Local News - Victoria

For far too long, humanity has thought the worst of itself

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart.”

It’s hard to read these beautiful words of the young Anne Frank without the shadow of Bergen-Belsen behind them. Surely, one thinks, she would have changed her mind amid the depravities of the concentration camp in which she died. The view of human nature since World War II, supported by several well-known psychological experiments, has been one of almost unremitting negativity.

But the first two words in the title of Rutger Bregman’s new book, Human Kind: A Hopeful History, have been deliberately separated. This is not just another book about the human species; it is a book about the intrinsic goodness of human nature. In this respect it is truly shocking. We have been inured to think the worst of ourselves, from the world wars to Stanley Milgram’s electric shock experiments in 1961 and Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment a decade later.

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman.

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman.

But newly published research by Bregman and others into the manipulative tactics employed by the psychologists behind these classic experiments paints a very different picture. The wardens in the prison experiment were actors, not ordinary students obsessed with power. And the participants who thought they were administering painful electric shocks were bullied into doing it against their expressed wishes.

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Local News - Victoria

Judge jails killer who thought he was ‘living in a TV crime drama’

His half-brother, John Godfrey, was jailed for seven years for his role as he stood with an armed handgun, but did not fire, after Mr DiPietro and three friends arrived at the house in a Mitsubishi Pajero.

In the weeks before, Godfrey had bad-mouthed Mr DiPietro, the Supreme Court heard, and assaulted one of his friends. As the ill-feeling continued between the two groups, Mr DiPietro called Williams a “putrid dog” in a Facebook conversation.

Mr DiPietro, 31, spent Father’s Day with his parents but that night called Williams and told him, “I am coming around, you’re going to get shot. I’m going to shoot you.”

Williams replied, “Bring it on. Come around.”

Police are satisfied Mr DiPietro and his friends had only cut-down golf clubs when they are arrived at the Ocean Street house, and retreated when they saw Williams and Godfrey had guns.

“Put that away, don’t be silly,” Mr DiPietro told Williams. He then told his friends, “Come on, let’s go. We don’t want any trouble.”

But Williams fired the fatal shot and continued firing as the Pajero sped away. One shot narrowly missed the two men in the back seat.

Justice Lex Lasry acknowledged Mr DiPietro had a violent reputation and Williams and Godfrey were frightened, but found the half-brothers fuelled the aggression and were armed.

Justice Lasry found Williams wanted to harm the men, but did not intend to kill, when he fired into the four-wheel-drive in what was more than an intimidatory act. Firing from close range carried a high element of danger, he said.

“By your words and actions you both forgot you weren’t living in a television crime drama … in the real world, gun violence kills people,” the judge told the pair.

After the shooting, Williams had his mother, Tracey Godfrey, destroy any CCTV footage, and he and John Godfrey disposed of the guns.

Williams was arrested two days later after a 10-hour siege at the house during which he admitted to a police negotiator he killed Mr DiPietro.

Police at the scene of the Rosebud siege.

Police at the scene of the Rosebud siege.Credit:Twitter/@NearyTy_9

Williams, who has a long history of prior convictions for violence, drugs and weapons offences and a longer history of drug abuse, also pleaded guilty to reckless conduct endangering life. He must serve seven years before he is eligible for parole.

Godfrey, 27, was found to be complicit in the death and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He must serve four years before parole.


He fled to Sydney after the shooting and was arrested six months later.

Tracey Godfrey was this year convicted of assisting an offender but was spared jail.

Her former partner, David Lyons – John Godfrey’s father – was last year jailed for 2½ years for assisting an offender and intimidating a witness.

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Australian News

Noah Lyles thought he’d smashed Usain Bolt’s world record — then found out he hadn’t run far enough

An ambitious attempt to hold a high-tech athletics meeting with runners in different stadiums ran into problems when world champion Noah Lyles ran too short a distance in the 200 metres event.

Lyles, running in Florida, completed the race at the Inspiration Games in an eye-watering 18.90 seconds, which would have smashed Usain Bolt’s world record of 19.19 seconds and his own personal best time of 19.50.

But, after initial confusion, his official result read “shorter distance” and it appeared that the American had started from the wrong line. Swiss television said he had only run 185 metres.

The race was won by Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, running in Zurich, in 19.80 seconds, one hundredth of a second ahead of Dutchman Churandy Martina, who was running in the Netherlands.


The meeting was the Zurich Weltklasse event’s attempt to restart competition as coronavirus continues to prevent conventional events from taking place.

It prided itself on the use of high technology that allowed athletes, who were separated by thousands of kilometres, to compete against each other.

