EDITOR’S NOTE: APRIL FOOLS’!
How many times have you dreamed of having your own personal bank? A money maker in your very own garage, bedroom or kitchen that allowed you to, quite literally, create wealth?
Well, thanks to 3D printing – the same technology that’s brought us horse shoes, bikes, and dragons – those dreams are now one step closer to reality. Our scientists have developed a piece of software that will enable 3D printers to print their own money.
The software program, called P-YOM (Print Your Own Money), will allow consumers with currency in Bitcoin and other online money systems to print coins from their own 3D printers. Once downloaded, P-YOM will integrate with most existing commercial and industrial printers to provide an entirely new source of currency generation.
The development has come about following a partnership we recently entered into with the digital currency industry. The industry are looking to trigger a review of online currency by the Australian Tax Office, which decided last year to classify the online money as a barter system, not a recognised currency.
The digital currency industry works like any other national currency – it can be traded for a range of other national currencies at a fluctuating rate and exchanged for a range of goods and services.
But because it isn’t tied to any national financial system, consumers can make anonymous purchases anywhere in the world, making the movement of the currency hard to track.
“We knew of the great work CSIRO did in inventing waterproof bank notes for Australians, so we hoped they could help us create a water-tight currency,” said Ms Julie Kansas, of the online currency traders Rikers Online Financial Liquidities.
“We think if we can physically put our currency into the hands of a few officials at the ATO, they might change their minds,” Ms Kansas said.
Each coin will be electronically watermarked with an individual “barcode” which will allow it to be tracked via the internet.
Lead scientist on the project, Dr Alex Kingsbury, said the team were already seeing the benefits of the new technology.
“We’ve had a limited test run with P-YOM amongst our staff and they absolutely loved it,” she said.
“Three of them have gone on indefinite leave and we haven’t heard back from them since they last contacted us from the French Riviera.”
“We’re also working with the gaming industry on a 3D printer / poker machine prototype, that could literally create its own winnings. It’s a bit of a gamble currently, but we do hope it will feature heavily once we get it right.”
To purchase either the software or a 3D printer, email socialmedia[at]csiro.au
EDITOR’S NOTE: APRIL FOOLS’!
Ever wondered how hot your home gets in summer or how cold it is in winter? Think solar is a good idea but not quite sure if it would work on your roof? Wondering if it’s worth investing in a rainwater tank?
Now with a new interactive tool we helped develop called My Climate, residents of Melbourne’s City of Port Phillip can do their own internet-sleuthing to answer these questions. What’s more, this could kick-start a trend that would see residents around the country taking more responsibility for these types of decisions.
My Climate uses thermal mapping taken from aerial flyovers and seven temporary weather stations to show land surface temperatures, winter heat loss, rainfall and the solar potential of all buildings in the region.
Working with the City of Port Phillip and Monash University, we originally developed My Climate to inform urban planning decisions. It didn’t take long to realise how useful the data would be to the whole community.
“With this data you can calculate the most appropriate solar system for your home, where it would best be located and how much it could potentially save you in electricity costs and Co2 emissions. You can also measure rainfall and calculate the cost of improving your ceiling insulation,” Port Phillip Mayor Amanda Stevens says.
“If thermal imaging shows your neighbour’s home is cooler than yours, it may mean they have better insulation, or cool air from their air-conditioner is leaking outside the home.
“This easy-to-use tool has the potential to add real value to people’s homes and on a larger scale can help tackle the impacts of climate change.”
Dr Mahesh Prakash and his group from our Digital productivity Flagship helped develop the analytics and software component of the interactive tool. He says his team is now looking to expand My Climate to include other layers of information such as natural hazard hotspots and optimum tree coverage. He would also like to see it rolled out to other Councils.
Explore the My Climate tool on the City of Port Phillip website.
By Emily Lehmann
Oscar hype is in full-swing, and we all have our favourites for Hollywood’s night of nights (we must admit we are partial to Birdman taking home the ‘best picture’ gong). But the big-screen isn’t the only place to find world-class movies.
At our Discovery Centre in Canberra yesterday, we unveiled two world-class movies of our own. The animations, created by up-and-coming Australian biomedical animators, uses the latest data visualisation techniques to bring science to life in incredible 3D detail.
Created by Australian up-and-coming biomedical animators using the latest data visualisation techniques, they feature key research into Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes from CSIRO and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI).
Through narrated picture, the animations explain very complex biological processes related to each disease with scientific accuracy: zooming in on what happens inside our body but can’t be seen with the naked eye.
The animations illustrate key research techniques into Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes, based on work we have done with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI).
The first video looks at Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – which affects one in four people over the age of 85, a number that will increase significantly as our population ages.
This animation takes you on a journey to the neurons of the human brain, revealing how normal protein breakdown processes become dysfunctional, and cause plaque to form during Alzheimer’s disease.
This build up of plaque in the brain can take decades and is one of the main indicators of the disease.
The Insulin Receptor and Type 2 Diabetes
About one million Australians currently live with diabetes and about 100,000 new diagnoses are made each year.
These staggering statistics are fuelling research efforts aimed at finding a cure or ways to prevent or better manage the disease.
Highlighting a recent discovery by WEHI, this animation focuses on the role that the insulin receptors play in the disease and what might cause resistance to the hormone insulin.
It’s part two in a series of animations on type 2 diabetes, you can check out part one here.
These are the second round of animations created through VizbiPlus – a joint project between CSIRO, WEHI and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
Under the guidance of internationally-acclaimed biomedical animator Drew Berry from WEHI, VizbiPlus is training-up the next generation of biomedical animators, to raise the bar in science communication and bring critical research to the world.
You can read more about our data visualisation work here.
By Andrew Warren
If you’re a regular at the gym or an early morning boot-camp fanatic, it’s possible that the first thing you picture when you think of protein is the powder you use to make your post-workout recovery shake.
But when our scientists discuss protein, they’re talking about the many thousands of molecules that act as the essential building blocks of life as we know it. Because proteins are so important to constructing life, researchers need a way to visualise the exact ways in which they fit together so that they can better understand the functions they play in our bodies.
With this in mind, a team of international programmers and bioinformaticians (think biology, computer science and maths mixed together) led by our very own Dr Seán O’Donoghue have created a new web-based tool named Aquaria that can create unprecedented 3D representations of protein structures.
Aquaria is based on the Protein Data Bank, an online resource which houses more than 100,000 structures of proteins that contains a wealth of detail about the molecular processes of life. But Sean and his teams were conscious that few biologists were taking full advantage of the site. The Protein Data Bank is designed for and by biologists who are expert in structures; however for most biologists, its organisation can be confusing.
So, they created Aquaria to make this valuable information more accessible and easier to use for discovery purposes.
Freely and publicly accessible, Aquaria can help scientists like ecologists, nutritionists and agriculture, biosecurity and medical researchers to streamline their discovery process and gain new insight into protein structures.
Sean’s team added additional layers of information (like genetic differences) to the basic protein structure and made it accessible in a fast, easy-to-use interface that’s visualised in a fully 3D environment.
“We’ve added protein sequences that don’t yet have a structure, but are similar to something in the Protein Data Bank,” says Sean.
“That meant we first had to find all these similarities. We took over 500,000 protein sequences and compared every one of them with the 100,000 known protein structures, and that has given us around 46 million computer models.
“For example, you can add Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) that cause protein changes, then visualise exactly where those changes occur in the protein structure. This provides valuable insight into why proteins sometimes completely change their function as a result of one small change in the DNA code.
“You can then ask interesting questions like ‘Does this set of SNPs cluster in 3D?’ and the answers to such questions can set new research directions.”
Aquaria was developed in collaboration with Dr Andrea Schafferhans from the Technical University of Munich, and is hosted with support of a grant from Amazon Web Services.
To learn more about Aquaria, you can take part in a special webinar scheduled for 9am Tuesday, 3 February (AEDST).
Ever heard of the Lizard Squad? They’re an online group that’s claimed to have hacked some pretty large and well-known web identities in recent times. As well as attacks on the Sony, Microsoft and Facebook networks, they’re even alleged to have gained access to Taylor Swift’s Twitter account.
Surely that’s enough to get alarm bells ringing!? But in all seriousness, these sort of attacks are becoming a global concern as our interaction on all levels moves increasingly online. Keeping data private is of the utmost importance. That’s why we’ve been working with global software giant IBM and other partners through the AU2EU project to strengthen how we can protect our own data and improve collaboration in secure environments.
One of the technologies we’re using is IBM’s new Identity Mixer software. Identity Mixer uses cryptographic algorithms to encrypt profile information like age, nationality, personal address and credit card details. By keeping this data hidden from websites and only revealing the most relevant information, we get to hold onto our data, rather than constantly handing it over when we collaborate online.
