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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

2017 Liversidge Lecture

Gooding Liversidge     “Sensing our world: From glucose sensors to
    counting single molecules and cells”

    Scientia Professor Justin Gooding
    University of NSW

    Awarded the 2017 Liversidge Medal for
    chemistry.

Thursday 11 May 2017
Tyree Room and Balcony, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW

Biosensors are solid state analytical devices made by integrating a biological molecule that can recognise a biomarker of interest with a signal transducer, such as an electrode or optical instrument. The classical examples of such devices are the glucose meters that have revolutionised the lives of diabetic patients, and pregnancy test kits. There is a whole family of related devices developed for uses ranging from disease diagnosis to water quality testing.
This presentation covered the state-of-the-art research in this field, explored some of the challenges to wider adoption of such devices in daily life, and outlined the work of the Smart Materials and Surfaces research group at UNSW in this area. It also discussed some advances in surface chemistry and nanotechnology that will lead to the next generation of sensors that detect single molecules and cells. Such devices not only represent the ultimate sensor in being able to detect a single thing, but will solve many challenges with existing sensor technologies. By being able to detect many single moelcules or cells, such that the devices essentially count the number of entities to be measured, they will solve the main challenges in sensors of calibration and nonspecific signals, as well as create a whole new type of sensor. The presentation concluded with a discussion of some of his groups recent work on bringing this exciting vision of our sensing future towards a reality.

Scientia Professor Justin Gooding FAA, FISE, FRSN, FRACI, FRSN is currently an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, the co-director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine and the co-director of the New South Wales Smart Sensing Network. He is also editor-in-chief of the journal ACS Sensors. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) from Melbourne University before obtaining a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford and received post-doctoral training at the Institute of Biotechnology in Cambridge University. He returned to Australia in 1997 as a Vice-Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He was promoted to full professor in 2006. He was one of the recipients of a 2004 NSW Young Tall Poppy award, a 2005 Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, the 2007 RACI Lloyd Smythe Medal for Analytical Chemistry, the 2009 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, a 2010 ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, the RACI 2011 H.G. Smith Medal for contributions to chemistry, the 2012 RACI R.H. Stokes Medal for electrochemical research, the 2012 Royal Society of Chemistry Australasian Lecturer, the 2013 NSW Science and Engineering Award for Emerging Research, the 2016 Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry Electrochemistry Division, the 2016 Biosensors and Bioelectronics Award and the 2016 Walter Burfitt Prize for Science and Archibald Liversidge Medal for Chemistry both of the Royal Society of New South Wales. He leads a research team of 40 researchers interested in surface modification and nanotechnology for biosensors, biomaterials, electron transfer and medical applications.
 

Annual Dinner 2017

    Hurley cropped 2
  Guests of Honour:

  His Excellency General The Honourable David
  Hurley AC DSC (ret’d.), Governor of New South
  Wales and Patron of the Royal Society of New South
  Wales, and Mrs Hurley

peter baume   
  Distinguished Fellow's Lecture:

  “Don’t blame the unemployed”

  Hon Emeritus Professor Peter Baume AC DistFRSN

Award of Medals and Prizes:

Clarke Medal (Geology) Professor Simon P. Turner
Edgeworth David Medal Associate Professor Muireann Irish
History and Philosophy of Science Medal Em Professor Roy MacLeod
James Cook Medal Professor David Cooper
Walter Burfitt Prize Professor Justin Gooding
Archibald Liversidge Research Lecture and Medal Professor Justin Gooding
Poggendorff Award for plant biology and agriculture Associate Professor Andrew Robson

Wednesday 3 May 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

President and MCyoung scientist

President Brynn Hibbert and the MC, Judith Wheeldon   |   Associate Professor Muireann Irish and the Governor

turnermedal annual dinner

Professor Simon Turner and the Governor   |   Professor Justin Gooding and the Governor

Roy MacLeod medal 3 Ann Dinn 2017

Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod and the Governor   |   Associate Professor Andrew Robson and the Governor

medal dinner2017 2 Choucair and Baume

Professor David Cooper and the Governor   |   Dr Mohammad Choucair and Hon. Emeritus Professor Peter Baume

March for Science

March for Science image

The Royal Society of NSW supported the March for Science held on 22 April.

