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Blog Technology 24 September 2018
Artificial intelligence is gradually reconfiguring human life.
<p>Artificial intelligence is gradually reconfiguring human life.<br></p>
NicoElNino / Getty Images

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are beginning to revolutionise society, spreading their tentacles into areas as diverse as social media feeds and social security. This begs the question – just how much power are we prepared to cede to AI?

The Royal Institution of Australia, publisher of Cosmos, will stage a roundtable discussion at the historic Science Exchange in Adelaide, examining the benefits and pitfalls of artificial intelligence and considering Australia’s role as a world leader in the field.

The discussion will be moderated by the institution’s lead scientist Alan Duffy.

Joining the conversation will be Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist since 2016, who tackled the issue in a recent column for Cosmos.

Rounding out the panel will be Anton van den Hengel, director of the Australian Institute for Machine Learning and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, and data policy expert Ellen Broad, author of Made by Human: The AI Condition (Melbourne University Press, 2018).

The discussion will be held on 5 October. Tickets can be purchased here.

Blog Biology 12 September 2018
Counting birds in domestic gardens is the aim of an annual Australian survey.
<p>Counting birds in domestic gardens is the aim of an annual Australian survey.<br></p>
4FR / Getty Images

With spring around the corner in the Southern Hemisphere, Australian researchers are urging you to venture outside and count your resident backyard birds.

BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards Spring Survey aims to gather a count of all birds that “live where people live”. Contributors help to provide invaluable information about how urban sprawl has affected bird behaviour. Data collected will also be used to inform guides and policies for urban planning and land management.

Birdata, the program used to collate the information, is available for Apple and Android devices and presents a wealth of materials for bird-lovers to explore.

Participants will go into a draw for a chance to win some prizes, including a set of five bird pins, a Birds in Backyards fridge magnet, and a copy of a new nocturnal birds identification guide.

The annual survey is part of BirdLife Australia’s efforts to raise awareness and involve the public in conservation efforts. As the country’s main independent bird advocacy organisation, it has been conducting various projects to help protect and preserve Australian species for more than a century.

The spring survey runs from September to October. There is also the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, brought to you by the same organisation, which is a separate survey running from October 22 to 28.

Blog Technology 11 September 2018
IWA award winner Tony Wong.
<p>IWA award winner Tony Wong.<br></p>
Monash University

Australian professor Tony Wong has won the 2018 International Water Association (IWA) Global Water Award for his work in making water security a reality for millions the world over.

Wong is the chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities based at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

He has worked for more than three decades on what he calls the “water sensitive cities approach” to tackle the social, environmental, economic and technological hurdles presented by urban water management.

His success stories include the Chinese city of Kunshan, where his collaborative work has led to the installation of bio-filters that decrease flood risk, the use of wetlands to siphon off water pollutants, and storm water management.

His innovative strategies developed with other Monash researchers are also looking to improve health and hygiene in slums in Fiji and Indonesia through waste-water recycling, rainwater harvesting, and creation of ‘green spaces’ for food cultivation.

This biennial award acknowledges significant contributions made to the promotion of sustainable water management and to encourage further innovation.

Wong will be formally presented the award by Diane D’Arras, IWA president, at the opening ceremony of the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Japan, on September 16.

Blog Technology 10 September 2018
Robot design and policy will be topics of hot interest in Florida.
<p>Robot design and policy will be topics of hot interest in Florida.<br></p>
Charles Taylor/Getty Images

The University of Miami School of Law in Florida, US, is seeking papers for its eighth annual robotics law and policy conference — called We Robot 2019 — running from April 11 to 13.

The event will be held at the Newman Alumni Centre, situated at the university’s Coral Gables Campus.

Conference organisers are calling for contributions from American and international experts in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), the humanities, social sciences, and policy and law. The aim is to encourage dialogue between people who design robots and AI, and those who influence laws and policies around the use of these technologies.

The gathering is aimed at inspiring collaborative research around how advancements in robotics are compelling scholars to change the legal and social structures that govern its use.

Deadline for papers and demonstration proposals is November 5. Submissions for poster proposals will open on January 14, 2019, and will on March 8. Details on submission requirements and topics of interest can be found here.

