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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1170th Ordinary General Meeting

"A scientist vs. the law"

Professor D. Brynn Hibbert
Chair of Analytical Chemistry, University of New South Wales

Wednesday 6 May 2009 at 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, University of Sydney

A largely anecdotal review of the author's work in the courts, including bogus health products, unsuccessful defences of murderers and racehorse trainers, and highly lucrative patent cases.

One example is Ion mobility spectrometry. This is embodied in instruments such as the Ion Scan and is used at airports to detect drugs or explosives at trace levels. The author has given evidence in trials of drug importation in which an Ion Scan has revealed the presence of a drug with subsequent seizure of substantive amounts. In an early trial, during the author's evidence the "invisible hand" defence was coined when the trial judge misheard a question from counsel and caused the following conversation. Judge: "Did you say the hand that touched the cocaine was invisible?". Counsel: "No your honour, I said the cocaine that the hand touched was invisible".

The Ion Mat sold for around $3,000 and apart from claiming to improve your sex life, it cured cancers (various) and ameliorated bad breath. The mattress did this by creating "beneficial negative ions" despite the author's opinion that the electric field was about the same as a toaster and whereas we do not expect our household appliances to make us better, this would not either. The prosecution by the ACCC was a success, but at the end of the trial the principals of the company fled with, it is said, $12 million.

There will be some discussion of statistics (Lies, damned lies and ...), dendrites and fractals, stolen wine, contaminated beer and defunct batteries. This will lead to a reflection on expert opinion and the role of professional societies in maintaining standards of professionalism.

The speaker's presentation can be found here: Bryn Hibbert's Talk (1.3 MB PDF).

Professor Hibbert occupies the Chair of Analytical Chemistry at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He is the second incumbent and arrived in Australia from England in 1987. His research interests are in electroanalytical chemistry and chemometrics and metrology in chemistry, but he also does a sideline in expert opinion, scientific fraud and presenting science to the public. He has published around 200 papers, 6 books and 2 patents. His most recent book Quality Assurance in the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory published by Oxford University Press won the RACI Olle Prize for 2007. He is past Chair of the Analytical Division of the RACI, Secretary of the IUPAC Analytical Division and was co-chair of Interact 2002.

Pollock Memorial Lecture 2009

"The universe from beginning to end"

Dr Brian Schmidt, Federation Fellow, Mount Stromlo Observatory, ANU

Wednesday 29 April 2009 at 6.30 pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney

The Pollock Memorial Lecture is presented jointly by the University of Sydney and the Royal Society of NSW. The Lectureship has been awarded about every four years since 1949 and is sponsored by the University of Sydney and the Royal Society of NSW in memory of Professor J.A. Pollock, Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney (1899-1922) and a member of the Society for 35 years.

Despite hundreds of years of dedicated scientific research, we only know what 4% of the Universe is made up of. In the last 15 years we have realised that there is another 96% of missing stuff that we just can't see. This missing stuff is made up of two mysterious substances, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, that are battling for domination of the Universe.

In the Pollock Memorial Lecture, Professor Brian Schmidt, from the Australian National University, will describe exciting new experiments, including those using the SkyMapper telescope, that are monitoring the struggle between these two dark forms. The aim is to predict the ultimate fate of the Cosmos!

Professor Brian Schmidt is a Federation Fellow at the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory. While at Harvard University in 1994 he formed the High Z SN Search team, a group of 20 astronomers on five continents who used distant exploding stars to trace the expansion of the Universe back in time. This group's discovery of an accelerating Universe was named Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year for 1998. Brian is continuing his work using exploding stars to study the Universe, and is leading Mt Stromlo's effort to build the SkyMapper telescope, a new facility that will provide a comprehensive digital map of the southern sky from ultraviolet to near infrared wavelengths.

Annual Dinner and Awards 2009

His Honour Justice James Allsop, President of the NSW Court of Appeal

The Society held a very successful Annual Dinner at the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre at the University of Sydney on 13 March. The Guest-of-Honour was His Honour Justice James Allsop, President of the NSW Court of Appeal who replaced our Chief Patron, the Governor-General at relatively short notice. The Society thanks His Honour for his attendance and for his very insightful Occasional Address, which touched on the relationship between the Society and the legal profession.

The other highlight of the evening was the presentation of our Awards for 2008. His Honour presented the Clarke Medal (this year it was for botany) to Professor Bradley Potts from the University of Tasmania and the Edgeworth David Medal for a young scientist to Dr Adam Micolich of the University of NSW. Associate Profesor Bill Sewell read the citations which were followed by very generous remarks by the recipients in accepting the Awards.

His Honour Justice James Allsop, the President John Hardie and Professor Bradley Potts
His Honour Justice James Allsop, the President John Hardie and Dr Adam Micolich

For further details see the March 2009 Bulletin No. 323.