For more details about the March go to its website here

At its Council meeting of 15th March the Society passed the following motion:

The Society supports the principles upon which the “March for Science” is based and encourages Fellows and Members of the Society to participate in it.

The event was a great success, with many people marching in support of science around the world. 

1252nd OGM and open lecture

 greg organ lion co April
  “The science of beer”

  Dr Greg Organ
  Senior Sensory Specialist
  Lion Company

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

Dr Organ began with a description of beer’s four ingredients – yeast, water, malt and hops – and the brewing process. To fully enjoy your beer you need to fully utilise your senses and the talk then moved to describing the role of each of the senses. The basics of sensory science were used to illustrate how the senses can be used to gain scientifically valid information through trained tasting panels. The sensory properties of the main flavours of beer were next described together with some of the chemistry involved. The talk concluded with a brief mention of Lion’s marketing campaign “Beer The Beautiful Truth”. During the talk some practical hints as to how to enjoy your beer at its best were included!

Dr. Greg Organ is the Sensory Specialist for Lion. After gaining a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Sydney he worked for two years at the Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University. After this he made a major change in research area and worked for two years on the chemistry and sensory evaluation of wine at the Australian Wine Research Institute, Adelaide. Since then he has been the sensory and flavour scientist for Lion for nearly thirty years. He is responsible for the training, procedures and operation of all of Lion’s sensory evaluation panels. He also does the more complex flavour analytical work for Lion and some research work into the flavour chemistry of beer. He is well known within the Australian and New Zealand sensory science community and has made many presentations to a wide range of groups on beer science.

1251st OGM and open lecture

 Ferguson march 2017
  “Creative minds: Artistic and scientific
  endeavour on polar expeditions 1851 to 1951”

  Richard Ferguson FRGS
  Executive Director, Craft Australia

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

Increased specialisation of academic disciplines in the twentieth century has for many lead to the view that Art and Science are at polar opposites when it comes to the value and contribution that art disciplines have made to scientific expeditions. Richard gave an overview of artistic endeavor on early scientific expeditions such as those of Cook / Endeavour 1768, 1771, Baudin / Geographe 1800 - 1803 and Fitzroy / Beagle 1831 - 1836, and how this directly influenced the application of photography on polar expeditions. There is a mounting body of illustrative and taxonomic artistic works being produced as documents of record on scientific and exploring expeditions. The more dramatic and romantic views such as, The Icebergs (1861), created by Hudson River School artist Fredrick E Church (1826 -1900) and Sealers Crushed in Ice (1876) by New Bedford born artist William Bradford (1823 û 1892) are what captured the imaging of the public. The productive mix of art and science was demonstrated through an analysis of over 1,000 images, from three nineteenth century arctic expeditions: William Bradford 1869; Benjamin Leigh Smith 1873, 1880; and George Strong Nares 1875 û 1876. Richard also discussed a re-photographic survey of the Antarctic work of Australian photographer Frank Hurley undertaken over five expeditions between 1987 and 1996.

Richard Ferguson has been involved in the cultural, heritage and education sectors for more than 30 years in both Australia and England. His initial tertiary training was at the National Art School, Sydney and later training in visual arts and photography enabled him to undertake original research and Antarctic field work on five expeditions with the Australian Antarctic Division and commercial operators. His particular area of interest is the use of photography on polar expeditions, which was initially based at the Mawson Institute for Antarctic Research at the University of Adelaide, Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge and then the South Australian Museum. This research, curatorial work and collections management gave rise to increasing involvement in the management of a variety of cultural projects at various museums and galleries. These include: Australian National Maritime Museum; Geelong Gallery; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, one of twelve lead National Museums of England; and the Melbourne Cricket Club. Prior to that he was Manager of the Museums Australia Museums Accreditation Program. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1993 for his polar research and fieldwork. He is a member of the Royal Society of Victoria and currently a National Council Member of the International Council of Museums, Australia.

