Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events
JAN
03

1260th OGM and open lecture

Royal Society of NSW Scholarship Award Winners for 2018

Grace Causer, Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials, University of Wollongong
Yu-wei Lin, Advanced Drug Delivery Group, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney
Cara Van Der Wal, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Wednesday 7 February 2018
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Royal Society of NSW Scholarships
The Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships recognise outstanding achievements by individuals working towards a research degree in a science-related field within New South Wales or the Australian Capital Territory. Each year three scholarships of $500 plus and a complimentary year of membership of the Society are awarded. The award winners give talks about their research at the first OGM and Public Lecture each year.

 Grace causer 
 “Uncovering hidden nanoscale worlds
    with neutrons”

  Grace Causer
  University of Wollongong and
  Australian Nuclear Science and Technology
  Organisation

For decades, neutrons have been used to probe almost all kinds of matter to unveil hidden characteristics, such as, the dynamics of chemical reactions, the performance of engineering components under strain, and the properties of low-dimensional systems. By reflecting polarised neutrons off layered structures, scientists have been able to gain unique insights into magnetic surfaces and ultra-thin films. Fundamentally, scientific insights gained from neutron scattering have been, and will continue to be, important for the development of future thin-film-based technologies. For example, giant magnetoresistive structures, for which Albert Fert and Peter Gruenberg won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics, have revolutionised computer technology. In this talk, In her talk Grace discussed a number of prototype thin-film devices which she has investigated as part of her PhD research. Specifically, the interface physics of an exemplar high-density magnetic recording device formed by ion-beam irradiation, and a magnetic thin-film sensor designed to act as a safety switch in next-generation vehicles powered by hydrogen, will be discussed.

 ****

Wayne Lin small
  “Developing new ways to treat ‘superbugs’
   using old antibiotics: Are we there yet?”

  Yu-wei (Wayne) Lin
  Advanced Drug Delivery Group
  Faculty of Pharmacy 
  University of Sydney

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health globally. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) Pseudomonas aeruginosa is at the top of the 2017 World Health Organisation Priority Pathogen List that requires the utmost need for novel antibiotics. MDR P. aeruginosa often causes life-threatening lung infections particularly in immune-compromised patients such as those with cystic fibrosis. As no novel classes of antibiotics will be available for many years to come, polymyxins, a class of ‘old’ antibiotics, are being increasingly used as a last-line therapy for lung infections caused by MDR P. aeruginosa. Over the last decade, inhalation of polymyxins has become a complementary practice for treating life-threatening lung infections. Notably, currently used inhalational dosage regimens of polymyxins are empirical, and this is likely a cause for the increased polymyxin resistance. Yu-wei described the overarching theme of his PhD research, which is to investigate the pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics/toxicodynamics of inhaled polymyxins, to maximise antimicrobial efficacy while minimising toxicity and emergence of resistance.

****

Cara Van der Wal small
  “Reconstructing the phylogeny and evolutionary
   history of mantis shrimps using molecular data”

  Cara Van Der Wal
  School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  University of Sydney

Mantis shrimps (Crustacea: Stomatopoda) are ecologically and often economically significant crustaceans, being dominant predators in many coastal ecosystems and serving as an important fisheries resource. They are a highly specialised rather than highly diversified lineage, with highly modified hunting appendages and sophisticated vision. Despite these unique attributes much remains unknown about stomatopod systematics, evolution and phylogeny. To fill this knowledge gap, I used molecular sequence data to estimate the phylogeny and evolutionary timescale of the group. Her research results show that Stomatopoda appeared in the Carboniferous and that the specialised spearing appendage evolved prior to the specialised smashing appendage. Additionally, the results showed that morphological complexity within stomatopod eyes has reduced independently in different lineages, and that this reduction might be linked to the environment. The results have significantly added to the knowledge of stomatopod evolution and diversification, suggesting systematic revisions may be required.

NOV
16

1259th OGM and Christmas party

“How to store light: an optical memory based on sound waves”

Moritz Jak Kelly 2017 revised  
  Moritz Merklein
  Department of Physics
  University of Sydney

  Jak Kelly Award winner for 2017

Wednesday 6 December 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

The Jak Kelly Award was created in honour of Professor Jak Kelly (1928 - 2012), who was Head of Physics at University of NSW from 1985 to 1989, was made an Honorary Professor of University of Sydney in 2004, and was President of the Royal Society of NSW in 2005 and 2006. Its purpose is to encourage excellence in postgraduate research in physics. It is supported by the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Institute of Physics, NSW branch. The winner was selected from a short list of candidates who made presentations at a recent joint meeting at UNSW of the Australian Institute of Physics NSW Branch, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Royal Society of NSW.

The Jak Kelly Award was presented to Moritz Merklein by John Hardie FRSN, a past president of the Society.

