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Shauna Murray is an associate professor and ARC Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney in the Climate Change Cluster C3 Centre where she researches microalgae that produce toxins that are eaten by fish and could end up on your dinner plate, giving you an illness like Ciguatera. Ciguatera fish poisoning can cause major problems with circulation, digestion, breathing and the nervous system. Shauna's work includes identifying where the microalgae are growing so that fishers can be warned not to take any seafood from those areas and prevent the spread of the illness.

Gurjeet Singh Kohli is a Research Associate studying the genes of the microalgae that cause Ciguatera with both Shauna at UTS and Bret Neilan UNSW. He has recently handed in his PhD thesis. I asked him why it was so difficult to make a test kit that detects the toxins that cause Ciguatera.

Sustainable Aquaculture Group UTS
What is Ciguatera Fish Poisoning?

PLoS ASAP video interview

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The Public Library of Science has announced the six finalists for their ASAP Accelerating Science Award Program. They hired me as a freelancer to record an interview with finalist Professor Matt Todd about his Open Source Science project to crowd-source a cure for Malaria. Adrian Tan worked as my videographer.

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At Nerd Nite Sydney in the Cafe Lounge, Dr Peter Jonason lecturer in personality and individual differences from the University of Western Sydney, spoke about the evolutionary functions of the different kinds of sexual relationships people choose to have from casual, to committed. He hung around after the gig, we went outside the noisy club, and spoke to me about the behavioral ecology of sexual relationships.

Peter Karl (PK) Jonason, Ph.D

Nerd Nite Sydney

Your brain has a backup

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Laboratory meat limerick

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I've been writing a story about a hamburger being made from muscle cells grown in a petri dish. Here's a limerick the story inspired:

The problem with laboratory grown meat
Is the fact that the meat has to eat,
cultured cells must be fed,
with blood from the dead,
Its a pity the flavour's so sweet!

Angus Deveson talks RoboWars

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Angus Devenson is the organiser of RoboWars Sydney 2013. He spoke to me about the sport of building and battling robots, funded by the crowd. RoboWars Sydney 2013 will be on the 3rd and 4th of August, in Redfern.

RoboWars Sydney 2013 crowd-funding


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Dr Sara Lal and PhD student Diarmuid Kavanagh spoke to me about their research into wiring up driver's brains to detect fatigue, and intervening before it causes accidents, at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. This interview was recorded as part of the Science Communication Education Project, in which I was Project Officer.


Open Accessed

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Steve Mann's wearable computers

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Diffusion has been axed

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The Diffusion science show has been cut by 2SER, to make room for new
shows by new volunteers.

After 19 years on air, and 15 years of contributions from me, it was the
final Diffusion Science Radio broadcast from 2SER last night.
Now you will only be able to hear the show by subscribing to the
at, listening on one of the 14 stations
on the Community Radio Network that broadcast us around Australia, on
the National Science Foundation's Science360 internet radio station in
the USA, and on Astronomy.FM in the UK.

Diffusion has 700 weekly subscribers to the podcast, with 10 000
downloads every month.

Its the end of an era of funny, quirky, weird and wonderful science that
started in 1995. Over 50 volunteers have broadcast more than 180
interviews as captured by the podcast at, along
with well researched reports, panel discussions, book reviews, science
songs, trivia games and radio plays.

Diffusion has been an institution where volunteers were trained by
fellow volunteers to do all the jobs of producing a radio show, from
operating the panel, conducting interviews, presenting, script writing,
editing and producing.

In 2005 the Discovery show was asked by a cable Science network to
change its name, due to similarities.

In 2011 astronomer Matt Dawson named a planetoid "VictoriaBond". The
Minor Planet Ephemeris Service says:
"Victoria Bond is the name of the popular Australian science show
presenter of "Diffusion Science Radio". Her catchphrase "Planetoid! I
love that word!" and accurate astronomy coverage have endeared her to
listeners worldwide". Ironically, the voice saying the phrase in our
theme music actually belongs to Jacqui Hayes.

Later in 2011, Diffusion won the 2SER Best Talk Show award.

Then in 2012 Diffusion was granted $10 000 for content development from
the Community Broadcasting Foundation.

Here's the final 2SER broadcast, complete with a compilation of our different show themes over 15 years.

I'm now looking to find funding for professional recording gear, courses in marketing my journalism, while singing the words to Jonathan Coulton's "Still Alive".
Diffusion won!

Best Talk Show award

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have serious implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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For Brain Awareness week 2013, the Museum of Human Disease held Get Into Your Head to help people experiment with their brains. I visited the Museum and spoke with Thomas Fath, Christine Froud, and Bridget Murphy about the experiments.

Museum of Human Disease
Brain Awareness Week 2013

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I went to the Red Cross Blood Service in Alexandria, where all the blood donations are sorted and tested before being passed along to hospitals to speak to with Joe Patkes.

Joe Patkes, is Red blood cell serology manager for the Red Cross blood service for NSW. He's had 22 years experience in the blood transfusion business, 7 years with the Australian Red Cross, and before that, 14 years in the United States. He spoke with me about blood types and transfusions. Please excuse the occasional buzzing from the machines in the background.

