Ellen Phiddian

Ellen Phiddian

Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at The Royal Institution of Australia.

  • AstraZeneca COVID vaccines now sit on the shelf. What next?

    New blood clot cases have led to a further revision of rules around Australia’s only locally prod...

    Yesterday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) revised its recommendations for the AstraZ...

    June 18, 2021
  • “The Norway of Australia”: what does good electric vehicle policy look like?

    How do Australian states’ and territories’ electric vehicle policies compare to each other – and ...

    The NSW Government has just joined the pack of state governments announcing electric vehicle subsidies, with a $500 m...

    June 22, 2021
  • Making light of molecule manufacture

    Chemists have seen the light and developed a better way of making cyclodextrin.

    You may not have heard of cyclodextrins, but chances are you’ve used or ingested things made with them. The doughnut-...

    June 22, 2021
  • A straw to stop hiccups

    A specially-made straw relieves the annoying condition.

    What’s your home remedy for hiccups? Holding your breath, drinking water upside down, having a fright, giving up and ...

    June 20, 2021
  • COVID Booster: Hair conditioner, virtual PPE checks, and sperm counts after mRNA vaccines

    Five things we learned about COVID-19 this week.

    Hop on Zoom to get your PPE checked Wearing personal protective equipment properly is a critical part of medical c...

    June 19, 2021
  • A green hydrogen partnership between Australia and Germany

    Australia is well positioned for renewable energy exports, but more research needs to be done.

    Australia and Germany have agreed to invest in the development of a clean hydrogen supply chain between the two count...

    June 18, 2021
  • Of mice and media

    Papers with “mice” in the title receive less media attention – but more accurate coverage.

    A study in PLOS Biology has spotted a link between studies on mice and their media coverage: when the paper omits “mi...

    June 17, 2021
  • Chipageddon: the coming sequel

    The current global dearth of silicon chips isn’t funny – but there could be worse to come in the ...

    The global semiconductor shortage is wreaking havoc on industries from handheld electronics to car making. There is a...

    June 16, 2021
  • Overcoming atomic level perovskite defects

    Impurities found in the crystal structures of perovskites could be hindering their performance.

    A group of Australian and Chinese researchers have found tiny defects – and ways to resolve them – in the atomic stru...

    June 15, 2021
  • Explainer: why is a drought contributing to the silicon chip shortage?

    What needs to happen to make a silicon chip – and why it needs so much water.

    The ongoing computer chip shortage has multifaceted causes, including drought, an uptick in demand following the pand...

    June 15, 2021
  • Material with zero thermal expansion

    Australian researchers have found an advanced material that doesn’t change size over a huge tempe...

    It’s a basic rule of chemistry and physics: when you heat things up, they get bigger. While there are exceptions (lik...

    June 15, 2021
  • Infertility of mice and men

    New research locates a gene that causes infertility – and then gives it to mice.

    A team of Chinese researchers has used mice to identify a gene that causes male infertility, which may pave a way tow...

    June 14, 2021
  • COVID Booster: Delta, drinking and diet

    Five things we learned about COVID-19 this week.

    Pfizer vaccine looks to be somewhat effective against Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant A study on blood serum has found th...

    June 12, 2021
  • Clean, green way to make ammonia fertilisers

    Australian chemists have found a clean, efficient method of making large amounts of ammonia.

    A team of Australian scientists have developed a new, efficient way to make the critical agricultural product ammonia...

    June 11, 2021
  • Cause determined for India’s deadly disaster

    A team of scientists find that the 2021 disaster was triggered by a massive rock and ice avalanche.

    An international coalition of 53 scientists has determined the cause, scope and effects of the devastating natural di...

    June 11, 2021
  • Previewing data stored in DNA

    A new technique allows researchers to ‘preview’ DNA strands without sequencing them entirely.

    DNA stores tremendous amounts of genetic information, but it also has a lot of potential for storing digital data. It...

    June 10, 2021
  • Giant map of giant kelp forests

    Satellite data shows where kelp is sticking around – and where it needs help.

    A paper published in Communications Earth & Environment has tracked 35 years of satellite data to create a comprehens...

    June 10, 2021
  • Turning textiles into raw materials

    We talk to Robert Speight and Adrian Jones about recovering fabric waste at BlockTexx.

    If they can’t be used second-hand, is it possible to recycle old clothes? What about recycling other fabrics and text...

    June 9, 2021
  • Manipulating molecules with fluids

    Fresh insights on how a Vortex Fluidic Device can be used to control chemical reactions.

