Science and technology

  • Week in Brief: 14 April – 20 April 2019

    2019 election: Morrison and Shorten to debate on 29 April Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will go head-to-head in a debate set for 29 April. See OPMagazine’s coverage of this story here. Fire tears through Notre Dame Notre Dame’s spire has collapsed after a fire engulfed the iconic Parisian cathedral on Monday (local time). See OPMagazine’s coverage of this story here. North Korea tests new “tactical” weapon, says DPRK state media ... ► Read more

  • Scientists restore circulation and cellular activity in dead pig brains

    Scientists at Yale University have restored circulation and cellular activity in 32 pig brains, four hours after the animals had died. The landmark study found the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain were restored. However, no signals from the brains indicated awareness or consciousness. It was previously thought that brains experience an irreversible decline within minutes of having no blood supply, but the study’s results challenge that ... ► Read more

  • North Korea tests new “tactical” weapon, says DPRK state media

    North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un inspected and directed a “new tactical guided weapons firing test” on Wednesday, according to the country’s state news agency KCNA. KCNA did not elaborate on the nature of the weapon or its potential range, however, its description does not suggest it is a missile. Tactical weapons are designed more for battlefields and are not typically long-range armaments. Additionally, the United States Defence Department said it did not detect any missile ... ► Read more

  • American Airlines cancels Boeing MAX flights until mid-August

    American Airlines has announced it will cancel all its Boeing 737 MAX flights through to mid-August while it waits for Boeing to provide a software update. The Texas-based airline is cancelling 115 flights a day until mid-August because of ongoing problems with the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In mid-March this year the United States joined other countries in grounding 737 MAX aircraft after two fatal plane crashes, one in Indonesia in October 2018 and the ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 7 April – 13 April 2019

    2019 election: Australians to vote on 18 May Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced 18 May as the date of the 2019 federal election, giving parties just over five weeks to sell their plans for the nation. See OPMagazine’s coverage of this story here. Construction of Adani mine receives final federal approval, despite allegations Minister was threatened Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price has given Adani the final federal approval needed to begin construction of its ... ► Read more

  • First image of a black hole captured by astronomers

    Astronomers have captured the first image of a black hole, providing the strongest evidence to date of their existence and opening a new window into the study of black holes. Using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — an array of eight ground-based radio telescopes — researchers were able to capture an image of the enormous black hole at the centre of the distant Messier 87 galaxy. “We have taken the first picture of a black ... ► Read more

  • Backlash over laws targeting “abhorrent” social media content

    Lawyers, rights groups and the technology industry have criticised legislation passed by Parliament on Thursday that requires Internet companies to quickly remove “abhorrent” content or face criminal penalties. The Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019 is aimed at preventing the “weaponising of social media platforms” and will become law once it receives Royal Assent. It is part of the Government’s response to the Christchurch terror attack that took place in New ... ► Read more

  • Zuckerberg calls for governments to play a “more active role” in Internet regulation

    Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has called for governments to play a “more active role” in making rules to regulate the Internet. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Mr Zuckerberg wrote that a “standardised” approach for removing content would help keep Internet companies such as Facebook “accountable”. “By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs ... ► Read more

  • Facebook to crack down on white nationalist content

    Facebook has announced on Wednesday that it will ban praise or support for white nationalism, which will extend to image-sharing service Instagram. The ban will be enforced from next week, with its rules against hateful content being revised to include white nationalism and white separatism. “It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organised hate groups and have no place on our services,” the company said in a statement. Facebook explained that while it ... ► Read more

  • Facebook admits to storing “hundreds of millions” of user passwords in plain text

    Social networking giant Facebook has admitted the passwords of millions of users were stored in plain text on its internal servers, making them readable to the company’s employees. “To be clear, these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them,” Facebook’s Vice President of Engineering, Security and Privacy, Pedro Canahuati, said in a blog post. Mr Canahuati said ... ► Read more

  • The psychology of fear and hate, and what each of us can do to stop it

    As an immigrant to New Zealand, I am saddened and outraged by the events in Christchurch. The apparent innocence of New Zealand has been stripped away by acts of cowardice and evil. Police remain on high alert and authorities are still responding to events following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that took the lives of 50 people and seriously injured many more. Three people have been arrested, and one, an Australian living in ... ► Read more

  • Australia, EU and others suspend 737 MAX 8s following Ethiopian Airlines crash

    Australia, the European Union and other jurisdictions have indefinitely banned the Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner from their airspace, following a second fatal crash within five months. On Sunday a new Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crashed en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, killing all 157 crew and passengers on board. Investigators are looking for similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and that of a Lion Air MAX 8 that crashed in Indonesia, killing ... ► Read more

  • Privacy pivot: Facebook wants to be more like WhatsApp. But details are scarce

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivered a 3,000+ word post last week, spelling out a new vision for the social network. It prompts just one small question: Facebook, who are you? Zuckerberg’s essay, entitled “A privacy-focused vision for social networking”, signals a radical shift. Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has encouraged openness, connection and sharing. But now, it would be “privacy-focused”, featuring encrypted services and content that “won’t stick around forever”. Facebook will, says Zuckerberg, transform from open ... ► Read more

