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  • richardmitnick 8:22 pm on October 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , CSIRO, ,   

    From U Sidney: “Gravitational waves world-first discovery Down Under” 

    U Sidney bloc

    University of Sidney

    17 October 2017

    Sydney confirms radio emission from gravitational wave event.

    A Sydney team was the first in the world to confirm radio waves from the latest gravitational waves event, resulting from a spectacular neutron star merger that has produced light and radio waves as well as gravitational waves.

    How the discovery unfolded in Sydney.

    An Australian group was the first in the world to confirm the radio emission from a gravitational wave event, discovered by collaborators in the United States being announced today.

    The discovery of gravitational waves in 2015 was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics this year. The discovery of these ripples in space-time, produced by massive, accelerating bodies, like orbiting black holes (which cannot be seen directly) or neutron stars, confirms a prediction made by Albert Einstein in 1916.

    Now, a group led by Associate Professor Tara Murphy, from the University of Sydney and the Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), has confirmed radio-wave emission from a gravitational wave event discovered on 17 August this year.

    The results are included in a Science paper published today with co-author institutions including the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Oxford University; simultaneously teams from the international science community are publishing related research in other leading journals, demonstrating the second epoch in gravitational waves discovery.

    Scientists representing LIGO-Virgo, and some 70 observatories today reveal the gravitational waves discovery – the first to produce light and radio waves, not just gravitational waves.

    The explosion, produced by a pair of neutron stars merging, took place in galaxy NGC 4993, about 130 million light-years away. The first follow-up detection was optical, about 11 hours after the event, and was detected by a number of groups worldwide. X-ray emissions were detected nine days later and radiowaves after 15 days.

    University of Sydney Associate Professor Tara Murphy, who leads the radio astronomy follow-up in Australia, said she was in the United States with colleague David Kaplan when they saw the gravitational wave announcement come through on the private email list of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    “We immediately rang our team in Australia and told them to get onto the CSIRO telescope as soon as possible, then started planning our observations,” she said.

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    “We were lucky in a sense in that it was perfect timing but you have to be at the top of your game to play in this space. It is intense, time-critical science.”

    PhD candidate Dougal Dobie spent hours observing on the telescope. More details in today’s piece by Associate Professor Murphy in The Conversation.

    The team used the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array to monitor the gravitational wave event for more than 40 hours over several weeks. Dr Douglas Bock, Director of CSIRO’s Astronomy & Space Science team, said this extraordinary detection by an Australian team, using Australian facilities, made a significant contribution to the global discovery.

    “Running a national facility involves providing researchers with access – fast – so they can monitor unexpected astronomical events of extraordinary scientific interest,” Dr Bock said.

    The ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Waves (OzGrav) director Professor Matthew Bailes said: “Never before have we seen where in the Universe gravitational waves came from; the subsequent avalanche of science was virtually unparalleled in modern astrophysics.”

    University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence said: “This international discovery, with Sydney playing an integral role, demonstrates that the best science and modern innovation is intrinsically a collaborative effort.

    “What better a way to confirm that Einstein’s theory of relativity was correct, gain insights into massive bodies like black holes and, with this knowledge, start to re-think our understanding of the Universe,” Dr Spence concluded.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Sidney campus

    Our founding principle as Australia’s first university was that we would be a modern and progressive institution. It’s an ideal we still hold dear today.

    When Charles William Wentworth proposed the idea of Australia’s first university in 1850, he imagined “the opportunity for the child of every class to become great and useful in the destinies of this country”.

    We’ve stayed true to that original value and purpose by promoting inclusion and diversity for the past 160 years.

    It’s the reason that, as early as 1881, we admitted women on an equal footing to male students. Oxford University didn’t follow suit until 30 years later, and Jesus College at Cambridge University did not begin admitting female students until 1974.

    It’s also why, from the very start, talented students of all backgrounds were given the chance to access further education through bursaries and scholarships.

    Today we offer hundreds of scholarships to support and encourage talented students, and a range of grants and bursaries to those who need a financial helping hand.

  • richardmitnick 9:58 am on August 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Back to school for Science Week, , CSIRO,   

    From CSIRO: “Back to school for Science Week” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    18 Aug 2017
    Ashleigh Fortington
    +61 2 4960 6142

    More than 350 Australian schools are today welcoming Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) professionals into their classrooms – virtually and physically – to promote the importance of STEM to Australia’s future.


    Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO talks to Gundaroo primary students about all things science during our STEM in Schools event.

    Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham working with East Adelaide Primary School students as part of STEM in Schools.

    The STEM in Schools event, run by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, forms part of National Science Week and will see classrooms across the country come alive with science as students participate in a virtual classroom discussion with STEM professionals working in the international space industry.

    Many also have the opportunity to take part in hands-on science activities with CSIRO scientists.

    More than 30 Federal MPs will also head back to school for the day and join students in the activities, underlining the national importance of STEM for Australia’s future.

    With research indicating that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills and knowledge, it is now more important than ever to engage students in science, technology, engineering and maths.

    CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the event was about inspiring a curiosity and passion in science that will encourage more students to pursue STEM as a foundation of their future.

