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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

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Sci-Fi Series - The future is here.

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Sci-Fi Series - The future is here. 

Date: Thursday, 19 September 2019
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue: Australian National Maritime Museum (Tasman Light Gallery and
            Theatre)
            2 Murray Street, Darling Harbour, Sydney
RSVP: Complimentary. Registrations are essential.

REGISTER HERE

You are invited to join the UNSW Science alumni: Sci-Fi Series – Future Planet, with a panel of  leading UNSW experts including the receipient of the RSNSW Clarke Medal. 

With each year bringing substantial new feats in scientific exploration and discovery, this series provides fascinating insights into how Science Fiction is fast becoming reality. 

Held at the Australian National Maritime Museum to explore how ground-breaking research is providing scientific insights that empower humans to protect our planet. As the world changes, scientists are using new technology, data science and experiments to understand, predict and reduce catastrophic impacts on future environments. The panel of leading UNSW experts will present their work across reefs, weather and technology.

Attendees will have the chance to participate in a Q&A session after the talks and a networking reception with refreshments will follow. 

Footage of our first Sci Fi Series – Future Health is now available!  Please click here to see what the Sci Fi Series is all about!

Speakers include:



Professor Emma Johnston AO

Dean of Science, UNSW Sydney

RSNSW Clarke Medal Recipient
”The Flying Eyes: How ecologists are using new technology to see hidden worlds”


Professor Andy Pitman 
Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes
"The day after tomorrow: What does climate change mean for us?"


Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth
Scientia Fellow, Centre for Marine Science & Innovation (CMSI)
"Deep Blue Sea: Solving the coral reefs crisis"

 

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National Science Week 2019: talk 4

Complex Systems - Computer Modelling of Epidemics  “Computer modelling of epidemics”

  Professor Mikhail Prokopenko

Thursday 15 August 2019, 6pm for 6.30
Venue: Tom Keneally Centre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney
Cost: $15 for RSNSW Fellows and Members and SMSA members, $20 for others
Booking: here or call 9262 7300

Complex systems – including such things as power and data grids, communication and transport systems, social networks, ecosystems and the spread of disease – evolve and ‘self-organise’ over time, resulting in both benefits and challenges.

Influenza pandemics, for example, emerge at unpredictable intervals. Several major infections have occurred during the last 100 years, including the 1918 influenza pandemic (“Spanish Flu”) that infected an estimated 500 million people — one-third of the world’s population! — and caused an estimated 50 million deaths. An influenza pandemic today, of the magnitude of the 1918 Spanish Flu, would cause 33 million deaths globally within six months.

Professor Prokopenko reveals how the development of very realistic computer models of our world helps us better understand and better deal with complex problems like flu epidemics. Recent research has indicated that the more urbanised society is, the more vulnerable it is to the spread of disease due to increased population in major cities and international air traffic. This, in turn, helps us identify the best ways to intervene and curtail pandemics through the management of our cities.

 Mikhail ProkopenkoProfessor Mikhail Prokopenko has a strong international reputation in complex self-organising systems, with more than 180 publications, patents and edited books. Since 2014, he has been the Director of the Complex Systems Research Group (Faculty of Engineering and IT) at the University of Sydney. He also leads the post-graduate program on Complex Systems, including Master of Complex Systems.

This is a Sydney Science Festival event, part of National Science Week, co-presented by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

National Science Week 2019: talk 3

Art Punters Freak Me Out Josh Harle  “Machine aesthetics of the human
  body”

  Dr Josh Harle

Thursday 15 August 2019, 12.30pm to 1.30
Venue: Mitchell Centre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St., Sydney
Cost: free
Click here for more information

It’s natural for us to see through a human lens. When we look out into the world we see it populated by the familiar: animals and devices imbued with human emotion and agency.

With the rapid development and adoption of artificial intelligence and autonomous robotics, their humanoid faces may give us comfort, but beneath the facade they look back with a machine perspective. While we anthropomorphise them, they are ‘mechanomorphising’ us – seeing us as machines.

