Explore more Australian science

Science drives innovation and economic, social and cultural change.

It’s at the heart of the innovations that transform the human condition: vaccines, smart phones, flight and clean energy.

It tells us how our world is changing, and what we can do about it, if we choose to.

It reveals where we, our world, our galaxy, and our Universe came from, and where we’re going.

Stories of Australian Science celebrates discoveries and the people behind them.

We have hundreds of stories from every State and Territory. And we have a host of special collections including:

We’ve featured more than 200 stories so far, all of which are available online.

Scroll down for more, or search by organisation, Australian state, or field of science using the menus on the left-hand side of this page.

And if you’d like to see your work in the collection take a look at our submission guidelines.

Stories of Australian Science 2015 is now available online

Read the individual stories here, or view them together as a PDF here.

You can use thCapturee search tool to locate stories by keyword. Alternatively, click here to see our online table of contents.

Our 2015 collection features more than 50 stories and celebrates the best of the past year’s Australian science: from the underground hunt for dark matter to 3D-printed jet engines; from printed body parts to insulin in plant seeds; from better tasting bread for China to the underlying genetics of epilepsy. And there’s a special feature on Australia Japan collaboration.

We’ve presented the collection to the World Congress of Science Journalists in Korea, and are continuing to distribute 15,000 copies to journalists, science leaders and influencers, embassies, schools, MPs and others in Australia and around the world. Read the full distribution here.

Earlier editions of Stories of Australian Science and our other publications

Over the past nine years, we’ve profiled the breadth and depth of Australian science in our magazines — from astronomy to zoology, climate science to quantum mechanics.

You can download pdf copies of previous editions of the storybook here or view them online.

How trillions of bubbles earned billions of dollars for Australia

Graeme Jameson’s technologies use trillions of bubbles to add billions of dollars to the value of Australia’s mineral and energy industries.

Graeme Jameson_headshot
Graeme Jameson (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

He created the Jameson Cell in the 1980s to concentrate base metals such as copper, lead, and zinc.

And it’s all done with bubbles. Graeme took flotation, a century old technology developed in Broken Hill, and transformed it. A turbulent cloud of minute bubbles are pushed through a slurry of ground-up ore where they pick up mineral particles and carry them to the surface.

Continue reading How trillions of bubbles earned billions of dollars for Australia

Feeding the world, and asking where the wind went

Life on land depends on plants. Every plant balances opening its pores to let in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; and closing its pores to retain water.

Graham Farquhar (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
Graham Farquhar (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Graham Farquhar’s work has transformed our understanding of the world’s most important biological reaction: photosynthesis.

His models of plant biophysics have been used to understand cells, whole plants, whole forests, and to create new water-efficient wheat varieties. His latest project will determine which trees will grow faster in a high carbon dioxide world.

Continue reading Feeding the world, and asking where the wind went

Making polymers with light

Cyrille Boyer uses light to make new and complex polymers.

Cyrille Boyer (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
Cyrille Boyer (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

It’s the latest in a series of techniques that have enabled him to create materials which are being applied in areas as widespread as non-stick coatings, anti-fouling technology, precision drug delivery, medical diagnosis and imaging.

His ideas are built on the revolutionary RAFT techniques for which David Solomon and Ezio Rizzardo received the 2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. His latest technology uses light and chlorophyll to catalyse the creation of polymers using up to ten building blocks.

Continue reading Making polymers with light

Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Jane Elith is one of the most influential environmental scientists in the world, though she rarely ventures into the field.

Jane Elith_headshot
Jane Elith can help farmers restore damaged soils, or map the spread of cane toads. (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

She develops and assesses species distribution models, which are used by governments, land and catchment managers and conservationists around the world—in short, for applying the lessons of ecology.

In Australia for example her models can help farmers restore damaged soils, map the spread of cane toads, and compare the implications of development options in the Tiwi Islands for threatened plants and animals that have largely disappeared from the mainland.