  • Venezeula: Juan Guaido investigated for sabotage

    Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab says he has asked the Supreme Court to investigate opposition leader Juan Guaido for allegedly sabotaging the country’s electrical system. Much of Venezuela has been without power since Thursday (local time) afternoon. President Nicolás Maduro has said that “US technology” was used to sabotage the electricity grid and has pointed the finger at the opposition. Mr Guaido says it is down to government mismanagement. Mr Saab’s announcement came just hours ... ► Read more

  • The internet is now an arena for conflict, and we’re all caught up in it

    Most people think the internet operates as a kind of global public square. In reality, it’s become a divided arena where conflict between nation states plays out. Nation states run covert operations on the same platforms we use to post cat videos and exchange gossip. And if we’re not aware of it, we could be unwittingly used as pawns for the wrong side. How did we get here? It’s complicated, but let’s walk through some ... ► Read more

  • Over 15,000 Russians protest “sovereign internet” bill

    Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow and two other cities on Sunday to rally against tighter internet restrictions, in some of the biggest protests in the Russian capital in years. Lawmakers last month backed tighter internet controls contained in legislation they say is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s affairs. But some Russian media likened it to an online “iron curtain”, and critics say it can be used to stifle dissent. ... ► Read more

  • Crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane’s black boxes found

    The black boxes of a crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane have been recovered, the African airline announced on Monday (local time). The state-owned airline tweeted: Now that the black boxes have been retrieved, investigators can determine what exactly caused the crash, which killed all 157 people onboard. Given that weather conditions were fine when the plane left Addis Ababa for Nairobi, there has been speculation the accident was caused by either a technical fault or pilot ... ► Read more

  • US coal miners’ story sparks concerns for Hunter Valley miners

    Inside Singleton’s Diggers club, Hunter Valley residents are debating the future of the world’s coal industry. Coal is the big employer in this region with 40 different mines employing about 9,000 workers to drive the local economy, in turn helping Australia generate billions in export revenue. But as some countries signal a move away from coal, miners cap production and the industry remains almost permanently under the political spotlight, there is concern here that the ... ► Read more

  • Malaysia open to resuming MH370 search if leads are “credible”

    Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke has said the Malaysian Government would consider resuming the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 if it receives viable proposals or credible leads. Flight MH370 disappeared while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board, including three Australian couples. Malaysia, China and Australia called off their $200 million underwater search in January 2017 after it yielded no results. Mr Loke ... ► Read more

  • Microsoft to go ahead with defence contract despite employee outcry

    Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella defended the company’s multimillion-dollar contract with the Pentagon to supply augmented reality (AR) headsets in an interview with CNN Business on Monday (local time). Last week, dozens of employees publicly criticised that same contract and called for the company to end its ties with the United States military. On Friday (local time), a group of about 50 Microsoft workers published a letter demanding that the company pull out of its nearly ... ► Read more

  • PM pledges $3.5 billion to address climate change

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced the Government’s $3.5 billion “Climate Solutions Package” aimed at ensuring Australia meets its international climate targets. In a press release, the Prime Minister said that the Government’s plan will allow Australia to meet its Paris Agreement obligations without harming the economy and raising electricity prices. “We will meet our global commitments, and do what is right for our environment, without taking a wrecking ball to the economy,” Mr Morrison ... ► Read more

  • Airbus to cease A380 production in 2021

    Airbus’ superjumbo A380 will stop being made in 2021 amid a sales slump brought on by airlines opting for smaller, more fuel-efficient aircrafts. The A380 is the world’s largest passenger jet with a capacity of over 500 seats. After a decade of manufacturing it, Airbus announced in a statement that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane, and as a result “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis ... ► Read more

  • Rare black leopard confirmed in Africa for first time in over a century

    A team lead by Kenya-based biologist Nick Pilford has captured images of a juvenile black leopard, marking the first time since 1909 that a sighting has been confirmed. Using camera traps deployed throughout the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy in central Kenya in early 2018, the team now has proof of a rare melanistic leopard — commonly referred to as a black panther, an umbrella term for any melanistic big cat. The juvenile female was travelling ... ► Read more

  • Russia plans temporary Internet cut-off in “sovereign Internet” test

    Russia is planning to temporarily disconnect from the global Internet as part of a test of its cyber-defences. The test is to determine whether Russia has the technical capability to maintain a “sovereign Internet”, with a draft law introduced to the Russian Parliament last year calling for a domestic network that is able to operate independently. During the test, data being transmitted between Russian devices will stay within the country rather than be routed internationally. ... ► Read more

  • Australia signs $50 billion Attack-class submarine contract

    Australian officials will today sign a $50 billion contract for the construction of 12 Attack-class submarines. At a meeting in Canberra, representatives of the Australian Government will sign the Strategic Partnering Agreement with French arms manufacturer Naval Group, in which the French Government is the majority shareholder. Construction has already begun on the first submarine in the class — HMAS Attack — but the Strategic Partnering Agreement will govern its completion and the production of 11 ... ► Read more

