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Australia

— Environment

Plant openings signal "birth of large-scale solar in Australia"

According to the Energy Supply Association of Australia, Australia boasts the highest rate of household solar panel installation in the world. But despite much of the continent being seemingly perfect for large scale solar, it has been slow in coming to the sun-drenched country. That could be set to change with the official opening of two plants that AGL Energy managing director and CEO Andy Vesey says "signals the birth of large-scale solar in Australia".

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— Biology

"Magic" native Australian tobacco plant could be key to space-based food production

Scientists at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia have discovered a gene in an ancient Australian native tobacco plant that they say is the key to growing crops in space. The plant, Nicotiana benthamiana, has long been used in labs around the world to test viruses and vaccines due to the fact it has no immune system. Surprisingly, this trait has also led to the plant being extremely resilient, which is where space-based food production comes in.

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— Architecture

Light- and sound-emitting urban canopy offers city folk a high-tech garden getaway

Melbourne's plentiful parklands have no shortage of shady trees under which to relax on a balmy summer evening, but a new addition to the city's gardens offer a different way to wind down. The recently constructed MPavilion in the center of the arts precinct features a ceiling made of translucent, sound- and light-emitting leaves that emulate the motions of a forest canopy by swaying in the breeze.

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— Space

SkinSuit designed to reduce harmful physical effects of weightlessness tested on ISS

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) got a fashion show with a medical twist last month as Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, donned a SkinSuit designed to counteract the harmful effects of prolonged periods of weightlessness on the human body. Developed as part of an international effort led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new suit is designed to simulate the pressures of normal gravity to prevent unhealthy stretching of the spine.

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— Collectibles

Rare Harley-Davidson barn find breaks auction record in Australia

Early 20th Century Harley Davidson motorcycles are rare enough items in themselves. But when one surfaces that was uncommon even when new, and from a line of racing models largely destroyed over the years in the pursuit of speed, you know that you probably have an exceptionally scarce item on your hands. So when a barn-find Harley-Davidson racing machine and sidecar is found after 50-plus years in storage in Australia and then sent to auction, the bidding is sure to be fierce. With a final winning bid of AUD$600,000 – and a new Australian auction record – that was certainly the case.

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