Thrifting or op shopping is more popular than ever. Perhaps you’ve already shopped in op shops, or are thinking of trying it. Every time I see one of those ‘thrift haul’ videos on YouTube, I get a little jealous that Canberra doesn’t seem to have many cool op shops like in the US, Europe or Japan. However, after a few years of wandering in Canberra, I can tell you, honey, you just need to look in the right places.
First, in Canberra only, there is the Green Shed. There are three Green Shed stores in the city.
If you’re looking for cool home décor, definitely check out the Civic Walk Green Shed. They have a variety of tea sets, plates and more, usually in good condition. Sometimes they’ll have high quality and stylish furniture too.
Near the Civic Walk Green Shed is the Green Shed Underground. Most clothing items are priced at $5. Green Shed Underground can get a bit overwhelming for beginners, due to its less organised display. However, it is a fun place to hang out with friends and is conveniently close to campus.
Then we have the Mitchell Green Shed. It’s probably easiest to get there by car. They take a wide range of donations, from clothes to furniture, even bikes. If you’re moving house, definitely check here. Just bear in mind they don’t mark their prices, so you have to ask staff about every single item. You might want to free up a bit more time when you plan on going there.
Then, of course, we have Vinnies and Salvos. Technically, each Vinnies and Salvos has a little bit of a different vibe and style. Other than the ones local to you, here are some that I recommend checking out.
Dickson Vinnies seems to have more fancy items, also generally more expensive pieces. I have seen some really good quality $40 leather jackets there, which looked like they might have cost you over $100 in some op shops in Sydney.
Also worth checking out is the Mitchell store. The Mitchell Vinnies has more denim items than most op shops in Canberra. Not exactly sure why but, hey, I’m not complaining. Just be careful with the sizing, especially Levi’s jeans. The older the Levi’s, usually the bigger the size, even if with the same number. For example, a size 25 vintage Levi’s can sometimes fit the same as a size 30 new Levi’s.
For all my uni student friends that might be moving at the end of the year, other than Mitchell Green Shed, you should check out the Fyshwick Salvos. It’s huge. If you’re getting a lot at once, sometimes the staff will let you pay first and bring a truck the next day to pick up the furniture. I got a $50 discount on a set of bookshelves once. Don’t forget to check out their basement, they have board games galore.
Sydney has Newtown and Melbourne has Fitzroy and Brunswick. We, Canberra, also have something similar: Fyshwick. I know you might be confused, but in fact Fyshwick has a few really niche, small-scale op shops.
Canberra Vintage & Collectible Centre has the largest collection of second hand vinyl records in Canberra, and other random retro items as well. I’ve seen a board game about WWI there, which takes 50 hours for one game. Remember, they are only open Thursday to Sunday.
Down the street is Dirty Janes, basically a collection of vintage antique shops. They actually have an Instagram account. Not just second hand items, there are quite a few local artists setting up shops there too.
If you’re more into designer pieces, check out the Designer Op Shop Emporium. This is where you can find some pretty unique pre-loved designer fashion, like vintage Chanel wool suits. They also have more designer home décor, and some $100-$400 evening dresses too.
I guess, needless to say, Canberra might not be like New York or London, but we do have a fair amount of cool op shops. The next time you are planning on hanging out with some mates, maybe check out one of these stylish op shops!
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Happy Libra season! Wondering how October will fare for you? Woroni is here to help.
Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
You are a natural leader, Aquarius, and this October you will be further drawn to speaking out on issues regarding social justice. Feel confident in speaking your mind and sharing your wisdom. From October 13th, Mercury enters retrograde, which will affect your house of love and romance. As a result, you may experience some instability or tension in your relationships, or you may feel a pull towards reconnecting with past lovers.
Important date: October 27
Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Thanks to the Full Moon in Aries from October 1st, you will feel a sense of assertion and confidence in your communication this month. This will come in handy for some tough conversations you will likely need to have that you have been putting off. October will be a month of transformation for you, as you may find yourself more willing to experiment with your self-expression.
Important date: October 14
Aries (March 21 – April 19)
You will start off October feeling powerful and more in touch with your emotional side, due to the Full Moon in Aries on October 1st. October will be a big month for love and romance. Keep in mind that while it is important to show love to others, remember to give yourself the same loving energy. As someone from your past may reappear surprisingly this month, this will be a good opportunity for you to realise how far you have grown.
Important date: October 13
Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
You are loyal and reliable, which makes you a great friend. This October, be sure to maintain the health of your friendships through setting clear boundaries and expectations. Mercury entering retrograde may have you second guessing decisions that you were previously sure of. Do not reject this energy, as you are sometimes too stubborn in your decision-making, and sometimes a fresh perspective can be helpful.
Important date: October 4
Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
You likely finished off September in a better headspace than the beginning of the month. Be sure to take this motivating energy through October. There will be a tough decision to be made this month – a sort of fork in the road. Ensure you take the time to consider all the aspects and possible outcomes before you settle on a decision. If mistakes are made this month, don’t bully yourself. Instead, take them as learning opportunities to continue to grow.
Important date: October 16
Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Everything just feels too intense this October, Cancer, and you may feel overwhelmed. You can either accept or reject this energy. This month gives you an opportunity to take more risks, and be more honest with yourself about what you really want and the impact that you can have on the people around you. The Sun remains in your house of home and family until October 22nd. You will feel pulled towards phone calls home and spending more time with your close ones.
Important date: October 2
Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Thanks to the Sun remaining in your house of communication until October 22nd, you will find yourself craving stimulating conversations with interesting people. You may feel you don’t have time for discussing shallow or materialistic topics. Your love of learning will be reignited this month. Problem solving in your everyday life will seem like second nature this October. You may feel you are finally connecting the dots on issues that have been present for some time.
Important date: October 17
Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
Due to Mercury entering retrograde, be wary of falling back into old habits, relationships or tendencies that do not serve you. Someone from your past may re-enter your life in an unexpected way. October will be a month of moving on from the past and looking towards the future. As someone who is normally careful and concise with your words, you may feel more scattered and reckless this month. Be wary to think before you speak.
Important date: October 8
Libra (September 23 – October 22)
Happy Libra season! You are the sign of fairness and justice, but you are not always fair with yourself. October will be a month of healing and rejuvenation, allowing you to strengthen your relationships with not only others but also yourself. With a New Moon in Libra on October 16th, emotions may be turbulent. A conflict may arise in a close relationship of yours, but it will be quickly resolved. You will leave October feeling more assured about the relationships that truly mean the most to you.