The Four Societies Lecture 2009

Australian Nuclear Association, Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia, Australian Institute of Energy and The Royal Society of NSW

"An industry update on global nuclear power and the opportunities for Australia"

Dr Selena Ng, Areva NC, Australia

Wednesday 25 February 2009 at 6 pm
Engineers Australia Lecture Theatre, 8 Thomas St, Chatswood

Countries world-wide are committing to nuclear power as an integral part of their future energy mix, as they struggle to meet increasing electricity demands in a competitive and secure way while reducing their carbon emissions. Here in Australia, nuclear power, uranium mining, nuclear weapons, and radioactive waste - just to name a few - do make appearances on the public and political agenda from time to time, although the issues are sometimes confused, and often clouded by conflicting 'facts'. This talk will aim to set the record straight from an industry perspective, covering some of the long-argued topics such as proliferation, safety, and waste. It will also look at projected industrial developments over the coming decades, and the opportunities for Australia to get involved.

Dr Selena Ng is currently responsible for developing AREVA's nuclear activities in Australia. Prior to returning to Australia in 2007, she spent a number of years at AREVA's headquarters in Paris, dealing with the recycling of used nuclear fuel and waste management, and issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, a topic about which she has co-authored and presented papers at various international forums. Selena holds a BSc(Hons) from Monash University, a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge, and a diploma in management from the College des Ingenieurs.

2009 Sydney Lecture Series

​Wednesday
25 February

​The Four Societies Lecture. Hosted by Australian Nuclear Association, Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia, Australian Institute of Energy and The Royal Society of NSW

An Industry Update on Global Nuclear Power and the Opportunities for Australia

Dr Selena Ng, Areva NC, Australia
This meeting will also be our 1168th Ordinary General Meeting

Venue: Engineers Australia Lecture Theatre, 8 Thomas St, Chatswood
Time: 5.30pm for 6.00pm
​Friday
1 April

​Presidential Address: Constancy Amid Chaos: Defining our Place in the World

John Hardie, President of the Royal Society of NSW 2007-2009

142nd Annual General Meeting
and 1169th Ordinary General Meeting
​Thursday
30 April

​The Pollock Memorial Lecture, presented by the University of Sydney and the Royal Society of NSW.
 
The Universe from Beginning to End

Dr Brian Schmidt, Federation Fellow, Mount Stromlo Observatory, ANUThe Pollock Memorial Lecture 6.30 pm, Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Sydney Uni
​Wednesday
6 May

1170th General Meeting

A Scientist vs. the Law

Professor Brynn Hibbert, Chair of Analytical Chemistry, University of NSW​
​Wednesday
3 June

1171st General Meeting

New Environmentally Friendly Approaches to Cooling Buildings

Professor Geoff Smith, Professor of Physics, University of Technology, Sydney​
​Wednesday
1 July

​1172nd General Meeting

Accurate Measurement: the Vital Backbone of Australian Science & Industry

Dr Laurie Besley, Chief Executive & Chief Metrologist, National Measurement Institute
​Wednesday
5 August

​1173rd General Meeting

What Will Coral Reefs Look Like in 2050?

A/Professor Peter Ralph, Head, Aquatic Photosynthesis Group, University of Technology, Sydney
​Wednesday
2 September

​1174th General Meeting

Weird Animal Genomes and Sex


Professor Jenny Graves, Head, Comparative Genomics Research Group, Australian National University
Wednesday
7 October



​1175th General Meeting

The SKAMP Project - A Telescope Reborn to Look Back in Time

Professor Anne Green, Head of School of Physics, University of Sydney
​Friday
30 October

​Clarke Memorial Lecture

Climate Change through the Lens of the Geological Record: the Example of Sea Level

Professor Kurt Lambeck, AO, FAA, FRS, Distinguished Professor of Geophysics at the Australian National University, President of the Australian Academy of Science

Venue: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney at 5.30 pm
​Wednesday
4 November

​1176th General Meeting

Hominid Biogeography in South East Asia: the real significance of Hobbits

Professor Mike Morwood, Professor of Archaeology, University of Wollongong
​Wednesday
2 December

​Studentship Awards

Studentship Awards 2009, in conjunction with our Christmas Party

The 2008 Liversidge Lecture

"Molecular materials - from clean energy storage to shrinking
crystals"

Cameron Kepert, Professor of Chemistry & Federation Fellow, School of Chemistry, University of Sydney

Wednesday 3 December 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Once thought of as little more than symmetrical arrangements of discrete molecules, molecular materials have recently emerged as very much more than the sum of their individual parts. This lecture will describe how these materials are having considerable impact in two highly topical areas.

Hydrogen Storage. In the proposed hydrogen economy, hydrogen gas replaces fossil fuels as energy carrier within a potentially greenhouse-free energy cycle. One of the principal challenges in the adoption of this cycle is the design of efficient methods to store hydrogen - a notoriously volatile gas. It has been recently shown that molecular materials are excellent candidates in this area due to their very high surface areas and functional surfaces. Efforts to optimise the hydrogen storage capabilities of such materials will be described and a comparison with other materials given.