In his lecture Moritz presented a memory for optical data that is based on sound waves and has the potential to revolutionize next-generation computer chips. Today, mediating heat is one of the most significant challenges in computing, particularly in large data centres. Photonic interconnects can solve this challenge, connecting different processing units without generating heat, while offering a broad bandwidth and data throughput. However, the vast speed of light is imposing new challenges on these integrated circuits that harness light as information carriers, requiring an optical memory to slow down information for buffering, synchronization, re-routing and further processing of the data. Controlling the speed of light is challenging, and so far no method has been developed that reaches the required bandwidth, the fractional delay, and is compatible with complex optical data encoding schemes, and least of all can be integrated into a photonic circuit. Transferring the optical data to sound waves can provide a powerful solution to this challenge, enabling to slow down of the flow of information on the chip. It is like storing a flash of lightning inside thunder.

Moritz Merklein received his Physics Diplom from the University of Konstanz, Germany in 2012. His thesis dealt with the fabrication of silicon nitride nanostructures and the characterisation of their mechanical modes using ultrafast pump-probe spectroscopy. Moritz joined the stimulated Brillouin scattering group in the Department of Physics at The University of Sydney as a PhD student in 2014. During his PhD, he has made significant contributions to the field of stimulated Brillouin scattering, which describes the interaction between sound and light waves. His research supervisors are Professor Benjamin Eggleton and Dr. Birgit Stiller. During his PhD studies, he served as the president of the University of Sydney optics student chapter and has engaged in many outreach activities.

NOV
22

The Dirac Lecture 2013

“Semiconductor nanostructures and quantum phenomena”

Michael Pepper  Professor Sir Michael Pepper FRS
  Pender Chair in Nanoelectronics
  University College London

Dirac Lecture and Medal Presentation

Professor Pepper was also presented with an Honorary Degree from UNSW after his lecture.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Law Theatre, UNSW

Industry innovation has developed a combination of electron beam lithography and advanced semiconductor growth. This has stimulated interest in discovering more about the basic properties of semiconductor nanostructures.

The Lecture showed how advanced semiconductor growth technology, which was developed for the information technology industry, has allowed the creation of new types of structures for investigating the quantum aspects of electron transport. It also showed how the dimensionality which is experienced by the electrons can be reduced from 3 to 2 to 1 and then to 0.

History of the Dirac Lecture:

The Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Theoretical Physics is awarded by the UNSW and the Australian Institute of Physics. The Lecture and the Medal commemorate the visit to the university in 1975 of Professor Dirac, who gave five lectures. The lectures were subsequently published as a book Directions of Physics. Professor Dirac donated the royalties from this book to the University for the establishment of the Dirac Lecture and Prize. The prize includes a silver medal and honorarium. It was first awarded in 1979.

NOV
07

1216th OGM and public lecture

“Re-thinking science education in Australian schools: development and implementation of the National Science Curriculum”

Mark Butler  Dr Mark Butler

  Department of Education and Communities

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Dr Butler examined the development and nature of the new national senior high school science curriculum. In 2008 the Federal Government secured agreement with all state and territory governments to develop a national F-12 school curriculum. Responsibility for developing the curriculum was assigned to the newly established, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The national F-10 Science curriculum was completed in 2011 and will be implemented in NSW schools from 2014.

In December 2012 the curricula for senior courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Earth and Environmental Science were completed and signed off by the state and territory governments. Provided the newly elected Federal Government continues to support the new curriculum, the national senior science courses will be introduced in NSW schools in 2016.

The senior science curriculum was developed to reflect international best practice in science education. The courses were designed to cater for students who wished to pursue further study in science and for those who would not continue to study science beyond school level. But in spite of two extensive rounds of public consultation and over two years of refinement, the national senior science curriculum remains controversial and the content chosen, and the three strands (Science as Human Endeavour, Science Inquiry Skills and, Knowledge and Understanding) used to present it, continue to cause some concern. While the new courses will undoubtedly address the issues of comparability and consistency, only time will tell if the new courses will attract more students to study science and/or more effectively prepare students for studying science at tertiary level.

Dr Mark Butler is currently Head Teacher of Science at Gosford High School and the National Education Convener of the Australian Institute of Physics. He has taught science in secondary schools in NSW and has been an active member of the professional science education community for over thirty years. Dr Butler is particularly interested in developing strategies to encourage more students to study science in senior high school and at tertiary level.

DEC
19

1217th OGM and Christmas party

“Probing the nano-world with the symmetries of light”

Xavier Zambrana-Puyalto  Xavier Zambrana-Puyalto
  Department of Physics and Astronomy
  ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered
  Quantum Systems, Macquarie University

  Winner of the RSNSW Jak Kelly Scholarship
  Award for 2013

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

The Jak Kelly Award was created in honour of Professor Jak Kelly (1928 - 2012), who was Head of Physics at University of NSW from 1985 to 1989, was made an Honorary Professor of University of Sydney in 2004, and was President of the Royal Society of NSW in 2005 and 2006. Its purpose is to encourage excellence in postgraduate research in physics. It is supported by the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Institute of Physics, NSW branch. The winner is selected from a short list of candidates who made presentations at the most recent Australian Institute of Physics, NSW branch postgraduate awards.

