MV Blog


MIFF returns to the Melbourne Planetarium

by Warik
Publish date
16 July 2012
Comments (0)

Warik is a digital production designer at the Planetarium at Scienceworks.

The Melbourne International Film Festival returns again to the Melbourne Planetarium to show the latest works in Fulldome Cinema. Two Fulldome Showcases will be presented on Saturday 4 August.

Coral Coral: Rekindling Venus promotional photograph.
Source: Lynette Walworth

7.00pm screening:
• Visualiszt
A series of short immersive works inspired by the music of 19th century Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso Frank Liszt

• Space Opera
Journey through the solar system accompanied by English composer Gustav Holst's acclaimed composition 'The Planets: Opera 32'.

9.00pm screening:
Life: A Cosmic Story
Narrated by Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, the show launches the audience on a journey through time, witnessing key events since the Big Bang that set the stage for life.

Coral: Rekindling Venus
Journey into a mysterious realm of fluorescent coral reefs, bioluminescent sea creatures and rare marine life and uncover a complex community living in the oceans most threatened by climate change. Coral: Rekindling Venus is the new film from acclaimed artist Lynette Wallworth, who also created the Welcome video installation at the Immigration Museum's Identity exhibition.

For further information, or to purchase tickets, head over to the MIFF website.


Fulldome Showcase at the Melbourne Planetarium

Melbourne Planetarium

Talkin' 'bout my generation

by Max
Publish date
14 July 2012
Comments (4)

Your Question: First generation Australians?

I was wondering (well I’ve been wondering for a while now)... if my parents brought my family over to Australia, who are classed as “first generation Australian”? Is it my children or both my parents and my brother, sister and I being the first generation? Thanks, Vera

Until you asked that question, I thought I was a first generation Australian because my Mum and Dad were born in Holland and I was born here. I liked being a first generation Australian, there's something 'fresh' and 'new', almost 'original' about it.

  Gin family Citizenship ceremony Vera (second on the right) and her first generation family at their citizenship ceremony in 1993
Image: Godfrey Gin
Source: Godfrey Gin

But no, now I find I've been relegated to second place by people like you and your family!

Family photo Two first and three second generation Australians. Mum and Dad with their boys.Traralgon,1963.
Source: Max Strating

That's right, if you were born overseas but now live in Australia, you are a first generation Australian. If you have children, they will become the second generation (like me). But don't just take my word for it; here is what the Australian Bureau of Statistics says on their Population characteristics: Ancestry of Australia's population webpage;

  • First generation Australians are people living in Australia who were born overseas.
  • Second generation Australians are Australian-born people living in Australia, with at least one overseas-born parent.

First generation Australians enjoying the great “Aussie” outdoors First generation Australians enjoying the great “Aussie” outdoors
Image: Godfrey Gin
Source: Godfrey Gin

So there you have it, you are one of life's winners coming first – generationally at least.

Got a question? Ask us!

Poetic tribute to the first fridge

by Kate C
Publish date
13 July 2012
Comments (1)

When was the last time a household appliance moved you to poetry?

refrigerator pamphlet Flyer advertising Electrolux Refrigerators, circa 1960. (TL 011888)
Source: Museum Victoria

The Discovery Centre recently received an unusual inquiry from Sherryn Danaher who was seeking more information about the Harrison Refrigerator model at Scienceworks. Accompanying her request was a poem dedicated to the tale of the first commercial-scale refrigerator - invented in the 1850s by a Geelong man called James Harrison. Sherryn explained: 

Some years ago I read the fascinating story of James Harrison and his fridge. It wasn't until the 1930's that Kelvinator (if my memory serves me right) seriously started producing refrigerators for the mass market. It struck me that, as so many times since, Australia dipped out on being the forerunner in the development of this appliance. Being a poet, I was inspired to put the story to rhyme and A.A Milne popped up from the dark recesses.

She gave us permission to publish her poem here. Enjoy!


Mr. Harrison's Invention
(apologies to A.A.Milne)

James James Harrison Harrison
Inventor of cooling our beer
Never had heard of whitegoods
Though he's their pioneer.
James James
Said to his country
'Australia' he said, said he
'You must never let meat rot in the heat
Without first consulting me.'

James James
Harrison's invention
(commonly known as fridge)
Was the talk of our town
With its compressor renowned
Cooling lamb and our national swig.

James James Harrison's fridge
Finally wreathed in gold
James James Harrison spoke
When officially told
'So the Melbourne Exhibition
Lauds my invention'
Said to the crowd said he
'I'm proud to receive
though hard to believe in 1873.'