Important date: October 19
Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
You may be feeling resentful, Scorpio, but October will be the perfect month for you to shed yourself of these negative emotions and start fresh. Make sure to cut yourself some slack and don’t judge yourself for these negative feelings, as they are completely normal. Prepare yourself for some deep revelations about yourself, as Mercury enters retrograde in Scorpio. Luck will be on your side this October.
Important date: October 22
Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
You tend to want to escape situations or feelings when things get complicated. This October, make an effort to confront your problems head on. Self-discipline is important this month, as you tend to act impulsively or recklessly without considering the consequences. With the Full Moon entering your house of creativity, you will start off October feeling pulled towards healthy expression of your emotions through creative outlets.
Important date: October 21
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
You may feel out of sync with your social life this October, but this is temporary and will pass. Use this energy as an opportunity to re-evaluate which relationships are truly serving you. You will reach a goal this month that you have been working towards for a long time coming. Make sure to bask in this sense of achievement and let yourself feel pride in your efforts. Regret will be an emotion that seems to burden you this October. Take time to look after yourself and move forward from the past.
Important date: October 11
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Welcome to Virgo season. Starting strong with a Full Moon on the 1st, here’s what September has in store for you:
Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
September will be a big month of self-reflection for you, Aquarius. This may bring anxiety when thinking of past mistakes or events, but be sure to not wallow or punish yourself. Instead, use this reflective energy to move forward and set your eyes on future goals. There could be some tough decisions coming your way, but Mercury coming into Virgo this month will help give you the clarity you need.
Important date: September 14
Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
This will be the month to cut your losses and rid yourself of the unnecessary baggage you may still be clinging onto. You are normally a more ‘go with the flow’ kind of person, but Virgo season will have you working more to a schedule than you would normally like to. Don’t reject this energy, but instead take it in your stride. September will be a great time for you to pick up a new hobby.
Important date: September 8
Aries (March 21 – April 19)
The earth energy that Virgo season brings, combined with the Moon entering Aries on September 25, will have you feeling particularly gratuitous this month. Now is a great time to open your heart and show your loved ones how much you truly appreciate them. Allow your inner confidence to spread, uplifting those around you who may not share the same sense of self-assurance.
Important date: September 25
Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
September is a month for you to simply enjoy what brings you pleasure in life. You may feel a childlike nature in your actions, but this is necessary after a draining beginning to semester. Have fun for the sake of having fun. You may be feeling more creative than usual, and inclined to take more risks, which is often difficult for you. Trust your instinct this month, Taurus, as you are often right.
Important date: September 9
Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
You are charming and magnetic, which means you find yourself making new friends very easily, Gemini. However, this September you will find comfort in the known. You will feel more inclined to stay home this month, but this is not a bad thing. With the Sun entering your 4th house, enjoy and savour the time you spend with your family and close relationships. Look after your home space this month, perhaps partaking in some spring cleaning.
Important date: September 12
Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
With Venus being in Cancer throughout August, you likely have just experienced a month of heavy emotions. However, after September 7th, the veil will be lifted, allowing for a month of rest and repair. You may find yourself feeling rejuvenated and therefore branching out more than usual. September will be a great month for you to invest significant effort into your work and career, as something big may be just around the corner.
Important date: September 19
Leo (July 23 – August 22)
With the Sun entering your 2nd house this month, financial luck is coming your way. You may find that new opportunities to make money just seem to keep appearing. You will find your ability to communicate openly will come with ease this month. You won’t be afraid to speak your mind, however be wary of coming across as aggressive. The Sun entering your 2nd house will also have you re-evaluating your relationships. Now may be the time to drift from relationships that no longer serve you.
Important date: September 17
Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
Happy Virgo Season! You will be feeling high-energy and alert all month long. Anything seems possible for you this month, Virgo. As someone who is normally not a lover of attention, make sure to enjoy the loving energy that you will receive this month. September will be a huge month in terms of productivity, goal-setting and your career, which is what you thrive at best. As September comes to an end, a fresh challenge may suddenly enter your life, but you will be prepared and ready to face whatever comes your way.
Important date: September 9
Libra (September 23 – October 22)
As an air sign, be wary that you may struggle with the steady and organised nature that Virgo season brings. The Full Moon on September 1st will bring you a new sense of self-reflection and analysis. The results of this self-reflection will be what you make of it. While you normally tend to avoid difficult conversations, you will find communication easier this month, as the Moon brings a burst of courage on September 9th.
Important date: September 1
Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
It has been a demanding couple of months, Scorpio, but with September’s arrival you will begin to reap the rewards of all your hard work. As you enjoy the benefits of your efforts, ensure you also prioritise self-care in all facets of your life. Anxiety may peak at some points throughout the month, but stability is coming. Questions you have been asking for a while will begin to be answered by the universe. Trust your instincts and values, you know what is best for you.
Important date: September 4
Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
September is a big month for love, Sagittarius, whether this is in your family, friendships or blossoming romances. Remember to demonstrate to yourself the same appreciation and love that you show to those closest to you. With both Mars and Pluto entering Sagittarius this month, your inclination towards spontaneity and recklessness will be tempting. Be wary to think before you speak, as your words often carry heavier weight than you think.
Important date: September 15
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Due to the Sun entering your 9th house this month, September will have you yearning for adventure and excitement. You may be feeling down about the stagnant nature of your life. Your intuition and creativity will be strong this month, and you may be finally seeing real progress and results regarding your career or academia. As an earth sign, Virgo season will motivate you to continue dedicating yourself to your work, especially now that you can see the progress you have made with more clarity.
Important date: September 26
CONTENT WARNING: Brief Mentions of Drugs and Depression
Be it familial or romantic, requited or unrequited, infatuated or platonic, divine or self-directed, our culture is obsessed with it. It furnishes our songs, scripture and screenplays. And just like sex, it sells. It’s a panacea.
The idea of love lingers in our hopeful minds. We feel it in the empty moments spent between bed sheets or at society meet and greets.
But despite all the airtime it gets on our screens and in our mind, we rarely think critically about love.
Sure, some of us might watch The Bachelor or MAFS from time to time and say, ‘no way does she love him: look at her body language’. Love is used casually, as if we all know what it means. Problem is, we don’t.