“Special times require special approaches and that’s what we invented,” Andreas Hediger, the co-director of the Inspiration Games, said.

“We go to the athletes if the athletes cannot come to Zurich.”

A sprinter holds both hands above his head and looks tired after running
Confusion reigned after Noah Lyles’s run, but his error was soon made clear.(YouTube: Wanda Diamond League)

The starting guns were synchronised and the three runners in each track event shown on a split screen, although slightly different camera angles in the respective venues made it difficult to tell the leader until the finish line came into view.

In the top race, multiple Olympic and world championship medallist Allyson Felix overcame 400 metres Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and world bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji over 150 metres.

Felix was racing in California, Miller-Uibo in Florida and Kambundji in Zurich.

“It was very strange, it felt like practice, but not even with the team-mates,” Felix said.

Thirty athletes took part in the event which was held in seven stadiums across Europe and North America.


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Local News - Victoria

Rory thought he was healthy, then suddenly he was about to die

But it sparked the beginning of an incredible 20-person, almost 14-hour operation by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria, one of the longest they’ve done, to save Rory and bring him from Bairnsdale Hospital on life support to The Alfred in Melbourne.

“They suspected I had COVID-19 because of my lungs. I don’t know how many times I got COVID-tested but it’s not pleasant.”

Rory was put into isolation, but his condition rapidly deteriorated.

“In Rory’s case we were concerned both about an autoimmune disease like Wegener’s and about the coronavirus infection,” said The Alfred’s intensive care specialist Aidan Burrell.

Dr Aidan Burrell, The Alfred's Intensive Care Specialist, helped save Rory as his lungs filled with blood due to Wegener's disease.

Dr Aidan Burrell, The Alfred’s Intensive Care Specialist, helped save Rory as his lungs filled with blood due to Wegener’s disease.Credit:Justin McManus

Dr Burrell received a distressed phonecall from a Bairnsdale doctor describing Rory’s condition and was then among a crew who flew out to Rory to assess and treat him.

It was 3.50am on May 8 when Rory’s case was referred to Ambulance Retrieval Victoria, Dr John Daley was the third coordinator in a long chain who began working to organise that crew. ARV is a branch of Ambulance Victoria and conducts complex movements of critically ill patients, which has included sending specialists to New Zealand to treat and transport two Melbourne patients injured in the White Island volcano tragedy in December last year.

ARV receives about 4000 referrals each year, providing specialist advice for patients, about half of whom are moved. An ARV coordinator assembles a crew that could include critical care nursing staff, paramedics, MICA paramedics, flight paramedics and sometimes medical registrars.

Dr Daley first considered sending a helicopter from The Alfred, but the weight of the life-saving equipment and the crew meant that wouldn’t work. So they diverted to a 50-minute flight at Essendon Airport to Bairnsdale Airport, where two ambulances were waiting for them. If they’d got to Rory much later he would have gone into cardiac arrest.

“Our job is often like running an emergency department with a blindfold on, with doctors you don’t know and patients that you can’t examine,” he said.

“Our job is often like running an emergency department with a blindfold on with doctors you don’t know and patients that you can’t examine,” he said.

It keeps him on his toes, Dr Daley says. After nine years with ARV he’s been to most – if not all – of the hospitals, landing strips and ambulance bays in Victoria.

“You just have to get yourself into the space of that hospital,” he said.

COVID-19 has brought its own complexity to ARV jobs.

Communicating with doctors in Bairnsdale was difficult, Dr Daley said, because Rory was in isolation, so Dr Daley couldn’t communicate directly with the people who were in the room performing procedures on him.

“It’s a real challenge, it’s doable, it just slows us down and makes us think a bit more.”

ARV has been central to planning for COVID-19. Director John McClure said the group received funding to expand their state-based platform REACH, a live dashboard that monitors the activity of every single intensive care unit in Victoria, to operate nationally.

“Our coordinators use this platform to decide where the best location is to move a patient in need,” he said.

The Critical Health Resource Information System (CHRIS) was developed in about three weeks and had every intensive care unit in Australia reporting their up-to-date information on bed capacity, ventilation capacity and how many COVID patients they had in their unit.

Rory thanking Director of the ARV director Jason McClure (centre) and Dr John Daley for helping to save his life.

Rory thanking Director of the ARV director Jason McClure (centre) and Dr John Daley for helping to save his life.Credit:Justin McManus

When Dr Burrell got to Rory, he already had a breathing tube in his mouth, was in a coma in deep sedation, and despite that, his respiratory function was still severely impaired.

