Issue 11 / 7 May 2012
Venus Investigator Insect silk
Wheat Safflower
In Brief

Transit of Venus: beyond our borders


Next month a rare astronomical event with huge scientific significance will occur and won’t be seen again for 120 years.

On June 6 at about 8.16am, Venus will start its journey across the Sun.

The Transit of Venus is not only scientifically important, but it also played a huge role in the history of Australia.

The 1769 transit was the main reason for Captain Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific. After observing the transit from Tahiti, he opened sealed orders which instructed him to search for Terra Australis – and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Transit of Venus is a shining example of collaboration on a global scale.

Observations of transits of Venus helped scientists use parallax (the apparent position of something from different observation points) to calculate the distance between the Sun and the Earth. It also helped with calculating the size of our Solar System.

So to use parallax, scientists had to spread across the globe, observe the transit of Venus and then get the data together and do the maths.

For the 1769 transit not only was there Cook’s voyage, scientists travelled to Hudson Bay in Canada, Baja California, at the time under Spanish control, and Norway. The Czech astronomer Christian Mayer was invited by Catherine the Great to observe the transit in Saint Petersburg. Members of Russian Academy of Sciences went to eight sites across the Russian Empire. The American Philosophical Society erected three temporary observatories in Philadelphia.

Through collaboration huge gains can be made.

Huw Morgan


Top of the news

Fighting the fight against bowel cancer


Even though Australians eat more dietary fibre than many other western countries, bowel cancer is still the second most commonly reported cancer in Australia with 30 new cases diagnosed every day.

Why is that? Recent research reveals it has a lot to do with our diet, and specifically, the amount and diversity of fibre rich in resistant starch that we consume.

Resistant starch is a component of dietary fibre that resists digestion in the small intestine and instead passes through to the bowel where it has positive effects on bowel health.


Blogging it up: the building of Investigator


Get excited- for the Investigator blog is finally here!

Subscribe to the blog and follow all the trials and tribulations as we post photos, videos and updates on the building of Australia's future research vessel, the Investigator.

In only a few days we'll post pics of the keel-laying ceremony, where two sections of the ship, each weighing around 140 tonnes, will be lifted by huge cranes to be welded together to form the belly of the ship.


Supercharged safflower boosts bioeconomy


New varieties of the safflower plant containing the world's highest levels of valuable oleic acid are in the pipeline for Australian grain growers thanks to breakthrough research.

This scientific achievement has produced safflower seed oil that contains more than 90 per cent of this valuable fatty acid, the highest level of purity of an individual fatty acid currently available in any plant oil.

The new safflower type will provide Australian grain growers with a unique opportunity to produce and supply renewable, sustainable plant oils that will replace petroleum-based feedstock in the manufacture of industrial products.


Salinity shifts in the ocean


A clear change in salinity has been detected in the world’s oceans, signalling shifts and an acceleration in the global rainfall and evaporation cycle.

Our work with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California has shown changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear fingerprint of climate change.


The Business
Insect silk

Thanks to exceptional strength and toughness, insect silk is potentially a key component in a wide range of new products and applications, from composite fibres for the aviation and marine industries, to medical applications including wound repair, drug delivery and human tissue replacement.

Bringing the new insect silk products to the global market is the focus of a partnership between CSIRO and life science industry supplier, Lonza.

CSIRO is bringing scientific discovery, biomedical and materials science expertise to the partnership.

"Lonza has been very impressed with CSIRO’s research and development work" said Allison Haitz, Lonza's Head of Global Innovation.

Lonza brings its biotechnology and life-science product and service expertise and is already providing process development for the recombinant bee silk protein.


On the record
Q and A

A few weeks ago the ABC ran a special edition of panel show Q and A- and they invited our Chief Megan Clark to the hot seat. The topic- climate change.

It's no surprise things got a little heated. We were thrilled to be there to represent the work of our great scientists in this field.

Catch it on iView.

We do a lot of work monitoring our oceans. Before the new Investigator reaches our shores next year, we'll continue to use the trusty research vessel, the Southern Surveyor.

We made a few videos about our oceanography work- one explaining what life at sea was really like and the other looking at the science onboard these vessels.

For those interested in how science and art can form a happy marriage, check out this article by our Deborah Lau on how X-ray technology is broadening our understanding on the history and make up of painted artworks.

And now, straight to zoonotic viruses. Head of our Animal Health Lab, Martyn Jeggo, believes that last year's disaster movie Contagion was not too far off truth in presenting a scenario of a deadly virus originating in Asia and sweeping the world. A fascinating read.

Swee Mak, director of our Future Manufacturing Flagship, is rightfully concerned with the survival of a robust manufacturing industry in our country. In this article he explains that SMEs and research organisations, like ours, need to work more closely together to strengthen innovation and competition in the industry.



Around 75% of infectious diseases in humans originally came from animals.

Get more #4oclockfact

Our people


The CSIRO team that invented a faster system for wireless local area networking, which later became the foundation of Wi-Fi, has been named as a finalist in the European Inventor Award.

This is the second time in the history of the award that an Australian team has received this recognition.

Congratulations, and best of luck, to John O'Sullivan, Terry Percival, Diet Ostry, Graham Daniels and John Deane.

Winners announced on June 14.


A quick aside

Ti ManAre you game to take on the 2012 Titanium Challenge?

We're inviting undergraduate students to take part in an additive manufacturing or materials challenge, all in the name of titanium.

Great prizes up for grabs- two trips to the United States and a 3-D printer rig for winners. Outstanding entries may also be eligible to win an iPad3.

Get your submissions in!

Don't miss it


Big Bang - Big Think

Canberra 8-20 May 2012

Did you know that almost every galaxy in the Universe is moving away from Earth? And it all started with the Big Bang.

Expand your astronomy knowledge with this Discovery Centre exhibition. Festivities commence with a talk from one of our favourite astronomers working on the SKA project, Lisa Harvey-Smith.



Climate Adaptation Conference

Melbourne 26-28 June 2012

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) and our own Climate Adaptation Flagship invite you to attend this 3 day conference.


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