    “For Australia to prosper, we need to empower our students to calmly and confidently stare into the face of Australia’s challenges, knowing that science has the power to solve the impossible and turn challenge into opportunity,” Dr Marshall said.

    “STEM in Schools teaches our children how they can reshape the future, inspiring them with the possibilities of science. These students will go on to become our scientists, engineers, business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

    STEM in Schools events are taking place in over 350 schools around Australia, with over 70 CSIRO staff and 30 members of parliament visiting schools across the country to conduct activities and share their passion for STEM.

    Follow the conversation and see all the action from the events across the country with #STEMinSchools on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 7:48 pm on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , CSIRO, Hairy stars’ may be roaming our galaxy,   

    From CSIRO blog: “‘Hairy stars’ may be roaming our galaxy” 

    CSIRO bloc

    CSIRO blog

    10th July 2017
    Helen Sim

    The Helix Nebula, imaged with the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope. ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Astronomers working with our Compact Array telescope are beginning to suspect more and more stars of hiding a secret.

    CSIRO ATCA at the Paul Wild Observatory, about 25 km west of the town of Narrabri in rural NSW about 500 km north-west of Sydney, AU

    We hadn’t noticed until now, but these stars may be ‘hairy’ – surrounded by a ‘mane’ of gas tendrils.

    Astro-sleuth Mark Walker (Manly Astrophysics) and his team came to the some-stars-are-hairy idea after using the Compact Array to study radio waves from distant, powerful galactic bodies called quasars.

    Quasars emit radio waves, but by the time they reach us on Earth, they have different properties — dimming and brightening rapidly. It seems something in space is making quasars twinkle. Quasar twinkling was first seen 30 years ago but until now its cause was a mystery.

    Mark and the team were observing a quasar near a bright, hot star called Spica, which lies in the constellation Virgo, and saw that it, too twinkled.

    Looking back at two other cases of quasar twinkling, observed with the Compact Array and other telescopes, the team found that they too occurred near hot stars: Vega (in the constellation Lyra) and Alhakim (in the constellation Centaurus).

    Credit: M. Walker (artwork), CSIRO (photo.)

    The chance of this happening at random is just one in ten million, the researchers say.

    So how are these hot stars linked to the quasars’ twinkling?

    By looking at the twinkling pattern, the astronomers were able to work out that the twinkling is caused by long, thin streams of gas radiating outward from the star.

    We already know one star that looks like this! It’s in the Helix Nebula, in the constellation Aquarius (as in the feature image).

    Here, a star is surrounded by globules of hydrogen gas, each about as big as our solar system. The ‘hair’ is created when UV radiation from the star blasts gas off the globules, creating long, thin streams.

    Globules of hydrogen gas in the Helix Nebula, imaged with the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: C. R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University), K. Handron (Rice University), NASA. Used with permission.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    While the star in the Helix is old, younger stars might have these streams too, the researchers say.

    Their findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    Find out how our Australia Telescope Compact Array telescope is used by astronomers to study the structure and evolution of our Universe.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

    The CSIRO blog is designed to entertain, inform and inspire by generally digging around in the work being done by our terrific scientists, and leaving the techie speak and jargon for the experts.

    We aim to bring you stories from across the vast breadth and depth of our organisation: from the wild sea voyages of our Research Vessel Investigator to the mind-blowing astronomy of our Space teams, right through all the different ways our scientists solve national challenges in areas as diverse as Health, Farming, Tech, Manufacturing, Energy, Oceans, and our Environment.

    If you have any questions about anything you find on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at socialmedia@csiro.au.

    And if you’d like to find out more about us, our science, or how to work with us, head over to CSIRO.au

  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on July 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CSIRO, ,   

    From CSIRO: “Extreme El Niño events to stay despite stabilisation” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    25 Jul 2017
    Chris Gerbing
    Communication Manager, Oceans And Atmosphere
    Phone +61 3 9545 2312

    The frequency of extreme El Niño events is projected to increase for a further century after global mean temperature is stabilised at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.


    Research published today in Nature Climate Change by an international team shows that if warming was halted to the aspirational 1.5°C target from the Paris Agreement, the frequency of extreme El Niño events could continue to increase, due to a continuation of faster warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific.

    CSIRO researcher and lead author Dr Guojian Wang said the growing risk of extreme El Niño events did not stabilise in a stabilised climate.

    “Currently the risk of extreme El Niño events is around five events per 100 years,” Dr Wang said.

    “This doubles to approximately 10 events per 100 years by 2050, when our modelled emissions scenario (RCP 2.6) reaches a peak of 1.5°C warming.

    “After this, as faster warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific persists, the risk of extreme El Niño continues upwards to about 14 events per 100 years by 2150.

    “This result is unexpected and shows that future generations will experience greater climate risks associated with extreme El Niño events than seen at 1.5°C warming.”

    The research was based on five climate models that provided future scenarios past the year 2100.

    The models were run using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s lowest emissions scenario (RCP2.6), which requires negative emissions late in the century.

    Director of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and report co-author, Dr Wenju Cai, said that this research continues important work on the impacts of climate change on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation which is a significant driver of global climate.

    “The most severe previous extreme El Niño events occurred in 1982/83, 1997/98 and 2015/16, years associated with worldwide climate extremes,” Dr Cai said.

