Issues Magazine



By Sally Woollett

Australia’s underground wealth includes coal, oil, gas, metals and groundwater. How do we use them and should we be exploiting them? How safe it is to tap into them and what if we run out? Further afield, mining has implications for one of the world’s major fisheries and for stability in an already fragile country. Find out more in Issues 99.

The month of May saw the CEO of Linc Energy, Peter Bond, dash across Australia in a jet powered by fuel from Linc Energy’s underground coal gasification demonstration plant in Chinchilla, south-west Queensland (p.4). Linc Energy’s business is in underground coal gasification and gas-to-liquids processes, and its aims are cleaner fuel production and power generation.

Guest Editorial

By Adam Ford

An international intellectual and cultural movement is growing to support the use of science and technology to further the progress of AI and the ethics surrounding its use. Without giving the future the full attention it deserves, how can you know what sort of future you want?

Humanity at large is on the brink of understanding that our future will be wildly different from the past. In the coming decades we may witness the human condition transform in fundamental ways. We can see the effects of accelerating technology on our desks, in our pockets and all around us, providing transformative solutions to problems that have plagued us at least since the dawn of recorded history.

Adam Ford is the Singularity Summit Australia and Humanity+ Summit Australia Coordinator. Find out more about the 2012 Singularity Summit at and the Humanity+ Summit at

New Feats from Fossil Fuels

By Greg Perkins

Underground coal gasification, in combination with other technologies, has the potential to meet the demands of energy security, efficiency and environmental protection.

A jet aircraft powered by fuel produced from coal in Australia? Linc Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Bond, recently made it a reality by flying in a jet 4270 km across Australia from west to east. It is a feat that many would not have believed possible.


By Sally Woollett

In this edition of Issues...

Like it or not, risk is a fact of life. It underscores many of our decisions, big or small. Issues 97 explores the idea of risk, its forms, its settings and the consequences of miscommunicating or misunderstanding it.

Intellectual Property – Something Weird’s Going Down in the Patent Office

Issues 96 cover

Issues 96: Intellectual Property

By Luigi Palombi

How can natural DNA, something no person invented, be patented? James Watson, John Sulston, Baruch Blumberg and Joseph Stiglitz think it shouldn’t be.

When Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, the presentation speech described the significance of their breakthrough:

100 Years of Australian Antarctic Science

Alistair Forbes Mackay, TW Edgeworth David and Douglas Mawson

On 16 January 1909 (L–R) Alistair Forbes Mackay, TW Edgeworth David and Douglas Mawson arrived at the South Magnetic Pole after a three-month journey. Credit: Edgeworth David

By Collated by Wendy Pyper*

From the Australasian Antarctic Expedition to today’s Antarctic research program, Australia’s role in Antarctic science has been significant, although not always stable.

As a geologist, Douglas Mawson’s fascination with Precambrian rocks in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia led him to join Shackleton’s 1907–1909 Nimrod expedition to investigate Antarctic glacial geology. His experiences on that expedition inspired him to systematically explore and study Antarctica during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) and subsequent British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE).

*Information about AAE science in this article was collated from The Home of the Blizzard website The subsequent text (from BANZARE to today) was modified from a chapter written by Professor Michael Stoddart, Former Chief Scientist, Australian Antarctic Division (1998–2009), for the book Australia and the Antarctic Treaty System: 50 Years of Influence, published by UNSW Press in September 2011.

Getting Risk Wrong

By Peter Bowditch

Why do we assess risk so poorly? The answer is elusive, but we do know that it makes us vulnerable to all manner of dangers and misconceptions.

People are notoriously bad at assessing risk. That is, at correctly distinguishing between decisions based on fact and those based on opinion or, to put it another way, decisions based on the head and those on the gut. We tend to overrate some risks and underrate others, often without any apparent logical basis. Much of the work of sceptical organisations and campaigners for critical thinking is generated by this inability to separate emotion from cold hard analysis.

The Singularity Is Coming

The Singularity article main image


By Ben Goertzel

It may seem like science fiction, but some scientists and technologists predict that developments in their fields of expertise will soon overtake them.

Kurzweil’s Vision of the Singularity

Privacy – Safeguard Your Digital Identity

Issues 71: Privacy

Issues 71: Privacy

By Timothy Pilgrim

What are the privacy issues around digital identity and how can we protect our privacy in the digital age?

The past five years have seen an explosion of social networking sites. Add to that the popularity of Twitter and smart phones, and you have a whole new world of communication. As always, young people are fast to pick up and rely on new technology. They are able to be in constant electronic communication with their friends, often by using a number of smart applications at the same time.

Let 10,000 Adaptation Projects Bloom

By Terry Clayton

There is ample evidence to convince many that climate change is occurring. Reducing greenhouse gases remains important, but we had best start thinking harder about how we will adapt to the coming changes.

Public awareness of adaptation, as opposed to mitigation, is only just beginning to dawn. There are at least two reasons for this. For the past 20 years, the discourse has been about greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the leading global body on climate change, actively resisted any discussion of adaptation for fear that this would distract people from the more important task of mitigation.

Terry Clayton’s chosen adaptation strategy is to live in a small farming community in north-eastern Thailand. You can send comments to