Negative Thermal Expansion (NTE, i.e., contraction with heating). The expansion of matter with increasing temperature is the cause of numerous technological problems. Once thought to be an immutable law of nature, it has been shown in the past decade that materials can be made that actually shrink upon warming. In addition to addressing the research behind this discovery, a brief description will be given of commercialisation efforts in this area.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Professor Cameron Kepert completed his first degree at The University of Western Australia before undertaking a PhD at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, University of London. In 1995 he moved to the University of Oxford as a Junior Research Fellow, where he commenced research into molecular framework materials. He was appointed to the University of Sydney in 1999 and currently holds the position of ARC Federation Fellow. He is the recipient of the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, the AAS Le Févre Memorial Prize, the RSNSW Edgeworth David Medal, and the RACI Rennie Medal.

1166th General Monthly Meeting

"The oceans and climate change"

Professor Matthew England, Climate and Environmental Dynamics Laboratory, School of Mathematics, University of NSW

Wednesday 5 November 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

The oceans have always played a fundamental role in moderating global climate by transporting an excess of heat from the tropics to the poles. This occurs via global scale stationery eddies and a massive overturning of dense water at high latitudes. The oceans are also currently moderating climate change by absorbing massive amounts of heat and carbon. In addition, ocean circulation variations can have a profound impact on regional climate. Yet as the world's climate changes the moderating effect of the oceans will be dramatically reduced. In this talk I will outline the ocean's role in global mean climate and future climate change.

Other research directly relating to the oceans around Australia and the waters circling the Antarctic will also be explored. Twentieth century climate change has forced a poleward contraction of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) subpolar westerly winds. The implications of this wind shift for the ocean's thermohaline circulation (THC) is analyzed in models and, where available, observations. Substantial heat content anomalies can be linked to changes in the latitude and strength of the SH westerly winds. For example, the Southern Annular Mode projects onto sea surface temperature in a coordinated annular manner - with a conspiring of dynamic and thermodynamic processes yielding a strong SST signal. Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) change can be linked to fluctuations in the wind-driven Ekman transport of cool, low salinity water across the Subantarctic Front. Anomalies in air-sea heat fluxes and ice meltwater rates, in contrast, drive variability in Antarctic Surface Water, which is subducted along Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) density layers. SAMW variations also spike T-S variability in AAIW, particularly in the southeast Pacific and southeast Indian Oceans. The location of zero wind stress curl in the SH can also control the distribution of overturning in the North Pacific / North Atlantic. A southward wind shift can force a stronger Atlantic THC and enhanced stratification in the North Pacific, whereas a northward shift leads to a significantly reduced Atlantic THC and the development of vigorous sinking in the North Pacific. This is because the distribution of wind stress over the Southern Ocean influences the surface salinity contrast between the Pacific and Atlantic basins. The implications of these findings for oceanic climate change are discussed.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Professor Matthew England is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and the Director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC). England is a former Fulbright Scholar and winner of the Royal Society of Victoria Research Medal for 2007, two Eureka Prizes (Environmental Research 2006 and Land and Water 2008), the 2005 Priestley Medal and the Australian Academy of Science Frederick White Prize for 2004. He coordinated and led the 2007 Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists: a major international statement by the scientific community that specifies the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to minimise the risk of dangerous human-induced climate change (www.climate.unsw.edu.au/bali). He was a contributing author and reviewer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second and Third Assessment Reports. He is an expert in the ocean's role in regional climate variability and global climate change.

1165th General Monthly Meeting

"Exploring the Milky Way: the past, present & future"

Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths
CEO Science Leader at the CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF)

Wednesday 1 October 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Dr McClure-Griffiths took us on a walk around the Milky Way revealing what we know about the structure of the Galaxy and how gas in the Galaxy leads to its evolution. Her talk focused on our current work on the interstellar gas and magnetic field in the Milky Way and what it is telling us about the complex interstellar ecosystem of the Milky Way. She also discussed the world's next-generation radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be one hundred times more powerful than any existing facility and which we hope to host in Australia. She concluded by discussing how the SKA will revolutionise our understanding of our home galaxy.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths is a CEO Science Leader at the CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), where she leads a research group with the aim of better understanding our own galaxy, the Milky Way. McClure-Griffiths has led two major surveys of the Milky Way including the Galactic All Sky-Survey, an on-going international project to produce an atlas of the hydrogen gas in the Milky Way. In 2006 she was the recipient of the Prime Minister's Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year for her discovery of a new spiral arm in the outer Milky Way.