    “Extreme El Niño events occur when the usual El Niño Pacific rainfall centre is pushed eastward toward South America, sometimes up to 16,000 kilometres, causing massive changes in the climate. The further east the centre moves, the more extreme the El Niño.

    “This pulls rainfall away from Australia bringing conditions that have commonly resulted in intense droughts across the nation. During such events, other countries like India, Ecuador, and China have experienced extreme events with serious socio-economic consequences.”

    Dr Cai added that while previous research suggested that extreme La Niña events would double under a 4.5°C warming scenario, results here indicated that under a scenario of climate stabilisation (i.e. 1.5°C warming) there was little or no change to these La Niña events.

    The research was conducted by researchers at the Hobart based Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, an international collaboration between CSIRO, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Tasmania.

    The National Environmental Science Programme’s Earth System and Climate Change Hub co-funded this research.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 11:03 am on July 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CSIRO, Dell EMC, Supercomputing in Australia   

    From CSIRO: “CSIRO powers bionic vision research with new Dell EMC PowerEdge based artificial intelligence capability” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    18 Jul 2017
    Andrew Warren
    Communications Advisor
    Phone +61 7 3833 5666
    Mobile +61 416 277 695

    Dell EMC Bracewell super computer (artist’s impression). Photographer: Brian Davis.

    CSIRO has chosen Dell EMC to build a new scientific computing capability, kicking off a new generation of research.

    News highlights

    Dell EMC partners with CSIRO to build its new artificial intelligence system, which went live early July 2017.
    The system will help Data61’s Computer Vision group use large data sets for its bionic vision solution, helping it process more images and provide contextual meaning for recipients.
    Named after Australian astronomer and engineer Ronald N. Bracewell, it is a turn-key system built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform with partner GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking.

    CSIRO will partner with Dell EMC to build a new large scale scientific computing system to expand CSIRO’s capability in deep learning, a key approach to furthering progress towards artificial intelligence.

    The new system is named ‘Bracewell’ after Ronald N Bracewell, an Australian astronomer and engineer who worked in the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory during World War II, and whose work led to fundamental advances in medical imaging.

    In addition to artificial intelligence, the system provides capability for research in areas as diverse as virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimisation, modelling of new material structures and compositions, machine learning for image recognition and pattern analysis.

    CSIRO requested tenders in November 2016 to build the new system with a $4 million budget, and following Dell EMC’s successful proposal, the new system was installed in five days across May and June 2017. The system is now live and began production in early July 2017.

    Greater scale and processing power enables richer, more realistic vision solution.

    One of the first research teams to benefit from the new processing power will be Data61’s Computer Vision group, led by Associate Professor Nick Barnes. His team developed the software for a bionic vision solution that aims to restore sight for those with profound vision loss, through new computer vision processing that uses large scale image datasets to optimise and learn more effective processing.

    Bracewell will help the research team scale their software to tackle new and more advanced challenges, and deliver a richer and more robust visual experience for the profoundly vision impaired.

    “When we conducted our first human trial, participants had to be fully supervised and were mostly limited to the laboratory, but for our next trial we’re aiming to get participants out of the lab and into the real world, controlling the whole system themselves,” Associate Professor Barnes said.

    With access to this new computing capability, Professor Barnes and his team will be able to use much larger data sets to help train the software to recognise and process more images, helping deliver a greater contextual meaning to the recipient.

    “To make this a reality, we need to build vision processing systems that show accurate visualisations of the world in a broad variety of scenarios. These will enable people to visualise the world through their bionic vision in a way that enables them to safely and effectively interact in challenging visual environments,” Professor Barnes said.

    “This new system will provide greater scale and processing power we need to build our computer vision systems by optimisation of processing over broader scenarios, represented by much larger sets of images, to help train the software to understand and represent the world. We’ll be able to take our computer vision research to the next level, solving problems through leveraging large scale image data that most labs around the world aren’t able to.”

    Turnkey installation speeds time to results

    Bracewell is a turn-key system built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform, with partner technology including GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking, which pieces all the compute nodes together in a low latency and high bandwidth solution faster than traditional networking.

    Dell EMC ANZ High-Performance Computing Lead, Andrew Underwood, said the installation process was streamlined and optimised for deep learning applications, with Bright Cluster Manager technology helping put these frameworks in place faster.

    “Our turn-key system removes the complexity from the installation, management and use of artificial intelligence frameworks, and has enabled CSIRO to speed up its time to market for scientific outcomes, which will in turn boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global economy,” Mr Underwood said.

    The system includes:

    114 x PowerEdge C4130 with NVIDIA P100 GPUs, NVLINK, dual Intel Xeon CPU and 100Gbps EDR InfiniBand
    1,634,304 CUDA Compute Cores
    3192 Xeon Compute Cores
    29TB RAM
    13 x 100Gbps 36p EDR InfiniBand switch fabric
    Bright Cluster Manager Software 8.0

    Doubling the aggregate computational power available to researchers.

    CSIRO Deputy Chief Information Officer, and Head of Scientific Computing, Angus Macoustra, said the system is crucial to the organisation’s work in identifying and solving emerging science problems.