In 1959, Richard Feynman gave a seminal lecture titled “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” which pushed scientists to set out on the journey of controlling light/matter interactions at the nano-scale. Since then, nanotechnology has rapidly developed. Nowadays it is inconceivable to think of any new information devices whose circuits are not in the nano-scale. Whereas nanoelectronics is a well consolidated technology producing transistors of less than 50 nm, nanophotonics has yet to overcome some drawbacks. So far, probably the most successful way of pushing light technology to the nano-scale has been plasmonics. In plasmonics, plane waves are used to excite smartly designed nano-structures to couple light with free electrons oscillations on a metallic surface and transmit information. Xavier showed that if symmetry considerations are taken into account and more elaborate beams of light are used, extra information can be retrieved from the same samples. To prove this, he presented a recent experiment carried out in his group where the complex behavior of a circular nano-metric aperture is easily predicted using symmetry considerations. The experiment deals with an old problem – the circular dichroism (CD) of a sample. CD is a widely used technique in science, and its uses range from DNA studies to protein spectroscopy. It is defined as the differential absorption of left and right circular polarization. Typically, it is established that CD can only be found in interactions with chiral structures, i.e. structures whose mirror image cannot be superimposed with them. Xavier showed that non-chiral structures, such as a circular nano-aperture, can also produce CD when light beams with cylindrical symmetry are used. This allows one to reconcile the experimental results and extend the current understanding of this phenomenon using symmetry considerations.

FEB
06

1218th Ordinary General Meeting

Presentations by Royal Society of NSW scholarship winners 2014

Date: Wednesday 5 February 2014

Venue: Union University and Schools Club, 25 Bent St, Sydney

John Chan (Pharmacology, University of Sydney)
Jessica Stanley (Chemistry, University of Sydney)
Jiangbo (Tim) Zhao (Advanced Cytometry, Macquarie University)

This presentation was delivered by A/Prof. Judith Dawes.

OCT
13

1258th OGM and open lecture

Pamela Griffith   “Women artists: barriers and frustrations”

   Pamela Griffith

   Artist, designer, master printer and author

Wednesday 1 November 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Pamela Griffith shared some of the joys and challenges she has encountered as a female artist. Her talk was illustrated by images of her work and some works of women artists of the past. 

Females are often the model and rarely the artist, and this has led to some offensive and exploitative works around the female subject matter that have coloured the way people see women in art. It has also affected how women see themselves. Pamela speculated on where historically female artists acquired their training and how they were assisted to have an art career by their families and patrons. She showed how they overcame social difficulties and barriers to making art. She tracks what happened to their art.

The presentation attempted to explain art history’s omission of almost all women from its canon. There is an ongoing resistance of art museums to buying art made by women. Few women have solo shows before they are dead. Most women who go to art schools and make up the majority never have their work displayed in any big museums or bought for major collections. Does this mean that women at art schools are wasting their time?

Pamela Griffith is an an artist, designer, master printer and author. She has had over 100 one-woman exhibitions in over 30 galleries. Her work is included in National, State and Regional Gallery collections across Australia and in major corporate and private collections in Australia, Europe, USA and Asia. Major commissions include Bicentennial and Macquarie toiles; Mary McKillop toile; portraits of distinguished Australians such as Dame Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge, Sir William Dean, Cardinal George Pell, Professor Marie Bashir and Elena Kats-Chernin; numerous etching editions for corporations including Qantas, Comalco, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. She is also the author of over 80 articles and two books on art.

OCT
12

RSNSW/SMSA Joint Lecture Series: Is the Enlightenment dead? Lecture 2

Robert Clancy  “The freedom to use your own intelligence:
  the Enlightenment and the growth of the
  Australian nation”

  Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN
  School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
  University of Newcastle

Monday 6 November 2017
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney

In this second lecture of the Enlightenment series Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy asks us to consider the fact that in little more than a century, a gaol established in Sydney Cove with 1000 souls joined the international stage as an independent Federated nation of in excess of three million – an unprecedented event in the history of man! This presentation explores the theme that the convict settlement was the ‘perfect storm’ to test the idea that the Enlightenment with its roots in late Middle Age Europe, and finding its expression in the Laws of Newton and the logic of Locke, created a confidence and capacity for humanity to achieve a new potential. Professor Clancy will first discuss the influence of the dominant contemporary ideas in science as introduced by James Cook and Joseph Banks and how this plays out in a young Australia in its impact on patterns of scientific development. Second, the self-belief and ‘have a go’ mentality reflected John Locke’s optimistic view of men and women forced to face and control extraordinary challenges not just to survive, but to create a new and independent society, based on science and the goodness of man. The question today is “have we lost that spirit of the Enlightenment to reactive conservatism?”

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy has had a distinguished career as a clinical immunologist. He was awarded an AM for his services to immunology, as well as to cartography through his collection of early maps of Australia. He was Foundation Chair of Pathology at the University of Newcastle and the Director of the Hunter Immunology Unit.