1164th General Monthly Meeting

"Roles of telomeres and telomerase in human health and disease"

Dr Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Morris Herzstein Endowed Professor in Biology & Physiology, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of California

Wednesday 3 September 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Telomeres consist of simple DNA sequences, which bind cellular protein factors and make a 'cap', thus securing each end of every chromosome. Without telomeric DNA and its special way of replicating, chromosome ends dwindle away as their telomeric DNA erodes, eventually causing cells to stop dividing altogether. Telomerase, a specialized ribonucleprotein reverse transcriptase, is important for long-term eukaryotic cell proliferation and genomic stability, because it replenishes the DNA at telomeres. Thus, depending on cell type, telomerase partially or completely counteracts the progressive shortening of telomeres that otherwise occurs. Telomerase is over-active in many human malignancies, and a potential target for anti-cancer approaches.

Human telomerase activity is present not only in malignant cancer cells, but also in stem cells and germline tissues. Although telomerase activity is normally diminished in adult human somatic cells, throughout life a minimal level of telomerase is still required for replenishment of tissues, such as the immune system. In collaborative studies we showed that telomerase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of the body is depressed by care-giving stress in a cohort of care-giver mothers: the longer the care-giving situation had lasted, and the higher the quantifiable level of perceived stress, the lower the telomerase, and the shorter the telomeres. Low telomerase levels in the normal white blood cells was associated with six prominent risk factors, including chronic psychological stress, for cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, a recent collaborative interventional, longitudinal clinical study was performed with early prostate cancer patients. We found that following a 3-month period of documented comprehensive health intervention, telomerase increased - within the healthy range - in normal white blood cells, in association with quantified improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors and the patients' prostate cancer biopsy gene profiles. Implications of these and related findings for human disease progression and health will be discussed.

The speaker's presentation can be found here: Elizabeth Blackburn's Talk (~5 MB PDF).

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Prof. Blackburn is a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research. She discovered the molecular nature of telomeres - the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information - and discovered the enzyme telomerase, which replenishes telomeres. Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honoured by her peers as the recipient of many prestigious awards, including The Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in Basic Medical Research (2006), and she is the 2008 North American Laureate for L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science. In 2007 she was named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most influential People.

1163rd General Monthly Meeting

"Alzheimer's disease; the man, the discovery of the disease and
prospects for avoidance"

Dr Bruce Warren, Former Professor of Pathology, The University of NSW.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Bruce Warren M.B. B.S. D.Phil. D.Sc (Oxford) was head of the Department of Anatomical Pathology at Prince Henry Hospital and Professor of Pathology in the University of New South Wales from 1980 to 1997. In these roles he developed an interest in multi-infarct dementia (i.e. vascular dementia) and in Alzheimer's disease.

ABSTRACT

Lois Alzheimer was born on 14 June 1864. His father was a notary public in the Bavarian town of Markbeit. He attended several universities and received his medical degree in 1887 at the age of 23 from Wurzberg University. In 1894 Alzheimer married a banker's widow, Cacilia Geisenheimer. His marriage to an heiress allowed him to concentrate on his research work. Following work in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, Alzheimer moved to the Munich University Psychiatric Clinic in 1903. In 1908 Alzheimer was appointed Associate Professor and Director of the clinic's Anatomical Pathology laboratory. In 1912 King Wilhelm II of Prussia signed the certificate of appointment of Dr. Alzheimer to a full Professorship of psychiatry at the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). His health deteriorated and he died aged 51 as a result of cardiac failure on 15 December 1915.

Two important factors in Alzheimer's discovery of this disease were his friendship with Franz Nissl and the mentorship provided to him by Professor Emil Kraepelin. Nissl developed stains for thin sections of the brain so that structures in the brain could be observed under the microscope. Together they conducted an extensive investigation of the pathology of the nervous system, particularly the cerebral cortex.

The first case of Alzheimer's disease was a female, August Deter, who Alzheimer met in 1901 when she was admitted to the Institute in Frankfurt at the age of 51. She died in 1906 at the time Alzheimer was working in Munich. His former chief gave him access to both clinical records and the brain. Her symptoms of disorientation, impaired memory and difficulties reading and writing became more marked and there was a gradual loss of higher mental functions. His examination of the brain revealed thinned cerebral cortex and, under the microscope, neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The second case was a 56-year-old man, Johann F., who was admitted to the Munich clinic in 1907 and died in 1910. He showed cerebral changes similar to the first case. Emil Kraepelin named this illness Alzheimer's disease.

The recommendations from the recently convened panel of eminent geriatricians and psychogeriatricians led by Associate Professor Michael Woodward will be outlined. The panel surveyed the literature to identify dementia risk reduction strategies.

Copies of the Alzheimers Australia's brochure "Think or Sink" will be distributed at the lecture. These contain recommendations from the panel of geriatricians and psychogeriatricians, identifying dementia risk-reduction strategies.
- For the brain: when the brain is active the brain is protected.
- For the body: exercise regularly.
- For the diet: a balanced diet promotes brain health.
- For the social life: an active social life is good for the brain.
- Habits: stop smoking and don't abuse alcohol.