His lungs had progressively filled with blood, and he was breathing at five to 10 per cent of his lung function.

“We converted him from being on a mechanical ventilator to adding in an additional pump, an oxygenator called ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) without that, he probably would have died,” Dr Burrell said.

A special ambulance (Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicle), one of only four or five in the state, transported Rory by road on full life-support from Bairnsdale to Melbourne.

He was later diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Wegener’s.

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (also known as Wegener’s) is a branch of vasculitis, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the blood vessels and it can present with bleeding and inflammation from the lungs, nose, throat, sinuses or cause kidney failure. In Rory’s case, it caused severe haemorrhaging in his lungs.

Rory’s life-saving journey

  • May 8, 3.50am: Case referred to Ambulance Retrieval Victoria.
  • 9am: ARV and doctors from The Alfred leave Air Ambulance Base at Essendon Fields.
  • 10.15am: Crew flies for about an hour and arrives at Bairnsdale Hospital.
  • Complex Patient Ambulance (CPAV) drives to Bairnsdale Hospital from Heyfield.
  • 2.40pm: Rory loaded into CPAV vehicle.
  • 5.30pm: He is driven about 280 kilometres to The Alfred, a journey that took nearly three hours.

Dr Burrell said it was a very rare condition.

Rory Smith went from a healthy 22-year-old to his lungs filling with blood. A marathon mission by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria and doctors from The Alfred saved his life.

Rory Smith went from a healthy 22-year-old to his lungs filling with blood. A marathon mission by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria and doctors from The Alfred saved his life. Credit:Pictures: Supplied.

“The hard problem is diagnosing it. People can follow the wrong pathway and get confused about the wrong diagnosis,” he said.

“Over a 10-year time span, we’ve had one other patient with Wegener’s who has needed full ECMO support.”

Rory remained in a coma for two-and-a-half weeks, during that time his 23rd birthday passed without fuss. “I was sedated so I wasn’t aware it was my 23rd birthday and no one could be there, not that I would have known anyway. I think I was in isolation.”

It took about five days for Rory to understand why he was in hospital once he was woken from his coma.

“I actually thought I was in a car accident. I was a bit confused as to why I was at The Alfred, all I remember was going to Bairnsdale hospital,” he said.

He also had to relearn how to eat, to walk and to get his strength back.

“Day by day as I got better, I could understand more and learnt I was going to have this condition for the rest of my life,” he said.

“There’s a lot of unknowns about it. It’s not curable but it is manageable.”

The volunteer paramedic, who had previously met Dr Daley when supporting other critically ill patients, has already had a hard year.

Living in Gippsland, this year his friends and family had dealt with droughts, landslides, the impact of COVID-19 on tourism as well as the Gippsland bushfires – which Rory fought as a CFA firefighter.

“Yeah, it’s been a hectic year for everybody. It affects everybody, especially in small communities.”

Despite being discharged for a day, in which he coughed up blood and had to return, he’s been in hospital for more than seven weeks.

“I keep asking myself, why did I get this disease, but they have no explanation of how people get it. It just happens,” he said.

Rory looks at Dr Burrell and shakes his head telling him just how grateful he is to them, Bairnsdale Hospital and the ARV crew for saving his life.

“I’ve never had anything like that before. I’ve never really been sick ever,” he said.

“I got told my chances of survival were very dim, and I made it and I’m just forever thankful. If it wasn’t for their quick thinking and getting down to Bairnsdale so fast, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

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Kobe Bryant helicopter pilot thought he was climbing instead of descending

The pilot of a helicopter that crashed outside Los Angeles in January, killing basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all seven others on board, likely became disoriented in the fog, federal investigators said on Wednesday.

Pilot Ara Zobayan told air traffic controllers his chopper was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wrote in newly released findings.

The board, which has not yet issued a final report on the cause of the January 26 accident, said pilots can become confused about an aircraft’s attitude and acceleration when they cannot see the sky or landscape around them, causing “spatial disorientation”.

“Without outside references or attention to the helicopteraEUR’s attitude display, the actual pitch and bank angles have the potential to be misperceived,” the NTSB said.

An NTSB board member told reporters in the days after the crash that clouds and fog causing limited visibility in the foothills north of Los Angeles would likely be a key focus of the investigation.

In February the board said an examination of the helicopter’s engines and rotors found no evidence of “catastrophic mechanical failure” that could explain why the aircraft would have suddenly plunged into the terrain.