Continue reading Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Improved primary science teaching at no extra cost

Fifteen years ago Rebecca Johnson, from Windaroo State School, initiated a new method for teaching science more effectively in primary schools without costing the government anything extra.

Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear
Rebecca Johnson (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

“No-one ever questions the need to have specialist teachers for subjects such as music, physical education and languages other than English, in primary schools,” says Rebecca.

“Particular skill sets and qualities are required to teach these subjects effectively, and I believe the same applies to teaching science.”

Continue reading Improved primary science teaching at no extra cost

Bring students to science

Fifteen years ago Casula High School was just an average state school in Sydney’s south-western suburbs with just eight students doing science at year 12.

Casula High School has gone from just eight students taking science to two-thirds of Year 11 and 12 students. (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
Casula High School has gone from just eight students taking science to two-thirds of Year 11 and 12 students. (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

But something extraordinary has happened. Two-thirds of Year 11 and 12 students now choose science subjects and they are performing well above the state average.

The transformation is largely due to the work of Dr Ken Silburn, the head of science at Casula.

Ken has transformed the way his students engage with science, through extension programs, interactive and hands-on activities, and a great deal of encouragement. Continue reading Bring students to science

Changing lives: Australia–Japan science links

Japanese science changing Australia

The impact of Japanese technological prowess on Australian society is obvious for all to see. How we listened to music was transformed by audio recording technologies: from the Walkman to the CD. Home entertainment was changed by video tapes, DVDs, and game consoles. We rely on Japanese innovation in transport—reliable car engineering, the lean manufacturing techniques that made them affordable and, more recently, hybrid cars.

Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow
Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka changed stem cell science. Credit: Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow

Fundamental science discoveries are bringing a new era of transformation. Japanese researchers were honoured last year with the Nobel Prize for their invention of the blue LED. They succeeded where for 30 years everyone else had failed. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps—lasting a lifetime and using a fraction of the energy.

In 2006 Shinya Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. By introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, that is, immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. His work is transforming stem cell medicine and many Australian researchers are now using induced pluripotent stem cells to develop stem cell medicines.

Australian science changing Japan

It’s not a one way trade. Japanese lives are being improved by Australian inventions such as the bionic ear, gum that repairs tooth decay, sleep disorder treatments, lithium to treat bipolar disorder, aircraft black boxes, and anti-flu drugs, which are all in daily use in Japan.

And when you connect to a fast and reliable wi-fi network you can thank Australian astronomers, who in the process of searching for black holes, created tools for cleaning up radio waves.

Collaborating for the future

Today there are hundreds of thriving Australia–Japan research collaborations, many of which will have a profound impact on our lives in the years ahead.

In 2014 the Australian Research Council (ARC) supported 254 research projects with Japanese collaborators. Over the past five years, Japan has consistently placed within the 10 countries that have the highest number of collaborations with Australian researchers on Australian Research Council–funded projects.

The ARC reports that the most popular disciplines for collaboration with Japan are: material engineering; biochemistry and cell biology; atomic, molecular, nuclear, particle and plasma physics; astronomical and space sciences; and plant biology.

Research cooperation (as measured by co-authored publications) has doubled over the last decade. The quality and impact of these publications is significantly higher than the average for each country’s papers and both countries receive a quality dividend from working together.

There were about 6000 joint Australia–Japan publications from 2009-2013 and nearly 500 partnership agreements between Australian and Japanese universities, and the numbers are rising. There are strong and enduring relationships between science agencies in both countries.

Collaboration highlights

Using synchrotron light and neutron beams to investigate new materials for medicine,electronics and industry

Developing lead-free solders for solar cells and electric vehicles

Better diagnosis of foetal heart defects

Understanding earthquake history and improving prediction

Saving coral from starfish plagues

Seeing every cell in a whole adult brain

Understanding how herbicide resistance develops

Exploring the implications of phones that always know where we are.