  • Study: Australia to meet Paris Agreement targets five years early

    Australia is on track to meet its Paris climate commitments five years earlier than expected — in 2025 — according to new research from the Australian National University (ANU). Per capita, the country is installing renewable energy faster than China, Japan, the United States, and the European Union. “The electricity sector is on track to deliver Australia’s entire Paris emissions reduction targets five years early, in 2025, without the need for any creative accounting,” lead ... ► Read more

  • Federal and State Governments reject Murray-Darling Royal Commission recommendations

    The Federal, New South Wales and Victorian Governments remain firmly in support of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, despite a South Australian Royal Commission finding the plan is based on politics rather than science and recommending it be completely overhauled. Released yesterday, the report of the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission found the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) had acted unlawfully and negligently, and committed maladministration in its approach to developing the plan to sustainably manage the river ... ► Read more

  • Royal Commission: Murray-Darling officials committed “gross maladministration” and acted unlawfully

    The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, set up by the Governor of South Australia, has found that Commonwealth officials committed gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions in preparing the Basin Plan to save the river system. Headed by Commissioner Bret Walker SC, the Royal Commission has recommended major reforms, including resetting water saving limits, repealing the outcome of the Northern Basin Review, and new measurements for water on floodplains. The Commission found that the Basin Plan ... ► Read more

  • US announces criminal charges against tech giant Huawei

    The United States officially announced on Monday (local time) that it has laid 13 criminal charges against China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, several of its subsidiaries, and its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has charged Huawei and Ms Meng with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran by using a subsidiary company to do business with Tehran. Ms Meng has denied allegations that she played a lead role ... ► Read more

  • Remains of explorer Matthew Flinders found under London’s Euston Station

    The remains of explorer Matthew Flinders have been found underneath London’s Euston Station during construction work on the HS2 high-speed rail project. In 1802 Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate the Australian continent, accompanied by indigenous explorer Bungaree of the Kuringgai people. Flinders died at the age of 40, on the day after his book A Voyage to Terra Australis was published, and was interred in St James’s cemetery on 23 July 1814. St James’s grew rapidly, but ... ► Read more

  • Sir David Attenborough: climate change crisis “difficult to overstate”

    Sir David Attenborough has told Prince William that people have never been more “out of touch” with the natural world than they are today. In an interview with the Duke of Cambridge at the World Economic Forum, the naturalist warned: “We can wreck it with ease, we can wreck it without even noticing.” Sir Attenborough said people must care, respect and revere the natural world. Heeding his words, Prince William said: “Work to save the ... ► Read more

  • Sir David Attenborough calls for global environmental plan

    Sir David Attenborough used an acceptance speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) to tell business leaders and governments that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, urging them to come up with “practical solutions” to address environmental problems such as climate change. “If people can truly understand what is at stake, I believe they will give permission to business and governments to get on with the practical solutions,” he said. “As a species, we ... ► Read more

  • Toxic ozone gas warning issued for Western Sydney

    Health authorities have issued a high ozone warning for Western Sydney as New South Wales enters day two of a severe heatwave. NSW Health said ozone levels were likely to rise this afternoon due to a combination of heat and sunlight. Ozone is created when nitrogen oxides from things like car exhausts and air conditioner fumes react with oxygen in the air on hot days. It is colourless, but pungent, and can trigger a variety ... ► Read more

  • NSW Premier under pressure amid fresh calls for pill testing

    NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is standing firm on her opposition to pill testing, despite pleas from the family of a teenager who died of a suspected overdose after taking drugs at a music festival. Alex Ross-King, 19, died after she was rushed from the FOMO festival at Parramatta Park to Westmead Hospital on Saturday night. It was the fifth such death in NSW since mid-September. “Premier please can we have this pill testing done,” her ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 6 January – 12 January 2019

    Trump reaffirms threat to declare national emergency on visit to Mexican border United States President Donald Trump reaffirmed his threat to declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the country’s border with Mexico if Congress does not grant him the funds he requested. See OPMagazine’s coverage of this story here. 2018 third hottest year on record for Australia Last year was Australia’s third-warmest year on record, with every state and territory recording above ... ► Read more

  • Astronomers detect mysterious radio bursts from deep space

    Astronomers have detected 13 high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space, spurring some experts to suggest it is evidence of advanced alien life. The bursts were first stumbled upon in 2007, yet the cause has since remained a mystery. Based on estimations of the known range of the frequencies and understanding of activity in the universe, scientists believe that nearly a thousand of them happen everyday, but to date, only a handful have ... ► Read more

  • 2018 third hottest year on record for Australia

    Last year was Australia’s third-warmest year on record, with every state and territory recording above average temperatures in 2018. According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement, the nation’s average temperature last year was 1.14C above the average for 1961-1990, making 2018 slightly warmer than 2017. “When we look across all of Australia in 2018, we can see that every single state and territory had above average day and night-time temperatures,” the Bureau’s senior ... ► Read more

  • Australian Government joins allies in condemnation of Chinese cyber espionage

    Australian officials have confirmed local companies are among the global victims of an extensive campaign of cyber attacks backed by the Chinese Government, aimed at stealing commercial intellectual property. Senior intelligence sources told the ABC it is the biggest threat to Australia’s cyber security uncovered so far. The confirmation came after the US Justice Department charged two Chinese citizens, alleging they carried out hacking at the direction of Beijing’s Ministry of State Security. It is ... ► Read more