    Professor Colin Raston with his Vortex Fluidic Device. Credit: Flinders University Fluids are fiendishly unpredict...

    June 8, 2021
  • Rethinking facial reconstructions with soft tissue

    New research provides a more accurate way of simulating soft tissue on ancient skulls.

    If you have a passing interest in science, it’s likely you’ve seen some reconstructed hominid faces – they give some ...

    June 7, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID-19 this week.

    The vaccine should be free in India, argue experts While the COVID-19 crisis rages in India, only 3% of the countr...

    June 5, 2021
  • Oxygen declining in the world’s lakes

    Temperate freshwater lakes are seeing a drop in dissolved oxygen.

    The world’s lakes and oceans are filled with dissolved oxygen (O2), which aquatic species rely on to breathe. But res...

    June 3, 2021
  • Stolen Generations survivors still face poorer health outcomes

    Those removed from their families are worse off than other Indigenous Australians.

    Survivors of the Stolen Generations aged over 50 have poorer health and socioeconomic demographics than other Indigen...

    June 2, 2021
  • Explainer: What is a polymer?

    This class of molecule appears across chemistry, biology and technology – so what exactly are pol...

    Polymers are used all across chemistry and materials science. With a growing need for plastics recycling and increasi...

    June 2, 2021
  • Explainer: COVID-19 vaccine dosage

    Are you “fully” vaccinated after a single dose?

    As it stands, over 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Australia. This doesn’t mean 4 milli...

    May 31, 2021
  • COVID Booster: loneliness, supertasters and safe concerts

    Five things we learned about COVID-19 this week.

    Turn up the volume to combat loneliness As Melbourne goes into another seven days of lockdown, it’s likely that th...

    May 29, 2021
  • Explainer: Wastewater

    How does wastewater testing work?

    COVID-19 detections in wastewater have been making headlines for the past 12 months – including this week in Melbourn...

    May 25, 2021
  • Mercury found in Greenland’s glacial meltwaters

    Over six years, scientists repeatedly found high concentrations of mercury in glacial rivers.

    Some of Greenland’s glacial meltwaters are unusually high in mercury, according to a study published in Nature Geosci...

    May 25, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID this week.

    An accurate saliva COVID test A group of US researchers has developed a saliva-based test for SARS-CoV-2 that can ...

    May 22, 2021
  • New insight into radioactive particles at Maralinga

    Sixty years later, researchers learn more about the fallout from nuclear tests in the Great Victo...

    In the 1950s and 60s, hundreds of nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga in western South Australia, releasing r...

    May 21, 2021
  • Australia’s path to mRNA vaccine production

    The need for a facility is clear, but how feasible is it really?

    Could Australia have its own mRNA vaccine production operation soon? Victoria has announced $50 million in funding fo...

    May 20, 2021
  • Explainer: Which baits are used in the mouse plague?

    Bromadiolone and zinc phosphide are caught up in a bait debate – what’s the difference, and what ...

    The NSW government has released a $50 million package to assist with the harrowing mouse plague affecting the west of...

    May 19, 2021
  • There are about 50 billion birds alive today

    Data from a massive citizen science project is used to estimate global bird numbers.

    An Australian study has set out to measure the number of birds worldwide, returning an estimate of 50 billion – altho...

    May 18, 2021
  • Should doctors prescribe fruit and vegetables?

    New research suggests that providing healthy foods in a medical context can help some conditions.

    We all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us, but are they so good that medical programs should prescribe th...

    May 17, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things science learned about COVID-19 this week.

    Pandemic affected Australia’s mental health Around one in five Australians had an increase in symptoms and intensi...

    May 15, 2021
  • How genetic is your face?

    New research pinpoints genes that are responsible for facial similarities in siblings.

    New research might provide an insight into an age-old question: do your siblings really know you better than anyone e...

    May 14, 2021
  • Physics of birds and bees – sincerely, Albert Einstein

    A newly discovered letter reveals that Einstein predicted recent bee research seventy years ago.

    In 2019, a group of RMIT researchers were in the midst of publishing a series of grand discoveries about how bees use...

    May 13, 2021
  • Voyager 1 hears plasma ‘hum’

    The distant space probe has found a signal from the interstellar gas.

    The most far-travelled thing humans have ever made, Voyager 1 is still transmitting trinkets of information to Earth....

    May 11, 2021
  • Pigeons of the sea? Sharks use magnetic compass for navigation

    Researchers nail evidence that some shark species use magnetic forces as a natural GPS

    Might be time to re-think your strategy for avoiding sharks: turns out the marine predators use the Earth’s magnetic ...

