[ASC-media] Mutations, WHO, fishy art and Einstein's mistakes

Niall Byrne private niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com
Tue Nov 29 22:56:45 EST 2005

Today (Tuesday) we're issuing a release on mutations - it turns out while we
have the human genome, no one is methodically recording the mutations that
are responsible for ten percent of human disease. Melbourne researcher Dick
Cotton plans to change that with help from the WHO and the Vic government.
Full media release below or at www.scienceinpublic.com 

Sir Walter Bodmer, one of the world's leading geneticists is in Melbourne
this week and willing to speak about the need for a global mutation project.
He was President of the Human Genome Organisation. Details below.  

And other science stories this week include. 

A fishy art show opens in Sydney tonight with stunning photo-sculptures of
fish from Sydney and Australia's southern waters include a pregnant male
Weedy Seadragon; the elusive Blue Devil Fish; and the incredible Red Indian
Fish. Details below.

Einstein's biggest mistake - tomorrow, Wednesday, Paul Davies talks in
Hobart on Einstein's biggest mistake - a mysterious antigravity force that
he predicted then abandoned. Was he right? Details below.  Davies is
participating in an international conference in Hobart on quantum field

On Thursday CERN hosts Beyond Einstein - a twelve hour world wide webcast
for Einstein Year. Paul Davies participates from Hobart speaking on Time
Travel. Details at http://beyond-einstein.web.cern.ch   And UNHCR reminds us
that Einstein was a refugee.

For more information please give me a call on 03 5253 1391 or email
niall at scienceinpublic.com 


Story background:

What's that mutation?
Melbourne leads WHO global mutation initiative 

An elite group of international geneticists will meet in Melbourne,
Australia, next June to initiate a global project that will catalogue human
mutations and help transform our understanding and treatment of genetic

Victorian Innovation Minister John Brumby announced today that the Victorian
Government will contribute $60,000 to stage the World Health Organisation
sponsored conference. 

The project is the brainchild of Melbourne researcher Professor Richard
Cotton, Director of the Genomics Disorders Research Centre. 

"Ten percent of human disease is caused by inherited mutations," says
Richard. "Most of us will be affected by inherited mutations at some time in
our lives. They have a substantial social and economic cost." 

"We think there are over two million mutations in the human genome," says

"Some 100,000 mutations have been discovered. But there is no global system
for collecting and sharing information on these mutations with clinicians
around the world. And 95 percent of human mutations are yet to be
discovered," he says. 

"If we could give researchers, clinicians, genetic counsellors and affected
families fast reliable access to information on mutations, and the damage
they cause, it would transform genetic medicine: 
* enabling doctors to rapidly diagnose patients with rare diseases.
* allowing new diagnostics 
* helping researchers develop new treatments for hundreds of genetic
diseases including cystic fibrosis and thalassemia
* assisting in uncovering the causes of common diseases such as breast
cancer and asthma.

"In 1991 I started the journal Human Mutation. I was shocked to discover
that no one was responsible for collecting information on mutations. So I
used the journal to promote ways of collecting and making information
available on a small scale. But now, in the aftermath of the Human Genome
Project, it's time to do the job properly," Richard says. 

"It's time for a global human variome (human gene variation) project,"
Richard says. 
"I see the Melbourne meeting as a major step towards establishing this

It will require around $US5 million to establish the project. 

"With a concerted effort, I believe that we could have the system set up to
document mutations and make the information available to clinicians and
researchers -globally within three to five years."

The World Health Organisation sponsored meeting in Melbourne will bring 50
of the world's authorities on mutations, and other related DNA variations,
together to plan how information should be collected, validated, stored, and
made available to the world. 

The conference will be opened by one of the world's most eminent geneticists
Sir Walter Bodmer FRS of Oxford, UK.

John Brumby announced the conference at a business dinner in Toronto,
Canada, today. 