Professor Clancy is a expert on medical history, with a particular focus on the history of infectious disease and immunology, including the impact of plague. He led the ASAEurope: the History of Medicine and Pharmacy tour in 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2015 and has developed a ‘History of Medicine’ course through the College of Physicians. Another area of expertise is cartography and he has written two books on the mapping of Australia and Antarctica (The Mapping of Terra Australis and So Came They South).

This series of five talks, co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, brings together the two oldest institutions in NSW dedicated to education, the discussion of ideas, and discovery. The series is expected to initiate a period of interactive events and activities to the mutual benefit of both societies. The lectures will be presented by an outstanding group of experts in the field, with the topics chosen to represent a broad overview of the Enlightenment from its beginnings as the public recognised and discussed the meanings of change from a long period of mythology and dogma, to grasping reality and what that meant to them and their lives, to its impact on our society today.

The Enlightenment was founded on reasoned discourse and scientific enquiry, connecting with the idea of human equality and the rights of the individual. It was a powerful influence through disruptive revolutions in the 18th century on European and American societies. But what influence did it have on our Australian society, and the institutions entrusted to inform the population of new ideas and discovery? On a more concerning note, to what extent is Nobel Lauriet Joseph Stiglitz correct correct in his view that “Global deflation is reversing international progress through rejection of the principles of the Enlightenment”.

These five Lectures will capture the beginnings of the Enlightenment, its immediate impact on colonial Australia, and two portals of the Enlightenment and their adaptation to changes around them over 200 years. The series will conclude with an interactive Sophistry, taking the theme of the series, and discussing this in the context of contemporary Australian life.

Other lectures in the series:
Lecture 1: “Samuel Pepys, His library and the Enlightenment” by Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN, author, lecturer and literary tour leader, 4 September 2017
Lecture 3: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the museum” by Kim Mckay AO, Executive Director and CEO, the Australian Museum, 1 February 2018
Lecture 4: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library” by Paul Brunton OAM FAHA, Emeritus Curator, New South Wales State Library, 1 March 2018
Lecture 5: Sophistry – “Global deflation : The Enlightenment has failed!” by Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO FRSN, 5 April 2018

OCT
12

2017 Dirac Lecture

“Is it possible to predict the behaviour of closed physical systems? From the solar systems to a quantum computer”

Dirac lecturer 2017
  Professor Boris Altshuler
  Department of Physics
  Columbia University
  New York

Monday 6 November 2017
Ritchie Theatre, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW

The Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Theoretical Physics is awarded by UNSW in association with the Australian Institute of Physics NSW branch and The Royal Society of NSW. The Lecture and the Medal commemorate the visit to UNSW in 1975 of the British Nobel laureate, Professor Paul Dirac. Professor Dirac gave five lectures which were published as a book Directions of Physics. He donated the royalties to UNSW for the establishment of the Dirac Lecture and Prize, which consists of a silver medal and honorarium. It was first awarded in 1979.

The historical background to Professor Altshuler's lecture goes back to the mechanics of Lagrange following Newton with the integrable systems of equations of motion as deterministic mathematics, in contrast to the ergodic systems describing chaotic motion, known from the Brownian motion of particles. (An ergodic system is one where the position of the points in the system averages out over time, so that if the system runs for a very long time its initial state cannot be determined.) This phenomenon was first observed under a microscope by the 19th-century scientist Robert Brown, and was referred to as the thermo-statistical motion of molecules. This research was further developed by von Oswald, Boltzmann, and last but not least in Einstein’s PhD thesis in Zürich 1905, where he demonstrated that he could arrive at Avogadro’s number. The distance between two molecules increases defining the Lyapunov constant.

Professor Altshuler traced the development of Bose-Einstein statistics leading to the Anderson Localization – for which a Nobel Prize was awarded – and entangled quantum states. These are non-ergodic systems and may be important to the development of quantum computing algorithms.

Dirac Lecture 2017

L to R: Prof. Sven Rogge (Head, School of Physics, UNSW), Dr. Herma Buttner (RSNSW Secretary), Prof. Nicholas Fisk (DVC Research, UNSW), A/Prof. Matthew Arnold (Chair, AIP NSW branch), Prof. Boris Altshuler, Prof. Emma Johnston (Dean of Science, UNSW), Dr. Donald Hector (past President of RSNSW)

OCT
11

Is the Enlightenment dead?

RSNSW/SMSA Joint Lecture Series

Diderot's Encyclopedie frontispiece
detail from the frontispiece of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1772

Dates: see below

Venue: all sessions will be held at the Mitchell Theatre, Level 1, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney

Time: 6 pm drinks, for 6.30-7.30 pm

Cost: $15 for SMSA & Royal Society Fellows/Members, $20 for non-members and friends (per lecture) — all are welcome

This series of five talks, co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, brings together the two oldest institutions in NSW dedicated to education, the discussion of ideas, and discovery. The series is expected to initiate a period of interactive events and activities to the mutual benefit of both societies. The lectures will be presented by an outstanding group of experts in the field, with the topics chosen to represent a broad overview of the Enlightenment from its beginnings as the public recognized and discussed the meanings of change from a long period of mythology and dogma, to grasping reality and what that meant to them and their lives, to its impact on our society today.

