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All Roads Lead To Hell

Indexed's take on the seven deadly sinsThis is just a quick note to show you something fun. Having recently completed another season of 'Dante’s Laboratory', I was glad to have this clever bit of work from Indexed brought my attention. Click on the image on the right to enjoy it in all its glory and check out Jessica Hagy’s other offerings on the site.

Sounds of Sin

It's been more than a month since we completed the Adelaide Fringe season of 'Dante's Laboratory' and it just occurred to me that I never announced - at least on this site - that the soundtrack fom the show is available at Bandcamp.com. It's free to listen and if you want to download any of the tracks (or the whole album) it's one of those nifty pay what-you-think-it's-worth deals. 

Newton's Laws of Motion Sickness

Image by Daquella maneraRecently discovered in the Royal Society archives in London is a letter attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, in which he outlines three laws of motion sickness. Here they are.

First Law of Motion Sickness: the contents of a stomach will remain at rest unless there is an inconsistency between the motion sensed with the eyes and the motion otherwise sensed.

Second Law of Motion Sickness: the more dramatic and unpredictably changeable the conflict between what is seen and what is felt (see law 1), the shorter the delay between the sense of conflict and the movement of stomach contents and to some extent the vigour with which the contents of the stomach will tend to move. 

Third Law of Motion Sickness: the rate of movement of the stomach content as it leaves the stomach is proportional to the rate of movement of other people away from the stomach content. The movement of other’s near the ejection of stomach content is also proportional to the volume of stomach content and inversely proportional to the size of the vehicle. 

Big Days With Big Brains

One of my annual pleasures is MCing CSIRO’s ‘Big day In’. This is a two-day celebration the work of vacation scholars at several CSIRO groups. The room is full of very clever undergraduates and very important scientists and the energy is fantastic.

What these students have achieved over only a few weeks is remarkable, but that’s not all they do. They are also required to make a presentation of their work. This is a great opportunity for the rest of us to get a taste of what current and future research directions (and the next generation of scientists).

Among many other things, this year’s ‘Big Day In’ projects included exploring software options to detect sarcasm and irony in online/electronic communications, sensing catheters and approaches to modelling viscous fluids. There was also the donut blimp – check it out here.

We had a great time debating whether or not “Technology is making us Lazy” and Dr Phil Diamond, Chief of CSRO’s Astronomy and Space Sciences, took us through Australia’s bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Check out the fantastic video below.

Forty-eight hours after ‘Big Day In’ I was at the BHP Billiton Science Awards camp, followed by another favourite gig, MCing the finalists’ presentation function. I don’t want to drop names, but it was quite the VIP list, with Australian of the Year Simon McKeon, BHP Billiton Chairman Jac Nassar and some very impressive students. They are talented, they are dedicated and they are creative, but the camp is also a just a lot of fun.

2011 BHP Billiton Science Awards student winner, Alix Pichon.With research covering oil spill clean-up techniques, vacuum cleaner emissions, the nutritional analysis of microwaved food and so much more, there was plenty of brain fodder to go with the laughs. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Alix Pichon who worked on the effects on health of preservatives in wine, especially sulphur dioxide. At 17 Alix is not able to legally drink the peach wine she made for her experiments. That might have helped her focus on the data and the project in general, although I was disappointed that she had not saved some for the rest of us. In any case, it appears that the future of science is in good hands.

Seeds of No Doubt

The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, rising from the permafrost like a Bond villain’s lair. Photo by Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust.Seeds are a bit fabulous. They are a valuable source of food products (rice, wheat, corn, flours, oils, alcohol, etc), they are a wonderfully efficient component of plant reproduction and they are a critical supply of the world’s collective plant genome.

Another thing that warrants a degree of excitement is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV). If you’re unfamiliar with the seed vault, it was opened in 2008 at Svalbard, the northernmost place on earth that has regular flights (about one a day I believe). The seed vault is positioned about 120 metres inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island, a location chosen because of its environmental and political stability. More . . .