    “This is a critical enabler for CSIRO science, engineering and innovation. As a leading global research organisation, it’s important to sustain our global competitiveness by maintaining the currency and performance of our computing and data infrastructures,” Mr Macoustra said.

    “The power of this new system is that it allows our researchers to tackle challenging workloads and ultimately enable CSIRO research to solve real-world issues. The system will nearly double the aggregate computational power available to CSIRO researchers, and will help transform the way we do scientific research and development.”

    Dell EMC ANZ Senior Vice President, Commercial and Public Sector, Angela Fox said “Dell EMC we’re committed to creating technologies that drive human progress.

    “CSIRO’s research will change the way we live and work in the future for the better,” Ms Fox said. “We’re proud to play a part in evolving that work, and look forward to enabling scientific progress for years to come.”

    The system builds on Dell EMC’s work in the high-performance computing space, with the Pearcey system installed in 2016 and numerous other systems for Australian universities such as the University of Melbourne ‘Spartan’, Monash University ‘MASSIVE3’ and the University of Sydney ‘Artemis’.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 5:16 am on July 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, CSIRO blogs,   

    From CSIRO blog: “Legged robots walk the walk” 

    CSIRO bloc

    CSIRO blog

    19th July 2017
    Eliza Keck

    In an emergency, first responders often have to make a very tough call: can I enter the area safely or is it too dangerous? It’s the most extreme risk vs reward analysis anyone could ever face, and the call is often made in mere moments and with very little information. In the future, this decision will hopefully be much easier with the help of some six legged robots: hexapods. Creating robots that can go into an unpredictable, unstable environment and help people escape it would be a literal life-saver.

    You know how people are always talking about how robots are going to steal our jobs and take over the world? Well this is one job we wouldn’t mind them taking.

    Wheel what have we here?

    There are some pretty amazing robots on wheels. Case in point: NASA’s Curiosity.

    NASA/Mars Curiosity Rover

    Wheels are great for moving fast, they’re stable and they are easy to build. So why the obsession with legs? Well, wheels have their drawbacks: they can’t go side to side (well, most of them can’t!), they can’t cross over gaps, can’t climb over obstacles and they’re basically turtles; flip them on their back and they’re useless. Legs are the answer. So why haven’t we done it already? Because legs are significantly complicated.

    Balancing act

    Humans have been trying to create humanoid robots for centuries. But being able to walk on two legs is a significant achievement that took us millions of years to perfect. To simply balance, many complex body systems work together (and even compensate for each other when required). There’s our vestibulo-ocular reflex (our eyes and inner-ear working together), our nervous system and the body’s sense of where it is in space: proprioception. We also have baroreceptors, sensors in our blood vessels that sense blood pressure (like a barometer and air pressure), that tell our heart to pump blood faster when we stand so we don’t faint.

    When designing a robot, scientists have to decide what kind of stability it will use: dynamic or static. As its name suggests, a statically stable robot will be stable when standing still. Basically – any robot with three legs or more can do this without trying. Dynamically stable robots are stable when moving (think about how much easier it is to hop on one leg than standing still on one leg). Obviously, a dynamically stable robot is much harder to control and significantly more complex however they are more energy efficient and faster. Most scientists are working to create something that is the best of both worlds. For us, we’re doing this with hexapods.

    Model of a humanoid robot based on drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Erik Möller.

    The invention of sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes have helped scientists take the next *step* forwards in balance and stability, but that’s only the start of the many complex problems scientists have to solve before our robot dreams can turn into reality.

    Casing the joint

    Do you enjoy scrambling around rock pools at the beach? Ever notice how you moved when climbing? It wasn’t the same as if you were walking on the footpath was it? You slow down, use your hands for stability and test the movement of each rock before committing all your weight on it. Your joints play a vital role in stability in rough terrain. Toes, ankles, knees, hips and your back all make minute and major adjustments to keep you stable.

    Having flexible legs with multiple joints improves stability on rough terrain. Our first hexapod models had three ‘joints’ per leg. They were fantastic at walking on a flat surface, but as soon as they encountered a steep hill they lost their grip.

    Our latest hexapod models have two extra ‘joints’ per leg and can now tackle up to 50 per cent inclines. This is because they can widen their stance, creating a larger support polygon and shifting their centre of gravity to be within this polygon.

    How useful are diagrams when trying to understand support polygons!? Credit: Stability During Arboreal Locomotion; Andrew Lammers, and Ulrich Zurcher, Cleveland State University, USA.

    Walk this way

    The gait (walking style) of the robot plays a big role in how fast and efficient it will be. When deciding which gait a robot uses you’ve got two options: fast, efficient but unstable or slow, stable, but inefficient. Neither option would work in real-life. So what’s the solution? The robot needs to be able to change how it moves depending on the situation. This is called ‘dynamic movement.’ Our hexapods constantly test the surface and will automatically change their gait and speed to stay stable and energy efficient.

    Our legged robots have got all the right moves, click here to learn more about them.

    Getting around is no easy feat, unless you have six of them

    When disaster strikes, who’s first on the scene?

    Emergency response teams often need to enter dangerous or confined spaces. But accessing unknown or unstable areas involves risk.