The conference also offers workshops, to be held on April 10.

For more details and registration forms, click here.

Blog Space 06 September 2018
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is one of four new Bragg fellows.
<p>Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is one of four new Bragg fellows.<br></p>
James D. Morgan/Getty Images

The Royal Institution of Australia, the owner of Cosmos, has honoured four prominent Australian scientists and leaders with a prestigious Bragg Membership, in a ceremony held this week.

On behalf of the institution’s patron, the Duke of Kent, chairman Peter Yates formally inducted Australian Space Agency head Megan Clark, intensive care physician Michael Reade, pain researcher and pharmaceutical innovator Maree Smith, and Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, as Honorary Bragg Members.

Named after the prominent Australian Pioneer scientists, Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir William Lawrence Bragg, Honorary Bragg Membership is the highest category of membership awarded by The Royal Institution of Australia and recognises excellence in scientific achievement and commitment to science in Australia.

“In Australia, we are truly fortunate to have so many remarkable scientists and scientific leaders, who are each making a significant contribution to the future of this country and beyond,” says Yates.

“We are pleased to welcome our new inductees and to celebrate the achievements of these inspirational people.”

“By acknowledging and honouring our industry leaders, we hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and STEM graduates who will play an important role in the development of Australia as an innovative nation.”

The new inductees join 40 other distinguished Bragg Members, including former astronaut Andy Thomas, developer of the HPV vaccine, Ian Frazer, Nobel Prize winners Brian Schmidt and Elizabeth Blackburn.

Blog Biology 03 September 2018
The late Steve Irwin, pictured in 2002. The ninth annual lecture in his name is on soon.
<p>The late Steve Irwin, pictured in 2002. The ninth annual lecture in his name is on soon.<br></p>
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hear celebrated animal expert and researcher Anne Goldizen speak at Australia’s University of Queensland, delivering the ninth Annual Steve Irwin Memorial Lecture, on the September 13.

The free event will take place at the university’s St Lucia campus in the city of Brisbane.

Goldizen is an ecologist, resident at the university. She is an expert in vertebrate mating systems and conservation biology.

She will regale the audience with anecdotes from her various stints researching elusive and endangered animals. She has tracked and observed Namibian giraffes, African impalas, Australian eastern grey kangaroos, and many more.

Particularly fascinating is the time she has spent in South America studying the behaviour of Tamarin monkeys, a species endemic to Brazilian rainforests. She observed that the females have offspring fathered by multiple males, who perform the bulk of the rearing. According to Goldizen, this behaviour is also seen in Australian animals, such as the Tasmanian hen.

Come along to this event to hear more fascinating insights. Bookings are essential.

Blog Biology 31 August 2018
“Neurons network, too”: An image of stem cells transformed into specialised brain cells.
<p>“Neurons network, too”: An image of stem cells transformed into specialised brain cells.<br></p>
Jennifer Keller

Every year for the past two decades, the Students of Neuroscience and Anatomy Society at Melbourne University in the Australian state of Victoria have held an exhibition called Under the Coverslip, which celebrates the best microscopy images created by its members.

The display addresses the notion that science is more than simply graphs and numbers, highlighting the beautiful sights that can be found by looking through a microscope.

This year’s event runs from November 9 to 15, in the gallery in the 1888 Building of the university’s Parkville campus. The opening night celebrations will run from 5pm to 8pm, complete with drinks and nibbles.

For more information, contact society president Jenny Keller on 03 2892 6896.

“Golden egg”: An adrenal gland, secreting hormones.

“Golden egg”: An adrenal gland, secreting hormones.

Horace Chan

Blog Society 23 August 2018
Early career researchers are set to be honoured in Australian awards.
Early career researchers are set to be honoured in Australian awards.
shironosov/Getty Images

Early career researchers are being encouraged to enter the Sax Institute’s highly regarded Research Action Awards, celebrating essential roles in health research. The institute, based in the Australian state of New South Wales, is a non-profit organisation that fosters action and investment in science.

Recognising individuals whose research has made a significant real-world impact on health policy, programs or service delivery within Australia and internationally, the awards will be presented on 28 November.