  • NSW pilots world first mobile phone detection system

    Technology capable of detecting drivers illegally using mobile phones will be rolled out in two Sydney locations as part of a world-first pilot scheme. Following testing, the NSW Government chose Australian company Acusensus to trial the high-tech cameras on the M4 and Anzac Parade. Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said that more than 11,000 drivers a day were detected during the month long trial period in October. “Shockingly, one driver was pictured ... ► Read more

  • Huawei CFO granted bail by Canadian court

    A court in Vancouver, Canada has granted bail to Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese electronics giant Huawei, while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the United States. The US alleges the 46-year-old daughter of the company’s founder misled multinational banks about transactions linked to Iran, putting those banks at risk of violating US sanctions against the Middle Eastern country. Justice William Ehrcke granted bail to Ms Meng, with a bond of ... ► Read more

  • Adelaide to be home of Australia’s new space agency

    Australia’s new space agency will be based in Adelaide, reinforcing South Australia as a hub for innovation and technology, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. The PM says the Australian space sector is set to reach new heights and the agency will open doors for local businesses to access the $US345 billion ($AU478 billion) global space industry. “Our government’s $41 million investment into the agency will act as a launching pad to triple Australia’s space economy ... ► Read more

  • Voyager 2 second human-made object to enter interstellar space

    The Voyager 2 probe has become the second human-made object to enter the interstellar medium — the space between stars. Launched by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 20 August 1977, Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause — the limit of the solar wind — and into interstellar space on 5 November, scientists have been able to now confirm. Voyager 2 is now more than 11 billion kilometres from Earth, and mission ... ► Read more

  • Labor backs down, supports Federal Government’s controversial encryption laws

    Law enforcement and intelligence agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages — such as Facebook messages — after a Labor backdown allowed the Federal Government to pass its legislation on Parliament’s final sitting day. Labor had planned to amend the legislation, which it has repeatedly described as flawed. But late on Thursday Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced Labor would pass the laws provided the Coalition agreed to make certain changes in the new year. Labor then ... ► Read more

  • Julie Bishop calls on Government to reach agreement with Labor on National Energy Guarantee

    Former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has called on the Coalition Government to reach an agreement with Labor on the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), saying it would be good for business and ensure a stable investment environment for the energy industry, and is the only framework for achieving “elusive” bipartisanship on energy. Proposed by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the NEG was intended to address energy affordability, reliability and emissions, but was quickly abandoned after ... ► Read more

  • NASA’s InSight touches down on Mars

    US space agency NASA has landed a new robot on Mars after a dramatic seven-minute plunge to the surface of the Red Planet. The InSight probe aims to study the deep interior of Mars, and make it the only planet — apart from Earth — that has been examined in this way. The touchdown confirmation came through shortly after 06:50 AEDT on Tuesday. It ended an anxious few minutes in which the robot radioed home updates on ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 19 November – 24 November 2018

    Ivanka Trump used personal email account for government business The daughter of US President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, last year used a personal email account to discuss or relay official White House business, according to emails released by a nonpartisan watchdog group. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Dozens of homes at threat as NSW bushfire flares up A bushfire emergency has been declared in NSW’s Hunter region with homes threatened at Salt Ash ... ► Read more

  • Japanese cybersecurity minister admits he has never used a computer

    Japan’s deputy minister for cybersecurity, Yoshitaka Sakurada, has never used a computer in his professional life, the 68-year-old admitted in the country’s National Diet (parliament) on Wednesday. In response to an opposition question, Mr Sakurada said: “Since the age of 25 I have instructed my employees and secretaries, so I don’t use computers myself.” When asked whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities, he also appeared confused and said that it was ... ► Read more

  • Cyber security chief: Austal hacking “attribution can take months, even years”

    The head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) said on Tuesday an investigation into the hacking of defense contractor Austal could take years, rejecting a report by the ABC that his agency had concluded the attack originated from Iran. Austal said earlier this month hackers had breached its defences to gain access to ship designs and that some staff email addresses and mobile phone numbers were accessed. The attack triggered an investigation by the ... ► Read more

  • China’s Xinhua unveils AI news anchors

    Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled its new artificial intelligence (AI) news anchors which will be broadcasting across the outlet’s TV and web platforms. File footage of human anchor Zhang Zhao forms the base layer over which animated mouths and other facial features are placed to produce twin AI anchors; one Chinese-speaking and the other catering to English-speaking audiences. The AI news presenters were created in collaboration with a search engine company called Sogou. ... ► Read more

  • Week In Brief: 28 October – 3 November 2018

    Total fire bans in eastern NSW as temperatures soar Total fire bans are in place in four areas of eastern New South Wales as temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius in parts of Sydney on Friday. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. NSW Nationals faces threats over plan to expel white supremacists, neo-Nazis A man has been charged with making threatening phone calls to the NSW National Party office on the day the party moved ... ► Read more