    Our legged robots are designed to go where no other robot or human can easily access – for example, a collapsed building. These nifty bots are able to safely explore and assess dangerous areas, such as when looking for survivors before sending in rescue teams.

    Introducing the legged robots

    Our hexapods are modelled off insects with the same number and configuration of legs, like ants and cockroaches. The hexapods are programmed with different gaits inspired by their natural counterparts.

    Our hexapods are modelled off insects with the same number and configuration of legs, like ants and cockroaches. The hexapods are programmed with different gaits inspired by their natural counterparts.


    One of the most popular gaits, inspired by running ants and cockroaches, is called the “alternating tripod gait”. The “waive gait”, closer to a caterpillar’s pattern, is slower but more stable. It’s much more useful when navigating sloped or slippery terrain.

    One of our hexapods, Weaver, has five joints on each of its six legs, enabling it to move freely and negotiate uneven terrain easily.

    It is also fitted with a pair of stereo cameras, allowing it to create a digital elevation map of an area, and detect any physical obstacles in its path. Thanks to sensors in each of its leg joints, this nifty insect-like bot can measure the forces felt at its foot tips. When each foot touches the ground, it feeds this information on the ground conditions back through a sequence of algorithms.

    In combination with its elevation map, the hexapod can interpret the stability of the surface and then adjust the stiffness of its legs as it travels. This allows the legged robot to avoid getting stuck or losing balance, by adjusting the flexibility of its leg joints depending on the roughness of the terrain.

    Getting into those hard to reach spaces

    Hexapods: Legged Robots

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

    The CSIRO blog is designed to entertain, inform and inspire by generally digging around in the work being done by our terrific scientists, and leaving the techie speak and jargon for the experts.

    We aim to bring you stories from across the vast breadth and depth of our organisation: from the wild sea voyages of our Research Vessel Investigator to the mind-blowing astronomy of our Space teams, right through all the different ways our scientists solve national challenges in areas as diverse as Health, Farming, Tech, Manufacturing, Energy, Oceans, and our Environment.

    If you have any questions about anything you find on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at socialmedia@csiro.au.

    And if you’d like to find out more about us, our science, or how to work with us, head over to CSIRO.au

  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Future Science Platform (FSP), , Probing Biosystems   

    From CSIRO: “A cybernetic future for health: precision nanomedicine, implants, and telling biomarkers” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    28th June 2017
    Ali Green

    What if you only had to send your non-invasive health diagnostics to the cloud to be notified of any abnormalities? No image credit.

    When was the last time you had your gut health assessed? With colorectal cancer now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, and incidence of coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease also on the rise, quick action on gut health is more important than ever.

    What if you had a safety net that detected abnormalities between required traditional tests? Wouldn’t it be great to have a non-invasive way of identifying your individual gut health issues early, a way to test the impacts of various interventions to maintain a healthy gut and avoid these diseases? How about using saliva as a non-invasive way to self-test for biomarkers that might indicate early signs of age-related conditions like cancer, cardiovascular or degenerative diseases? Or a system to rapidly and accurately measure and identify biomarkers for metastatic diseases like tumours using non-invasive and automated nanoneedle technology?

    Research is on a constant path towards overcoming the human body’s frailties. It’s an endeavour that’s seen global life expectancy more than double from an average of 31-years-old in 1900 to 71-years-old in 2015. And technologies like those referred to above, technologies that marry greater life expectancy with better life quality will not only revolutionise life as we know it, but will also be a major economic driver of the future.

    And at the forefront of this exciting revolution is Probing Biosystems, a Future Science Platform (FSP) representing the future of healthcare in the 21st century.

    Probing Biosystems is one of six Future Science Platforms. Its vision is to develop wearable or embedded biological sensors that can continuously extract meaningful information about our health, allowing more timely intervention.

    Imagine a device that painlessly and autonomously probes interstitial fluids (those fluids found between cells) for specific cancer biomarkers to ensure early detection of cancer and metastatic disease. Or a biosensor-laden cranial implant that measures, in real time, the temperature, cranial pressure and brain activity of patients recovering from traumatic brain injury, to better monitor their physiological recovery so doctors can target precise drug delivery.

    Not only will the Probing Biosystems team develop devices that capitalise on our enormous appetite for health information (as demonstrated by FitBits), but they will go a step further by creating technologies that track information about animals, plants, and even cells. The possibilities are endless and will revolutionise healthcare and biosecurity around the world.

    Novel research within the Probing Bioscience platform will investigate breakthrough solutions in the areas of:

    Health Surveillance — looking at wearable nanoneedle biosensors, and developing neurocybernetics for patients with head injuries;
    In Vitro Diagnostics — ‘cybertongue’ sensors that diagnose cancers and other diseases, early asthma detection, saliva biomarkers of ageing, and health and monitoring of brain cell death in brain injury;
    Model Systems — lethal virus detection, faster response to pandemics, gastrointestinal screening for better gut health, the next generation of virus biosensors, brain organoid on a chip and infection and inflammation 3D tissue models; and
    Precision Nanomedicine — improved delivery of therapy for brain cancer.