The Enlightenment was founded on reasoned discourse and scientific enquiry, connecting with the idea of human equality and the rights of the individual. It was a powerful influence through disruptive revolutions in the 18th century on European and American societies. But what influence did it have on our Australian society, and the institutions entrusted to inform the population of new ideas and discovery? On a more concerning note, to what extent is Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz correct in his view that “Global deflation is reversing international progress through rejection of the principles of the Enlightenment”?

These five lectures will capture the beginnings of the Enlightenment, its immediate impact on Colonial Australia, and two portals of the Enlightenment and their adaptation to changes around them over 200 years. The series will conclude with an interactive Sophistry, taking the theme of the series, and discussing this in the context of contemporary Australian life.

Lectures in the series:

Lecture 1: “Samuel Pepys, His Library and the Enlightenment” by Susannah Fullerton, on 4 September 2017

Lecture 2: “The freedom to use one's own intelligence: the Enlightenment and the growth of the Australian nation” by Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, on 6 November 2017

Lecture 3: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the museum” by Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO Australian Museum, on 5 February 2018

Lecture 4: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library” by Paul Brunton OAM Emeritus Curator, State Library of NSW, on 1 March 2018

Lecture 5:  Sophistry: “Global deflation: the Enlightenment has failed!” by Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO FRSN, on 5 April 2018

SEP
15

1257th OGM and open lecture

pip pattison small  “The science of social networks”

  Professor Pip Pattison AO FASSA FRSN

  Deputy Vice Chancellor
  University of Sydney

Wednesday 4 October 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

We are social animals and what we think, feel and do is affected by the social networks in which we live work and play. In her talk, Professor Pattison shared with us some of the complexities associated with analysing the structure and dynamics of social networks; including how we can model networks and their consequences.

She began with a brief account of the theory of networks and then described ways we can model their behaviour. The approach construes global network structure as the outcome of dynamic, interactive processes occurring within local neighbourhoods of a network. She described a hierarchy of models and how they may be applied to real social networks using data obtained through various types of network sampling schemes. In particular, she addressed the problem of inferring the nature of the overall structure of a network from knowledge about fragments of the network.

Using several illustrative problems, she demonstrated how the models can be used to enrich our understanding of real network structures in a variety of contexts.  This included how they shape the processes taking place within them, such as the transmission of infectious diseases, and how the models can be used to guide strategies for preventing the spread of such diseases.

Professor Philippa (Pip) Pattison is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University in Sydney, responsible for the University’s strategy and vision for teaching and learning and students’ educational experience. A quantitative psychologist by background, Professor Pattison began her academic career at the University of Melbourne, and has previously served as president of Melbourne’s Academic Board and as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

The primary focus of Professor Pattison’s research is the development and application of mathematical and statistical models for social networks and network processes. Recent applications have included the transmission of infectious diseases, the evolution of the biotechnology industry in Australia, and community recovery following the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Professor Pattison was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1995. She was named on the Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours List as an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to higher education, particularly through contributions to the study of social network modelling, analysis and theory, and to university leadership and administration.

AUG
26

1256th OGM and open lecture

Helen Mitchell  "Multisensory music:
  listening by ear and eye?"

   Dr Helen Mitchell
   Sydney Conservatorium of Music
   University of Sydney

Wednesday 6 September 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Listening is regarded as the most fundamental way to engage with music performance but this is challenged by a growing body of research which suggests that sight trumps sound. Music is now widely recognised as a multisensory experience, and the challenge for music education is to absorb and include these recent research findings in the music curriculum. This presentation deciphered the complex perceptual skills required for listening to music performers. It described how new experiential learning strategies in music education can prepare future music professionals as critical thinkers about music performance.

Dr Helen Mitchell has a multidisciplinary background in music, as a singer, music scholar and music performance researcher. Listeners’ perception of sound quality is central to Helen's music performance research. Her current work investigates how listeners recognise and describe individual performers’ sound identities, and how listeners ‘hear’ music performers to see to what extent audiences integrate audio and visual information to identify individual performers. 

AUG
25

Poggendorff Lecture 2017

"Applied remote sensing applications for Australian agricultural and horticultural industries"

Associate Professor Andrew Robson, University of New England

Poggendorff picture

Associate Professor Andrew Robson receiving the Poggendorff Medal from His
Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (ret'd.), Governor of NSW

Tuesday 29 August 2017
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney

 With increasing awareness of global food shortages and a downturn in mining exports, Australian agriculture is currently receiving unprecedented industry support and funding for the development and adoption of new technologies. At the forefront of this renaissance is agricultural remote sensing, predominantly due to the advent of drones or UAVs. Whilst the UAV technologies themselves still require much research and development, they have inadvertently increased focus on satellite-based imaging platforms, a technology that has been evolving since the 1970s. The University of New England (UNE) Agricultural Remote Sensing Team (ARST) stands at the forefront of research within this discipline, having established formal collaborations across multiple agricultural industries, and offering support to many more.