    May 7, 2021
  • Humans can have more or less than 150 friends

    A new paper questions the validity of Dunbar’s number, which places a limit on social interactions.

    You may have heard that the human brain can manage social relationships with about 150 people. Or perhaps you heard 2...

    May 5, 2021
  • Using a phone to identify molecules

    Researchers have put together a cheap device that could carry out sophisticated chemical analyses.

    With a few additions, commercial smartphones can be used as microscopes and medical monitors. But the humble phone ma...

    May 5, 2021
  • Animals don’t mind inbreeding

    New review suggests animals aren’t hardwired to avoid mating with relatives.

    Because it’s evolutionarily unfavourable, there is a common assumption that animals will avoid mating with relatives....

    May 4, 2021
  • How can you measure an itch?

    A newly developed device tracks scratches, as a way of quantifying itchiness.

    You may have been asked by a doctor to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, but have you ever been asked to rate ...

    May 1, 2021
  • Molecules brought into a single quantum state

    Breakthrough in quantum chemistry has implications for quantum technology.

    Quantum technology has a lot of promise, but several research barriers need to be overcome before it can be widely us...

    April 29, 2021
  • Solar-powered desalination

    New device speeds up evaporation to desalinate water.

    A team of Chinese researchers have announced an efficient solar-powered desalination technique that directly uses the...

    April 28, 2021
  • Arctic sponges leave trails as they wander

    The sponges were thought to be stationary, but they leave sneaky spikes on the seafloor.

    Adult marine sponges are usually thought to be stationary, picking a spot on the seafloor while still in their larval...

    April 27, 2021
  • Why antibiotics shouldn’t be in soap

    It’s the “soap” in antibacterial soap that’s protecting your hands – not the “antibacterial”.

    You might assume that a soap or a cleaning product labelled as “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” is a safer, more hy...

    April 26, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID this week.

    Time seemed to pass more slowly during the UK’s second lockdown A team of UK researchers has examined the way peop...

    April 24, 2021
  • Energetic ocean eddies on the rise

    As the ocean heats up, swirling eddies are getting more active.

    A team of Australian researchers has found that climate change has made ocean eddies, which are drivers of ocean curr...

    April 23, 2021
  • Blood droplets travel in all directions in crime scenes

    New analysis examines the physics of blood from close-range gunshot wounds.

    Studying a crime scene isn't easy, especially because blood droplets don’t just fly away from the wound, according to...

    April 21, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID this week.

    Physical inactivity a risk factor for severe COVID and death A paper published in BMJ Sports has established a lin...

    April 17, 2021
  • Whitest, coolest paint ever made

    The highly reflective paint could reduce reliance on air conditioning.

    A team of US engineers has developed the whitest – and therefore coolest – paint in the world, able to reflect 98.1% ...

    April 16, 2021
  • The human scream actually means something

    Human screams can convey at least six emotions, with clear acoustic differences.

    The human scream can communicate at least six distinct emotions, according to new research published in PLOS Biology....

    April 14, 2021
  • Aerosols have three different liquid phases

    A discovery about the chemistry of aerosols has implications for climate modelling and pollution ...

    Aerosols – tiny droplets of liquid suspended in the air – have interesting chemical and physical properties. They ...

    April 13, 2021
  • How long does impairment last after cannabis use?

    A new study shows that intoxication can last 3–10 hours, depending on how pot is used and who’s u...

    A review from the University of Sydney has located a “window of impairment” for cannabis users, suggesting more accur...

    April 12, 2021
  • How clean is the Hunter Valley air?

    What’s the truth behind the NSW air-quality stoush between past and serving politicians?

    The air quality in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley has made news this week, with serving and former politicians accusi...

    April 11, 2021
  • Glowing, colour-changing polymer

    Scientists design a polymer that changes colour depending on its length.

    An international team of chemists, including some Australians, have developed a type of polymer that can glow in a br...

    April 8, 2021
  • Five things to know about antihistamines

    Researchers highlight five important facts to help curb allergy symptoms.

    Antihistamines are one of the most widely taken medications worldwide, used to relieve allergy symptoms such as runny...

    April 6, 2021
  • Contraception planning for women with heart disease

    New research points out that pregnancy and cardiovascular disease are risky for each other.

    Cardiologists need to address the risk of pregnancy appropriately with women of child-bearing age, and encourage cont...

    April 6, 2021
  • New test for performance-enhancing drug cheats

    Chemists have proposed a new technique to find drug doping in sport.