It’s time to do as Haddaway did in 1992 and ask, What is Love?.
Biologically, we think we know a lot about love. It’s a drive, just like hunger or thirst. It’s classed into three overlapping stages, each an evolutionary purpose. The first of these is lust. In lust, testosterone and estrogen flood the brain, amping up libido. One must pass on our genetic material, evolution tells us. Lust lasts for a month or so.
Simultaneously or independently, attraction occurs. Attraction is dopamine and norepinephrine stimulating our pleasure centre, turning someone into that special someone. We get hooked on their vibes and can’t stand time apart from them.
Their presence is so euphoric it boosts our heart rate, lowers our appetite and our ability to sleep. These symptoms are remarkably similar to those produced by amphetamines: love really is a drug. For up to three years, anyway. Eventually, affection fades away.
Attachment, however, can last a lifetime. During this stage, oxytocin and vasopressin promote emotional intimacy. Unlike with lust and attraction, attachment is not limited to romantic partners; it moderates the bond of parents and children, close friends and social cordiality in general.
But love, like any drug, has a dark side. Heartbreak hurts. Literally – it’s processed as genuine physical pain. The dysregulation of chemicals at any of these stages has its consequences. Too much dopamine during attraction can cause physiological addiction. This extends into psychological addiction, with obsessive behaviour, jealousy and withdrawal symptoms when one’s cravings are not met.
But too little dopamine and one will lack commitment and motivation and might fall into depression.
Oxytocin, ‘the love chemical’, is likewise a double-edged dagger. Oxytocin amplifies feelings. In both directions. So just as it increases warmth and empathy for a friend or lover, the love chemical simultaneously lowers your empathy for those outside your social, political and ethnic tribes, increasing prejudice and discrimination. An excess of oxytocin generally is linked to dissociation and wild, reckless behaviour.
This triarchic model of lust-attraction-attachment shows us there are different ways in which we can love. People vary in their preferences and capacity for each of the three, so it also teaches us empathy for those who struggle with love as their difficulties are often not their fault.
At the same time, accepting a purely biological explanation of love feels uncomfortable. Dissecting love like this feels sterile and disenchanting, so removed from the sublime personal experience of love that it verges on cruel.
And then there’s the danger that explaining the darker side of love justifies it. It’s the naturalistic fallacy that because something is instinctive, it is defendable to do. Nonetheless, people reason that way. To justify xenophobia through the effects of oxytocin or claim that cheating is a result of testosterone, is making excuses, not science.
It’s a basic fact of psychology that how we think influence immutable. Science gives us only the mechanisms, it is normatively silent on what and who we should love. We, by and large, get to decide that for ourselves.
Looking around, it’s clear humans love many things. It extends not just to not friends and family but to food and fauna, fictions and facts, fraternity and freedom. It’s striking to think people willingly sacrifice their lives, literally and metaphorically, out of love for many of these ideas and ideals.
Perhaps it’s regrettable that English uses one lumpy word for all these things. After all, the Ancient Greeks famously used six. But in a way, I think it’s beneficial. The word is so ambiguous that we can’t adequately answer the question ‘what is love?’. This forces us to ask a much more meaningful question, that is: ‘what is love, for me?’.
Comments Off on The Spread of Medical Misinformation
CONTENT WARNING: Brief Mention of Climate Change
Coming from a chemistry and biology background, I frequently question medical advice that is emotionally appealing but not backed by rigorous scientific research. Alternative medicine, for example, takes advantage of public fear to promote their arguably bogus treatments. The recent coronavirus outbreak is just one scenario exploited by the industry among many others, such as cancer and neurological disorders. Like with climate change denial and anti-vaccination movements, the rejection of evidence-based approaches in favour of ideology and profit repeatedly overpowers science.
Acupuncture is one type of alternative medicine that is part of traditional Chinese medicine and unbound by the constraints of the scientific method. Based on a mythical, ancient philosophy of invisible meridians controlling energy (or Qi) flow through the body, acupuncture has successfully invaded the health care system. The state of New Mexico defines acupuncture as:
“the surgical use of needles inserted into and removed from the body and the use of other devices, modalities and procedures at specific locations on the body for the prevention, cure or correction of any disease, illness, injury, pain or other condition by controlling and regulating the flow and balance of energy and function to restore and maintain health.”
According to acupuncture practitioners, they can treat pretty much anything. Their latest pursuit is, of course, the novel coronavirus. The Acupuncture Healing Centre, located in Chicago’s Chinatown, released an article in late January on how acupuncture can be used to prevent coronavirus. This is supposedly done by facilitating the body’s immune response to expel the pathogen through points that supposedly strengthen digestion, breathing and the mind.
However, I argue the practice is a form of psychological manipulation and theatrical placebo – the more you expect it to work, the more likely you are to exhibit symptom relief. It may seem like a ‘real’ medical treatment, but it lacks scientific evidence to support its bold claims and does not truly cure or prevent conditions. Short-term treatment with acupuncture does not produce long-term benefits, and its apparent effects are not caused by the treatment itself. Decades of research and over 3000 trials show that any possible specific effect from acupuncture is clinically insignificant.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are unaware of acupuncture’s ineffectiveness and quackery, so the practice continues to grow. This is largely because of poor communication, misleading information published online and increasing government approval. This makes it far more difficult than necessary to obtain correct information on acupuncture. We can’t blame people for not knowing, however, given that we often have to dig deep and critically analyse to find the facts. Yet there are a few examples across the globe contributing to the spread of misinformation and the acupuncture industry.
Let’s start with Australia. The Better Health Channel, funded by the Victorian Government, has an information page on acupuncture procedures and its effectiveness. The page has a summary box at the top with what the authors consider the main points to take away. But the summary ignores the most important piece of information: that there is no systematically reviewed scientific evidence to prove acupuncture’s effectiveness. This point is also glossed over in the body. Most people will not read the whole page and even if they do, they will easily miss this key point. Additionally, there is a statement at the very bottom of the page which asserts that “content on this website … does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not in- tended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional” [emphasis added]. Considering how few people read the fine print, I question why this statement was not placed at the beginning of the page.
Now on to America and China. As of this year, acupuncture is covered by Medicare in the United States. In China, acupuncture is pretty much recommended by the National Health Commission. Not only will this result in conditions not being properly treated, but also lead people to believe that acupuncture is an official and effective practice approved by medicine.
