Miller in the ABC News article was also quoted as saying “first of all it’s very unusual to have an urban construction site that finds it, and secondly to have the people on the construction team realise that there was something unusual and to make that call was incredibly fortunate for us.”

The find is thought to be significant and may shed light after the dinosaurs became extinct (ABC News).

Apparently the museum will employ community volunteers to help sift through the soil set aside. This is something I would like to do!

Reference –
Workers Make Surprise Find In Brisbane

20130719-063846.jpg (Source – ABC News)

20130719-064601.jpg (Source – ABC News)

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