Last year’s winners worked in areas as diverse as alcohol-related violence and supporting people to gain driver licences, while earlier winners worked on maternal and reproductive health, vaccine safety and regulation of commercial sunbeds.

To enter, researchers have to be from one of 39 member research institutes around Australia, and have fewer than 15 years of postdoctoral experience. Winners receive a $5000 prize.

Entries close 10 September, and all the necessary details can be found here.

Blog Technology 21 August 2018
Pictured (l-r): Vince Di Pietro, Chief Executive Lockheed Martin Australia; Leslie Pontillas, VP Infrastructure and International, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Winners Michael Malek and Joseph Tey and their coach Dr Kyi Muller from Haileybury School in Melbourne.
Pictured (l-r): Vince Di Pietro, Chief Executive Lockheed Martin Australia; Leslie Pontillas, VP Infrastructure and International, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Winners Michael Malek and Joseph Tey and their coach Dr Kyi Muller from Haileybury School in Melbourne.
Lockheed Martin

The Lockheed Martin Code Quest programming competition pits coding teams of two to three students aged 15 to 18 against each other, each racing to complete a series of ever-more challenging problems over two and a half hours.

This month, 15 teams battled it out at Lockheed Martin Australia’s state of the art Endeavour Centre in Canberra, with schools travelling from as far as Brisbane, Melbourne and Newcastle to compete.

The winning team – Michael Malek and Joseph Tey – came from Haileybury College School in Melbourne.

Malek is also captain of SHINE – the Swinburne-Hailebury International Space Station Experiment – that currently has an experiment in orbit right now. It was launched in May after a collaboration with Professor Alan Duffy, of Swinburne University, Lead Scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia.

They said they found the problems “intense” but had a great time, especially the careers insights they got from speaking to a wide range of Lockheed Martin Australia employees.

“The problems that we were given to solve spanned from the relatively simple to the quite complex,” Malek said.

“The difficulties we faced with some of the later problems, while at times frustrating, were also the highlight of the experience.

“We also had the opportunity to test out Lockheed Martin’s VR flight simulator after the competition which was great fun.”

Code Quest is a global event now in its seventh year. It’s an exciting vote of confidence in Australian coding skills that Lockheed Martin have chosen to bring this unique competition to our shores now.

“The possibilities of an exciting competition as well as the window it opens to studies and careers is as inspirational for the students who have made the journey as it is for the volunteers who are delighted to make it possible,” said Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Vince Di Pietro. “Advancing STEM and encouraging as many students to tackle it as possible is critical for Australia’s future.”

“As we enter a new...

Blog Space 15 August 2018
John Hook / Getty Images

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ), based in the Darling Downs region of Australia, is set to host the Festival of Astronomy from August 16 to18.

This event will be held during National Science Week, the country’s annual science celebration. The Festival of Astronomy will feature five free events, held at different locations, all hosting leaders in the field.

The main event will take place on August 17 between 6 and 9pm, at the Allison Dickson Lecture Theatre on the USQ campus in Toowoomba, and will be followed by star-gazing. The keynote speakers include Jessie Christiansen and Duane Hamacher.

Christiansen is a celebrated researcher from the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology, who assisted in identifying several of the 3774 exoplanets discovered as part of NASA’s Kepler Mission. She will discuss some of the most intriguing of these discoveries, and will talk about NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission, which is looking at discovering “new Earths and Super-Earths”.

Hamacher, from the Monash University Indigenous Studies Centre in Melbourne, researches indigenous astronomy. His talk will address the significant contributions of Australia’s first peoples to the knowledge to the discipline, and how these are passed down through the generations.

There are also workshops running at several locations during the festival. Ipswich Youth Astronomy Workshop will take place on August 16 at USQ Springfield Campus, and the Toowoomba Youth Astronomy Workshop will happen on August 17 at USQ Toowoomba Campus. Christiansen will speak to students from years seven to 12 about space exploration and the journey that led her to it.

The Build-A-Planet Workshop at the USQ Toowoomba Campus is aimed at children from kindergarten to year two. Jake Clark from USQ will introduce them to the wonders of space and teach them about the interiors and exteriors of planets.

The final event is the...