Power to the islands

Over sixty-five million Indonesians live off the grid. But what does that mean in the era of micro-grids, batteries and efficient solar panels? And how do communities change with 24/7 energy?

Providing reliable electric power is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the remote islands and landlocked areas of Indonesia and of Australia’s north, a priority for both countries.

But there’s much more to it than installing the right mix of technologies. Bringing night-time activity, television, the internet and smart machines within the reach of people who have never had access to them before involves huge, potentially disruptive changes to their daily lives, their economic and political relationships, their whole culture.

Access to new technologies may have huge impacts on behaviour. Credit: Max Richter
Access to new technologies may have huge impacts on behaviour. Credit: Max Richter

A team of Australian and Indonesian scientists and social scientists is coming to grips with the scope of the problem by studying two sites in Indonesia where a start has already been made on introducing electricity. The seed project is financed by the Australia Indonesia Centre. 

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Using Japanese to inspire students

Many teachers struggle to make science fun for their students. For a Canberra teacher, this means creating an environment where every student can see the impact of science in daily life. And an Adelaide teacher is keeping kids engaged by teaching science in Japanese.

Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear
Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School in Canberra has created a hothouse of science learning—complete with a seismometer, GPS antenna and weather station, each transmitting real-time data straight into the classroom.

“We all need science literacy to navigate the complexity of the modern world,” says Geoff. So he reaches out to each student’s interests— from genetics to driving to cosmology— to demonstrate the inevitable relevance of science.

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Is your city making you sick?

Fiona Bull can tell if your city is making you sick just by looking at how easy it is to walk around—and she plans to use this knowledge of good city design to help reduce global physical inactivity by 10 per cent by 2025.

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Academy recognition

Photo: Wouter Schellart’s geodynamics research into the activity of the Earth’s mantle, including the Mt Etna volcano, earned him the AAS Anton Hales medal for Earth Sciences. Credit: NASA

The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.

Donating used eyeglasses is a poor use of resources

It’s much better to give new glasses than recycled glasses if you want to help one of the 640 million people who are vision-impaired or blind simply for the lack of an eye examination and appropriate glasses.

Thembani waits for an eye examination at the Umlazi community hall near Durban, South Africa Credit: Dean Saffron/ICEE
Thembani waits for an eye examination at the Umlazi community hall near Durban, South Africa. Credit: Dean Saffron/ICEE

This is according to a new international study led by Australian researchers.

Dr David Wilson, research manager in the Asia-Pacific for International Centre for Eyecare Education and head author of a major paper on the topic, says although you might feel good sending your old reading glasses to a developing country, it is far better to give $10 for an eye examination and a new pair of glasses—and that’s more likely to strengthen the ability of these communities to help themselves.
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