From surgical robot models, crash test dummies, sex robots, to automated battlefield drones and guns and the ethics algorithms of self-driving cars, machines uniquely perceive us according to their own internal ‘aesthetics’. These functional abstractions are the result of military strategy, politics, and business logic, along with the baked-in, implicit worldview of their creators. Many of these are also deeply and disconcertingly alien to our idea of human.

Art can help critique these models; it’s all about exploring speculative ways of perceiving, understanding, and representing the world.

Researcher and artist Dr Josh Harle explores how artists working at the intersection with technology and science can help us meaningfully engage with complex systems, giving us a more critical perspective on the future of these technologies. Moreover, rather than being relegated to the realm of ‘visual communication’, art can provide a valuable and timely contribution to research.

John HarleDr Josh Harle is the director of Tactical Space Lab, and a current Visiting Fellow at UNSW. His doctoral thesis combined study in Computer Science and Cybernetics, Philosophy, and Art to investigate how digital technology is used to makes sense of the world. ‘Human Jerky’, shown at Verge Gallery in 2018 and curated by researcher and artist Dr Josh Harle, illustrated the monstrous, alien, and frankly terrifying visions of the Human that emerging technologies use through the related practices of five artists.

This is a Sydney Science Festival event, part of National Science Week, co-presented by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

Poggendorff Lecture 2019

Robert Parks
  “Cereal killers: how plant diseases affect food
  security”

  Professor Robert Park
  School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  University of Sydney

Date: Wednesday, 14 August 2019, 5.30 for 6–7 pm
Venue: Level 5 Function Room, Building F23, University of Sydney (new building on left entering from City Road). Paid parking is available on campus and in the street.

Reservations: free for Members, Fellows, and guests of the Royal Society of NSW. Click here to register.

Cereal plants are incredibly important – they are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other crop. We’ve been domesticating cereal plants for around 8000 years and our efforts to develop better yielding and disease resistant crops has had the negative effect of guiding the evolution of crop pathogens. We’ve inadvertently made new pathogen strains emerge that have at times caused crop failure and famine.

Find out how problems of inadequate food supply, the world’s increasing population and the emergence of new crop diseases are presenting significant challenges in ensuring adequate supplies of safe and nutritious food for all.

Professor Robert Park will reveal how plant diseases affect our very existence and the work his team does in developing new genetic approaches for sustainable and environmentally friendly crop disease control.

2018 Poggendorff Lecturer – Professor Robert Park

The 2018 Poggendorff Lectureship was awarded to Professor Robert F. Park, from the University of Sydney, by the Royal Society of NSW. A plant pathologist, Professor Park holds the Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences. He is Director of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program, which conducts research on the genetics and pathology of rust diseases of cereals. This program has a huge impact on agricultural production globally; in Australia alone, it conservatively returns some $600 million to the economy each year.

Poggendorff Lectureship

The Poggendorff Lectureship is awarded periodically by the Royal Society of NSW for research in plant biology and more broadly agriculture. Walter Poggendorff was recognised as one of the major figures in establishing the Australian rice industry, developing high-yield crops for Australian conditions and maintaining controls on imports to limit the introduction of serious diseases. When he died in 1981, he made a bequest to the Royal Society of NSW to fund a lecture award series.

National Science Week 2019: talk 2

Matthew Flinders Terra Australis cropped  “Unexpected results - Australian
  science to 1950”

  Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy
  AM FRSN

Tuesday 13 August 2019, 6pm for 6.30
Venue: Tom Keneally Centre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St
Cost: $15 for RSNSW Fellows and Members and SMSA members, $20 for others
Booking: here or call 9262 7300

Robert Clancy reveals the fascinating history of scientific research and discovery in Australia before 1950.  Informed and inspired by the spirit of the Enlightenment, it helped shape our nation from colonial times onwards.

Science in Europe was very different to 19th century Australia.  Our less stratified society, consisting of a mixture of convicts and immigrants, was about being prepared to ‘have a go’ in a remote and harsh land.  Ordinary men and women survived and forged ahead by solving problems using scientific methods.

The view that colonial and early 20th century science largely consisted of collecting and dispatching trophies of our unique natural history off to Britain is inaccurate.  Rather, the science of the time was born of pragmatism, and this has laid the foundations for the development of ‘modern science’ in Australia. The question is, what can we learn from these past lessons?