  • Google employees walk out in protest of sexual harassment policies

    Google employees worldwide have walked out in protest of the tech giant’s sexual harassment policies. Employees gathered in major cities around the world — including Silicon Valley, New York, London, Berlin, Hyderabad, Singapore and Sydney — in response to a report in The New York Times last week that Google had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to executives accused of misconduct, while staying silent about the complaints. “I am here because what you ... ► Read more

  • US Department of Justice charges Chinese and Taiwanese companies with economic espionage

    The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has charged a Chinese state-owned company, its Taiwanese partner, and three individuals for “economic espionage” related to American trade secrets. The charges come amid the ongoing trade war between the US and China, which is due in part to the Trump administration’s accusations that China has engaged in unfair trade practices, including the widespread infringement of American intellectual property. The DoJ has charged Chinese state-owned company Fujian Jinhua ... ► Read more

  • Report: demand for Australian coal to plummet in future

    Economists are predicting Australia’s thermal coal exports to plummet faster than expected, due to falling demand across Asia that appears permanent and irreversible. A study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) found Australia’s top four export markets — China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea — were shifting rapidly to renewables. The study found New South Wales, the source of nearly 70% of thermal coal exports, should brace for disruption in energy markets. IEEFA ... ► Read more

  • Queensland Parliament votes to legalise abortion

    The Parliament of Queensland voted on Wednesday night to legalise abortion in the state, in an historic reform to the centuries-old prohibition. The Queensland Government’s proposal to legalise abortion passed through the Parliament with 50 votes to 41, after all MPs were given a conscience vote. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 will ensure that abortion services can be accessed and performed without fear or stigma. “It’s taken a century to ... ► Read more

  • Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan dies aged 78

    Environmental campaigner and co-founder of Clean Up Australia Ian Kiernan has died aged 78, having been diagnosed with cancer in late July. Clean Up Australia co-founder Kim McKay said Mr Kiernan “lived life hard and lived it well.” “It’s quite a shock to a lot of people because Ian was only diagnosed with the cancer [quite recently] and it took hold of him quite rapidly,” Ms McKay told the ABC. “He was a larger-than-life figure, ... ► Read more

  • Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has died in Seattle at the age of 65. Mr Allen, who founded the billion-dollar company alongside his childhood friend Bill Gates back in 1975, had received treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 2009. Earlier this month, he said that the cancer had returned. Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. issued a statement saying he died on Monday morning (local time). Mr Gates also released a statement expressing his sadness at the passing ... ► Read more

  • “Australia is a stimulant nation” according to Criminal Intelligence Commission report

    A comparison of 23 countries shows Australia ranks second in estimated stimulant consumption, according to a report released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) on Tuesday. The fifth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program included comparisons with the United States, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and 18 European Union members, and found that Australia is a leading consumer of MDMA, cocaine, amphetamine, and methylamphetamine. The ACIC noted a decrease in methylamphetamine consumption between December ... ► Read more

  • Astronomers may have identified first extrasolar moon

    Astronomers at Columbia University in New York may have identified the first moon outside our solar system, according to research published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday. Using the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes, Alex Teachey and David Kipping found signs of a large extrasolar moon orbiting the planet Kepler-1625b, some 8,000 light years away. Although more studies are required to confirm its existence, Teachey says it’s an “extraordinary” discovery that “defies easy explanation”. ... ► Read more

  • Australia backs Britain’s condemnation of Russian military intelligence for cyberattacks

    The Australian Government has backed Britain’s condemnation of the intelligence arm of the Russian military for an alleged “pattern” of malicious global cyberattacks. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Russia’s foreign military intelligence directorate of conducting a campaign of “indiscriminate and reckless” online attacks directed at political institutions, businesses, media organisations and sport bodies around the world. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre identified Russian operatives as being behind several high-profile computer attacks, and ... ► Read more

  • Tesla battery delivers impressive dispatchable power, says Energy Market Operator, despite critics

    The huge lithium-ion battery constructed by tech giant Tesla in South Australia has proven it can dispatch power more rapidly and precisely than conventional thermal power stations, according to data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The battery is located on a wind farm some three hours’ drive north of Adelaide and, despite criticism and derision, has helped stabilise South Australia’s electricity supply while reducing costs. “It’s ability to respond very, very quickly to ... ► Read more

  • Privacy groups and tech companies criticise Australian anti-encryption bill

    A group of mostly American privacy activists and technology companies has criticised the Australian Government’s proposed Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, arguing it could have serious implications for online security both domestically and overseas. The proposed legislation, introduced to the House of Representatives last month by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, would give law enforcement and intelligence agencies powers to compel companies to assist in decrypting communications. “The lack of ... ► Read more

  • Elon Musk charged with securities fraud over tweets

    On Thursday (local time), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it had charged Tesla Inc CEO and Chairman Elon Musk with securities fraud. The charge relates to a series of false and misleading tweets made by Mr Musk about a potential transaction to transform Tesla from a public to a private company. Mr Musk tweeted to his 22 million Twitter followers that he was considering taking Tesla private at US $420 per ... ► Read more