1162nd General Monthly Meeting

"An Australian ecological blind-spot: rabbit impact on native
plants and animals"

Dr Brian Cooke, Invasive Animals CRC, University of Canberra

Wednesday 2 July 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Introduced wild rabbits have long been regarded as a major almost insoluble economic problem in Australia, requiring the unusual step of introducing successive biological control agents, such as myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhage disease. Despite this, however, the rabbits' impact on native vegetation has been poorly understood, though CSIRO scientists have worked on rabbits for over 50 years. It is now clear that rabbits compete directly with many of our native animals such as the grey and red kangaroos and common wombats. It takes less than 1 rabbit per hectare to completely inhibit regeneration of many tree and shrub species in natural woodlands.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Brian Cooke has worked on the management of pest animals for over 40 years. Much of this work was done within the Animal and Plant Control Commission in South Australia before he transferred to the CSIRO. He has also spent time working in other environments including the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands and 2 years in the equatorial Islands. He now works with the Invasive Animals CRC in the University of Canberra, where he is carrying out an industry-funded strategic review of the long-term prospects of rabbit haemorrhagic disease as a biological control agent.

1161st General Monthly Meeting

"The Australian tsunami warning system - protecting Australia
from waves of destruction"

Dr Dale Dominey-Howes, Natural Hazards Research Laboratory, Risk Management Group, School of Safety Science, UNSW

Wednesday 4 June 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (2004 IOT) disaster, although catastrophic, only had minor effects on the coasts of Australia. Prior to this event, few had considered the risk that this hazard type might present to Australia. Since the occurrence of the 2004 IOT, the Australian Federal government has committed almost $70 million to the development and deployment of an Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) to help safeguard Australia from future potentially damaging tsunamis. In addition, State and Territory Emergency Services are spending additional funds on tsunami research and community risk management. This talk outlined current state-of-the-art tsunami science being undertaken in Australia. The speaker examined the geological and historical record of tsunamis that have affected Australia, considering those regions capable of generating tsunamis that would be damaging to our coasts and exploring the current important research questions that still need to be answered.

The talk also described the structure and function of the Australian Tsunami Warning System and considered how it performed following the 2 April 2007 Solomon Island tsunami that triggered the first warning from the ATWS. The talk concluded by asking, "has the deployment of the ATWS made Australian coastal communities safe from future tsunamis?"

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Dale Dominey-Howes FGS FRGS is an expert in natural hazards, risk and vulnerability and disaster management. He graduated with a BSc (Honours) from London University and was awarded his PhD in natural hazards from Coventry University (UK). He held an European Union Postgraduate Scholarship to undertake his PhD, which was on the geological and historical records and effects of tsunami in the Aegean Sea region of Greece. Dale's PhD was undertaken in collaboration with the National Observatory of Athens, Greece. Since graduating, he has worked on tsunami, volcanic hazards, tropical cyclones, earthquakes and coastal floods in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean areas. He is particularly interested in the interaction between risk and vulnerability and loss reduction and disaster management.

From 2000 to 2005, Dale was the elected Secretary and Treasurer of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards. In 1999, he was nominated and then selected as one of the Most Outstanding Young Research Scientists in the 1999 British Parliament, Showcase of the Best of British Science at the House of Commons London. Dale is presently a senior lecturer in Natural Hazards in the School of Risk and Safety Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Since 2005 he has also been providing scientific support to the state and federal governments in their development and deployment of the Australian Tsunami Warning System.

1160th General Monthly Meeting

"Imaging of dying cells in the body"

Professor Philip Hogg, Director of the UNSW Cancer Research Centre

Wednesday 7 May 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Professor Hogg and his team have shown that some disulphide bonds have evolved to control how proteins work by breaking or forming in a precise way. He has called these bonds 'allosteric disulphides '.

Application of this basic research has led to the development of a novel class of cancer drugs and a cell death imaging agent. The lead cancer drug is currently being trialled in cancer patients. The imaging agent non-invasively detects dying and dead tumour cells. The agent could be used, for instance, to assess the efficacy of cancer therapy. The technology has been licensed to Pharma for clinical development.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Professor Philip Hogg graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Queensland in 1987. Following post-doctoral work in the USA and Sweden, he returned to Sydney in1991.He is now Director of the UNSW Cancer Research Centre and will lead adult cancer research in the new Lowy Cancer Research Centre that is currently being built on the UNSW campus.