Finally, the Vickers meta-analysis. This analysis from 2012 is one of the most cited studies used to argue that acupuncture works (much like the infamous Wakefield paper that linked the MMR vaccine with autism). However, the study shows nothing of the sort and has several issues in its methods. For starters, the authors had an enormous pro-acupuncture bias, which caused them to overcall the results. Secondly, the controls used were entirely problematic because the participants knew they were receiving no treatment. Even the authors acknowledge that “because the comparison between acupuncture and no-acupuncture cannot be blinded, both performance and response bias are possible.” Basically, the meta-analysis is completely useless, despite what acupuncture advocates would have you believe.
Medical misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media and through word of mouth. Evaluating information is particularly important during this time of international health emergency. But people forget to critically assess sources before arriving at a conclusion, leading to a growing acceptance of deceptive alternative practices like acupuncture.
CONTENT WARNING: Sex, Nudity, STIs, Sexual Harassment and Assault, Masturbation, Drugs, Homophobia, Violence Against Women
This piece is a combination of excerpts from essays, books and movies, creative pieces, statistics and figures. Excerpts from other works are italicised, original work is not, and creative pieces from this author begin with a bold sentence. Statistics and figures have been collected from the Australian Institution of Health and Welfare Services.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, apocryphal medical claims introduced the idea that men require regular sexual activity for good health. Male sexuality was expected to be active and aggressive, with many fe- male partners and extramarital relations. Female sexuality, on the other hand, was expected to be passive, sterile, monogamous and lesser. This led to the normalisation of male sexual degeneracy.
Male scientists argued that male sexual traits were products of evolutionary instinct and sexual physiology. Promiscuity, virility and sexual domination, they claimed, were within men’s nature.
Without doubt the man has a livelier sexual need than the woman… guided by a powerful natural drive, he is aggressive and stormy in his love-play.
Woman is quite different. If a woman is mentally normally developed and well-raised, then her sensual desire is scant.
– Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, 1886.
However, the degeneration of masculinity was also a topic of great concern in the late 19th century. Male sexuality was seen as something contaminated. Issues such as sexual promiscuity, prostitution, STIs, and masturbation chipped away at the idealised norm of masculinity. The fear of sodomy and homosexuality added to this decline.
Wood: Here an act of grossest indecency occurred. Mr. Wilde used his influence to induce me to consent. He made me nearly drunk. [testimony censored]….Afterwards I lay on the sofa with him. It was a long time, however, before I would allow him to actually do the act of indecency.
Gill: I understand you to say that the evidence given in this case by the witnesses called in support of the prosecution is absolutely untrue?
– Two excerpts from the highly-public trial of Oscar Wilde. Alfred Wood examined by Horace Avery, and Wilde examined by C. Gill.
A Reading List for the Modern Man (1900):
Bénédict Augustin Morel’s Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Traits of Degeneration in the Human Species (1857),
Cesare Lombroso’s Criminal Man (1876). – Ray Lankester’s Degeneration (1880).
Max Nordau’s Degeneration (1892).
The spread of STIs – syphilis and gonorrhoea, then HIV and AIDS – symbolised this degeneration. Advances in medical understanding led to a greater awareness of STIs. Syphilis was a sign of sexual de-generation because of its obvious visual stigmata: pustules, rashes and ulcerations. The spread of STIs was seen as a failure of public health.
Men, being sexually promiscuous, became vectors for disease. Men with STIs were corruptive influences on family life, capable of inflicting diseases from extramarital partners onto their wives. Damage could also be passed to offspring: syphilis caused stillbirths, miscarriages and physical deformations.
He examined with minute care, and sometimes a monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the wrinkling forehead, or crawled around the heavy sensual mouth, wondering sometimes which were the more horrible, the signs of sin or the signs of age.
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890.
Ennis Del Mar ain’t been in, has he?
AGUIRRE glares at him even harder. The wind hits the trailer like a load of dirt coming off a dump truck, eases, dies, leaves a temporary silence.
You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there.
Time Magazine, AIDS, The Growing Threat, 1985.
JACK gives him a look, then sees the big binoculars hanging on a nail on the wall behind AGUIRRE’s head.
Twist, you guys wasn’t gettin’ paid to leave the dogs baby-sit the sheep while you stemmed the rose.
– Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain, 2006.
The masterful man was the purveyor of what Mayreder characterized as an erotic of the “strong fist,” which depended not only upon aggression and violence but also upon the subordination and sexual objectification of women.
– Kirsten Leng, Sexual Politics and Feminist Science, 2018.
You’ve tested positive for HIV –
RON looks at DR. SEVARD blankly.
…the virus that causes AIDS.
RON freezes. A long beat.
Who you kidding, Rock cock sucking Hudson bull- shit?!
Have you ever used intravenous drugs or had any homosexual –
RON spits out his candy.
Homo? Homo? That’s what you said, right? Shit. You gotta be kidding me. (laughs) I ain’t no faggot, I don’t even know any faggots! Look at me, doc. Come on now, look at me. What do you see? Huh? The god- dam rodeo is what you see.
Dallas Buyers Club, directed by Jean-Marc Valleé, 2013.
– Cara Phillips, The Boob Book, 2012. From Phillip’s series, Singular Beauty: Technology has enabled us to correct and enhance our bodies with an endless array of procedures that promise to make us younger, thinner, sexier and more beautiful. Plastic surgery is one of many industries that affirms male sexuality as the lens through which women are seen.
The ‘Male Gaze’ doesn’t apply to him. He loves women. He treats women well. He can’t stand that his eyes follow the latest one into the coffee shop, her buttocks squeezing and unsqueezing in black active- wear as she walks to the counter. He will admonish himself later. She’s made her order and walks to the other side of the counter, giving him the opportunity to look at her profile. Her breasts aren’t very big, held tight by a sports bra under a loose-fitting white top.
He turns back to his own coffee. He wouldn’t look for long. He barely even notices himself doing it. Habit? He would scoff if you said it to his face. It’s an atavistic trait, primal even. All men do it. He doesn’t mean it, the guilty, compunctious, delicious, unintended leer. He wonders who she is, the woman caught in his gaze, as if this shred of empathy could save him. He does not hear her name as it is called out by the bearded man behind the coffee machine. Takeaway. This is his cue. He hasn’t intended this either. He gets up and beats her to the door. Really she’s not his type. Bottom-heavy. Frizzy hair struggling to be contained by a bun. But that doesn’t stop him from holding the door open and trying to catch her eye, his grin flashing like the emergence of the bright sunlight through the door.
