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The Informer: How latest DNA tech simply boggles the mind

The catafalque party dismounts at the completion of a commemoration ceremony in WA to mark the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney II. Picture: RAN
The catafalque party dismounts at the completion of a commemoration ceremony in WA to mark the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney II. Picture: RAN

Behind the positive identification this week of the only body recovered from the tragic sinking of HMAS Sydney II in a major sea battle 80 long years ago off the coast of Western Australia is a mind-boggling tale of near-freakish circumstance, luck, skill and the application of world-class technology.

Consider, for instance, the sheer chance that when Adelaide Professor Jeremy Austin, a specialist in ancient DNA, was giving a public talk, a person in his audience happened to have a friend whose DNA chain looked remarkably similar to the one on the whiteboard.

I mean: who knows what their DNA even looks like?

Meanwhile, back in Canberra, a team of Navy experts wouldn't let this mystery beat them. Over years, they had painstakingly traced the dead sailor's maternal family tree from his DNA, but lacked the paternal DNA. The science to extract it didn't exist.

That's when the cops stepped in. Applying very latest forensics techniques used in criminal cases - a very specific capability only developed in the Canberra labs in the past 18 months - the federal police boffins made it happen.

And so the sailor's identity, using samples taken from 170 blood relatives, was revealed. It was a tale that almost defied belief.

In northern NSW, if police could only find a DNA trace then their search for missing three-year-old William Tyrell might well achieve a similar breakthrough.

The boy has been missing since 2014 with police combing bushland and draining a creek in an area a kilometre from the Kendall property where the boy's foster grandmother lived.

A fresh search area has now been identified, which could take up to nine weeks.

Our Prime Minister loves his science and harbours the firm belief that scientific breakthroughs still to come will solve our ever-increasing climate change woes.

Producing cheap hydrogen, potentially as low as $2 per kilogram - it's more than 10 times that price currently - is the key element to that goal.

Wagga Wagga is poised to become one of the special activation precincts identified for hydrogen production by the NSW government.

Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said the city was ideally placed for hydrogen because it was already a power transmission hub for the solar coming in from South Australia, and soon to be generated by the Snowy 2.0 scheme now under construction.

US car maker Tesla would rather that all this talk about cheap hydrogen be put on the backburner for a while because it's hell-bent on building its electric car business, with its new showroom opening soon in Canberra.

Per head of population, Canberra is the biggest Tesla market in the the country. Sadly, you'll still need $60,000 to buy one.

Sitting on a rich Cricket Australia contract, Tim Paine could have bought a premium Tesla with ease.

But now Australia's (now former) cricket captain is out of the job, having fallen on his sword most publicly this week in the wake of a sexting scandal which dates back to November 2017, before he was even offered the top job in the game.

It's made big news, of course, but NRL players and our federal politicians have been doing this, and indeed much worse, for years and still kept their well-paid roles.

While the opening Ashes cricket Test is next month, before then will be another great Aussie sporting spectacle: the Bathurst 1000 motor race at Mt Panorama.

The annual V8 Supercar race, with its tens of thousands of visitors and massive TV audience, is a huge economic boost for Bathurst and its region.

There had been plans proposed to grow Bathurst's attraction as a motor racing hub with a second circuit but a Section 10 protection order now sits over the famous mountain, which the traditional owners call Wahluu.

Bathurst Regional Council member Warren Aubin said the second circuit proposal would bring "millions" of dollars to the city.

Back in Melbourne, thousands of extremists have been marching the streets in protest over proposed new Victorian pandemic legislation.

The protests have been hostile - almost lynch-mob in style - toward Premier Dan Andrews. The Prime Minister at first appeared reluctant to criticise the hate language of the protesters but when that weak position was roundly criticised, said he had "no truck whatsoever" with threatening behaviour.

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This story The Informer: How latest DNA tech simply boggles the mind first appeared on The Canberra Times.