  • NSW Health confirms fifth case of legionnaires’ disease in Western Sydney

    A fifth case of legionnaires’ disease has been reported to health authorities as Western Sydney’s outbreak continues. On Tuesday NSW Health confirmed an interstate resident had contracted the infection after visiting the Lidcombe area earlier this month. Western Sydney Local Health District officials have warned anyone who recently visited Lidcombe to be wary of symptoms including fever, chills, coughing, and shortness of breath. A water cooling system in the suburb was decontaminated on 17 September ... ► Read more

  • Federal Government announces free meningococcal vaccine for Australian teens

    Australian teenagers will receive a publicly-funded meningococcal vaccine against four strains of the potentially fatal disease, the Federal Government announced on Tuesday. The vaccine will be added to the National Immunisation Schedule from April 2019, and will be available to more than a million Australians aged 14–19 over the next four years at a cost of $52 million. The announcement comes as cases of meningococcal have risen in Australia, with 382 cases in 2017, up ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 16 – 22 September 2018

    Government, aged-care sector to establish royal commission scope The Government will work with aged-care providers to determine the terms of reference for the newly announced royal commission into the sector, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. China levies new tariffs in response to US tariff hike China has announced it will levy tariffs on about US $60 billion worth of American imports in response to the ... ► Read more

  • Wreck of Cook’s HMS Endeavour may have been found

    Marine archaeologists believe they have identified the resting place of HMS Endeavour, the ship commanded by James Cook to Australia on his first voyage of discovery. The ship was scuttled along with a number of others in Newport, Rhode Island during the American Revolution, and its wreck is of historical significance to several countries, including Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. The potential discovery of the wreck has raised hopes that the vessel’s ... ► Read more

  • Russia will become first country in Europe to introduce driverless taxis

    Russia will become the first country in Europe and Eurasia to introduce driverless taxis. Russian tech giant Yandex announced the launch of Europe’s first driverless taxi, which will hit the road in Innopolis, a tech-focused town that is also known as ‘Russian Silicon Valley’. A driverless car prototype was released by Yandex last year, which is designed to operate under the companies’ taxi service. While companies across the globe have been competing against each other ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 19 August – 25 August 2018

    Scott Morrison wins leadership spill Scott Morrison has won Friday’s Liberal leadership spill, clearing the way for him to become Australia’s 30th Prime Minister. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Government instability in the wake of leadership challenge Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government was rocked by turmoil following Tuesday’s unsuccessful leadership challenge by former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Trump warns American economy would crash if he ... ► Read more

  • Kalashnikov takes on Tesla with new electric concept car

    Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov unveiled on Thursday (local time) a new electric concept “supercar” it says will rival Elon Musk’s Tesla. Based on the body of the Soviet-era Izh hatchback, Kalshnikov’s CV-1 has a 90 kilowatt hour battery which offers a range of 350 kilometers. The vehicle can accelerate from 0 kph to 100 kph in six seconds, according to the arms company. Kalashnikov spokesperson Sofia Ivanova told Russia’s RBC that the CV-1 would compete directly “with ... ► Read more

  • Dutton reportedly urged to challenge Turnbull for Prime Ministership

    The Daily Telegraph has reported that some anonymous government backbenchers are urging Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for leadership of the Liberal Party and the country. A small group of government MPs are opposed to the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), a policy to address electricity affordability, reliability, and emissions, that was adopted by the Coalition party room on Tuesday. Those MPs opposed want more done to cut prices ... ► Read more

  • Government releases exposure draft of encryption-breaking legislation

    The Government today released an exposure draft of its proposed legislative response to increasing use of encrypted communications services. Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor said the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 “will allow law enforcement and interception agencies to access specific communications without compromising the security of a network” and will “expressly prevent the weakening of encryption or the introduction of so-called backdoors.” For more than ... ► Read more

  • Homeopathy all but eradicated from National Health Service in England

    Publicly-funded homeopathy is all but over in England, after Bristol’s Clinical Commissioning Group decided to cease providing homeopathic treatments under the National Health Service (NHS). Bristol was the last place in England to offer NHS-funded homeopathic treatment, and it will now be provided only in exceptional circumstances. Homeopathy uses treatments based on the idea that “like cures like” — that minute doses of natural substances that produce similar symptoms as an illness can be used ... ► Read more

  • Australian industry groups urge governments to support the National Energy Guarantee

    Seven groups that represent Australian industry have urged the federal, state, and territory governments to get behind the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). In a joint statement issued on Monday the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Council of Small Business Organisations, National Farmers’ Federation, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, and Australian Energy Council called on Australian leaders to “put aside politics and support the implementation of the ... ► Read more

  • Apple now the first US company to reach $1 trillion in market value

    Apple is now the first US company in history to reach $US1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in market value despite slowing sales, heavy regulation, and tariffs. The tech company hit the milestone early this morning when its stock crossed $207.05 per share at 11.48am (ET). While reaching the $1 trillion mark is an achievement that will not soon be forgotten, the tech market is volatile, according to OPMG’s Chief Editor, meaning that Apple may not stay ... ► Read more