    A group of US scientists has developed a new drug detection method to test doping of performance-enhancing drugs. ...

    April 5, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID this week.

    Cities encouraging cyclists, with good results Aside from being cheap and environmentally friendly, a bicycle is o...

    April 3, 2021
  • How to use climate models

    The complicated work involved in predicting the losses from climate change.

    The Australian Academy of Science’s new report, The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world, has grim predictions fo...

    March 31, 2021
  • How teeth sense cold temperatures

    New research identifies a protein in teeth that senses the cold.

    Cold teeth can be painful, particularly if they’re decayed. In a new paper, published in Science Advances, scientists...

    March 27, 2021
  • Is Australia on track to eliminate cervical cancer?

    Screening, better data collection best ways to improve Indigenous cervical cancer elimination.

    Australia is aiming to officially eliminate cervical cancer by 2028, but more work needs to be done to bring Indigeno...

    March 26, 2021
  • Alcohol metabolised in brain, not liver

    Blame metabolites in the brain for drunk shambling.

    A paper published in Nature Metabolism has revealed new information about an enzyme in the brain that’s responsible f...

    March 23, 2021
  • A new carbon capture catalyst

    Molybdenum disulphide offers a more sustainable transformation of CO2.

    Chemists have suggested a new method for turning carbon dioxide into methanol using a special catalyst – a technique ...

    March 23, 2021
  • You may have missed…

    Stray science stories from last week to cheer up your Monday.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtPMDSVopR4 Bonobo adoptees It’s always nice to see animal altruism. A paper p...

    March 22, 2021
  • Less carbon = greater food cost?

    Relying on carbon dioxide removal in agriculture will drive up the cost of produce.

    A Swiss study has found that using carbon dioxide removal alone to mitigate agricultural emissions is likely to incre...

    March 18, 2021
  • Seaweed stops cattle burps

    A small amount of seaweed could get rid of a lot of agricultural emissions.

    Livestock are responsible for around 15% of annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A large part of that is methan...

    March 18, 2021
  • Strolling and learning: multi-terrain robots

    Artificial intelligence helps inform robot’s balance.

    A team of researchers, including Australian scientists, have developed a robot that learns to walk across different t...

    March 16, 2021
  • How perovskites twist

    New research has shone light on the internal structures of perovskite crystals.

    Perovskites are a popular substance in materials science, particularly in solar panel research. They’re flexible, the...

    March 16, 2021
  • COVID Booster

    Five things we learned about COVID-19 this week.

    Health experts are no better than students at detecting fake COVID news A team of German researchers have found th...

    March 13, 2021
  • Shaped by the sun

    A solar cell mounted on the light actuated material can move and track a light source without wires, gears or motors....

    March 12, 2021
  • A sugar tax is good for all

    The UK’s sugar tax hasn’t affected overall buying habits but has reduced sugar intake.

    A study has found that, a year after the introduction of a sugar tax, people were still purchasing the same amount of...

    March 11, 2021
  • Wearable tech-style

    Throw on a wearable, washable fabric that can act as a screen.

    Researchers have created a durable, wearable textile that features a large-area, electronic display. Created from ...

    March 11, 2021
  • Academy awards

    Top-level recognition for 24 stellar Australian women and men of science.

    The Australian Academy of Science has announced the recipients of its 2021 honorific awards, highlighting 24 Australi...

    March 10, 2021
  • Flash-flood phenomena found

    New research describes how heavy precipitation happens in dry areas.

    New research has explained the drivers of extreme precipitation events around the globe. Extreme precipitation eve...

    March 9, 2021
  • Pill testing not a drug use driver

    People say they’re not more likely to take ecstasy if they can get it tested.

    New research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has found that access to pill testing would not give people an incenti...

    March 9, 2021
  • Exploring treatments in breast cancer

    The proof is in the hormones when it comes to breast-cancer treatment.

    Breast cancer is now the most-diagnosed cancer worldwide. With 2.3 million new cases revealed in 2020, it’s not a pro...

    March 8, 2021
  • COVID Booster: drug hits and misses

    Five things science learned last week about COVID-19.

    WHO says hydroxycholoroquine won’t prevent COVID-19 A panel of experts from the World Health Organisation have str...

    March 6, 2021
  • Colourful detection crystals

    New research explains how a type of crystal could be used to detect dangerous chemicals.

    A group of Australian researchers have found a fast method of detecting toxins produced from pesticides and chemical ...