An investigator looks through helicopter wreckage on a hillside.
The investigation found that all occupants of the helicopter died on impact.(Reuters: NTSB)

That initial report said Mr Zobayan had nearly navigated the helicopter out of blinding clouds when the aircraft suddenly turned and plunged into the mountainside.

The autopsy of Mr Zobayan showed he was unaffected by drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

A series of charts issued with the NTSB report shows the aircraft gaining speed, banking sharply to the left and plummeting just seconds after Zobayan told air traffic controllers he was “climbing to 4,000” feet to fly above the cloud layer.

Bryant, an 18-time National Basketball Association all-star, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna — also known as GiGi — to a youth basketball tournament at the time of the crash.

Gianna Bryant’s two basketball teammates 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli and 13-year-old Payton Chester, also died in the crash.

Kobe Bryant looks at his daughter Gianna while leaning on a barrier
Kobe Bryant was travelling with his daughter Gianna when their helicopter crashed.(AP: Chris Carlson)

Others who died were Alyssa Altobelli’s parents — John and Keri Altobelli — and Payton Chester’s mother, Sarah.

Assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser also died.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, previously filed a lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, which operated the helicopter.

The lawsuit, filed on the same day as Bryant’s memorial service in February, alleged Mr Zobayan was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

The death of Bryant, who won five NBA championships for the Los Angeles Lakers during 20 NBA seasons and was twice named MVP of the NBA Finals, prompted an outpouring of shock and grief from sports fans worldwide.


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Confirming Einstein’s most fortunate thought

Jun 10, 2020 (Nanowerk News) An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn determined with extremely high precision that gravity causes neutron stars and white dwarf stars to fall with equal accelerations. They did this by precisely tracking the motion of pulsar PSR J0337+1715, a neutron star that is a member of an unusual triple star system. Their findings (Astronomy & Astrophysics, “An improved test of the strong equivalence principle with the pulsar in a triple star system”) – achieved by a new rigorous method and a combination of radio telescope data with latest insight from gravitational wave detectors – provide the strongest test ever of one of the most fundamental predictions of general relativity: that gravity attracts all objects with the same acceleration, without regard for their composition, density or the strength of their own gravitational field. PSR J0337+1715: An illustration of the triple millisecond pulsar with its two white dwarf companions PSR J0337+1715: An illustration of the triple millisecond pulsar with its two white dwarf companions. The green mesh illustrates the curvature of space-time caused by the different masses. Size and distances of the three components are not to scale. (Image: Michael Kramer/MPIfR) Pulsar PSR J0337+1715, located in the constellation Taurus, is a neutron star of 1.44 solar masses, showing regular radio pulses as it rotates 366 times per second around its own axis. It is a member of an unusual triple star system, in mutual interaction with two other stars, both of which are white dwarfs. A white dwarf is already quite exotic – a star typically the size of the Earth with a density of many hundred kilograms per cubic centimeter at its center. Compared to white dwarfs a neutron star is truly extreme, having more mass than the Sun squashed into a diameter of just over 20 kilometers and by this reaching densities of more than a billion tons within the volume of a sugar cube. A research team, led by Guillaume Voisin (Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics/UK and Observatoire de Paris), including Paulo Freire, Norbert Wex and Michael Kramer of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, and astronomers from several institutions in France, used the Nançay radio telescope, located in the Sologne region of France, to precisely measure the arrival times of the radio pulses from PSR J0337+1715 over a time interval of eight years. They can show that neutron stars and white dwarf stars fall with the same acceleration within two parts per million.

Probing the universality of free fall

This feature, known as the universality of free fall, lies at the foundation of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. “Confirming it to this precision constitutes one of the most stringent tests of Einstein’s theory ever made – and the theory passes the test with flying colours”, says Guillaume Voisin. “Moreover, the results also provide very stringent constraints on alternative theories of gravity, which compete with Einstein’s general relativity to explain gravity and, for example, dark energy.” The universality of free fall is a unique feature of gravity: Unlike all other interactions in nature, gravity attracts all material objects with the same acceleration. Galileo Galilei allegedly dropped several differently-sized weights from the leaning tower of Pisa to test this. Isaac Newton later considered this to be a fundamental principle of gravity, presenting it without a deeper explanation. The most precise test of the universality of free fall has, to date, been obtained by an especially designed satellite called Microscope (developed by the Centre Nationale d’Études Spatiales, in France). The small proof masses within the satellite show identical accelerations in the gravitational field of the Earth to better than 1 part in 1014.