I was not too crazy about sleeping with girls I didn’t know. It was an easy way to take care of my sex drive of course, and I did enjoy all the holding and touching, but I hated the morning after… the girl would wake up and start groping around for her knickers and while she was putting on her stockings she’d say something like, “I hope you used one last night. It’s the worst day of the month for me”.
– Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood, 1987.
Note on the below figure: it is clear here that women have disproportionately experienced dating or partner violence.
Note on the below figure: 10.8 per cent of men and 5.5 per cent of women have experienced violence in the 12 months before the 2005 survey. This may seem surprising; however, total violence includes violence inflicted on men, by men. Women experienced over double the amount of sexual violence or violence from a partner, committed by, to an enormous extent, men.
Note on the below figure: it is extremely interesting- here to see that 47.9 per cent of women hospitalised for assault specified their attacker as their spouse or domestic partner, while only 4.4 per cent of men hospitalised for assault did likewise. Instead, 50.5 per cent of men hospitalised for assault chose not to specify their relationship to their attacker. This perhaps indicates the embarrassment and emasculation of assaulted men.
…all part of a grand narrative in which male sexuality is directly responsible for women’s subordination. Women can’t equally compete in economic, political and social systems that privilege individual output because of the demands of pregnancy and childcare. This translates into overall subordination, enabling men to sexually dominate women and force women to service their excessive sexual lust…
Are you in your tote bag? In the plants? In the bad faith sods-stream (Palestinian tears)? In your rug? In the city’s half-assed attempt to recycle? In your tribe? In your kink? In your place of employment? In your wage packet? In the likes? In the rejections? In your documentation? In this sentence?
– ‘Locate the Self’, Grand Union Stories, Zadie Smith, 2019.
Note on the below figure: sexual assault rates have risen between 2011 and 2017. Around 60 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men have experienced both inappropriate comments about their body or their sex life, and unwanted touching, grabbing kiss- ing and fondling.
I hate the whole ugly circus.
I love fashion but then there’s the smoke-pumping, toxin-burning, forest-shucking stuff. There’s finger- nails holding together the stitching of the new Nike Air Max Flyknit. I bought something yesterday – on- line, of course – and hated it and now the ship will travel right back to where it came from. What are these ships? I think of an overhead shot, the vessel sitting on the clean black slate of the sea, long and straight like an enormous phallus with the bow as the head.
I want to be cool. I spent three hours and three minutes per day on my phone last week. When you’re trapped in a well and all you can see is the small opening far above you, it becomes your whole world. Your view will never be as straight, as uncomplicated as it is then. Who can even say what I did on my phone for three hours? Not me, that’s for sure. I’d throw the thing out but every time I try to the wires come out through the charge port and cut their way into my hand, and at each small puncture a drop of blood seals the deal.
I’m on the bus and my head is rattling around just like everyone else’s, but we’ve all got Airpods in and are calmed by the various things we hear. I’m hungover. I bet there’s some function through which we could all sync our Airpods together to listen to the same thing (if anyone could do it, Apple could! Haven’t you seen their Facetime ads?). We’d all be there, a harmonious little group connected by our bus route and our collective music. But instead we’re all tuned out. At the station, a man is cleaning the floor by the toilets with a huge, wheeled, electronic, ride-on mop, whose loud whirring creates a different aural buffer, encasing him and rendering my Airpods useless.
Porn is a type of voyeurism. I’ve been told that if you watch too much then real sex stops being good. Real Sex – love making, not drunk, not high, on a bed, naked and vulnerable, vulnerable together, together, not apart, joined as one. That’s what I’ve been told. Wake up the next morning, check your phone, hug a little longer.
Instead I sit out the back with the rest of the lot, and yeah I smoke with them, but I don’t say anything, I just sit in the dark like the real world is all inside my head. I don’t even wonder what people are thinking of me like I do every other time of the day. I can barely be seen in the half-light of the candle and the flare of the joint.
I’m in a funk for the rest of the week. I watch people as they do what people do. I see women on TV, on glossy snapshots in the hairdresser windows, on Facebook. I see one standing at a traffic light in a nude-beige skirt and a severe black worktop, mimicking perfectly the stance of a model on a large billboard over the top of the city: a tiny simulacrum.
What smog-filled metropolitan vista will visit me to- morrow? I’ll watch them all again. We’re filled up with the same stuff, it goes into us all: defiled air, social overload, falsity, coercion, blue light, flashing impulses. Here our sex is used against us: every frisson amplified, every thought seized upon, we crowd each other out. I’m one of them: a leech sucking on society, the blood turning black inside, black bile.
CONTENT WARNING: Sexual Exploitation, Body Image, Brief Mentions of Xenophobia and Misogyny
Sometimes the stories that make the biggest impact are those which play out in real time. News and academia seem immeasurably married to events. If someone in the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an amazing article about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii today, few would read it. However, a lower quality story about the spontaneous eruption of Mount Ainslie would probably crash the Sydney Morning Herald’s website. Very limited attention is given to stories about things that have happened over long periods of time. Business and economics is not a topic that inspires ‘The eruption of Mount Ainslie’ type stories.
Instead, it gives material form to abstract patterns, evolutions and phenomena that we would otherwise forget about, but which shape our world as we know it. It is my view that articles and stories about business and economics should aim to shine a spotlight on these changes and the implications that they carry for our society, our money and ourselves.
So much of our reality exists without material form at the behest of companies like Netflix, Amazon and Facebook to name a few. These corporations control so much of what we do every day and often bleed into one another to the point where they monopolise everyday life.
Since the emergence of computers and smart-phones, more and more of our lives are conducted online. Some of our relationships exist as much online as they do in person. Our money, most of which we will never see nor hold exists only as a number on our screens. We spend hours binging shows like Sex Education, The Office and Watchmen (all personal favourites) on streaming services, all of which exist on our laptops and phones, not anymore, it seems, on our televisions.
As a consequence of their great size and power, these companies often contradict themselves and operate outside of their own corporate identities. Amazon, for example, was established as an online book store. It now controls the online shopping market, Whole Foods shopping markets (with 500 stores in the United States and counting), produces films and has launched its own streaming platform to rival Netflix. Imagine if 20 years ago someone told you that by 2020, a company which sold books online would control a chain of supermarkets, launch its own on-line television channel and become one of the largest tech corporations in the world. What more can a company control other than food, technology, entertainment and shopping?