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies 2017

Four Societies 2017   “South Australia: a nuclear State in a global
  solution”

  Rear Admiral, The Honourable Kevin Scarce AC
  CSC RAN (ret'd.)

Thursday 23 February 2017
International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour

This talk focused on the challenge to Australia in moving to a reliable, low-carbon and lowest-possible-cost electricity system. Nuclear power is a proven, low-carbon energy source and may have a role to play in Australia. South Australia has abundant uranium resources and furthermore, with the combination of geological, political and technical factors, the State may provide a global solution for the permanent disposal of used fuel. The benefits of being a nuclear State could be game-changing.

Rear Admiral, the Honourable Kevin Scarce is the 16th Chancellor of the University of Adelaide and was the 34th Governor of South Australia from 2007 to 2014. He served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1968, retiring in 2004. His appointments included service on HMAS Sydney during the Vietnam War. He specialised in military logistics and procurement, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral and Head of Maritime Systems at the Defence Materiel Organisation. After retirement, as Head of the South Australian Defence Unit, he led a government team that contributed to ASC winning the contract to build air warfare destroyers for the Australian Defence Force. He was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in 1994, the Knight of Grace in the Venerable Order of Saint John in 2007 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2008. He completed a Bachelor of Financial Administrationfrom New England, Masters of Management Economics at the University of New South Wales (Australian Defence Force Academy campus), and a Masters Degree in National Security Strategy at the US War College (National Defense University) in Washington, DC. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Flinders University in 2009 for distinguished service to the public of South Australia and an Honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of New England in 2014. He was appointed on 29 March 2015 as the Commissioner of the South Australia Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

1250th OGM and open lecture

Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarship Award Winners for 2017

  Yik Lung (Jeremy) Chan,
  School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney
  Andrew Ritchie,
  School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney
  Isobel Ronai,
  School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

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

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.

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jeremy chan feb ogm
  Yik Lung (Jeremy) Chan

  School of Life Science,
  University of Technology Sydney

“Effects of maternal cigarette smoke exposure on brain health in offspring”

We do not understand well how maternal smoking and secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy can cause lifelong adverse effects in the offspring, especially in their neurological function. Maternal cigarette smoke exposure is a risk factor for the shutdown of blood and oxygen supply to the brain. This can lead to several functional defects, including problems with movement, sensation, strength, and thinking, increasing the financial burden of both the family and government. My work aims to understand how maternal cigarette smoke exposure affects brain health, to allow the discovery of therapeutic targets for potential interventions. He described the various experiments he conducted with mice to identify the effects of smoke exposure on behaviour and brain function.

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  Andrew Ritchie

  School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  University of Sydney

“New ways of modelling the ancient past to understand evolution”

Molecular dating, powered by increasing floods of genetic data, is allowing biologists to look ever more closely at the central mystery of evolution – the origin of species. At the same time, the digital revolution has led to the application of biological methods to surprising new types of data – such as the imprints of human history left in the relationships among world languages. To do this, biologists and linguists construct models that interpret genetic and lexical data in the light of our assumptions about the evolutionary process. In this talk, he described the available models and his findings regarding their powers and pitfalls for analyses of the ancient past.

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Isobel Ronai
  Isobel Ronai

  School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  University of Sydney

“Anarchy in the honey bee colony: the genetic basis of worker sterility”

Currently little is known about the mechanisms that underlie worker sterility in the social insects.Studies into a mutant ‘anarchistic’ strain of honey bee identified a promising candidate gene for regulating worker fertility. My results suggest that this Anarchy gene is involved in the regulation of the worker’s ovary via the mechanism of programmed cell death. My findings indicate that a pheromone from the queen honey bee affects the Anarchy gene and triggers the reproductive inhibition of the workers. This is a breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of worker sterility in the social insects. In this talk she described some of the fascinating characteristics of bee colony behaviour and the experiments she conducted to show how the worker bees reproductive organs were affected by the Queen's pheromone.