  • Remains of ancient public library unearthed in Germany

    The remains of an ancient Roman public library that may have held up to 20,000 scrolls have been discovered in Cologne, western Germany. Dating to the second century AD, the walls were first uncovered in 2017 during an excavation on the grounds of a Protestant church in the city centre. Archaeologists were initially mystified by niches in the walls, but have now identified their purpose. “It took us some time to match up the parallels ... ► Read more

  • Government announces increased privacy protections for My Health Records

    In response to concerns over the adequacy of privacy protections, the Federal Government has announced changes to the My Health Records system to allow deletion of records and restrict government access to patient data. After meeting with doctors from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and College of General Practitioners to discuss privacy concerns on Tuesday night, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced changes will be made to the My Health Records Act 2012. Australians will be ... ► Read more

  • TEDx’s talk labelling pedophilia a ‘sexual orientation’ is disgusting and dangerous

    We live in a divided world. We live in a world where people will disagree on anything, while people fight for their rights, support their politicians and back their own sides; there is few things that we can all agree on. Now, while it is often said that you cannot make everyone happy, and that may be true, what most functioning human beings can agree on whether you’re left-wing or right-wing is that pedophilia is ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 22 – 28 July 2018

    Nine Network to takeover Fairfax Media The Nine Network will takeover Fairfax Media in a deal rumoured to be worth around $4 billion, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood announced on Thursday morning. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Greece declares state of emergency as lethal wildfires rage near Athens Greece has declared a state of emergency after two separate wildfires raged through towns near its capital Athens, killing at least 20 people, injuring over 100 ... ► Read more

  • Scientists find lake on Mars

    Researchers at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INIA) believe they have found a small liquid water lake 1.5 kilometres beneath Mars’ southern polar ice cap. This is the first time evidence has been found of a persistent body of water still in existence on the red planet. Exploration of lake beds on Mars show that, in the past, water was present, but it was thought until now that any water on the planet was ... ► Read more

  • UK will not oppose death penalty if alleged IS members are extradited

    In a letter leaked to The Telegraph, Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he would not seek any assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty if two alleged Islamic State members are extradited to the United States. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, of west London, were captured in Syria in January. In a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister, Downing Street said it is the “long-standing position of the government ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 15 to 21 July 2018

    Trump clarifies position on alleged Russian interference in 2016 election US President Donald Trump has clarified remarks he made in Helsinki on Monday (local time) regarding alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, amid a media storm and condemnation from both sides of politics as well as the intelligence community. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Theresa May scrapes through parliamentary vote leaving her party divided British Prime Minister Theresa May has scraped ... ► Read more

  • Australians struggle to opt out of My Health Record

    Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said 20,000 Australians had already opted out of the My Health Record system, many have reported experiencing difficulty completing the process. The My Health Record system is a centralised national digital database of Australians’ health information, intended to give patients better control over their information and make access by health professionals easier. Users who don’t want a My Health Record have until 15 October 2018 to opt out. Some users ... ► Read more

  • Energy Market Operator predicts significant reduction in coal-fired power stations by 2040

    In its inaugural Integrated System Plan released on Tuesday, the Australian Energy Market Operator says that between 2030–40 a “significant amount” of coal-fired power stations will reach the end of their technical life and be retired. Although the AEMO noted that “costs of new renewable plant continue to fall, and advances and availability of storage technologies … are emerging as core components to a low cost and reliable energy future” it warned that prematurely closing ... ► Read more

  • Australians have three months to opt-out of national health database

    Australians who do not want their medical records stored in the national electronic database will have three months from today to opt-out. Although the Federal Government’s Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has moved to reassure Australians that their My Health Record will be secure, Australians can opt-out until 15 October 2018. “If you haven’t deliberately opted out by the end of 2018, you will have a My Health Record,” Dr Steve Hambleton of the ADHA said. ... ► Read more

  • Archaeologists discover hidden shrine in Aztec pyramid

    Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a shrine hidden in the remains of the great pyramid of Teopanzolco, near Cuernavaca. The shrine was discovered during the ongoing clean-up efforts following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on 19 September 2017. Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered the shrine while using radar technology to scan the pyramid for structural damage. Atop the pyramid are the remnants of two temples, one dedicated to the Aztec ... ► Read more

  • Government unveils new plan to employ university-level maths and science teachers in high schools

    Every high school in Australia will have to employ maths and science teachers who have studied the topics at a university level under a new Federal Government plan. The Government has stated that currently not enough teachers are passionate and knowledgeable about the subjects. Statistically, the Government said that in 2013 one in five science teachers who taught years 7–10 had not completed even one year of university study in that area. Education Minister Simon ... ► Read more

  • Former PM Tony Abbott urges withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

    Tony Abbott is calling for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, despite signing up to the agreement in 2015 when he was Prime Minister. In a speech to a group of climate sceptics on Tuesday night, Mr Abbott said that he would not have signed up to the Paris Agreement if he had known the US would withdraw from it. He said Australia needs to pull out of the treaty to end “the ... ► Read more

  • Gmail confirms third party apps can read users’ private emails

    Gmail has confirmed that third-party app developers can read users’ private emails, both sent and received. According to the Wall Street Journal, users who have connected to third-party apps may have unknowingly allowed not just machines, but human staff to read their messages. Gmail, owned by Google, is the world’s most popular emailing service, with 1.4 billion users connected to the platform. Google lets people connect to third-party email management tools to their accounts or services ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 24–30 June 2018