In this lecture, A/Prof Robson presented a brief theory of remote sensing with relevance to agriculture, including an overview of commercial satellites and associated costings. The presentation included a detailed discussion of applications currently being developed by ARST, in response to industry demand, ranging from the prediction of fruit size and yield at the individual tree level, the automated derivation and distribution of yield and nitrogen concentration maps to an entire industry and the generation of tools that support national biosecurity and post disaster monitoring.

Associate Professor Robson founded the ARST, a theme of the UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group (PARG), in 2016 on the back of his long-standing research career in agricultural remote sensing. He has been engaged in agricultural research since 1996, with the last 15 years developing spatial applications (remote sensing / GIS) across a number of cropping and farming systems both nationally and internationally. This research has attracted funding from a wide range of industries including peanut (ACIAR, GRDC, University of Florida), grains (GRDC), cotton (CCCCRC), sugar (SRA/SRDC, WWF/ Coca Cola), rice (RIRDC/ NSWDPI), avocados, mangoes, macadamia, banana (Horticulture Innovation Aust/ Federal DAF), vegetables (Horticulture Innovation Aust), pineapples (QDAF) and pastures (CRC-SI/ MLA). Throughout his career, A/Prof Robson has developed an extensive network of industry, research and commercial collaborators that are regularly engaged for the development and delivery of practical and adoptable outcomes.

The Poggendorff Medal

Walter Poggendorff was a biologist and plant breeder with a particular interest in the breeding of rice.  In 1928, the Yanco Rice Research Station was established by the NSW Department of Agriculture with approximately 670 acres just south of Leeton on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.  A brilliant young biologist, Walter Poggendorff was transferred there as an assistant plant breeder.

Poggendorff’s early accomplishments included recognizing the need to quarantine imported rice and producing strains of rice that were able to offer growers late, mid-season, early and very early short-grain varieties.  He also developed similar long-grain strains but these were not required by the market until much later.  Poggendorff is recognised as one of the major figures in establishing the Australian rice industry, developing high-yield crops for Australian conditions and maintaining controls on imports to limit the introduction of serious diseases.  Poggendorff’s work was not confined to rice – in the 1930s and 1940s, he worked with peaches, apricots, pears, almonds, grapes and rock melons.  Later, he became Chief of the Division of Plant Industry in the NSW Department of Agriculture.

When he died in 1981, he made a bequest to the Royal Society of NSW to fund a lecture.

AUG
24

RSNSW/SMSA Joint Lecture Series: Is the Enlightenment dead?

Susannah Fullerton   Lecture 1:  “Samuel Pepys, His Library
   and the Enlightenment”
 
  Susannah Fullerton
  Author, lecturer and literary tour leader
  susannahfullerton.com.au

Monday 4 September 2017
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney

This series of five talks, co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, brings together the two oldest institutions in NSW dedicated to education, the discussion of ideas, and discovery. The series is expected to initiate a period of interactive events and activities to the mutual benefit of both societies. The lectures will be presented by an outstanding group of experts in the field, with the topics chosen to represent a broad overview of the Enlightenment from its beginnings as the public recognized and discussed the meanings of change from a long period of mythology and dogma, to grasping reality and what that meant to them and their lives, to its impact on our society today.

The Enlightenment was founded on reasoned discourse and scientific enquiry, connecting with the idea of human equality and the rights of the individual. It was a powerful influence through disruptive revolutions in the 18th century on European and American societies. But what influence did it have on our Australian society, and the institutions entrusted to inform the population of new ideas and discovery? On a more concerning note, to what extent is Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz correct in his view that “Global Deflation is reversing international progress through rejection of the principles of the Enlightenment”?

These five Lectures will capture the beginnings of the Enlightenment, its immediate impact on Colonial Australia, and two portals of the Enlightenment and their adaptation to changes around them over 200 years. The series will conclude with an interactive Sophistry, taking the theme of the series, and discussing this in the context of contemporary Australian life.

Samuel pepysIn this first lecture Susannah Fullerton discussed the life and diaries of Samuel Pepys and what they tell us about The Enlightenment. Susannah Fullerton is Sydney’s best known speaker on famous authors and their works. She has spoken at literary conferences around the world, and is regularly sought as an entertaining and informative speaker at fund-raising events, conference dinners, schools, libraries, universities, bookshops and clubs.

Susannah Fullerton, OAM, FRSN, has been President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for the past 21 years. She is Sydney’s best known lecturer on famous authors and their works. She is also Patron of the Rudyard Kipling Society of Australia. Susannah leads popular literary tours for Australians Studying Abroad to the UK, France, Italy and the USA. She is the author of several books about Jane Austen and also of Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia, and has written and recorded two audio CDs.