Einstein’s most fortunate thought

After the 1905 publication of the theory of special relativity, Einstein started thinking about how to combine his new theory with gravity, since Newton’s law of gravity is incompatible with his new principle of relativity. In the Fall of 1907, an idea came to his mind: that for someone in free fall it is as if gravity has been turned off, since due to the universality of free fall everything in his environment accelerates the same way. This simple but profound insight, led Einstein eventually to understand that gravity is a manifestation of curved space-time acting on all masses the same way, a concept which is at the heart of his general theory of relativity. He later described this sudden inspiration as “the most fortunate thought in my life”. Because experiments like the Microscope satellite have confirmed the universality of free fall so precisely, most viable theories of gravity (general relativity included) incorporate Einstein’s insight as part of their foundation. It means that these theories likewise describe gravity as a geometric phenomenon, arising from the curvature of space-time. What differentiates them from general relativity is how space-time is curved by the masses of large bodies.

How to discriminate between general relativity and alternative theories of gravity

Although the aforementioned theories predict that small objects fall with the same acceleration in the same gravitational field, the picture is not so simple if instead of small objects we consider astronomical objects, which are held together by gravity itself. In this case, general relativity predicts the simplest possibility: that the universality of free fall also applies to such self-gravitating objects, while many of the alternative theories of gravity predict deviations from a universal acceleration. These deviations generally increase in magnitude with the amount of space-time curvature caused by the object. For objects like the Earth, the Sun and even white dwarf stars, the space-time curvature is very small. Compared to these, for neutron stars the curvature is a million to a trillion times larger. In theories of gravity that predict a violation of the universality of free fall related to self-gravity, that violation is generally stronger for neutron stars than for any other objects.

A pulsar in a triple star system

In 2014, radio astronomers found PSR J0337+1715 to be a member of a triple stellar system together with two white dwarfs. This system turned out to be an ideal testbed for testing the universality of free fall for a neutron star. Thanks to the precise radio tracking of the pulsar’s motion a test was carried out to show whether it falls at the same rate as the nearby white dwarf in the gravitational field of the outer white dwarf. This new test improves on an earlier study of the same system in two aspects. It provides a more stringent limit for any difference in the acceleration between the pulsar and its inner companion white dwarf, and it utilizes a better understanding of the properties of neutron-star matter, that came from the observation of a catastrophic collision of two neutron stars by the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave observatories. “The latter was particularly important when constraining alternatives to general relativity”, explains Norbert Wex of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, a co-author of the study. PSR J0337+1715 illustrates that Einstein’s ingenious insight also applies to such extreme cosmic objects as neutron stars which were discovered for the first time only 50 years after the publication of the theory of general relativity. “Perhaps more than any previous test, this result indicates that Einstein’s most fortunate thought really captures something fundamental about gravity and the inner workings of Nature”, concludes Paulo Freire, another co-author from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

Background Information

The test with the pulsar in the triple system is analogous to a classic test that has been ongoing for the last 50 years, the so-called Lunar Laser Ranging test (LLR). As mentioned above, several alternative theories to general relativity predict that astronomical objects fall with different accelerations that depend on the amount of space-time curvature that they produce. Thus, under such theories, the Earth and the Moon should fall with a slightly different acceleration in the gravitational field of the Sun because the Earth produces a significantly larger space-time curvature than the Moon. For this reason, Kenneth Nordtvedt proposed in the 1960’s to use the retro-reflectors being deployed on the Lunar surface by American astronauts and Soviet rover missions to test whether the Earth and Moon fall with the same acceleration in the gravitational field of the Sun. By shooting laser beams at these reflectors, it became possible to measure the distance between the observatories and the reflectors on the Moon to a precision of a few centimeters. The results agree with the predictions of general relativity, with the Earth and Moon falling with the same acceleration in the field of the Sun to an accuracy of 1 part in 1013. Despite its great precision, this test has a drawback, which is the very small space-time curvatures caused by the Earth and Moon. Neutron stars are entirely different objects: within a diameter slightly larger than 20 km, they concentrate more mass than that of the Sun, which means several hundred thousand times the mass of the Earth. Their central densities of about one billion tons per cm3 make them the densest form of matter in the present Universe. This has a consequence: they produce a space-time curvature that is 1014 times larger than that caused by the Earth, making them truly strong-gravity objects. Compared to a neutron-star, even a white dwarf has a weak gravitational field. The experiment with the pulsar in the triple star system is in certain aspects analogous to the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment. The pulsar, in a 1.6 day orbit with the inner white dwarf (0.2 solar masses), is equivalent to the Earth in orbit with the Moon, and the outer white dwarf (0.4 solar masses), which is in a 327 day orbit with the inner binary, is the equivalent to the Sun, providing the gravitational field where the inner system falls. Instead of laser ranging, the precise tracking of the pulsar’s radio signals is used. These are not as precise as the laser ranging to the Moon: instead of a few cm, a ranging precision of a few hundred meters is achieved. This is one of the reasons that the pulsar measurement of the universality of free fall (2 parts in 106) is much less precise than the Lunar Laser ranging test (1 part in 1013). However, as mentioned before, the space-time curvature caused by the pulsar is so large that many alternative theories of gravity that pass the highly precise lunar laser ranging test will fail the universality of free fall test for neutron stars.