1249th OGM and Christmas party

"Imaging with a deft touch: the scanning helium microscope – a modern pinhole camera!"

Dr Matthew Barr, School of Mathematical and Physical Science, University of Newcastle
Jak Kelly Award winner for 2016 (award presented by Irene Kelly)

Wednesday 7 December 2016

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

Inspired by the ancient pinhole camera, researchers have developed a technology to give new insights into the nature of matter. The scanning helium microscope makes it possible to generate images with fine details without the kind of damage to the delicate structures caused by traditional microscopes. For example, one can see the distinct flakes of chitin on a butterfly's wing that resemble plated armour, or the curve of a spider's fang. Matthew's talk will describe how the new technology works and show some of the new types of images that are now possible.

Matthew recently completed his PhD at the University of Newcastle in the Centre for Organic Electronics. He specialises in microscope design and has a particular interest in free jet atomic and molecular beam sources. He also has experience in experimental vacuum science techniques, from vacuum system design through to x-ray techniques, and systems operation and analysis. In 2011 he received an Australian Nanotechnology Network travel fellowship that allowed him to travel to University of Cambridge. While there he was involved in the successful construction of a first-generation helium microscope.

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.

RSNSW & Four Academies Forum 2016

 forum crests

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

  “Society as a complex system: implications for
  science, practice and policy”

Tuesday 29 November 2016
Government House, Sydney

We live in an increasingly complex world, where the challenges of complexity must be taken seriously. The problems to be confronted challenge existing institutional structures because they cross national and interdisciplinary borders and cannot be reduced to component problems to be solved independently – they are intrinsically inseparable and interdependent. They include:  the world’s developed economies struggling to deliver the growth and prosperity that was achieved in the second half of the 20th century; increasing discrepancies between rich and poor sparking flight and fight; the impact of people on the environment in which they live; the pace of technological change. These “wicked problems” challenge traditional policy making process leading to policy paralysis. Decisions about economic policy, migration and refugees, environmental challenges, health, education and infrastructure development are delayed or abandoned because of the difficulty in gaining public acceptance.  Conflicting philosophical positions, widely differing worldviews and belief-systems, the increasing globalisation of firms and industries, the increased influence of special-interest groups made louder through new social media, the polarisation of political views, conflicting policy objectives coupled with an avalanche of data to make sense of are among the many contributors to this policy paralysis.  The complex-systems nature of these challenges means that small changes can have disproportionate effects, the future is impossible to predict, and multiple feedback loops multiply and accelerate in myriad ways.

How we can understand, cope and adapt to these challenges was the focus of the 2016 Royal Society of NSW and Four Academies Forum.

Click here to see the programme of presentations.

1248th OGM and public lecture

Presentation of Distinguished Fellowship to Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO, DistFRSN

The President presented the certificate of Distinguished Fellowship to Dame Marie Bashir at the start of the OGM. Past President Hector read the citation.

Jim Kehoe 2016 small  “Finding the right course for the right horse:
  recent evidence-based advances in
  instructional design”

  Jim Kehoe, Professor of Psychology
  UNSW Australia

Wednesday 2 November 2016
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Students of all ages and stages can become disengaged in a new subject area, often right out of the starting gate. While a few top students forge ahead, many others progressively accept mediocrity or failure. Different types of one-size-fits-all solutions have been attempted, usually with little reduction in the wide variation among students' progress.

Fortunately, over the past 25 years, experimental research on instructional design – much of it originating in New South Wales – has revealed a set of principles for improving the speed and consistency of individual learning. These principles are themselves founded in earlier research that defined the “cognitive architecture” of human memory.

Jim's talk focused on human cognitive architecture and the key principles for instructional design, which include (a) recognise and optimise demands on short-term memory; (b) help students to organise their long-term memories rather than rote memorise the material; (c) help students to actively interact with the learning material; and (d) provide instructive feedback as well as knowledge of results. These principles have proved to applicable in an adaptive way as students gain proficiency.