Annual General Meeting 2008

Presidential address: innovation

John Hardie, President of the Royal Society of NSW

Wednesday 2 April 2008, 7 pm
Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

The past 12 months have seen a great deal of activity for the Royal Society: the publication of a volume on one of the Society's leading lights, Prof. Archibald Liversidge, the opportunity to reclaim Science House for science, the commencement of a project to compile and publish a full history of the Society, and our involvement in the establishment of the Royal Institution (Australia) and the Royal Societies of Australia, not to mention our full year of monthly lectures. Our 2008 AGM will give members the opportunity to review the year and discover more of these many interesting initiatives through the Presidential Address and discussion. We invite all members to take an active role in these initiatives either by nominating for Council or by joining the relevant committees formed to oversee progress.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

John Hardie is a Chief Learning Design Officer in the Centre for Learning Innovation, a unit within the NSW Department of Education and Training. He is currently coordinating the Centre's online services and information management activity, and is responsible for the management and maintenance of its Internet and Intranet sites. He was previously a manager of learning resource development for TAFE resources, but has also managed the development of resources for schools (languages).

Originally trained as a geologist, John has spent most of his working life in the field of education, particularly distance education and open learning. From 2001 to 2004 he managed one of the three Regions of the NSW Adult Migrant English Service.

John has been an active member of several professional associations, including the Australian Society for Educational Technology and the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia. His involvement with the Royal Society of NSW dates back to 1972 when he joined as an Associate Member while still a student. He has served on Council for many years, as Councillor then Hon Secretary and Vice-President for several years. He served previously as President in 1994/5.

The Four Societies Meeting 2008

"Future prospect for large-scale solar thermal power
technologies"

Dr Keith Lovegrove, Australian National University

Wednesday 5 March 2008, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

The Australian National University has been working on paraboloidal-dish solar concentrators since the early 1970s. At ANU construction work has just begun on a new 500 m2 dish prototype that will be the basis for the commercial plans of Wizard Power Pty Ltd, the company that has an exclusive licence to the ANU technology. Dish concentrators along with trough-shaped linear concentrators and central receiver towers with heliostat fields are the basic approaches available for solar thermal power systems. The last two years have seen a major resurgence in activity in this field. This talk will give an overview of the activity in Australia and overseas and at the ANU in particular. The potential scope for solar thermal power systems to make a major contribution to energy supply will be discussed, including the longer-term potential for solar thermochemical production of fuels for transport and export.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Keith Lovegrove is the leader of the Solar Thermal Group in the Department of Engineering at Australian National University. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Energy Systems and Systems Engineering within the Department of Engineering.

The Solar Thermal Group works on a range of high temperature and low temperature thermal technologies. The group has continued on from the pioneering work that was begun in ANU in the early 1970's. A highlight of the work has been the completion of the world first experimental solar driven closed loop thermochemical energy storage system based on ammonia dissociation. The group operates experimental facilities centred around ANU's 400 m2 and 20 m2 paraboloidal-dish solar concentrators. (Visit http://engnet.anu.edu.au/DEresearch/solarthermal/ for more information on the Solar Thermal Group at ANU.)

He has had a long involvement with the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society, a section of the International Solar Energy Society. The society is a non-profit organization or renewable energy professionals and supporters and includes among its members most of the renewable-energy researchers in Australia. Dr Lovegrove has served in the past as Chair, Vice Chair and currently as Treasurer. During his time as Chair, he initiated the well-known 'Solar House Day', held across both countries each September. He was also Chair of the organization's Solar 2006 conference organizing committee. (Visit http://www.anzses.org and http://www.solarhouseday.com for more information.)

He has authored or co-authored over 100 research papers and contributed to many media interviews and reports on the renewable energy field.

Sydney Meetings - 2007

​Friday
28th February

"A tale of two infrastructures:
the future of water and energy use in our cities"

The Four Societies Lecture

Professor Stuart White, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney.
​Friday
9th March

​The Royal Society of New South Wales Annual Dinner

Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, Sydney University
​Wednesday
2nd May

"World Heritage inscription of caves and karst"

A/Prof. Julia James, University of Sydney
​Wednesday
6th June

"Embryonic stem cell research in Australia: insights from the Lockhart review"

Prof. Peter Schofield, Director, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute
​Tuesday
26th June

"Electro-mechanics of living cells and cell membranes in intense electric fields"

Prof. Hans Coster,
School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Sydney

A joint event with the Australian Institute of Physics, at the Slade Lecture Theatre, School of Physics, University of Sydney.
​Wednesday
1st August

"From the crime scene to the courtroom: removing the Hollywood hype, what is forensics all about?"