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Lockdown restrictions could ease sooner than thought

Lockdown restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 may be lifted earlier than previously thought, with the National Cabinet to meet on Friday to discuss Australia’s progress.

Lifting restrictions earlier than planned and allowing larger gatherings could be recommended within two weeks, according to The Australian.

The publication revealed Australia has reached a non-quarantine infection rate of less than 10 new cases a day, with health authorities believing an infection rate at this level would allow more of the economy to safely reopen.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-stage plan in which social distancing restrictions would be eased.

Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

Stage one involved allowing five visitors at a home, groups of 10 in public places and businesses and allowing restaurants and cafes to reopen while still abiding by distancing measures.

Stage two would allow gatherings of 20 people in their homes, in businesses and in public places.

Gyms, beauty salons, cinemas, galleries and amusement parks would be able to reopen, as would caravan and camping groups. Some interstate travel could also be permissible in stage two.

Stage three would see allowable gathering sizes increased to 100, meaning pubs and clubs could reopen.

Other businesses and places of gathering like food courts and saunas would also reopen.

Mr Morrison had hoped each state and territory would reach stage three by July, but with the country’s low infection rate the federal government is hopeful it could come even sooner.

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Humans and Neanderthals ‘co-existed in Europe for far longer than thought’ | Science

Modern humans were present in Europe at least 46,000 years ago, according to new research on objects found in Bulgaria, meaning they overlapped with Neanderthals for far longer than previously thought.

Researchers say remains and tools found at a cave called Bacho Kiro reveal that modern humans and Neanderthals were present at the same time in Europe for several thousand years, giving them ample time for biological and cultural interaction.

“Our work in Bacho Kiro shows there is a time overlap of maybe 8,000 years between the arrival of the first wave of modern humans in eastern Europe and the final extinction of Neanderthals in the far west of Europe,” said Prof Jean-Jacques Hublin, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, a co-author of the research, adding that that was far longer than previously thought. Some scholars have suggested a period of not more than 3,000 years.

Neanderthals were roaming Europe until about 40,000 years ago. “It gives a lot of time for these groups to interact biologically and also culturally and behaviourally,” Hublin added.


Writing in studies published in the journals Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution, Hublin and colleagues report how they excavated Bacho Kiro, a site that has been studied several times over the past decades. Previous excavations revealed human remains and tools of a very specific type known as “initial upper palaeolithic”. Hublin said such stone and bone tools showed features both of tools known to have been used by Neanderthals and toolkits used by later modern humans, with much debate over which hominin was making them.

However, previous dating of the site ran into a number of difficulties, including from contamination. Now Hublin and colleagues have carried out new excavations and unearthed more tools and remains, including bone fragments and a tooth revealed by methods including ancient DNA analysis to be from early modern humans.

The team report that radiocarbon dating of modern human remains found in the same layer as the tools suggested the remains dated to between 46,790 and 42,810 years ago, while a dating technique based on the rate of changes in DNA from mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of cells, suggested a date of between 44,830 and 42,616 years ago.

The team say the same sort of tools were found in the layer beneath, alongside animal remains dating to almost 47,000 years ago. “We are talking about the oldest modern humans in Europe,” said Hublin, adding that their archaeological context was “crystal clear”. In other words, this group was making initial upper palaeolithic tools .

Among further discoveries, the researchers found jewellery fashioned from cave bear teeth that they say is strikingly similar to that produced by the very last Neanderthals. They say this adds weight to the idea the latter may have adopted innovations as a result of contact with early modern humans.

“Some people would say that is a coincidence; I don’t believe it,” said Hublin, noting there was already genetic evidence that the groups interbred. “I don’t see how you can have biological interaction between groups without any sign of behavioural influence of one on the other.”

Prof Chris Stringer, an expert in human origins from London’s Natural History Museum, said while his team had previously discovered what was possibly an incomplete modern human skull in Greece from more than 200,000 years ago, the new research was important.