Red Cross Blood Service Transfusion site
Red Cross Blood Service Donation site

Mark Changizi's Head Games

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Mark Changizi is hosting a Discovery Channel TV show called Head Games :

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Mark Changizi's "The Vision REvolution" is about the latest research into the way humans see the world. Mark uses the metaphor of super-powers to entertainingly communicate how we see, and how our ancestors saw, and the special abilities we possess but take for granted, such as X-ray vision, and colour empathy.

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Mark Changizi,is a theoretical neuro-biologist, and director of human cognition at 2AI Labs. He has a radical theory about the evolution of colour vision. I began by asking him about the difference between animal colour vision and human colour vision.

Professor Thomas Borody interview

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Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile (Photo credit: AJC1)

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Professor Thomas Borody of the Center for Digestive Diseases is researching which illnesses are caused by the bacteria in the bowel going wrong, and developing bacterial therapies to restore health. In 1999 I spoke to him about how bowel flora affects the brain, and the triple-S, sick flora syndrome.

Since that time research around the world has started to catch up, and for one illness at least, clostridium difficile infection, this poo transplant will become the standard treatment. Other illnesses may follow.

Related articles
English: Tournefortia argentea (habit). Locati...

English: Tournefortia argentea (habit). Location: Kure Atoll, Near coast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A traditional herbal medicine based on the Octopus bush has been found effective against Ciguatera fish poisoning in bioassay tests. The active ingredient Rosmarinic acid has been patented. Clinical trials are yet to be done, but its the most hopeful news for Ciguatera Fish Poisoning sufferers I've seen in the ten years I've been poisoned. The active ingredient actually seems to work against the action of ciguatoxins and also act to remove them from the body.

Deutsch: Ciguatoxin CTX2

Deutsch: Ciguatoxin CTX2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Use of Rosmarinic Acid and the Derivaties Thereof to Treat Ciguatera- patent

Protective effect of Heliotropium foertherianum (Boraginaceae) folk remedy and its active compound, rosmarinic acid, against a Pacific ciguatoxin - Journal of Ethnopharmocology

Heliotropium foertherianum - wikipedia

Rosmarinic Acid - wikipedia

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Professor Gabriella Weaver from Purdue University gave the keynote speech at the Enhancing Learning in Science Through Inquiry and Technology Forum held last week at the University of Technology Sydney. She's designed and run a curriculum that engages first and second year science students in contributing to authentic scientific research. I spoke with her in the tea break.

You can find out more about the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education CASPiE that allows first and second year science students to engage in ongoing, authentic scientific research at

Grabriella Weaver, Professor of Chemical Education and Physical Chemistry

Frozen memories

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Phillip Rhoades, is one of the directors of the Neural Archives Foundation. He collects brains, and freezes them, in hopes that future historians will be able to read their frozen memories. I spoke to him at the Sydney Futurist meetup.

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The universe is expanding at an ever faster rate! Professor Robert Kirshner from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics spoke to me about supernovas and their use in measuring the acceleration in the expansion of the Universe, at the fourth annual Southern Cross Astrophysics conference at the Sydney Maritime Museum.

Interviewing Dr Gideon Chitombo
I interviewed Dr Gideon Chitombo about his ATSE Clunies Ross Award and Extreme Science Workshop on mining research at Darling Harbour.

I'll be posting the interview with the full Science Extreme Experience special edition of Diffusion for Monday's broadcast.

Reef Or Madness

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Reef or Madness from ilum - Julie Hollenbeck on Vimeo.

A 16 minute film about Ciguatera Fish Poisoning created By Julie Hollenbeck, Mark Newbill and Ray Trujillo, Jr.

Ciguatera, the most reported "seafood toxin illness in the world" that a majority of the planet has never heard of, infects hundreds of thousands of people a year, some of whose very will to live is tested by the devastating and debilitating chronic neurological affects of the fish-borne toxin.

"Reef or Madness" a short documentary film by University of Miami Marine Affairs and Policy students Julie Hollenbeck and Mark Newbill, that recounts the struggle of chronic Ciguatera sufferers who seek to regain some semblance of their healthy and productive lives following Ciguatera infection and the incapacitating symptoms that can last for years. While Ciguatera is a recognized medical illness, many marine toxin specialists have yet to agree on how long people may suffer with the symptoms of the fish poison, leaving long-term chronic sufferers to feel as if they're more crazy than sick. Their families and physicians wondering the same. "Reef or Madness" will give a "voice" to the sufferers of chronic Ciguatera, who face doubt, confusion and scorn from themselves, their families and friends as well as the medical and scientific communities.

If people knew that the fish they're about to eat is like playing Russian roulette with their health, they might think twice before taking that first bite.

This film was created for $143 using personal, leveraged and collaborative resources.
Marlie Productions, 2010 ©

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Leigh Russell at Dorkbot Sydney demonstrated the behaviour of non-Newtonian liquids by putting a potato starch solution on a speaker and playing tones from his synthesizer through it, producing shoggoth-like effects. The stuff looks like its alive and trying to escape! This one is safe for the kids to try.

This video was broadcast (with my permission) on "Tokudane," which is a weekly morning show on the Fuji Television Network on Japanese TV.

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