It gets weirder. The Walt Disney Company, originally responsible for Mickey Mouse and The Lion King, not only owns Lucasfilm and Marvel but is the par- ent company of Fox Corporation. The very network that gave us Fox News and Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson is owned by the same company that gave us Lilo and Stitch and Bambi. I don’t know if Pinocchio would agree with their demonisation of immigrants or their blatant misogyny, but I guess the board of Disney wouldn’t invite him.
These companies, through monopolising everyday life and exploiting it, for all it’s worth have managed to creep into politics and business to amass great wealth and power. They remind me of the fictional media conglomerate Waystar Royco from the show Succession, gigantic and seemingly indestructible but morally corrupt. Like Waystar Royco these corporations wield enormous political power, sourced from the sheer volume and size of their political donations and their control over news networks. Facebook for example decides what political material appears on our feeds no matter the legitimacy of the add or the substance of the claim. This has an enormous impact on how we form our political opinions and ultimately how we exercise our right to vote.
Amazon, Disney, Facebook and others represent the closest thing we have to despotic actors in the world of business and economics, these titans of industry wield enormous power sourced from their immense wealth and ability to control what we see and how we see it. The $4 trillion question is, how did we let them grow so powerful to the point where they are en- trenched in our economic, social and political fabric?
The answer is sex.
Sex, bodies and seduction, and business and economics seem to have nothing in common. Monetary policy appears to play little role in who we find at- tractive and talk of fiscal policy would never make us swipe right. The reality is that how we spend our money is governed by appearances and sex. We are more likely to spend big on something that is glamorous and sold to us by a perfect celebrity or model, even if it is in our interests to do the opposite. Over time, media conglomerates like Facebook, Amazon and Disney have monopolised this dynamic in order to control not only what we buy but what we see, when we see it and how we see it. As a result, these companies have amassed great wealth and power to the detriment of consumers. The monopolisation and commercialisation of sex has had untold consequences on our economy, our politics and on ourselves.
People will often succumb to the ‘buy this get this’ trick or the ‘buy this become this’ idea whereby some model will stand behind a product, leading the consumer to buy it due to some subconscious wish to become or attract the model. Fox News has expand- ed on this to create a ‘believe this get this’ dynamic where questionable news and political claims become more believable because of the glamour be- hind the ugly propaganda.
Selling products or news using sex also encourages impulsive buying, which is particularly common on-line. Most of the things we buy online are low-risk, relatively cheap and low-information products such as books, accessories and small electronics. Amazon for example, tries to make it as easy as possible to purchase something so that you have little time to consider if you really need it. The model standing behind the product telling you how great it is makes it even more likely that we will think ‘if only I buy this useless hat, I can be as good-looking as they are’.
The same dynamic is exploited in news. Some channels push fast-paced discourse and furious agreement so that the viewer doesn’t have time to consider the implications of what is being discussed. All we see is two seemingly respectable, good looking people in such vehement agreement that there is no time to think more deeply about the issue until they have bought the claim being discussed. Viewers seem more likely to believe something if it is sold to them by someone they find attractive or alluring, especially if the news program is fast-paced and filled with more graphics than analysis. This has allowed Facebook and Disney to buy millions of viewers, giving them one of the biggest viewerships in the world and the billions that come with it.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that giving billions to lawless and morally corrupt media conglomerates by allowing them to play on our sexual desires and in- securities isn’t great. It is impossible to calculate the psychological or economic damage that it has had on people who suffer from severe body issues and chase product after product clinging to the hope that it will give them the perfect body and appearance. Who knows how much Facebook or Fox has been able to push its own agenda by tuning us to accept questionable, or blatantly wrong claims because we are more inclined to believe someone who we find attractive? This has only allowed these companies to amass great wealth and power, making them so politically immune that they can survive even the most strident efforts of government to regulate or monitor their behaviour.
It has become fact since the emergence of the inter- net and these conglomerates that sex breeds sales and viewers, sales and viewers breed money, money breeds power and power breeds impunity. This is not something that has happened all at once, and there is no moment in time that can be pinpointed as the day this began to go beyond our control. This is not an ‘Eruption of Mount Ainslie’ story. This is something that has developed over a long period of time as our everyday lives became more and more dependent on the online economy.
The use of sex and envy in advertising and news has allowed these conglomerates to maximise their market share and become some of the most powerful entities in the modern world. To the psychological and economic detriment of consumers, we have been trained to neglect our better judgment and give into our lesser desires. The dynamic they have created be- tween us and them is dangerous, toxic and seemingly-unshakable. It might not quite be the eruption of Mount Ainslie, but volcanic events are limited by the rules of nature. Facebook, Amazon and Disney know no rules, natural, political, economic or otherwise.
CONTENT WARNING: Sexism, Miscarriage, Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence, Suicide, Brief Mentions of War and Terrorism
Nuclear warfare, rising sea levels, terrorism and cyberwarfare are all security issues that you may have heard of. However, there is one little-known threat that could put an end to whole populations: sex. Or at least, a lack thereof. From a Western perspective, sex is perceived as an act of love and intimacy, but rarely as a means to survive. On the flip side, there are still people in developing countries who need to have as many children as possible because of low child mortality rates. Then there is South Korea. In 2018, South Korean women were having an average of 0.98 children compared to the estimated ‘replacement-level fertility’ rate of 2.1, making South Korea’s fertility rate one of the lowest in the world.
This can be attributed to young people’s decision to forgo dating, marriage and children, earning them the title of the sampo generation, which literally trans- lates to ‘giving up on three’. This lonely philosophy is not predominantly a product of anti-socialism as one might think. Rather, it reveals troubling aspects of Korean society and culture that must be rectified. Gender inequity has to be addressed in South Korea to fix low fertility rates. If this is achieved, women will feel supported and safe enough to engage in romantic relationships and become mothers.
So, what problems will this social attitudinal shift create in the future? If this trend continues, gross domestic product (GDP) growth will slow, and an economic crisis precipitated by a labour shortage will at some point occur. Such an event would in turn limit the availability of social welfare for those who need it most, such as senior citizens. This is an especially worrying prospect considering that by 2065, those aged 65 and older are projected to make up almost half the population. Even more disturbing are predictions by the South Korean government that its entire population will go extinct by 2750. It might be unthinkable, but certainly not impossible.