Jim Kehoe came to the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1977 after completing his PhD in experimental psychology at the University of Iowa. Apart from sabbatical appointments, he has remained at UNSW, rising from Lecturer to Professor in 1994. Although now part-time, he continues as a member of the academic staff.

His research has concerned pure and applied research in learning and memory. His early career was devoted the laboratory study of associative learning in animals and its neural mechanisms. He has also been a leader in the mathematical modeling of associative learning. Over the last two decades, he has increasingly turned his attention to applied research on learning and memory in humans in contexts ranging from frontline management to military populations to older adults. He is a project officer in the Australian Army, currently holding the rank of lieutenant colonel.

2016 Dirac Lecture

Dirac image 2016  “Dark matter in the universe”

  The Dirac Lecture and award of the Dirac Medal

  Duffield Professor Kenneth Freeman FRS
  Australian National University

Thursday 13 October 2016
Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW

The Dirac Medal is based on rules established in 1990 by the then Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW Sir Rupert Meyers. It is awarded in the name of Professor Paul Dirac who donated the royalties of his published lectures in Australasia in 1975. In its early years the award was organised by UNSW in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Physics. The first convenor of the awards was Professor Heinrich Hora FRSN, Head of the Department of Theoretical Physics. Of the first eleven Dirac Lectures nine awardees were Nobel Laureates. In 2010 the Governor of NSW presented the award to Lord Robert May of Oxford and the Royal Society became involved. Of the last five awards, two recipients are Nobel-Laureates.

Professor Freeman’s research is about the formation and dynamics of galaxies with a particular interest in the problem of dark matter in galaxies. He was one of the first to point out that spiral galaxies contain a large fraction of dark matter. He is active in international astronomy, as a division past-president of the International Astronomical Union, and serves on visiting committees for several major astronomical institutions around the world.

1247th OGM and public lecture

“From sand and rice bubbles to earthquakes and volcanoes”

Itai Oct 2016 
  Professor Itai Einav, School of Engineering,
  University of Sydney

  Director of the Sydney Centre in Geomechanics
  and Mining Materials

Wednesday 5 October 2016
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

The Universe is granulated. Stars, planets and asteroids are all relatively small particles when compared to galaxies (themselves, particles when seen from afar). They are relatively huge when compared to sand particles. The number of atoms in a single particle of sand is roughly the same as the number of sand particles in Australia¹s beaches, somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000,000,000,000,000,000. Together with dry rice, M&M¹s and pharmaceutical powders, sand particles belong to the class of granular materials, the second-most manipulated material in industry (after water). But the motion of sand particles is far less understood than the motion of atoms in water or the motion of celestial bodies and galaxies. What is it about sand particles and rice bubbles that makes them so hard to describe? What governs their motion, and how can they inform us about important phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanoes? This talk will tackle those questions.

Working at the University of Sydney, Professor Itai Einav is the Director of SciGEM (Sydney Centre in Geomechanics and Mining Materials). He is an Honorary Professor of University College London, a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, and has held visiting research appointments at Universities in USA, France, Spain and Japan. He is an Editor of granular matter and sits on the editorial board of Géotechnique. He received several international research awards, including medals from UK’s Institute of Civil Engineers and Europe’s ALERT Geomaterials. His work crosses many disciplines at the interfaces of Civil Engineering, Physics, Resources Engineering, Geophysics, and Applied Mathematics. Einav’s work in the disciplinary area of granular physics has yielded discoveries in heat transfer, mixing, segregation and melting. More recently he has developed strong affinity to rice bubbles.

1246th OGM and public lecture

Richard Neville “A source of inspiration and delight:
  The Mitchell Library”

  Richard Neville

  Mitchell Librarian and Director, Education &
  Scholarship

Wednesday 7 September 2016
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

The State Library of New South Wales can trace its history back to 1826. In many ways it history and development runs in parallel to that of the Royal Society of New South Wales. Its first iteration was as a private gentleman’s library, with a male only membership. Gradually its remit expanded, supported by a sense that libraries were institutions necessary for the public good, but it struggled to survive as a private organisation. Eventually the NSW Government stepped in and purchased it in 1869, when it became the Free Public Library. In this transition it threw away its editions of Jane Austen, and focused on useful, economic, knowledge.