    Labor announces, reverses, plan to repeal legislated tax cuts After announcing on Tuesday that Labor would repeal the tax cuts legislated by the Government for businesses with a turnover of $10 to $50 million if they won government, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten has reversed his position, stating that the proposed repeal was “creating great uncertainty”. See the ABC’s coverage of this story here. Government concedes final stage of tax cuts won’t pass Senate ... ► Read more

  • WTO rules for Australia in tobacco plain packaging dispute

    Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 has contributed to improving public health, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel ruled on Thursday. The panel rejected arguments brought by Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Indonesia that alternative measures would be equally effective, and disagreed that Australia’s law unjustifiably limited the exercise of intellectual property rights. The four complainant countries alleged that Australia had breached article 2.2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which prohibits ... ► Read more

  • Trump orders creation of US ‘Space Force’ to dominate space

    US President Donald Trump ordered the creation of a US “Space Force” on Monday (local time), saying America must have “dominance in space”. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Mr Trump said before a meeting of his National Space Council. The President says the Space Force, which will be the sixth branch of the US military, will counter advancements by other world ... ► Read more

  • Governments agree to high-speed Internet link between Australia and Solomon Islands

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Solomon Islands counterpart Rick Houenipwela have agreed to construct an undersea high-speed Internet link between the two countries. Solomon Islands had previously signed a deal with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in late-2016 to construct a cable to improve Internet and phone reliability in the impoverished Pacific nation. Concerns over cybersecurity resulted in the intervention of the Australian Government, which has effectively forced Huawei from the project. Canberra has indicated ... ► Read more

  • Study: Antarctica’s extreme ice melting could redraw Earth’s coastlines

    Antarctica has lost nearly three million tonnes of ice since 1992, two-fifths of which has disappeared in the last five years, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The landmark study conducted by 84 scientists found that the severe melting of ice had caused sea levels to rise by 7.6mm and could redraw Earth’s coastlines. “We now have an unequivocal picture of what’s happening in Antarctica,” said co-lead author Eric Rignot, a NASA ... ► Read more

  • High Court clears way for search engine defamation case

    Search engines may be liable for defamation if search results suggest false information about a person, the High Court ruled on Wednesday. In 2016 the Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed Milorad Trkulja’s claim that Google had defamed him by displaying photographs of him when searches were made for phrases such as “Melbourne underworld crime”, as well as by displaying text and autocomplete predictions with similar suggestions. On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia unanimously allowed ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 3–9 June 2018

    Australia Victoria on track to enact indigenous treaty law The Victorian Government has agreed to make amendments to its Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 to ensure it is passed by both houses of the Victorian Parliament. The bill establishes a framework and system of representation within which treaties with Aboriginal Victorians can be negotiated. The amendments will add a definition of ‘treaty’ in the bill, define ‘traditional owners’ (who will be ... ► Read more

  • Predictions for the near future

    As humans, it is natural to contemplate and plan for the future. Whether that be with optimism or pessimism, we have an obsession with the future, and often worry about it. Obviously, it is impossible to predict the future with pinpoint accuracy; however, experts and theorists for many years have continued to try their hand at determining what the future for civilisation may hold. From self-driving cars to the food we consume, the work of ... ► Read more

  • New study: 70% of early stage breast cancer patients don’t need chemotherapy

    A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that most women in the early stages of breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without risking the chances of a full recovery. The findings showed that 70% of women who are diagnosed with the common cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes could avoid chemotherapy entirely without increased risks of recurrence and ability to be cured, said Loyola Medicine oncologist, Dr Kathy ... ► Read more

  • Australia’s oldest scientist ends his life through assisted suicide in Switzerland

    Professor David Goodall has fulfilled his wish and ended his life at the age of 104 through an assisted suicide program in Switzerland on Thursday (local time). The professor was surrounded by his family, including five of his grandchildren who travelled from the US and France to say their farewells. “I’m feeling very emotional but at the same time I’m at peace,” daughter Karen Goodall-Smith told the ABC on the eve of his death. Mr ... ► Read more

  • 104 year old Australian scientist has no hesitations in final hours before he ends his life

    Professor David Goodall, Australia’s oldest scientist at 104 years of age, held a press conference in the Swiss city of Basel to discuss his plans to end his life through a voluntary assisted suicide program in Switzerland. The end of life clinic has approved Professor Goodall’s application, following an assessment of the Professor’s mindset on Tuesday. Professor Goodall appeared before a large crowd of international media reporters, a sight which he was surprised to see. ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 29 April – 5 May 2018

    Cartoon Story of the week CBA lost statements of 20 million accounts, didn’t alert customers The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) admitted to losing the statements of 19.8 million accounts and deciding not to tell customers in an effort to prevent unecessary alarm. While the bank insists the information did not get into the wrong hands and was most likely destroyed, it has attracted harsh criticism propelled by recent revelations of widespread misconduct in the fianance sector, ... ► Read more