The very next century
We put up a notice
He tried for his country, like many a discovery.
No one had given a toss.


Three generations of Harrisons with the Harrison Refrigerator Model. Three generations of Harrisons with the Harrison Refrigerator Model on display at Scienceworks. Left to right: Christopher, James and Mark Harrison.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The Harrison Refrigerator Model is on display at Scienceworks

Higgs boson found

by Tanya
Publish date
5 July 2012
Comments (1)

We all know what it's like – the frustration of tearing the house upside down looking for something, the longer it takes the more doubt sets in, but then you find it – woo-hoo!

Well this is one of those moments – on a grand scale. Physicists have found a new particle, possibly one that they have been hunting for almost 50 years. It is called the Higgs boson.

The particle was suggested to exist back in 1964. Professor Higgs (and others) came up with the idea as they pieced together the different types of subatomic particles and forces known to fill our Universe. It's called the Standard Model and it describes how things work on a fundamental level.

But there was something missing. Those tiny subatomic particles need a way to obtain mass – it turns out it's not an inbuilt process. Higgs put forward that mass could be transferred through a kind of field that's all around us.

It sounds strange, but think of other fields that you know. There's the magnetic field – most of us have seen the trick of putting iron filings on a sheet of paper and watching them all align when a magnetic is placed nearby. Earth's gravitational field is another one, we don't see it but we feel its effects all the time.

The idea is that subatomic particles could obtain mass by interacting with the Higgs field and the Higgs boson is the particle connected to that field. But it is incredibly elusive; it can only exist for a tiny fraction of a second before breaking down.

How do you find such a thing? It's done by smashing protons together at very high speeds.

The Large Hadron Collider, underneath the Franco-Swiss border, accelerates the protons and then they collide in detectors like ATLAS that measure the fall out. What I find amazing about these collisions is that the protons don't just shatter. There is so much energy in the collision that new particles are created. It's just like Einstein said, energy can turn into matter.

Lego model of the Atlas Detector A LEGO model of the ATLAS detector, currently on display at Scienceworks.
Image: B. Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

A Higgs boson is expected to appear once every trillion collisions, so they're incredibly hard to find. What's more, physicists weren't quite sure where to look – it wasn't known how energetic the collisions had to be for the chance to create a Higgs boson.

But now a new particle has been found and much follow up will be done to confirm that it has all the characteristics expected for the Higgs boson.

It's a huge leap forward, and like most scientific leaps, when first discovered it's hard to get our heads around it. I'm sure a hundred years ago, when British physicist J. J. Thompson first announced the discovery of the electron, people were left scratching their heads. I'm just excited to know that I was around for such a discovery. That's pretty cool.


ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale

NAIDOC Week 2012

by Kate C
Publish date
2 July 2012
Comments (4)

Each year, NAIDOC Week celebrates the stories, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The theme for this year is they dared to challenge, in tribute to the people who established and protected the Aboriginal Tent Embassy over the past forty years.

People at smoking ceremony People gathered at this morning's smoking ceremony in Milarri Garden. In the foreground are Patrick Greene and Genevieve Grieves.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

The start of NAIDOC Week (1-8 July 2012) was marked this morning at Melbourne Museum by a smoking ceremony, with Genevieve Grieves and Mandy Jones raising the Aboriginal flag. Says Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin, "Each year we raise a new Aboriginal flag in the Milarri Garden and hold a smoking ceremony; this signifies for us a new year, a symbolic gesture of renewal, honouring the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities both past and present."

  People watching flag-raising Genevieve and Mandy raising the Aboriginal flag.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

At the event, CEO Patrick Greene launched the Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum, a hot-off-the-press, free guidebook to Aboriginal stories embedded within all the galleries of the museum.

Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum The cover of the new Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum.
Source: Museum Victoria

Caroline explains that the guide was produced "in response to complaints when we closed the permanent exhibition." The main gallery of Bunjilaka closed earlier this year to allow construction of the new permanent exhibition, First Peoples, that will open in mid-2013. "People were disappointed that they'd come to the museum for an Aboriginal experience, and in their eyes there was no Aboriginal content, which isn't true. Over the last few years, any time a new exhibition was developed, we've talked to the curators to include Aboriginal content."

The Koorie Guide highlights the stories and culture of the traditional owners of Victoria that are embedded in Melbourne Museum's exhibitions. In Wild: Amazing animals in a changing world, visitors are greeted at the entrance by the eagle Bunjil, while in The Melbourne Story, there is a single raven, the only bird in the display that isn't labelled with its scientific name. This is Waa, a sacred figure from Koorie creation stories. "Bunjil is creator of the land, waterways and people and Waa is the protector of all," explains Caroline.

