The Best Australian Science Discoveries Of 2016

Consider this a love letter to my favourite people I’ve (mostly) never met in real life: Australian Scientists. They are, without a doubt, straight-up badasses. Weathering job cuts and funding reductions, the amount of incredible discoveries made this year is astounding.

From koala tracking drones, to quantum computing breakthroughs and robots saving the Great Barrier Reef, here are just a handful of my favourites

How Australian Researchers Contributed To The Discovery Of Gravitational Waves

For the first time in history, astronomers have observed elusive gravitational waves — ripples in space time caused by a violent cosmic event taking place in the distant Universe. Scientists from Australian universities and CSIRO are celebrating their part in the discovery of the waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago.

Australian Scientists Froze Light, Like Kylo Ren

Physicists at The Australian National University have brought quantum computing a step closer to reality by stopping light in a new experiment.

Lead researcher Jesse Everett said controlling the movement of light was critical to developing future quantum computers, which could solve problems too complex for today’s most advanced computers.

Australian Scientists Made A Malaria Vaccine Breakthrough

Australian researchers have discovered the secret behind stopping malaria parasites in the liver, uncovering a new vaccine strategy.

Scientists from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity — a joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital — the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University, and the Centenary Institute developed a unique “prime and trap” vaccine method, which when tested in mice, gave complete protection against malaria.

This Robot Could Save The Great Barrier Reef

The world’s first robot built to control the devastating crown-of-thorns starfish could be transformed into a versatile “robo reef” protector — thanks to the Australian Google Impact Challenge.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has teamed up with QUT roboticists Drs Matthew Dunbabin and Feras Dayoub to enter the COTSbot into Google’s Impact Challenge, which helps not-for-profit organisations develop technologies that can help to tackle the world’s biggest social challenges.

Australian Scientists Made Quantum Computing 10 Times More Stable

Australian engineers have created a new quantum bit which remains in a stable superposition for 10 times longer than previously achieved, dramatically expanding the time during which calculations could be performed in a future silicon quantum computer.

The new quantum bit, made up of the spin of a single atom in silicon and merged with an electromagnetic field — known as “dressed qubit” — retains quantum information for much longer that an “undressed” atom, opening up new avenues to build and operate the superpowerful quantum computers of the future.

Welcome To 2016, We’re Tracking Koalas With AI-Equipped Drones

Local councils are testing a new tool for protecting their vulnerable koala populations — drones equipped with artificial intelligence.

Koala experts with Logan, Gold Coast and Tweed councils are working with a multi-disciplinary team of QUT researchers and unmanned aerial vehicle specialists to develop and trial technologies they hope will prove cheaper and more accurate than current tracking methods. The researchers have been conducting test flights over koala habitats in each region, coinciding ground-based koala counts.

Unexplained X-Ray Flares Discovered Near The Milky Way

Two new sources of X-ray flares — explosive bursts of X-rays — in galaxies near the Milky Way have been found by international scientists but what exactly caused the flares remains a mystery. The researchers say that although they don’t know what the sources of the X-rays are, they are unlike any known object in the Milky Way and seem to be located in old star populations.

We Discovered A Massive New Australian Dinosaur

A new large Australian sauropod — a large, long neck and tailed herbivorous dinosaur — has been identified along with the first fossilised dinosaur head bones ever found in Australia.

The new dinosaur, found at the Winton Formation on Maiawali and Karuwali Country in central western Queensland is named Savannasaurus elliottorum after the Elliott family, who first found a dinosaur fossil in a pile of bones while out mustering sheep on their property.

It’s Your Brain’s Fault You’re Fat

I can’t button up my jeans and it’s all my stupid jerk brain’s fault. I can blame my brain – instead of my complete inability to say no to cheese – thanks to a Queensland nueroscientist, who says it is all down to brainpower, rather than willpower.

Feel free to steal this as an excuse.

These Australian Robots Are Working 24/7 To Cure Kids’ Cancer

At the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre, specialised robots are working 24/7, rapidly testing hundreds of treatments for kids with high-risk cancers.

Originally designed to develop new drugs, the facility is being put to a new use in the quest to match the safest, most effective drugs to individual cancer patients’ treatment needs. By testing the efficacy of already-approved drugs and their combinations against each child’s unique cancer cells, the robots will help identify those most likely to kill their specific cancer.

The Role Coral Plays In Climate Change

Corals are inherently connected to atmospheric climates, and are especially influenced by climate change.

Now, new research in collaboration with University of Technology Sydney shows that corals themselves play key roles in contributing to processes that influence their immediate climate.

Aussie Scientists Can Give Regular Glasses Night Vision

Australian scientists are at it again. This time researchers at The Australian National University have worked out a way to improve night vision googles – by designing a nano crystal, 500 times smaller than a human hair, that turns darkness into visible light and fits right on regular lenses.

Basically, they have invented reverse sunglasses.


Australian Scientists Smashed A Solar World Record

They’re flexible, cheap to produce and simple to make – which is why perovskites are the hottest new material in solar cell design. And now, engineers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney have smashed the trendy new compound’s world efficiency record.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference in Canberra, Anita Ho-Baillie, a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), announced that her team at UNSW has achieved the highest efficiency rating with the largest perovskite solar cells to date.


This Robot Could Save Aussie Farmers $1.3 Billion A Year

Agricultural robot Agbot II, designed and built by QUT with support from the Queensland Government, could save Australia’s farm sector $1.3 billion a year by reducing the costs of weeding crops by around 90 per cent.

Farmers saw the robot in action at Bundaberg, when the fully-autonomous Agbot ll was demonstrated for the first time.


Big Muscles Make You Smarter

This might finally be what motivates me to work out.

New results from a recent trial led by the University of Sydney has revealed increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function.


What The Universe Would Look Like If We Could See Radio Waves

This is amazing. A telescope located deep in the West Australian outback has shown what the Universe would look like if human eyes could see radio waves.

You have to take a look at these images, seriously.


Brain Training Games Help Combat ‘Chemofog’ In Cancer Patients

A University of Sydney study has shown “brain training” games targeting attention, memory and visual skills reduced chemotherapy-induced neurological problems in cancer patients — commonly referred to as “chemobrain” or “chemofog.”


How Online Dating Algorithms Are Helping Match Endangered Species

Popular online dating services like OkCupid and eHarmony use algorithms to help people find love. You answer ready-made questions and the algorithm works out how well you match with other users who have answered those questions.

Now, researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have created SWINGER, computer software inspired by how these dating sites work – with an algorithm that uses information from DNA to match-make endangered animals for captive breeding.

Our Hottest Year On Record Is Set To Become The New Normal

New Australian research has found temperatures reached during the hottest year on record globally (2015) could be just an average year by 2025. But all hope is not lost – that’s just if carbon emissions continue to rise at the same rate.

Lead researcher Dr Sophie Lewis said human activities had already locked in this new normal for future temperatures, but immediate climate action could prevent record extreme seasons year after year.

Thank you, Australian Scientists.