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.

World’s oldest gem leading us to hidden treasures

Zircon, the oldest mineral on the planet, is helping geologists understand how Earth started out and how it continues to evolve. By better understanding the Earth’s structure, mining companies have been able to find new mineral deposits.

The team sampling with Pan-African Mining geological team in Madagascar. Credit: Julia Galin
The team sampling with Pan-African Mining geological team in Madagascar. Credit: Julia Galin

“Most of the mineral deposits that are exposed on the surface of the planet have already been found and mined, but we need to find the ones that are still hidden,” Dr Elena Belousova says.

She and her colleagues at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems have developed TerraneChronÒ, a tool that looks at zircons found in geological samples, such as rocks or sand in river beds, to find out when they crystallised.

Continue reading World’s oldest gem leading us to hidden treasures

Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

We’ve all cursed an ineffective digital network, whether it’s delays streaming the latest Game of Thrones or a dangerous mobile phone overload during bushfire season. But no-one wants to pay extra for an over-engineered network.

The secret to designing and testing a digital network to find the happy medium is a mathematical tool called a traffic matrix: a model of all the digital traffic within the network.

Continue reading Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

Tracking fish with parasites and maths

How much fish move around is critical information for fisheries managers—for example they need to know if fish caught off Brisbane are a separate population to those caught off Cairns. Different tracking techniques, such as physical tags or genetic mapping, can be used but each method has its weaknesses.

A team of mathematicians is using pre-existing data on Spanish mackerel, using their hitchhiking parasites to track fish movements and model the populations.

Continue reading Tracking fish with parasites and maths

Tracking dust

Statisticians have revealed the surprising source of dust that plagues townships beside a Hunter Valley rail line delivering coal to Newcastle’s busy port.

Airborne dust increases as trains pass. But it wasn’t clear exactly how—for example, whether the dust was escaping uncovered coal wagons or coming from the diesel engines pulling the wagons. The answer was surprising.

Mathematicians from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers correlated air-pollution data against information on passing trains and weather conditions.

Continue reading Tracking dust

Smart credit limits save money for customers and banks

The credit limit you’re not using on your card is costing the bank money, and that’s increasing the cost for all customers’ cards.

Jonathan left a ‘big four’ bank to pursue his PhD at the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers, drawing on his experience to address a real-world problem.
Jonathan left a ‘big four’ bank to pursue his PhD at the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers, drawing on his experience to address a real-world problem.

Now, Melbourne mathematicians have developed a way of minimising this using the bank’s data on customer spending behaviour.

The unused credit costs the bank money because regulators require them to have funds in reserve – which they can’t invest elsewhere for profit – to cover the possibility you’ll make a large purchase and not pay the money back.

Continue reading Smart credit limits save money for customers and banks

Saving seagrass sanctuaries

Seagrass meadows provide food and habitat for everything from dugongs and birds to fish and tiny crabs.

Using maths to protect seagrass meadows and the communities they support .
Using maths to protect seagrass meadows and the communities they support .

Globally we’re losing over 100 sq. km per year due to dredging, coastal developments and runoff. That’s bad news for the animals they support, and bad news for us too, as seagrass supports healthy coastal fisheries as well as acting as a carbon store.

To see how seagrass can be given a fighting chance, Dr Paul Wu at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers and collaborators have put an extended modelling technique to new use, predicting seagrass health and suggests how some modified human activities could reduce the damage.

Continue reading Saving seagrass sanctuaries

Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Many of today’s big questions can only be answered with new mathematical and statistical tools.

That’s what the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers are working on, and they’re finding real-world applications in areas as diverse as:

Continue reading Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

‘Baby molecule’ halves scarring after stroke

A drug based on a molecule naturally present in infants – but which declines in adulthood – can halve the scarring in brains of those who have suffered stroke. And it can be delivered up to a week afterward.

The drug developed by James and Leon minimises the amount of scarring after the wound has been stabilised. Credit: Leon Teo
Enlarged cell bodies (pink), with increased scar-forming (green) following stroke. Credit: Leon Teo

“We hope our work will improve the recovery of the elderly, as well as people in rural and remote communities, who haven’t had access to speedy treatment following a stroke,” says Associate Professor James Bourne at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI[1]), and Chief Investigator of the research.

The current treatment, a drug called tPA, is limited to ischemic strokes (caused by a blood clot). Only 10 per cent of all stroke patients qualify for treatment using the clot-busting drug, which can have harmful side-effects including haemorrhages. The optimum treatment window for tPA is within three hours of the stroke, with a 35 per cent success rate.

Continue reading ‘Baby molecule’ halves scarring after stroke

Spinning a boiled egg unravels protein secret

Scientists in Australia and California have worked out how to unboil an egg. It may sound like an odd discovery, but it’s changed the way scientists think about manipulating proteins, an industry worth AU$160 billion per year.

Flinders University Professor Colin Raston and his team have developed Vortex Fluid Technology – using mechanical energy, or spinning, to reverse the effects of thermal energy, or boiling.

Continue reading Spinning a boiled egg unravels protein secret

Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers

Zoe collecting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum
Zoe colleacting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum

While coral reefs around the world are feeling the heat, little-known reefs in Australia’s Kimberley region are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions—and scientists aren’t yet sure why.

The discovery has particular significance this summer with fears of a severe coral bleaching event to hit our northern waters—the result of steadily rising sea temperatures and a strong seasonal El Niño.

WA researchers have found that while coral reefs all around the world are feeling the heat of rising temperatures, some inshore reefs in the Kimberley region’s Bonaparte Archipelago are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions. Continue reading Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers