Innovating for Tomorrow – CSIRO (www.csiro.au )

 

CSIRO Headquarters in Canberra

This month’s cameo speaker at my local Probus Club chose for his topic ‘ Some Of What CSIRO Does With Your Taxes’. He described how Government funding for the organisation has dropped by 25% over the last five years, which has resulted in CSIRO’s earnings being down too. Then he touched on just three of their current projects:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease (where they have found that it is caused by not just high Amyloid tissue in the brain but also with high iron levels. They are trialling the drug Deferiprone to reduce the iron levels.)
  • Technology for Autism (1-100 children suffer from Autism. Computers may not be of benefit but the best three apps deal with language, education, and attention.)
  • Graphene (is a form of carbon only one atom thick and is very hard . It is very expensive to produce but CSIRO has devised a way to produce it much more cheaply from peanut oil.)

The CSIRO as such came into being after World War II from other precursor scientific organisations. When I was young, I remember the CSIRO being in the headlines much more so than it is today. Its mantra was (and still is):

We do the extraordinary every day. We innovate for tomorrow and help improve today – for our customers, all Australians and the world. 

‘At the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), we shape the future. We do this by using science to solve real issues. Our research makes a difference to people, industry and the planet.’

Notable past developments by CSIRO have included the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy, essential components of Wi-Fi technology, the polymer banknote, the insect repellent in Aerogard and myxomatosis for the control of rabbit populations.

So why is its funding being reduced? Is science no longer the panacea that it was once thought to be? Is there too much competition for Government monies? Has it become too self-effacing? Has technology stolen the public’s obsessions? In this era when chest beating for the audience attention seems to be dominated by everyone from media chefs to swaggering world leaders, perhaps its time that CSIRO, too, became more vocal about its achievements.

 

 

Peel Island episode now available to view on BBC’s ‘Click’

Drone at the Lazaret, Peel Island

Last year, I accompanied a group of young tech enthusiasts from CSIRO, UQ, and QUT to Peel Island to film a documentary for the BBC. It was all part of the CyArk project with the aim of digitising the Lazaret (see my earlier blogs: ‘Click’ of October 15, 2016 and ‘Digitising the Lazaret at Peel Island’ of May 14, 2016). It was all under the guidance of Nick Kwek, the show’s producer and director who came from London to do the filming. He realised that the story’s human side is really fascinating as well, so I was included in the team to supply a bit of the human history to the now empty huts that the drones and robots were to film.

Now it’s available for all to view on the BBC’s official YourTube account:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHDATAS-GQ4&feature=youtu.be

Click

Drone at the Lazaret, Peel Island
Drone at the Lazaret, Peel Island

I recently accompanied a group of young tech enthusiasts from CSIRO, UQ, and QUT to Peel Island to film a documentary for the BBC. It was all part of the CyArk project with the aim of digitising the Lazaret (see my earlier blog Digitising the Lazaret at Peel Island of May 14, 2016). It was all under the guidance of Nick Kwek, the show’s producer and director who came from London to do the filming. He realised that the story’s human side is really fascinating as well, so I was included in the team to supply a bit of the human history to the now empty huts that the drones and robots were to film.

Robot at the Lazaret, Peel Island
Robot at the Lazaret, Peel Island

Nick was indeed bowled over by the place and spent many hours filming the buildings as well as the robots and drones. He also conducted several interviews, of which I scored about ten minutes.

Although I did feel a bit out of place amongst all the geeky tech talk, (but I did understand the terms drone and wi-fi) it was a very stimulating experience for an old codger like me to be amid the intelligence and enthusiasm of these fine young University people.

Like the production of all documentaries, most ends up on the cutting room floor, and it was with some dismay that I learned that the entire segment, for the BBC series called Click, would only run for five minutes. I doubt that I’ll get much of an airing in the final product. As an historian, I often lament the discarding of so much history on the cutting room floor, which must be even worse now that we have changed from film to videotape and digital, but the media have little regard for anything outside their current projects. Nick did however say that a full documentary should be made of the place. I hope he talks to someone at the BBC about this idea!

You can watch out for this and other episodes on the web at Click http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/n13xtmd5