Backyard astronomers win recognition from the professionals

200 supernova found by six mates – enabling discoveries about the evolution of stars and the ingredients of life

Ex-miner from Broken Hill discovers a massive electrical storm on Saturn and guides NASA mission

Two amateur astronomy projects were awarded the 2022 Page Medal on Saturday 16 April at the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers held online.

The six friends who make up The Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS) Team monitor distant galaxies to detect the death throes of massive stars as they explode in brilliant supernovae. The team then alerts professional telescopes to swing into action and study these phenomena at the crucial moment. The sooner those observations begin, the more is learnt about the lead up to the star’s final moments.

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An immune ‘fingerprint’ reveals path for better treatment of autoimmune diseases

An immune ‘fingerprint’ reveals path for better treatment of autoimmune diseases

Most autoimmune diseases are easy to diagnose but hard to treat. A paper published in Science proposes using your unique immune cell fingerprint to rapidly identify which treatments will work for your autoimmune disease.

‘We analysed the genomic profile of over one million cells from 1,000 people to identify a fingerprint linking genetic markers to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease,’ says Professor Joseph Powell, joint lead author at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. ‘We were able to do this using single cell sequencing, a new technology that allows us to detect subtle changes in individual cells,’ he says.

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Eating plastic makes for smaller mussels

RMIT researcher calls for reducing ‘microplastics’ in bathroom products

Mussels in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne are ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic used in cosmetics. And it’s affecting their ability to grow and reproduce, an RMIT University eco-toxicologist has found.

The microplastics travel from our bathroom sinks to the ocean, where they are easily confused with algae or seaweeds. Because they cannot tell the difference, the mussels take in the plastic along with their normal diet of algae.

But, says researcher Dr Charlene Trestrail, the plastics affect the action of four of their key digestive enzymes which means the mussels then struggle to break down starch into the simple sugars they need to survive.

“We don’t think the plastic affects mussels directly, but it does reduce their ability to digest the real food in their gut, which means they miss out on energy and nutrients,” says Dr Trestrail.

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Smart glove to train young surgeons

A glove is being trialled at Liverpool Hospital that gives surgical trainees instant and accurate feedback. Researchers say the gloves could also be used by musicians and artists.

Engineers at Western Sydney University have invented a new surgical glove built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.

The research team are working closely with surgeons and students at Liverpool Hospital to develop the technology, which will augment rather than replace traditional surgical training.

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A new tool to measure social inclusion to save lives

Work, housing and friendships are core factors to feeling included.

A new tool developed by researchers at Orygen to measure and monitor social inclusion was tested with more than 500 young people.

By identifying the early signs of isolation and loneliness, support can be provided to prevent more serious mental ill-health.

In mental healthcare, simple screening tools for common conditions like depression and anxiety make it possible to diagnose people quickly and get help sooner.

A new tool developed at Orygen does the same, but for social inclusion: the F-SIM (Filia Social Inclusion Measure), developed by Dr Kate Filia and being presented in Hobart this week at the Society for Mental Health Research conference, could help to pinpoint the causes of isolation and social exclusion,

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Ancient campfires reveal a 50,000 year old grocer and pharmacy

For the first time in Australia, archaeobotany has been used by researchers from UWA to examine charcoal from ancient campfires in the Western Desert.

They found wattle and other Acacias which proves it was (and still is) used by Indigenous people for tools, food and medicine.

The iconic wattle isn’t just about sports uniforms and the coat of arms – new finds in the oldest archaeological site on the land of the Martu in the Western Desert shows how wattle has defined culture and been important to Australians for over 50,000 years.

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Single test for over 50 genetic diseases will cut diagnosis from decades to days

A new DNA test, developed by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and collaborators from Australia, UK and Israel, has been shown to identify a range of hard-to-diagnose neurological and neuromuscular genetic diseases quicker and more-accurately than existing tests.

‘We correctly diagnosed all patients with conditions that were already known, including Huntington’s disease, fragile X syndrome, hereditary cerebellar ataxias, myotonic dystrophies, myoclonic epilepsies, motor neuron disease and more,’ says Dr Ira Deveson, Head of Genomics Technologies at the Garvan Institute and senior author of the study.

The diseases covered by the test belong to a class of over 50 diseases caused by unusually-long repetitive DNA sequences in a person’s genes – known as ‘Short Tandem Repeat (STR) expansion disorders’.

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What ingredients went into the galactic blender to create the Milky Way?

Our galaxy is a giant ‘smoothie’ of blended stars and gas but a new study tells us where the components came from

In its early days, the Milky Way was like a giant smoothie, as if galaxies consisting of billions of stars, and an enormous amount of gas had been thrown together into a gigantic blender. But a new study picks apart this mixture by analysing individual stars to identify which originated inside the galaxy and which began life outside.

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Quantum computing in silicon hits 99 per cent accuracy

UNSW Sydney-led research paves the way for large silicon-based quantum processors for real-world manufacturing and application.

Australian researchers have proven that near error-free quantum computing is possible, paving the way to build silicon-based quantum devices compatible with current semiconductor manufacturing technology.

“Today’s publication in Nature shows our operations were 99 per cent error-free,” says Professor Andrea Morello of UNSW, who led the work, with partners in the US, Japan, Egypt, UTS and the University of Melbourne.

“When the errors are so rare, it becomes possible to detect them and correct them when they occur. This shows that it is possible to build quantum computers that have enough scale, and enough power, to handle meaningful computation.

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Building a silicon quantum computer chip atom by atom

An atomic array in silicon paves the way for large scale devices

A University of Melbourne led team have perfected a technique for embedding single atoms in a silicon wafer one-by-one. Their technology offers the potential to make quantum computers using the same methods that have given us cheap and reliable conventional devices containing billions of transistors.

“We could ‘hear’ the electronic click as each atom dropped into one of 10,000 sites in our prototype device. Our vision is to use this technique to build a very, very large-scale quantum device,” says Professor David Jamieson of The University of Melbourne, lead author of the Advanced Materials paper describing the process.

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