Prof. Claude Roux,
Director, Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology Sydney
​Wednesday
5th September

"Recent progress in quantum electronics: control of small electronic circuits by quantum rather than classical physics"

Prof. Alex Hamilton,
School of Physics, University of New South Wales
​Wednesday
3rd October

"The life science revolution: how engineering, cell biology and IT intersect"

Prof. Keith Williams,
co-founder of Proteome Systems, formerly Professor of Biology at Macquarie University
​Wednesday
7th November

"New earths, dark energy and giant telescopes: the future of Australian astronomy"

Prof. Matthew Colless,
Director, Anglo-Australian Observatory

1148th General Monthly Meeting

"The cervical cancer vaccine"

Professor Ian Frazer, Director of the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research, University of Queensland and Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, and 2006 Australian of the Year

Wednesday 1 November 2006, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

About 25% of cancers are initiated by infections, and therefore potentially preventable. Immunotherapy already plays a significant role in cancer control: innate immunostimulators (e.g. imiquimod), passive immunotherapy (e.g. Herceptin) and active specific immunotherapy (e.g. Dendreon's prostate cancer therapeutic) are demonstrated effective, and many further therapies are in late stage clinical trial. Uniquely amongst human cancers, cancer of the cervix can be entirely attributable to an infectious agent. A subset of about 10 human papillomaviruses, termed high risk, are responsible, and two types (HPV16 and HPV18) account for more than 70% of cancers. Infection with high risk human papillomaviruses is extremely common, with up to 50% of women becoming infected during the first 5 years after commencing sexual intercourse. Up to 98% of these infections regress without intervention. Persistent infection conveys substantial risk of cervical cancer . Prevention of cervical cancer at present relies on screening programs. Future programs will likely be based on vaccines, to prevent HPV infection, now licensed in the USA, and Australasia. If administered prior to sexual activity, they will prevent up to 70% of cervical cancer in an unscreened population.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Professor Ian Frazer is the Director of the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research at the University of Queensland. He was trained as a renal physician and clinical immunologist in Edinburgh, before emigrating to Melbourne in 1981. In 1985 he moved to the University of Queensland and now holds a personal chair as head of the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research. His current research includes immunoregulation and immunotherapeutic vaccines for papillomavirus-associated cancers. He is on the board of the Queensland Cancer Fund, is Vice-President of the Cancer Council of Australia and advises WHO on papillomavirus.

Report on the General Monthly Meeting by William Sewell

The lecture on 1st November was delivered by Prof Ian Frazer, Australian of the Year for 2006, and Director of the Centre of Immunology and Cancer Research at the University of Queensland. He presented a fascinating overview covering not only his work on the development of the cervical cancer vaccine, but also the role of microbial infections in human cancers in general. The papillomavirus or wart virus is the cause of cervical cancer, which leads to about a quarter of a million deaths per year worldwide. In the early 1990s, Ian Frazer and colleagues developed a mechanism of producing non-infectious virus-like particles from papillomavirus. They were able to use these particles in a vaccine, which leads to long-lasting immunity against papillomavirus infection, and confers protection against cervical cancer. As a result of Ian Frazer's pioneering work, cervical vaccines will shortly become widely available. Cervical cancer is only one example of a cancer caused by a virus. About 25% of cancers worldwide are caused by viruses or bacteria. Ian Frazer highlighted the work of the Australian researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who discovered the link between Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers, which are a major cause of stomach cancer. The excellent lecture concluded with an overview of prospects for the future control of cancer.

1147th General Monthly Meeting

"Pandemics, bird flu and the globalisation of fear"

Professor Peter Curson, Macquarie University

Wednesday 4 October 2006, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Currently, the world is experiencing two defining events - a panzootic or global outbreak of bird flu, and a pandemic of human reaction and panic. H5N1 is spreading from country to country largely following the fly-paths of migratory birds. No-one really expected the virus to race around the world so quickly. After remaining entrenched among wildlife in parts of Asia, suddenly the virus has moved further afield. No-one really knows why, and there is still much we not understand about the infection. Like the SARS experience, however, the animal infection is at danger in being swamped by the outpouring of human reaction, panic and hysteria. The world press is having a field day, the word pandemic is on everyone's lips, and governments and individuals have been stockpiling antivirals. Pandemic planning has become an industry, and wherever you look, there are dire predictions of millions of deaths and widespread social and economic disruption. The line between responsible precautionary behaviour and alarmist fear mongering has become increasingly blurred. There are two fundamental issues involved. One is the threat to animal life and the related implications for those whose livelihood depends on such animals; the other is the potential threat to humans. They are not the same thing and need to be separated. This talk considers human reaction and behaviour when confronted by pandemic crises.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Peter Curson is Professorial Fellow in Medical Geography and Director of the Health Studies Program at Macquarie University. A former Head of the School of Earth Sciences and Dean of the Division of Environmental & Life Sciences, he is a medical geographer interested in infectious disease and human behaviour, climate change and human health, infectious disease and national security. He has written seven books and many papers on historical epidemics of infectious disease, environment, population health interactions, climate change and infectious disease and international security. Among other things he writes extensively for the Australian and New Zealand national media and is currently working on a book on infectious disease in 20th century Australia.

Soirée at the Nicholson Museum (2006)

Thursday 28 September 2006, 4.30 - 8.30pm

Flushed with success, the Council of the Royal Society decided it was time for a bit of a heels-up - or rather heads-down - to look at treasured items from our wonderful collection. The occasion? A soirée at the Nicholson Museum in The University of Sydney to celebrate the achievements of the previous twelve months.