“In my view this is the oldest and strongest published evidence for a very early upper palaeolithic presence of Homo sapiens in Europe, several millennia before the Neanderthals disappeared,” he said.

He added that doubt remained about whether Neanderthals were influenced in their jewellery making by early modern humans.

Stringer said the new study highlighted several mysteries, including why the appearance of such early modern humans in Europe 46,000 years ago did not lead to their earlier establishment and an earlier disappearance of Neanderthals.

“One possibility is that the dispersals into Europe [of modern humans of the initial upper palaeolithic] were by pioneering, small bands, who could not sustain their occupations in the face of a larger Neanderthal presence, or the unstable climates of the time,” he said.

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New findings suggest laws of nature not as constant as previously thought

Those looking forward to a day when science’s Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in prestigious journal Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that have measured tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

UNSW Science’s Professor John Webb says the fine structure constant is a measure of electromagnetism – one of the four fundamental forces in nature (the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

“The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force,” Professor Webb says.

“It’s a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck’s constant and the electron charge, and it’s a ratio of those things. And it’s the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force.”

The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universe – without it, all matter would fly apart. Up until recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

“We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite odd if it’s correct…but that’s what we found.”

Looking For Clues

Ever the sceptic, when Professor Webb first came across these early signs of slightly weaker and stronger measurements of the electromagnetic force, he thought it could be a fault of the equipment, or of his calculations or some other error that had led to the unusual readings. It was while looking at some of the most distant quasars – massive celestial bodies emitting exceptionally high energy – at the edges of the universe that these anomalies were first observed using the world’s most powerful telescopes.

“The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us,” Professor Webb says.

“So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you’re studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.”

He says that in the current study, the team looked at one such quasar that enabled them to probe back to when the universe was only a billion years old which had never been done before. The team made four measurements of the fine constant along the one line of sight to this quasar. Individually, the four measurements didn’t provide any conclusive answer as to whether or not there were perceptible changes in the electromagnetic force. However, when combined with lots of other measurements between us and distant quasars made by other scientists and unrelated to this study, the differences in the fine structure constant became evident.

A Weird Universe

“And it seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the universe, which is very weird indeed,” Professor Webb says.

“So the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics – one that is the same, statistically, in all directions. But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it.

“In one particular direction, we can look back 12 billion light years and measure electromagnetism when the universe was very young. Putting all the data together, electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look, while towards the opposite direction, it gradually decreases. In other directions in the cosmos, the fine structure constant remains just that – constant. These new very distant measurements have pushed our observations further than has ever been reached before.”

In other words, in what was thought to be an arbitrarily random spread of galaxies, quasars, black holes, stars, gas clouds and planets – with life flourishing in at least one tiny niche of it – the universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south. Professor Webb is still open to the idea that somehow these measurements made at different stages using different technologies and from different locations on Earth are actually a massive coincidence.

“This is something that is taken very seriously and is regarded, quite correctly with scepticism, even by me, even though I did the first work on it with my students. But it’s something you’ve got to test because it’s possible we do live in a weird universe.”

But adding to the side of the argument that says these findings are more than just coincidence, a team in the US working completely independently and unknown to Professor Webb’s, made observations about X-rays that seemed to align with the idea that the universe has some sort of directionality.

“I didn’t know anything about this paper until it appeared in the literature,” he says.

“And they’re not testing the laws of physics, they’re testing the properties, the X-ray properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and cosmological distances from Earth. They also found that the properties of the universe in this sense are not isotropic and there’s a preferred direction. And lo and behold, their direction coincides with ours.”

Life, The Universe, And Everything

While still wanting to see more rigorous testing of ideas that electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality, Professor Webb says if these findings continue to be confirmed, they may help explain why our universe is the way it is, and why there is life in it at all.

“For a long time, it has been thought that the laws of nature appear perfectly tuned to set the conditions for life to flourish. The strength of the electromagnetic force is one of those quantities. If it were only a few per cent different to the value we measure on Earth, the chemical evolution of the universe would be completely different and life may never have got going. It raises a tantalising question: does this ‘Goldilocks’ situation, where fundamental physical quantities like the fine structure constant are ‘just right’ to favour our existence, apply throughout the entire universe?”

If there is a directionality in the universe, Professor Webb argues, and if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.

“Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions,” he says.

“That standard model itself is built upon Einstein’s theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics.”

Professor Webb’s team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the world’s largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.

Research paper

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University Of New South Wales

Understanding Time and Space

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T2K insight into the origin of the universe

Lancaster UK (SPX) Apr 16, 2020

Lancaster physicists working on the T2K major international experiment in Japan are closing in on the mystery of why there is so much matter in the Universe, and so little antimatter.