Another purpose of the guide is to show another view of the museum's displays. In the western districts of Victoria, an area near Portland is remembered for the 1829 battle between whalers and Gunditjmara people over the ownership of a beached whale. The Koorie Guide links the popular Blue Whale skeleton exhibit with these Convincing Grounds, so-called because of the terrible violence used by whalers to 'convince' the local people of their right to the whale.

Caroline Martin Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin speaking at the NAIDOC Week event this morning.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

Caroline worked with colleagues John Patten, Liz Suda and Museum Victoria's Design Studio to compile the Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum, and she encourages visitors to request a copy of the guide from the cloakroom desk. Come in to Bunjilaka to enjoy the special NAIDOC Week events at Melbourne Museum, too.

Performance in Bunjilaka Accomplished didgeridoo player and Wemba Wemba man Ron Murray performing in Bunjilaka today, as part of NAIDOC Week visitor activities.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria


NAIDOC Week official website

MV News: NAIDOC Week 2010

Bug of the month - Steel Blue Sawfly

by Patrick
Publish date
1 July 2012
Comments (25)

If you're out in the bush or a local park during winter, you're likely to happen across a group of 'spitfires' clinging to the branch of a gum tree in the cold. These insects are technically called sawflies, a group of insects closely related to wasps. There are more than 200 species of sawfly in Australia, but the local species is the Steel Blue Sawfly (Perga dorsalis).

sawfly larvae A small clutch of sawfly larvae clinging to a branch.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

The name 'sawfly' derives from a 'sawbench' under the abdomen of the female with which she lays eggs. Female wasps, in contrast, use a pointed ovipositor to lay eggs and in some species this doubles as a sting – adult sawflies do not sting and both adults and larvae are completely harmless.

Patrick Honan Female Steel Blue Sawfly.
Image: Female Steel Blue Sawfly
Source: Museum Victoria

Female sawflies use the sawbench to cut the upper surface of a leaf and deposit 60-70 eggs into the leaf tissue. The larvae hatch and feed on gum leaves, grouping together for protection in a rosette pattern, similar to the head-outwards stance adopted by Bison when under attack. This is known as a 'ring defence', or cycloalexy. As the larvae grow, they collect in larger groups around branches during the day and spread out to feed at night.

sawfly eggs A raft of eggs cut into a gum leaf by a female Steel Blue Sawfly.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Like their cousins, the ants, bees and wasps, sawflies show some social behaviour but only in a primitive way. When feeding at night, larvae tap the branch to keep in constant communication with each other. If an individual becomes lost, it will tap more rapidly until it receives an answer from the rest of the group – if an individual becomes completely separated it will not survive long on its own.

Detail of sawfly larva abdomen. Sawflies grouped together on a branch. The pale tips of the abdomen are tapped on the branch to keep in touch.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

The activities of a group of sawfly larvae are governed by a few select individuals that become in effect the leaders of the group. They lead the rest out to feed at night and, if they run out of food, lead the group across the ground to other trees. When large numbers of sawfly larvae are present they are able to defoliate small gum trees, but in general are not a major pest.

mass of sawfly larvae A mass of sawflies resting during the day, the result of the merging of several smaller groups.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

When ready to pupate, the larvae leave the host tree and burrow down to make mass cocoons in the soil. Here they sit through spring and summer to emerge in early autumn. Adults have no mouthparts and do not feed, living only for a week or so.

pupating sawfly larvae Sawfly larvae in their pupal cells underground, preparing to pupate.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Not all emerge, however, as many succumb to parasitic flies. These flies, about the size of a blowfly, will lay eggs in the sawfly larvae and the fly maggot literally eats its host from the inside out, eventually emerging from the sawfly's cocoon.

parasitised sawfly larva An opened pupal cell showing the consumed sawfly larva on the left, and the engorged parasitic fly larva on the right.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Sawfly larvae have an unusual defensive mechanism that has given them the name 'spitfires'. They store eucalyptus oil in a small sac in their gut, and regurgitate this oil when under threat. Despite their nickname, they are unable to actually spit this fluid and the oil itself is harmless unless eaten (like all eucalyptus oil). In fact it has a very pleasant eucalytpusy smell.

sawfly larva mouthparts A large blob of frothy regurgitate in the mouthparts of a sawfly larva.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Australia is one of the main strongholds of Symphyta, the suborder of insects to which sawflies belong. The Steel Blue Sawfly is one of the few insect species active in Victoria during winter, so next time you're in the bush take the time to stop and smell the sawflies.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.