In that time, the Council managed to win two grants. The first, a State Government grant of $30,000 to be used for the publication of the journal over the next three years, was the work of past president Karina Kelly and her team. The second was $5,500 through one of the Federal Government's Community Heritage Grants organized by the National Library in Canberra.

It was through this grant that our consultant historians, Dr David Branagan and Dr Peter Tyler, assessed the Society's collection of books, journals, maps, drawings, painting, photographs, lantern-slides and medals to be highly significant both historically and scientifically. Selected items were displayed in the facilities offered by the Nicholson Museum. Staff and guests donned cotton gloves to leaf through some of the precious books, which included works by the American archaeologist and naturalist Charles C. Abbott, and Opuscula, one of the most significant books in the Society's collection, written in Latin by Georg Bauer, better known by his Latin name, Georgius Agricola (1494-1555). He is considered the founder of geology as a discipline. Another book, Cyrillus in Johannem et Leviticum una cum thesauro eiusdem, was published in 1508. It is the only one held in Australia. There was also the first volume of Curtis' Botanical Magazine, beautifully illustrated by the artist Sydenham S. Edwards and published 1787. The Society holds the complete set (Volumes 1-14) and many other volumes of the Botanical Magazine by various other publishers.

Also on display were Lawrence Hargrave's aeronautical and other papers, together with some of the drawings and lantern-slides of his first flying machine, and a very rare edition of J.D. Dana's Geology, written when he accompanied W.B. Clarke around the Sydney Basin. Hand-written letters from Society member Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur were a great attraction. Many of the medals on display were from Clarke's collection. These are kept in the care of the Mitchell Library together with some 20 boxes of books and other items belonging to the Royal Society. These are to be the target of our next round of assessment and listing.

Undeniably the Society is the custodian of a remarkably important collection. It is imperative that we take every step to preserve it and to make it available to all.

Guests at the soirée included the university's Vice Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown and his wife, Diane, the former Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Di Yerbury, acclaimed photographer-astronomer, Professor David Malin, Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers from the University of New South Wales, the ABC's Robyn Science Williams and many others.

The soirée was not without its formalities. President, Professor Jak Kelly set the scene, explaining the grounds for the celebration and thanking Professor Brown for so generously arranging premises for the Royal Society. He also thanked Professor Di Yerbury for her help in housing the Society and its collection at Macquarie University for some years. Councillor John Hardie spoke about the work that had been done on the collection through the funding, and outlined some of the recommendations from Peter Tyler's report. These included the urgent need to house the collection suitably so that it could be properly conserved and made available to researchers and the public alike. He also suggested that the Society should initiate a long-term project to "return Science House to Science". He reminded guests that Science House won the first Sulman Medal for Architecture for its architects, Peddle, Thorpe and Walker, in 1932.

Society member and former president, David Branagan, who was also one of the assessors, described some of the "treasures" he had examined and the insight they give to the development of our intellectual and scientific history from Colonial times. Professor Gavin Brown thanked the Royal Society for inviting him and his wife and congratulated the Society on its achievements in recent years.

It was after the formalities that guests were free to peruse the displays to the sounds of restful chamber music from the trio, Sound of Melody, adding to the already splendid atmosphere of the museum itself. David Branagan and members of the Council's grant committee were on hand to assist with enquiries and to point out items of special interest.

The evening finished on a high note when Society received an unexpected accolade from the Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum, Michael Turner, who said that he had really enjoyed having so erudite and enthusiastic a group of people at the museum.

Robyn Stutchbury

1146th General Monthly Meeting

"The frontier of measurement: leading-edge standards for length and time"

Dr Bruce Warrington, Head, Time and Frequency Group, National Measurement Institute, Lindfield, Sydney

Wednesday 6 September 2006, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road

ABSTRACT

Metrology, the science of measurement, is a dynamic field of research. Advances in understanding and technology extend our ability to measure to ever higher levels of precision, and this capability in turn stimulates new applications. The ability to precisely measure time, or its counterpart frequency, underpins modern technology. Frequency is the physical quantity we can measure most accurately, and implements standards for many other physical units, including the metre and the volt. The SI definition of the second presently has an accuracy approaching 1 part in 1012 for commercial standards, and better than 1 part in 1015 for research-grade standards. The relatively recent development of optical 'frequency combs' will further extend this frontier of measurement. These new capabilities at unprecedented levels of precision have the potential to revolutionise our understanding of the physical world and lead to applications previously undreamt of.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Dr Bruce Warrington is the head of the Time and Frequency group at the National Measurement Institute in Lindfield, Sydney. A graduate of the University of Otago, he has a DPhil from Oxford on atomic and laser spectroscopy and fundamental physics. After postdoctoral appointments in Oxford and at the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined the CSIRO National Measurement Laboratory in 1998. He has led the time and frequency area since the formation of the National Measurement Institute in July 2004.

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 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 (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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