For further information please contact Professor Richard Cotton, ph +61 3
9288 2980, cotton at unimelb.edu.au or Niall Byrne, ph +61 3 5253 1391,
niall at scienceinpublic.com


Sir Walter Bodmer, PhD
Walter Bodmer is principal of Hertford College at Oxford University. He was
formerly director general and director of research of the Imperial Cancer
Research Fund. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1974 and was
knighted in 1986. He is a foreign associate of the US National Academy of
Sciences and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and

Sir Walter was president of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO); president
of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; chairman of the
BBC Science consultative group; and chairman of the trustees of the Natural
History Museum. He is currently a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum and the
first president of IFAAST, the International Federation of Associations for
the Advancement of Science and Technology. In 1995, Sir Walter was appointed
chancellor of the University of Salford.

Academic appointments include honorary fellowships at Keble College, Oxford;
Clare College, Cambridge; the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; and
the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has published extensively and has been
awarded honorary degrees and prizes for his achievements in science.

Fish Soup

A photo-sculpture exhibition by the school of underwater artists, UWOZ.

The artists are Valerie Taylor (world-famous photographer and artist),
Richard Vevers (leading underwater artist and photographer) and George Evatt
(award-winning underwater photographer and filmmaker.

Their first exhibition, Fish Soup is a contemporary homage to the 50's
kitsch icons - the flying ducks. The unique collection of the artists'
favourite marine characters, from Sydney and Australia's southern waters, is
a celebration of some of the most amazing creatures in the world.  

"For our first exhibition we wanted to show Sydneysiders the passion we hold
for life under the sea. So, while Fish Soup is a colourful, vibrant and fun
show - it's also what really excites us about our chosen artistic genre,"
says Underwater Australia founder, Richard Vevers.

The 30 photo-sculptures are between 25cms and 1.5m big, resin-coated and
mounted in relief, so "walking into the gallery will be like plunging into a
giant fish bowl with some of the most extraordinarily wacky fish on the
planet", says Vevers. 

There are star turns by the amazing pregnant male Weedy Seadragon; the
Cuttlefish, with its ability to change colour and form; the elusive Blue
Devil Fish; and the incredible Red Indian Fish among others. 

Fish Soup swims into Underwater Australia Gallery on Tuesday November 29 and
glides away on Saturday December 17. 

Where:  Underwater Australia Gallery, 1 Edgecliff Rd, Woollahra.

Contact:  Sue @ Quick Thinking Communications on 02 9907 8241 or 0403 343
275; or Richard Vevers on 02 9387 6180.  

Einstein's biggest mistake?

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Paul Davies talks in Hobart on Einstein's biggest
mistake - a mysterious antigravity force that he predicted then abandoned.
Was he right?

'A few years ago, astronomers were staggered to find that the expansion of
the universe is speeding up, propelled by a mysterious antigravity force.
Amazingly, Einstein predicted just such a force in 1917, but then abandoned
it as "the greatest blunder of my life." Might he have been right all

Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and the
author of many popular and specialist science books. He is Professor of
Natural Philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie
University, Sydney.

This is a free public lecture in conjunction with the international
conference, 'Quantum Field Theory and its Ramifications.'

This international conference for theoretical and mathematical physics
research marks the scientific work and 65th Birthday of Professor Bob
Major themes include:
- Particles & Fields
- Symmetry & Supersymmetry
- Statistical Mechanics
- Complex Systems
- Algebraic Structures

Renowned international speakers include Michael Baake (University of
Bielefeld, Germany), Carl Bender (Washington University, USA) and Wojtek
Zakrzewski (Durham University, UK).

Contact Dr Peter Jarvis (Convenor) 03 6226 2725 QFT.fest at phys.utas.edu.au,
www.theory.phys.utas.edu.au/theory/qftfest/index.html for more information. 


And for all stories feel free to contact me - 03 5253 1391 or
niall at scienceinpublic.com

Kind regards,



Niall Byrne
Science in Public
Ph +61 3 5253 1391
email niall at scienceinpublic.com
PO Box 199, Drysdale Vic Australia

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