    Sounds exciting, huh? If you want to partner with us to make this incredible science become a reality, get in touch! To find out more head to our Probing Biosystems launch page.

    Probing Biosystems is a multi-year investment between CSIRO and our partners to improve biosecurity and healthcare. We are developing innovative platforms that enable real-time interrogation of living biological systems in order to extract meaningful and actionable information about their health and well-being. CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms are turning Australia’s future challenges into opportunities and creating a better life for us all.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 7:09 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , CSIRO, Data visualisation isn’t just for communication it’s also a research tool, Managing large data sets, , Minardo, , Sequencing, Visualising networks that change over time, VIZBI - an international visualisation community   

    From CSIRO: “Data visualisation isn’t just for communication, it’s also a research tool” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    27th June 2017
    Seán I. O’Donoghue
    James B. Procter

    A collage of biological data visualisations. Image from C. Stolte, B.F. Baldi, S.I. O’Donoghue, C. Hammang, D.K.G. Ma, and G.T. Johnson, CC BY.

    At the heart of the scientific method lies the ability to make sense from data.

    However, this is a challenge in the fast-moving field of biotechnology, where new experimental methods are creating huge amounts of complex data. These data promise to revolutionise healthcare, food and agriculture, but it can be difficult to extract answers to specific research questions from these sets of numbers.

    Data visualisation can help. Our eyes deliver information very rapidly to our brains, and then sophisticated pattern recognition abilities take over. Well-designed visualisation tools can reveal discoveries that would otherwise remain buried.

    Below we highlight three data visualisation tools we have developed to help life scientists find relevant and useful information among the noise. The visualisation principles used in these tools are general and help in many complex data challenges.

    Managing large data sets

    Proteins and other molecules in our bodies exist as complex 3D structures that constantly change shape and interact with each other. Mapping out the many possible ways that proteins can be structured helps scientists understand how biological processes work, and may inform drug development and treating diseases such as cancer.

    Thanks to decades of research worldwide, we now have reliable, evidence-based 3D structures for tens of thousands of proteins, plus more than 100 million models of protein structures.

    These models are useful for learning about life’s molecular processes – such as how RNA and proteins are made – however, the large number of models can make it difficult for scientists to pin down which specific models can help answer a particular research question.

    To address this difficulty, one of us (Seán O’Donoghue) and colleagues developed Aquaria, a tool using the visualisation principle of “overview first, details on demand”. By using a technique called “clustering”, Aquaria creates a concise visual overview of all structural models available for any specific protein.

    An overview of all 3D structural models available for p53, a protein that protects against cancer. Image created using Aquaria. S.I. O’Donoghue and C. Stolte, Author provided.

    The image above shows this overview for p53, a protein that protects against cancer. Each cluster of related 3D models can be interactively expanded and explored (bottom of the image), helping scientists find the most useful models suited to address a specific research question.

    Once a suitable model is found it is shown (top of the image), with dark colouring used to indicate regions where the structure of the model is less certain. In addition, yellow, blue and green are used to highlight different shapes within the structure, which helps scientists understand how the protein is arranged in three dimensions.

    Viewing connections between different datasets

    Sometimes, we need to look at data from multiple viewpoints. This is particularly true for a field of research known as sequencing. Sequencing involves determining the precise order of the chemical building blocks that make up DNA, RNA and protein. Knowing these sequences and comparing how they vary between individuals can tell us about mutations that cause disease and reveal how we evolved.

    One of the most widely used tools for visualising sequences is Jalview, co-developed by one of us (James Procter), which brings together the huge amounts of data that are created through sequencing.

    Jalview employs two principles – “linking and brushing” and “multiple coordinated views” – to bring together different types of information. Jalview also allows other tools to be connected, enabling scientists to navigate through complex, interrelated datasets.

    The example below shows a family of proteins known as Aquaporins, which are molecular channels important for water balance and nutrient transport in cells. Aligning these protein’s sequences (close up on right) allows them to be clustered into a tree (shown top-left, with birds-eye view of the protein alignment next door). DNA mutations are mapped onto the protein alignment (shown in red), and these colours also locate the mutations in protein structure (bottom left).

    Linked brushing and multiple data visualisations allow potential disease mutations to be identified at the core of Aquaporin, a protein important for water balance and nutrient transport. Image created using Jalview linked with UCSF Chimera. J.B. Procter, Author provided.

    Visualising networks that change over time

    Scientists are aiming to unravel diseases – such as obesity – by studying small changes that take place within our cells.

    For example, food that we eat triggers the release of insulin into our blood stream, which then tells fat cells to store rather than release energy. This process ultimately influences our body weight.

    Cells are tiny, but they are hives of activity. Thanks to recent advances in techniques such as mass spectrometry, we can now map the tens of thousands of events that are happening within each of our cells in response to hormones such as insulin.

    The difficulty for scientists is to try to view this huge amount of information in an accurate and simple way, and one that reflects the chain of events in a cell that matter to our overall health.

    One of us (Seán O’Donoghue) and colleagues developed Minardo, an approach that creates a sort of timeline of events that happen inside a cell. Minardo uses the principle that position on a viewing screen is the most effective visualisation strategy. The resulting visualisation helps scientists identify exactly what is going on inside a healthy cell, and what might be different in a diseased cell.