Other lectures in the series:

Lecture 2: “The freedom to use one’s own Intelligence: the Enlightenment and the growth of the Australian nation” by Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, on 6 November 2017

Lecture 3: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the museum” by Kim Mckay AO, Director and CEO Australian Museum, on 1 February 2018

Lecture 4: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library” by Paul Brunton OAM Emeritus Curator, State Library of NSW, on 1 March 2018

Lecture 5: Sophistry - “Global deflation: the Enlightenment has failed!” by Scientia Professor George Paxinos AM, on 5 April 2018

AUG
09

Science Week RSNSW Lunchtime Science Talks

Science Week Logo

Four RSNSW  Lunchtme Science Talks as part of Science Week

University of Sydney Business School CBD campus, Level 17, Stockland Building, 133 Castlereagh St.

Free admission

Talk 1 “Smoking and lung cancer: How are we doing?”

John Murray  Professor John Murray
  School of Mathematics and Statistics
  University of NSW 

https://sydneyscience.com.au/2017/event/smoking-and-lung-cancer/

Friday 11 August 2017, 12.30 – 1.30pm

What are the rates of smoking and lung cancer these days – are we doing better? Hear Professor John Murray share some of his extensive research in this field and learn what the latest evidence means for our future.

 

Talk 2: “Fred Astaire and the Science of Spontaneity”

Kathleen Riley   Dr Kathleen Riley
  Writer, classical scholar and theatre historian

Monday 14 August 2017, 12.30 – 1.30pm

https://sydneyscience.com.au/2017/event/fred-astaire/

Join Dr Kathleen Riley, as she focuses on the science behind superstar Fred Astaire’s ability to make the technically complex and endlessly rehearsed look simple, spontaneous and effortless. The talk draws in part on her book The Astaires: Fred and Adele.

 

Talk 3: “Personalised medicine – healthcare in the 21st century”

Leslie Burnett  Professor Leslie Burnett
  Chief Medical Officer, Genome.One
  Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Tuesday 15 August 2017, 12.30 – 1.30pm

https://sydneyscience.com.au/2017/event/personalised-medicine-and-you/

The ability to know a patient’s most unique and personal information contained in their DNA is increasingly informing treatments and revolutionising health policy. Explore this revolution and discuss how governments must develop the strategies and vision for a healthcare system that takes advantage of these new opportunities to keep you healthy.

Note: owing to unforeseen circumstances, Associate Professor Kristine Barlow-Stewart is unable to give this talk and Professor Burnett has kindly agreed to replace her.

 

Talk 4: “Scientific and not-so-scientific fraud: crooks, cranks and charlatans”

Brynn Hibbert   Emeritus Professor D Brynn Hibbert
  School of Analytical Chemistry, UNSW
  President RSNSW

Thursday 17 August 2017, 12.30 – 1.30pm

https://sydneyscience.com.au/2017/event/science-fraud/

The use of science to sell strange and fraudulent information is not new. Join Professor Brynn Hibbert, President of The Royal Society of NSW, and learn some of the wackier examples of scientific and not-so-scientific fraud, starting in the Middle Ages in Europe and continuing in Sydney in the 21st century.

AUG
07

Everybody needs science in their lives

National Science week

National Science Week event, jointly sponsored by the Royal Society of NSW and the University of New England

Wednesday 16 August 2017, 2–4pm

UNE Future campus, 211 Church Street, Parramatta

Contact: Charles Greenaway UNE, email: porjectexodusii "at" gmail.com,  phone: 0466 601 647

A short meeting on educational psychology, connectivism and the use of the scientific method in management, followed by a Q&A session.

AUG
04

RSNSW & Four Academies Forum 2017

“The future of rationality in a post-truth world”

Government House

Hosted by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (ret’d.), Governor of NSW and Patron of the Royal Society of NSW

Wednesday, 29 November 2017, 9am–4.30pm
Government House, Sydney

This year’s Forum discussed the implications of the rise of a ‘post-truth’ approach to shaping public opinion.  Does it have the potential to undermine the institutions upon which open, democratic societies are built?  Does it advantage the propagandists and those who wish to pursue sinister agendas?  What public responsibilities do the traditional and emerging media have?  What should – or can – those who believe in evidence-based, objectively-determined policy do about it?  Distinguished scholars from Australia, New Zealand, and England addressed the following topics:

• Rationality and post-truth: the threat to democratic society - Dr Donald Hector AM FRSN

• Wind Turbine Syndrome: a communicated disease - Prof Simon Chapman AO FASSA

• The Brexit experience: evidence, expertise and post-truth politics - Prof James Wilsdon

• Role of evidence and expertise in policymaking - Sir Peter Gluckman FRS

• Influences on evidence… putting the cart before the horse - Prof Lisa Bero

• Why are scientists so quiet? … the public voice of the scientist - Prof Emma Johnston FRSN

• Algorithms of hate: how the Internet facilitates racism … - Prof Andrew Jakubowicz

• Mind and language in the post-truth era - Prof Nick Enfield FAHA

• Rapporteur summary - Ross Gittins FASSA FRSN

 

The abstracts of the speakers' talks can be accessed here.