    March 5, 2021
  • Video: Soft robot withstands ocean depths

    Inspired by deep sea creatures, a soft robot can withstand underwater pressure.

    A team of engineers have announced that their deep-sea exploration vessel can operate at the bottom of the Mariana Tr...

    March 4, 2021
  • Radical ozone chemistry

    New research explains why ozone pollution has jumped even as emissions fall.

    Last year’s lockdowns resulted in a drop in air pollution around the globe. But while other pollutants decreased, Bei...

    March 2, 2021
  • You may have missed…

    Stray science stories from last week to cheer up your Monday.

    A round up of the stories that may have snuck past you in this week's edition of science digest... Sharks aren’t s...

    March 1, 2021
  • Rotating rocket science

    Australian engineers complete successful test of new rocket engine.

    As Australia’s space industry gears up, a team of Australian researchers has successfully tested a new type of engine...

    March 1, 2021
  • COVID booster: vaccine news and game theory

    Five things science learned last week about COVID-19.

    A toolkit to speed up vaccine development and research An international team, including researchers from Griffith ...

    February 28, 2021
  • Massive study shows Pfizer vaccine is effective

    A nation-wide study has once again found the vaccine works.

    A study with over half a million subjects has found the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to be 92% effective at preventing infecti...

    February 25, 2021
  • 5G: more science, same safety

    New standards aim to shine a light on the scientific evidence.

    The Australian guidelines for radio wave safety have been updated for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Australi...

    February 25, 2021
  • Cosmos Briefing: Building Australia’s Space Industry

    Experts discuss Australia’s future in space.

    Australia’s Space Agency is young, but that doesn’t mean we should be underestimated in space: that’s the message fro...

    February 25, 2021
  • Towards a Strep A vaccine

    Researchers use novel technique to produce a vaccine candidate for deadly Streptococcus A.

    New research from Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, Queensland, has advanced the development of a vaccin...

    February 24, 2021
  • How to jet power wind turbines

    Fast lower-atmosphere winds have a complicated effect on wind power.

    Wind farms and their turbines have been growing over the past decade – both in area and in height. The larger a tu...

    February 24, 2021
  • Oldest Australian rock painting

    A kangaroo painting is now Australia’s oldest known rock art.

    An image of a kangaroo has been identified as Australia’s oldest known rock painting, dated to over 17,000 years old....

    February 23, 2021
  • Medieval tipples from Islamic Sicily

    New research finds evidence of winemaking in Islamic Sicily.

    Chemical residue from grapes has been found inside medieval containers from Islamic Sicily, suggesting there was wine...

    February 23, 2021
  • You may have missed…

    Stray science stories from last week to cheer up your Monday.

    Please wear a mask when taking selfies with gorillas Gorillas can catch SARS-CoV-2 from humans: in January, it spr...

    February 22, 2021
  • Passing oil pollution from dolphin to calf

    Oil spills affect dolphin health for a decade and counting.

    The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and subsequent oil pollution have had long-term health effects for dolphins, accordi...

    February 19, 2021
  • Ancient mammoth DNA

    The oldest DNA found in the world has been sequenced from a mammoth specimen.

    Ancient DNA is famously tough to extract and identify. Until today, the oldest sequenced DNA came from a horse that h...

    February 18, 2021
  • Dinosaurs take a hike

    Drops in carbon dioxide levels may have allowed herbivorous dinosaurs to get to Greenland.

    A new paper pinpoints the date that a large group of dinosaurs made it to Greenland, suggesting that climatic changes...

    February 16, 2021
  • COVID Booster: Inhalable droplets and talking to kids

    Five things science learned about COVID last week.

    Nebuliser might be responsible for transmission in hotel quarantine Nebulisers – medical devices that turn liquid ...

    February 14, 2021
  • Explainer: The chemistry of Titan

    Atomic-force microscopy allows new understanding of Saturn’s moon.

    New research from the Astrophysical Journal has identified some of the intricate molecules and reactions happening on...

    February 13, 2021
  • Brain buster

    Genes help explain differences between Neanderthal and human brains.

    Researchers have identified a mutated gene that appears to be responsible for a large disparity between Neanderthal a...

    February 12, 2021
  • Conch shell tones

    Ancient conch makes music for the first time in 17,000 years.

    How old-fashioned is your taste in music? Researchers have recreated notes from a 17,000-year-old conch shell, found ...

    February 11, 2021
  • Pollen likes the heat

    You can expect worse allergy seasons as the climate warms.

    Climate change is causing allergy seasons to start earlier, last longer, and be more intense, according to a new stud...

    February 10, 2021

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