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1253rd OGM and open lecture

 

Beekman

   “Are you smarter than a slime mould?”

   Professor Madeleine Beekman
   Professor of Behavioural Ecology
   University of Sydney

Date: Wednesday 7th June 2017: 6:00 for 6.30 pm AGM, 6:30 pm OGM and Open Lecture
Venue: Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street Sydney
Entry: $20 for Non-Members, $10 for Members and Associate Members of the Society, which includes a welcome drink.  Dress Code: Business
Dinner (including drinks): $80 for Members and Associate Members, $90 for Non-Members. Reservations must be made at least 2 days before.
Reservations: at:https://nsw-royalsoc.currinda.com/register/event/33
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Phone: 9431 8691
All are welcome.

In this talk we will investigate if the slime mould, a unicellular organism with no brain or central nervous system, is as smart as we are. And you may be surprised by the answer. Over the last few years the acellular slime mould, Physarum polycephalum (literally the multi-headed slime mould) has emerged as a model system for decision making. This organism, despite its simplicity, is capable of rather complex behaviour. For example, the slime mould is capable of finding the shortest path through a maze, can construct networks as efficient as those designed by humans, solve computationally difficult puzzles, makes multi-objective foraging decisions, balances its nutrient intake and even behaves irrationally. Are the slime mould’s achievements simply ‘cute’, worthy of mentioning in passing, but nothing to take too seriously? Or do they hint at the fundamental processes underlying all decision-making? This talk will address this question after reviewing the decision-making abilities of the slime mould.

Madeleine Beekman is professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. She previously held prestigious research fellowships such as the Australian Research Council (ARC) Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (2003-2012), an ARC Future Fellowship (2013-2016), and a Sydney University Senior International Research Fellowship (2006-2010). Madeleine did her PhD in at the University of Amsterdam and was a postdoctoral research at the University of Sheffield before she moved to Australia to join the University of Sydney in 2001. She has been editor of numerous scientific journals and is currently the Deputy Head of School of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, as well as the Chair of Ecology, Evolution and Environment. Her main model organism besides the slime mould are honeybees.

Royal Society events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes a number of events in Sydney throughout the year.  These include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January).  Society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given to the membership.  This is followed by a talk and optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and talk, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

The first OGM in February has speakers drawn from the Royal Society Scholarship winners, and the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture (with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia [Sydney Division] and the Australian Nuclear Association)
  • The Forum (with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia)
  • The Dirac lecture (with UNSW Australia and the Australian Institute of Physics)
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture (with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute)
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