    The image here shows (beginning top left, then clockwise) the sequence of events that take place after insulin (in pink) binds to the surface of a fat cell. The consequences of insulin binding include switching off the release of energy stores from the cell (around 1 minute after insulin binds), and switching on energy storage (around 5 minutes after insulin binds).

    The sequence of key events within a human fat cell following insulin binding to its receptor (top left, pink). Image created using Minardo. D.K.G. Ma, C. Stolte, J.R. Krycer, D.E. James, and S.I. O’Donoghue, Author provided.

    VIZBI, an international visualisation community

    In building these tools, we aim to visualise data as clearly as possible, so the viewer can focus on the science.

    Aquaria, Jalview and Minardo are freely accessible and used by tens of thousands of scientists and students worldwide – an accomplishment that we are proud of.

    However, our tools address only three specific research questions – biology has thousands more. Tailored visualisations of this kind need an interdisciplinary team, take months to prototype and require years to develop into robust and usable tools.

    Realising this, in 2010, we created an international initiative called VIZBI to connect tool-builders and raise the standard of data visualisation in biology. In June 2017, VIZBI and associated events came to the Asia-Pacific region for the first time.

    The overwhelming complexity of biological data, substantial time and effort is required to create effective visualisation tools not just for communication but also for research itself.

    Seán I. O’Donoghue, Senior Faculty Member at the Garvan Institute, Conjoint Professor at UNSW, and Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO and James B. Procter, Jalview Coordinator, Bioinformatician and Open Source Software Developer, University of Dundee

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 11:01 am on June 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSIRO, Diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes, Diamond coated electrodes are forever,   

    From CSIRO: “Diamond coated electrodes are forever” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    20th June 2017
    Ali Green

    Diamonds are helping us to advance bioelectronic medicine, brain-machine interfacing, sensors and basic neuroscience. No image credit.

    “Diamonds are forever” sang Shirley Bassey in the iconic 1971 Bond movie.

    “They are all I need to please me, they can stimulate and tease me…”.

    Well we’ve discovered another pretty cool way for diamonds to stimulate, and it’s not one you might easily guess!

    Together with Deakin University, Melbourne University, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication and the Fraunhofer Institute, we’re developing diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes. These little gems are presenting an exciting opportunity for bioelectronic medicine, brain-machine interfacing, sensors and basic neuroscience.

    In order for our body to control and regulate itself it relies on a complex network of neural circuitry. For people with debilitating conditions like epilepsy, auto-immune diseases, migraines, and Parkinson’s disease, this network can be a bit off kilter, requiring bioelectric medical intervention to help it function normally. Bioelectronic medicine uses electrical impulses to target specific neural pathways in order to alter the commands sent to either the brain or organs without the need for drugs and their often unwanted side-effects.

    To work, bioelectronic medicine relies on tiny electrodes to interface, ideally, with single nerves. These electrodes also need to be biocompatible with our soft insides.

    The electrodes currently used in these techniques are fabricated from metals or silicon and protected from corrosion by polymer (plastic) coatings. But these coatings can cause toxic immune responses in patients which can limit their long term effectiveness. A way around this is to use smaller bio-inert electrodes (those that won’t react with the host) that are mechanically compliant and have brain tissue-like density. Shining brightly as a potential solution is the diamond coated carbon fibre electrode.

    A micro electrode: The black carbon fibre core is coated in an insulating diamond sheath. The waves represent electrical impulses. No image credit.

    A diamond’s properties include extreme hardness, biocompatibility, chemical inertness, anti-fouling, and electrical insulation. Combined with the excellent strength-to-weight ratio, small diameter, flexibility and conductivity of carbon fibre, diamond coated carbon fibre electrodes positively sparkle as an exciting, novel and previously unexplored class of electrodes for neuroscience.

    This work builds upon our patented method for coating carbon nanotube yarns with diamond which was developed using Fraunhofer’s diamond deposition facilities and expertise in Germany. The team of Victorian researchers now has the opportunity to explore the extension of this methodology to carbon fibres and biomedical/sensor applications through collaboration with the nearby Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, part of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), and the use of their new suite of diamond deposition systems.

    It is hoped the development of these improved biocompatible micro-electrodes will advance the area of bioelectronics medicine and neuroscience and help a growing number of sufferers with debilitating conditions live fuller, more functional lives and shine bright like a diamond.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on June 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CSIRO, Developers need to consider how a person with autism could react to their technology, , Technology in the form of augmented communication aids has helped to give them a voice   

    From CSIRO: “Research in autism-friendly technology needs to improve to make a real difference for people” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    9th June 2017
    David Ireland
    Dana Bradford
    David Silvera-Tawil

    Developers need to consider how a person with autism could react to their technology. Shutterstock/Dubova

    People on the autism spectrum can face challenges in dealing with a world they perceive differently to other people, no matter the severity of their condition.

    Some people with autism gravitate towards technology for learning, play and communication. For many, technology in the form of augmented communication aids has helped to give them a voice.

    We focus on the role technology plays in the lives of autistic people and their families. In particular, what are the benefits and problems, and where can we head in the future to get things right?