40 per cent of Koreans in their 20s and 30s have decided not to date for various reasons, with gender in-equity a key factor in many. Firstly, discriminatory attitudes towards women have discouraged both dating and having children. Expectations set upon wives and mothers are largely patriarchal. 46 per cent of married women aged 25 to 54 are considered full-time house- wives responsible for childcare and 80 per cent of the housework.
The treatment of women in the workplace is yet an- other factor contributing to the hostility surrounding having children. The BBC recently reported the story of Choi Moon-jeong, a woman who had to be hospitalised and almost suffered a miscarriage due to the stress caused by her boss yelling at her upon discovering she was pregnant. Even after returning to work, her boss continued to pressure her into quit- ting. There are multitudes of women facing the same neglect as Choi, but they’ve had enough. In rejecting traditions like marriage and bearing children that are so deeply entrenched into Korean society, as well as the collectivist notion of ‘saving face’ (that is, maintaining a sense of worth and honour to secure social acceptance), women are embracing Western individualism and challenging gender norms. Although this brave wave of feminism may sound like positive progress, it still fails to enact any consequential changes towards gender equality.
The expectation placed upon mothers is part of a much larger problem also impacting gender relations and romantic relationships. Incidents of revenge porn, voyeurism and sexual violence present a disturbing picture of a toxic patriarchal society. Many of these acts and attitudes manifest in relationships, with 65 per cent of voyeur photography cases in 2018 occurring between romantic partners. One tragic incident reported by The Guardian involved a young woman taking her own life after discovering someone had been filming her in a change room at the hospital where she worked. Moreover, youths’ perceptions about sex are largely moulded by pornography, with 67 per cent of participants in a Korean Women’s Development Institute survey saying they did not find sex education useful. It is obvious that South Koreans’ education about sex, women’s rights and gender equality is far from adequate.
The second principal factor driving this phenomenon is the economic strain placed upon young South Koreans. With the youth unemployment rate at 10.8 per cent and only one out of 10 graduates able to find full-time work, young people’s incentive to prevail in a highly competitive job market trumps their resolve to date. Even those who are employed receive low salaries and high work hours. Alarmingly, Koreans spent an average of 2,024 hours working a year in 2017. Comparatively, Canadians worked 300 hours less per year.
Previous government solutions have targeted key economic issues that exist within Korea. Notably, these include childcare subsidies, extended paternity leave and paid maternity leave amongst other things. However, aside from economic issues, the government has failed to meaningfully enforce change in the prevailing patriarchal culture that binds women to archaic archetypes. For one, significant progress can be made by first starting to close the gender pay gap. How does the government expect to encourage gender equality when its wage gap has reached 37 per cent, the highest of all 36 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development? Another step in the right direction would be to enact immediate change in how victims of online sexual abuse and workplace sexual harassment are supported psychologically and legally, as well as how sexual education is taught in schools. For example, the South Korean NGOs Coalition for the third Universal Periodic Review in 2017 advocated for introducing gender quotas, as well as punitive damages against employers in response to the encroachment on minimum wage regulations. By replacing a sense of taboo surrounding sex with respect, consent and understanding, young people may find that they feel safer when dating or starting relationships.
Toxic cultural and social stigma plague this fast-ageing population. The Korean government needs to feel the impact that seemingly low priority issues like the treatment of women will have on their country’s security and survival. Gender equality cannot be discounted as a top security priority. How today’s women are treated will inform the fate of millions in the future.
The term ‘virus’ has been dominating the news these days. Though this is not the first time a virus has made headlines, the rapid spread of this particular virus around the world has been causing quite a frenzy. Like all the other viruses that came before it (and the ones that will come after it), it has induced much fear and panic. This is to be expected – viruses can, after all, be deadly. Biologically, they are not classified as organisms, but we tend to think of them as such – as bad, evil, beings that are out to get us. But if we must confer human qualities on these non-human parasites, then maybe we should consider another, perhaps slightly unexpected one: fairness.
Viruses can be quite complex, but the fundamentals of how a virus works are quite clear and easy to understand. In simple terms, viruses enter a host and infect it. They go into the body of an organism and take over its cells, forcing it to create thousands of copies of the virus at a very fast rate. They spread through the host body, hijacking it.
Viruses can travel through many means – they can be transmitted through water, bodily fluids, and even through air. They can attack any living organism – plant, animal, human: there are viruses for everyone. Sometimes, they can even travel between species, such as in the case of the SARS virus, which was transferred to humans from animals. Viruses are so deadly because they don’t pick and choose. A virus never targets an individual or a single organism, it goes where it can. In that sense, viruses are objective, they truly do not discriminate. Maybe that’s something we should learn from them.
As humans, we sometimes forget that we are one species. We might have a thousand different ways to differentiate ourselves but, at our core, we are the same type of organism. At the most basic level, we have the same bodies. Viruses do not see us as different. They do not see us in terms of race or nationality or gender or any of the other numerous divisions we create for ourselves. To them, we are merely hosts to infect. Viruses do not care if you are Chinese or Australian or Indian, all they see is a body. In that respect, they see us more honestly than we see ourselves. We, I think, need to be reminded of the fact that no matter how different we think we are, we are essentially the same – just bodies, equally mortal and fallible and vulnerable.
In these troubling times, when we seem to be more preoccupied with our differences than our similarities, maybe we need to follow the example viruses set. It is perhaps time for us to see ourselves the way a virus does – as people, just human beings.
Each year in October, students, researchers and STEM professionals tune in for the awarding of one of the highest honours in the science community: the Nobel Prize. In the categories of physiology or medicine, chemistry and physics, scientists are presented with these awards in recognition for their exemplary contributions to their respective fields of science. This year, nine accomplished scientists were awarded Nobel Prizes and joined the ranks of extraordinary past Nobel Laureates such as Marie Curie, Alexander Fleming and Albert Einstein. So, who were these scientists and what did they discover? Find out below from ANU’s own next generation of scientists and engineers!
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Many organisms require oxygen to create energy in a process called aerobic respiration. Although we have been familiar with the importance of oxygen for a long time, our understanding of how individual cells adapt to changes in the availability of oxygen has been limited.
In 2019, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their ground-breaking discovery on ‘how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability’. The result of their research has opened new doors on promising and exciting new ways to treat a variety of diseases, such as anaemia and cancer.