JUL
06

1255th OGM and open lecture

ann williamson   “Self-driving cars: will they help?”

   Professor Ann Williamson

   Director
   Transport and Road Safety Research Centre
   School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney

Wednesday 2 August 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Autonomous vehicles and driver-assist technologies are seen as the 'next big thing' in transport and road safety. Many authoritative organisations are predicting benefits of up to 95% reductions in road traffic crashes: levels never achieved before. She argued that these forecasts are at best optimistic and at worst misleading, as they are based on the false ideas that driver error is at the heart of almost all road safety problems and that new technology is infallible. Ann's presentation described the main issues associated with different degrees of human- autonomous vehicle interactions using examples from aviation and road transport. She showed how some apparently beneficial technological advances can increase the likelihood of accidents by overwhelming a driver with information and because of the time involved in humans responding to problems arising.  She emphasised the need to act now to refocus the introduction of new technology in vehicles towards making them more usable tools for people if we are to maximize their benefits.

Ann Williamson is Director of the Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research Centre and Professor of Aviation Safety at UNSW Sydney. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and of the Australian College of Road Safety. She has a PhD in Psychology, was Foundation Director of the NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre and previously Head of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Unit at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. Ann’s research focusses on human factors and injury in the areas of transportation and workplace safety, in particular on the role of error, especially skill-based error, in safety and the effects of fatigue on performance. She has been an invited technical expert on advisory committees for a wide range of transport and road safety authorities. She has twice been awarded an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (2005-2015) and won the Ron Cumming Memorial medal from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (2013), the Sustained Achievement over a Professional Career Award (2011), and the Meritorious Achievement in Research Award (2004). She has been President of the Australian Injury Prevention Network.

JUN
11

1254th OGM and open lecture

 morello small “Quantum computers: how and why”

  Andrea Morello
  Professor of Quantum Engineering
  UNSW Sydney

Wednesday 5 July 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

The talk certainly lived up to its promise of giving an excellent insight into a subject that, for most of the audience, would be far removed from their professional knowledge and experience. Starting out with a simple demonstration of how quantum effects are size dependent, Andrea went on to describe some of the current realisations of quantum devices that can manipulate one bit of information – a qubit – and, in particular, the device pioneered by his group, which uses the coupling between the nuclear and electron spin of a phosphorus atom in silicon. However, a single qubit device is, in principle, functionally no different from a single memory cell in a normal silicon chip. The big difference between current computers and a quantum computer arises through the effect of entanglement, which allows N entangled qubits to be manipulated as a single entity with 2N states (a memory chip with N cells can also store any one of 2N different “words”, but such a word can only be changed bit by bit). The promise of enormously enhanced computing power is currently being pursued in a number of corporations, including Google, IBM, and Lockheed Martin, and here in Australia a consortium of Andrea’s group at UNSW, Telstra, and CBA, with Government support, is being created to stay in the race – the Royal Society of NSW wishes them lots of success. The great interest in Andrea’s presentation was demonstrated by the vigorous Q&A session that followed, which explored some of the challenges

JUN
08

1253rd OGM and open lecture

Beekman  “Are you smarter than a slime mould?”

  Madeleine Beekman
  Professor of Behavioural Ecology
  University of Sydney

Wednesday 7 June 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Professor Madeleine Beekman presented her investigations on the slime mould, a unicellular organism with no brain or central nervous system, but as smart as we are (well, maybe). 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. Despite its simplicity, this organism is capable of rather complex behaviour, which was illustrated by Madeleine in a number of fascinating time-lapse videos. Not only is the organism able to detect the presence and location of food (and to discriminate between oats from Woolies and Coles!), which might be considered simply a chemical process, but it is able to determine the shortest of possible routes to the food, and also to display an efficient strategy for hunting for distributed food sources of varying quality. This behaviour raises a number of questions about the meaning of such concepts as intelligence and cognition, and about fundamental processes underlying all decision-making. These questions, as well as Madeleine’s very engaging style of presentation, led to a vigorous discussion, which would have provided many of us with food for further thought

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 is honeybees.

Royal Society Events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes events in Sydney and in its Branches throughout the year. 

In Sydney, these include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held normally at 6.00 for 6.30 pm on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January), in the Gallery Room at the State Library of NSW. At the OGMs, society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given.  This is followed by a public lecture presented by an eminent expert and an optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and lecture, 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.

Since April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings have been replaced by virtual meetings, conducted as Zoom webinars, allowing the events program to continue uninterrupted.  It is hoped that face-to-face meetings can be resumed in the latter half of 2021. 

The first OGM of  the year, held in February, has speakers drawn from the winners of the Royal Society Scholarships from the previous year, while the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April or May 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 — the Australian Academy of Science, with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • The Dirac lecture — with UNSW Sydney and the Australian Institute of Physics
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture — with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

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