    As part of that ongoing work, we collected user feedback by pulling data from millions of autism-related comments in public reviews of apps. We found many of the comments showed there were some clear benefits to people with autism, but there were also problems that could have been easily avoided.

    A hole in the evidence base

    Carly Fleischmann was once considered a non-verbal, low-functioning autistic person. Now, with the aid of a digitally synthesised voice, she interviews celebrities such as Channing Tatum and has her own online talk show.

    Introducing Carly Fleischmann.

    But there is little evidence of the long-term benefits and complications of using computers and mobile devices to assist, educate and entertain autistic learners.

    This is despite positive responses to computer-based therapy first being published more than four decades ago. In part, a dearth of evidence is due to research being expensive and impeded by ethical issues when working with people who are considered vulnerable.

    Moreover, many families are becoming increasingly disillusioned with autism research. Many feel that research outcomes have become distanced from practical strategies that help families manage the challenges that come with autism.

    This is important, because 1 in 100 children is being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Of the participants on the National Disability Insurance Scheme 29% are autistic, the second-largest disability group in the scheme.

    From an economic perspective, there is an increasing annual cost estimated to be A$5.8 billion that is borne by families, communities and government.

    If technology can help people on the autism spectrum then we need to get it right to help with their learning and communication, and to help their families and carers.

    The current role of mobile technology

    Before we look to the future it is prudent to understand the present role of app-based technology.

    We scoured the Android Play and Apple App stores using a webcrawler that scanned as many apps and their associated reviews as could be found.

    The webcrawler applied an algorithm that kept reviews related to autism and discarded those that weren’t relevant, for example when autism was used as a derogatory term.

    In the end, 56 million reviews were analysed from more than 2-million apps. About one in 7,500 reviews from Apple and one in 50,000 from Android were found to have useful information that told a story. Here’s a typical example, about the My First Tangrams puzzle app:

    “This is a great app it has helped my son who has autism learn motor skills, matching shape recognition, motor planning, independence and makes him think by turning off the magnet.”

    From the extracted reviews, more than 85% referred to an app that was neither designed nor advertised for autistic people. We only found 57 apps specifically designed for autistic people that claimed to be evidence-based, but this was not verified.
    The most reported benefits

    The first question we looked at was: what were the main reported benefits?

    Common problems in autism include language, education, behaviour, imagination, sleep, motor skills, attention, sensory, social, diary, hygiene, emotions, food and eye contact. So we counted how many times these themes appeared in the reviews.


    We found that language and education had the highest frequency of matches. Apple reviews were more prolific and reported benefits in all areas examined, whereas Android returned a smaller number of reviews across fewer areas.

    Although anecdotal, this does give some credence that autistic people and their families are using technology for other than entertainment.

    Tailored for younger users

    It was common for the reviewers to report a particular age. Here’s an example from the Relax+ Jr. with Andrew Johnson meditation app:

    “My 7 year old son is autistic and has major sleep problems however since using the original app his sleep has improved dramatically.”

    Age consistency was apparent between reviews from the Apple and Android stores, with the largest age groups targeted being between three and five year-olds. The reported ages ranged from one to 18, as shown in the figure below.


    The average age of autism diagnosis is typically about three years old and therapy usually starts as soon as possible. It is not surprising that there is a demand for technology suitable for an age group that coincides with the commencement of intensive interventions.

    Are app developers autism friendly?

    We found a recurring theme of developers changing and updating features of the app that often caused distress to young people with autism, such as this example on the Tiny Firefighters: Police & Firefighters for Kids app:

    “This was my son’s favorite game. My son is autistic. A seemingly small change like this is life-altering drama for him. Please change the icon, at least, so he thinks it’s a different game.”

    Here’s another example on the Disney Junior Appisodes of when things go wrong from an app behaving unexpectedly:

    “Bought this app for my 5 yr old with autism. He loves Disney. App always crashes so now all he does is scream in frustration when it repeatedly doesn’t work.”

    As we said earlier, the majority of the apps we found being used by people were not specifically developed for people with autism.

    But had these apps been developed with help from people involved with autism research, then the developers could be better advised on how to avoid causing any distress.

    Perhaps we need a set of guidelines for all software developers to help them develop autism friendly apps?

    Autism diagnoses are increasing and showing no signs of curtailing, and the causes are still debated.

    Research shows people on the autism spectrum tend to spend significantly more screen time than the typical person. As such, they have the potential to rapidly develop skills and learning experiences from technology.

    The use of any mobile technology must provide a positive role for people with autism. But there are still some serious unanswered questions as to how best technology should be designed and developed to mitigate overuse, or harm from poor design or deployment.

    Are the skills and experiences that are obtained from using a particular app being transferred to the real world? Are people with autism becoming dependent on the virtual world while elements of interpersonal interaction are sacrificed? What are the negative effects of overuse and poor design of apps?

    We believe technologies that offer safe, interactive and therapeutic environments will only come about from a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, software developers, people on the autism spectrum and their families.

    Nevertheless, the future does look brighter for a person diagnosed with autism and their families as one reviewer remarked on the Tinycards memory education app:

    “The last two days I’ve finally been having good interactions with my four year old daughter.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

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