Kaelin, Ratcliffe and Semenza’s combined work led to the identification of key regulatory protein structures and genes, which demonstrate an oxygen sensing mechanism on a molecular basis. Semenza examined the gene responsible for the production of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which mediates the production of red blood cells. He discovered that vicinal segments of DNA were involved in regulating the response to changes in oxygen levels. Ratcliffe’s group also studied this gene and both teams found this mechanism to be present in essentially all tissues, such as muscle and fat. Semenza discovered a key oxygen-dependant protein called the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) that controlled this response.
Kaelin, a cancer researcher studying von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) which involves a dramatic increase in the risk of cancer, discovered that the VHL gene was linked to an overproduction of oxygen-regulated proteins. This gene was then found to physically interact with HIF in a process that regulates our oxygen-sensing mechanism.
As a consequence of their research, our understanding of how oxygen levels influence integral physiological processes has greatly expanded. Oxygen-sensing is fundamental to the finetuning of metabolism in muscles, the immune system, foetal growth and the development of new blood cells. More importantly, a failure to detect levels of oxygen is related to a number of diseases, such as cancer. Cancerous cells can take advantage of the systems that are controlled by oxygen to trick the body into growing blood vessels to supply a growing tumour. Because of Kaelin, Ratcliffe and Semenza’s research, intense effort is directed towards the development of drugs that will interfere with oxygen-sensing mechanisms to treat these diseases.
Sai Campbell, Bachelor of Philosophy (Biochemistry)
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics this year is dedicated to astrophysics: a very interesting field that is perhaps almost as overused in science fiction as quantum mechanics is! The 2019 prize was recently announced on October 8 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with the winners being James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. James Peebles was awarded half of the price for ‘theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology’, with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz each sharing a quarter for ‘the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar type star’.
In the 1960s, physical cosmology was considered a ‘dead end’ and had very little interest from the community, but Peebles remained committed. His dedication did not fail him: he made significant contributions to the Big Bang Theory, most notably the prediction of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). When looking at the sky with a radio telescope, a white noise at around a 15 megahertz frequency can be constantly heard. Interestingly enough, this frequency does not change at all no matter the direction you point your telescope, as it is homogeneous and isotropic. This is because of CMBR: the weak but engulfing energy that fills our universe. This radiation is thought to be the relic of the Big Bang, and an attribute to the expanding universe.
Imagine this: in the beginning, a small, primal universe would have been filled with hot, intense opaque energy ‘soup’. As it expanded, this soup would cool down as it was spread over more space. At some point, it would cool down enough so that atoms, the building blocks of the universe, could form. As these atoms were formed, they would leave space for light particles to travel freely instead of bouncing off smaller particles, like protons and electrons, as they did previously. As the universe kept expanding and cooling down, wavelength of these light particles, known as photons, would get longer as they lose energy until they would get to microwave wavelengths. The existence of this visible radiation that fills the universe massively supports the Big Bang model, helping to detail the origin of our universe. Peebles was a part of the team led by Robert Dicke, who predicted that since the early universe was filled with energy, there should be some residue of this energy that still exists today. Following this prediction and then subsequent discovery, Peebles went on to focus on understanding the structure and the growth of an early universe that can be extracted from CMBR. His research played a large role in shaping physical cosmology as the field we know it today.
Mayor & Queloz
The second half of the Nobel Prize focused on exoplanets. A binary system, where two large masses spin around each other, can be discovered through the analysis of radial velocity, which is the rate of change of distance between an object and an observing point. In Mayor and Queloz’s research, the observing point was our dear planet Earth and the objects were stars. When viewing different stars, they noticed that some were wobbling towards, and then away from, Earth in a periodic pattern. This indicated that there must have been a body of mass near these stars, and that these two objects were spinning around each other to create a wobbling effect. Through refining the measuring equipment, they could measure smaller radial velocity which allowed them to observe smaller wobbles and, consequently, smaller masses around these stars. In 1995, the pair noticed a mass wobbling around the star 51 Pegasi. After analysing the tiny radial velocity, they could conclude that this was a planet roughly the same size as Jupiter, orbiting 51 Pegasi . This was the second time a planet was found to be orbiting a main sequence star, the most common type of star, with the first being our own sun. This discovery pushed an intensive search for more exoplanets research, and awarded them half of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Especially following these Nobel Prize recognitions, no one can deny that astrophysics is pretty cool!
Lam Tran, Bachelor of Advanced Science (Physics)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
It is rare that a Nobel Prize is awarded for something that almost everyone has touched or held in their own hands! This Nobel Prize discovery underpins the world’s digital devices, electric cars and provides energy storage for renewable power… The 2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to the scientists who developed the lithium ion cell battery. Three researchers, material and mechanical engineering professor John Bannister Goodenough, and chemists Michael Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, collaborated on the chemistry and design of the battery to bring it to Nobel Prize glory. They were driven by the 1970s oil crisis and the need to store renewable energy.
Modern lithium batteries are scalable: small for phones and big for electric cars. They work by allowing charged lithium atoms, known as lithium ions, to naturally flow from one battery material to the other, which creates an electric current used by a device. There is a finite number of these atoms in the battery and when they have all flown out of the old material the battery needs recharging. When charged, the lithium ions are forced flow back to the original material, ready to flow down when unplugged and make more electricity. That’s what happens every time you charge and un-charge your phone battery. It’s like rolling a ball up a hill (charging), and then letting it roll back down again (discharging).
In the development of lithium batteries, Whittingham discovered the energy-rich material called titanium disulphide, which had the ability to store lithium at the atomic level. This battery was effective and could store ten times the energy as lead acid, which was a common battery composition. Unfortunately, this design would explode after extended use.
In 1980, Goodenough swapped titanium disulphide for another material: cobalt oxide. With this change, batteries were now creating a battery voltage of up to four volts – roughly the voltage of a modern AA battery.
Finally, Yoshino’s contribution was replacing the metallic lithium in the battery with the material petroleum coke layered with lithium ions. This development was the one which made the battery much safer. This form was commercialised and first sold as a rechargeable battery by Sony in 1991.
We now see these batteries everywhere, and in the present world we would struggle without them. The development of lithium ion batteries is certainly a deserving and practical Nobel Prize.
Harry Carr, Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Material Systems, Biomedical Systems)