The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the early Universe but instead the Universe is made of matter. One of the greatest challenges in physics is to determine what happened to the antimatter, or why we see an asymmetry between matter and antimatter.

Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) re … read more

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Australian News

AFL players thought their wealth was eternal — now coronavirus has introduced them to a new world


March 27, 2020 11:29:55

When people are hurting there is a natural inclination to turn on those we believe are refusing to share the pain.

So, inevitably, professional athletes have become popular targets for ridicule as they seek to negotiate, even minimise, compulsory cuts to what are, in some cases, lucrative contracts.

The AFL Players Association, particularly, has been attacked for creating the impression its members are quibbling about reductions at a time when front office and boot room staff have been laid off.

The AFLPA initially suggested a 50 per cent pay cut, the AFL wants 79 per cent.

NRL players have been told they might have to take an 87 per cent cut. A-League and Super Rugby players must wonder if there will even be a pie left to slice.

As we have found when our leaders stammer through press conferences or equivocate about isolation measures, clear messaging is vital at a time when the entire population is gripped by fear and uncertainty.

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So when AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield mentioned the players’ recent involvement in a bushfire charity in the context of their potential sacrifice, one of the game’s surest ball handlers committed an awful clanger.

Need we mention the players merely donated their time to play the bushfire game, just as thousands of volunteers and charity workers do every day without receiving the back-slapping afforded AFL stars?

Or that many of the club supporters who chipped in to ensure the match raised $6 million have had their wages reduced by 100 per cent — without the privilege of negotiation, nor the prospect they will be reinstated in a few months when the new normality begins?

No need at all. The hanging judges on the talkback lines and social media beat us to it.

Dangerfield’s comments played into a common preconception — “out of touch millionaire sports stars are trying to protect their vast fortunes while the rest of the world suffers”.

Yet, while the Geelong captain’s sentiment was unfortunate, it is far too glib to suggest professional athletes have become detached from what we call the “real world”.

What is the real world anyway?

Are well-paid sports stars any more detached from our mundane financial realities than millionaire stockbrokers, or wealthy business owners or, for that matter, the highly paid executives that administer their games or pundits who commentate on them?

Instead I suspect, rather than sheer greed the factor that created some reluctance among athletes to immediately accept their new reality was one shared by most — the delusion our wealth was eternal.

For a generation of athletes that has known nothing but good financial times in sports that have enjoyed a continuous period of prosperity thanks largely to ever-inflating media rights deals, this is understandable.

In cricket the game’s wealth escalated so rapidly that the participants’ negotiated share meant their wages were disproportionately high.

This in turn caused a dispute that, eventually, saw a large chunk forfeited for grass roots development.

AFL players have seen nine figure investments in expansion franchises and Docklands purchased seemingly with the coins that fell down the back of chief executive Gil McLachlan’s couch; NRL players have witnessed the game create its own vast internal media network while clubs squander cash that could have been used to fortify the game.

In most sports the construction of “state-of-the-art” facilities, the expansion of coaching panels, improved sports science and the introduction of data analytics created the impression there was as much money to spend as things that it could be spent on.

So can athletes be blamed for believing their game’s wealth was eternal and their wages were not merely a fair representation of their value to wealthy leagues, but almost a birthright?

The current generation of full-time sports stars are also the beneficiaries of the rapid transition from amateur to full-time professional sport.

For some of us, it does not seem that long ago when the guy who kicked the winning goal on Saturday afternoon would sell you a pair of sneakers, pull your beer or even collect your rubbish during the week.

The almost simultaneous transition to full-time professionalism in the four football codes, particularly, has created fierce competition for elite athletes in a small market.

The AFL boasts it offers 800 jobs paying an average wage of $380,000 per year.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Football and basketball point to the vast salaries to be made in a truly international sport — which, as an aside, might explain the difficulty local leagues have had gaining traction.

Once the decision about which sport a talented teenager played was based on which they loved most or which suited their skills best. Now, as often, it is which is likely to pay the most.

Thus for a generation of talented athletes the wealth created by their talent has not merely been a bonus or a privilege but an expectation.

This is not to condemn contemporary sports stars for their choices and certainly not their pay packets. But it helps explain their bewilderment at the current situation, if not their reluctance to take cuts.

But the world will have changed for professional athletes, as it will for everyone, when we finally open the doors and walk out blinking into the new world.

So by all means condemn those who don’t eventually understand the need for drastic pay cuts, but forgive some initial hesitation and uncertainty.








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