Identity Mixer will allow our scientists to securely authenticate who they are, and share sensitive data with experts and our partners. For example, in the event that there is a biosecurity issue, it is imperative that this team can freely share data and collaborate with partners and other labs in instances when the lab is locked down, or if the threat requires a rapid response.
Identity Mixer will improve our ability to securely respond to these issues. This is all part of an emergency response plan we have developed with the Australian Government to maintain our agricultural disease free status. In order to deal with these threats it is important to bring together academic, government and research together swiftly and securely to deal with issues.
Adding another level of security, to ensure that this plan can be actioned, is a great outcome for our biosecurity teams.
Looking ahead, Identity Mixer could be really useful for the individual web user. When we are exchanging information online, there is only certain data any websites or vendor really needs. Identity Mixer will only share the relevant data and keep the rest locked away – think of it like a sober friend stopping you from declaring your deepest feelings for a close friend, after you have had one to many bottles of wine.
It doesn’t matter who you are – from the single user, paying bills online to a massive multi-national corporations – securing data and protecting our privacy is vital. Especially when you have national treasures as important as our awesome database of insects – who else is going to protect the arthropods? Check out this video, which runs through some interesting scenarios to help you understand better how the technology works:
UPDATE – WINNERS ANNOUNCED
A big congratulations to Dhruv Verma from Victoria and Jackson Huang from Queensland, the two winners of this year’s BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards. Dhruv was recognised for his PROTEGO project, and Jackson for his investigation into heartburn medication alternatives. You can more learn more about Dhruv, Jackson and the other finalists below.
How much did you love your Bunsen burner time at school? Or were you more of an adoring-algebra type?
To us, nothing is more valuable and important than nurturing a love of science and technology in the next generation. This is why the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards are such a terrific motivator for students looking to turn their great ideas into reality.
The honey bee doesn’t normally come to mind when you think about the production of silk. Interestingly honey bee silk has some amazing industrial uses, particularly in biomedical work.
Nick East, 15, from Canberra has discovered a way that honey bee silk can be purified and treated more cost-effectively than current methods. Honey bee silk can be used for replacing parts of the human body – from ligaments to supporting the immune system. Nick went even further to investigate how the honey bee silk protein could be used to deliver a controlled-release of drugs into the system.
Nick’s entry created a buzz in our team, as we’re no strangers to working with bees for science.
Raising the roof. And the bar.
Hailing from cyclone-prone northern Queensland, Kimberley Hardwick, 17, is in the running for the awards for her investigation into how different roof designs stand up in windy conditions.
Kimberley’s project isn’t a whole lot of bluster, in fact it stands up really well against the competition.
By looking into how roof features – such as pitch and surface area – would affect uplift during a cyclone, Kimberley was able to develop a series of recommendations to reduce the pressure placed on a house.
This entry has the potential to save money, houses and people’s lives.
Keeping a digital eye on the elderly
Our youngest entrant, Dhruv Verma, 14, from Victoria has won the Engineering category. Dhruv took out the top prize for his engineering project, PROTEGO, or PROactive Technology for Elderly on the GO.
Inspired by his great grandfather who lived independently into his nineties until he had a fall, Dhruv designed PROTEGO to help address the increasing strain on our aged care system by allowing elderly people to live independently in their own homes for longer.
Harnessing some clever technology, such as in-home sensors and real-time alerts sent to carers via their smartphones, this entry is all about using latest tech for social good.
If great minds think alike, then Dhruv is in good company – our scientists are trialling a similar system in Queensland.
Flipping the script on heartburn medication
In the ‘Investigations’ category our winner for 2015 is Jackson Huang, from Queensland. Inspired by research from the 80s, Jackson investigated why some additives in different heartburn medication were weakening its effectiveness. As well as finding out why this weakening occurred, Jackson has also been trialling an alternative additive.
To all the winners and finalists we wish you all the best for the coming years, and we look forward to working with you in the not too distant future.
The BHP Billiton Science and Engineering awards are a partnership between BHP Billiton, CSIRO and the Australian Science Teachers Association. They are sponsored by BHP Billiton and managed by CSIRO. The awards are also supported by the Intel Corporation.
The winners will be announced in Melbourne next week by Mr Bryan Quinn, Head of Group Technology and Geoscience and Engineering, CSIRO Board Member, Professor Tom Spurling and Australian Science Teachers Association President, Ms Robyn Aitken.