From 1869 to today the Library, now known as the State Library of NSW, has embedded itself into the cultural life of NSW. The bequest of David Scott Mitchell in 1907, which lead to the inauguration of the Mitchell Library in 1910, and the various bequests of Sir William Dixson, were seminal gifts which established the Library as the premier documentary collection in the country. The library also holds some of the early archives of the Royal Society of NSW.

People are often surprised to learn of the extent of the the Library’s collections of photographs, manuscripts (more than 12 linear kms of them), These record the early discovery of the Pacific through to the colonization of Australia through to the archives of contemporary organisations and individuals, paintings, maps, architectural plans as well as books. Increasingly the Library is grappling with the impact of digital culture on the library collections and future collection strategies.

The future of libraries is much debated, but the future for the State Library and its Mitchell Library is very strong. The Library’s archives and publications are critical in telling the story of Australia’s history, and this talk explored its history and development, the motivations and drive for which are no doubt very similar to those to drove the Royal Society.

Richard Neville is the Mitchell Librarian and Director Education and Scholarship at the State Library of NSW. With a research background in nineteenth century Australian art and culture, he has published widely on colonial art and society. He has also been extensively involved in the acquisition, arrangement, description and promotion of the Library’s renowned Australian research collections.

2016 Sydney Science Festival lunchtime science talks

Royal Society of New South Wales Sydney Science Festival lunchtime talks

More details about the Festival are to be found at: https://sydneyscience.com.au/

Venue: The University of Sydney Business School CBD Campus, Level 17, Stockland Building, 133 Castlereagh St.

 

Talk 1 “Complex Systems and Swarm Intelligence”

Professor Mikhail Prokopenko

University of Sydney

Date: Friday 12 August 12.30 – 1.30pm:

Mikhail started by distinguishing complicated from complex systems, the latter being self-organising and having emergent properties.  They are also not subject to any central control or design.  Their behaviour depends on how the actors involved interact.  These rules can be quite simple yet produce suprising patterns like the dynamic schooling behaviour of fish or the building of a termite nest. Mikhail explained how the flow of influence or information within such a system takes place, how it relates to artificial intelligence and how these insights have beeb used by his team to win the 2016 World RoboCup - a simulated football game. 

 

Talk 2: “The Royal Botanic Gardens 200th Birthday”

Dr Brett Summerell

Royal Botanic Gardens

Date: Tuesday 16 August 12.30-1.30pm

Brett described the beginnings of the Gardens and how the site has changed over the years. We learned about the way the science agenda has developed over time, the nature of the valuable collections they have, and the important research they are and have been involved in. 

 

Talk 3" “Courts, Criminals and Chemistry: Forensic Science in NSW”

Professor Brynn Hibbert

President of the Royal Society of NSW and Emeritus Professor, University of NSW

Wednesday 17 August 12.30 to 1.30pm

Brynn explained the role of the expert in court proceedings and how they work for the court rather than either side, even though they are hired by one side. He explained how forensic science developed and some of the important contributors. Lastly, he used examples from his many times as an expert witness to show the problems of communicating scientfic results in a way that can understood and used by the court. 

 

Talk 4 “Community-driven Internet of Things: the new revolution?”

Professor Pascal Perez

University of Wollongong

Thursday 18th August 12.30-1.30pm

Pascal explained how the Internet of Things(IoT) is misrepresented because the focus is on the things and ignores the people involved. He gave many examples of the way the IoT is pervasive and changing our lives.  He also discussed both the benefits and dangers arising such as social inequities (financial and knowledge), privacy, "uberveilannce" and security breaches.  For example, how a big solar flare could have devasting effects. He provided a detailed example of a recent project in which crowd sourced information from mobile phones and Twitter feeds has changed the way Djakarta can know about and deal with flooding disasters. Lastly, he told us about a new type of disruptive technology, low power long range (LoRa) communication, that is already present in Australia.

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.

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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