From Cook and Banks, to the Horn Expedition to central Australia in 1894; from Lawrence Hargrave’s flight experiments and John Tebbutt’s detection of new comets; to many other extraordinary yet often unknown people, the Enlightenment provides a mirror against which the development of science in Australia – and the development of our culture – can be understood.

Robert ClancyEmeritus Professor Robert Llewellyn Clancy is a leading Australian clinical immunologist and a pioneer in the field of mucosal immunology, known for his research and development of therapies for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), commonly known as emphysema.  Professor Clancy is Emeritus Professor at the University of Newcastle’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy.  Alongside his professional medical interests, Professor Clancy has long been involved in historical research, particularly in the areas of medical history and cartographic history.  He has also developed a ‘History of Medicine’ course through the College of Physicians.

This is a Sydney Science Festival event, part of National Science Week, co-presented by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

National Science Week 2019: talk 1

Australian Night Sky - Aboriginal Astronomy “Aboriginal astronomy”

 Dr Ragbir Bhathal FRSN

Monday 12 August 2019, 6pm for 6.30
Venue: Tom Keneally Centre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney
Cost: $15 for RSNSW Fellows and Members and SMSA members, $20 for others
Booking: here or call 9262 7300

For over 60,000 years the Aboriginal peoples of Australia have both studied the stars and named them, with constellations having different names and stories in different regions.  Last year the International Union (IAU), the peak scientific body for astronomers recognized some of their named stars and included them in the official catalogue of stars.

Dr Ragbir Bhathal discusses various aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander astronomy how and its cultural uses such as finding food, telling the seasons and knowing when to conduct ceremonies.  Although Aboriginal astronomy has clashed with Australia’s dominant culture, their knowledge of the stars and constellations has been valuable in substantiating and winning land rights.

Ragbir BhathalDr Ragbir Bhathal served as a UNESCO consultant on museums/science centres, was the director of the Singapore Science Centre, one of four science centres of influence in the 20th century, and is a distinguished teaching fellow at the Western Sydney University.  He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and the Royal Astronomical Society London, and a visiting fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The Australian National University.  Apart from his research in astrophysics, he also carries out research in Aboriginal astronomy and engineering education.  He has written 15 books, including two on Aboriginal astronomy.  He is in great demand for giving public lectures both in Australia and overseas.  His astronomy work on OSETI was featured in the international magazine Forbes, which has a circulation of over 1 million copies worldwide.  Dr Bhathal is a vocal advocate for an Australian museum dedicated to this country’s first peoples, a museum whose sole task is to tell the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and politics.

This is a Sydney Science Festival event, part of National Science Week, co-presented by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

UNSW Centre for Ideas event

Elizabeth Blackburn  “The telomere effect”

  Professor Elizabeth Blackburn
  AC FAA FRS DistFRSN
  Dept. of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  University of California San Francisco

Friday 16 August 2019, 6.30pm
City Recital Hall, 2 Angel Place, Sydney

Cost: $35 without discount, $25 for RSNSW Members and Fellows, and for UNSW alumni and staff, $15 for UNSW students and under-18s (plus booking fee on-line or by phone)

To buy tickets: click here.

Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn delivers the inaugural Gerald Westheimer Lecture, chaired by UNSW Sydney’s Dean of Science, Professor Emma Johnston.

Why does ageing take such different paths for different individuals?  Why do some of us remain healthy and active into later life, while others age more rapidly?  Elizabeth Blackburn’s discoveries about telomeres, the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes, have transformed the way we think about these important questions and earned her a Nobel Prize in 2009.  Although we have long understood the impact of our genetic inheritance on our health, Blackburn’s work has shown us the key role that telomeres and the enzyme telomerase play in the ageing process.

Be part of a special event with Elizabeth Blackburn as she discusses her work in this fascinating space and its implications for the future of ageing.

This talk is part of the Sydney Science Festival, and is supported by the Crawford Fund and Science & Technology Australia.

Gerald Westheimer Lectureship

The Gerald Westheimer Lecture is a new biennial lecture series for UNSW Science thanks to a generous gift from Professor Gerald Westheimer AM FRS.  This flagship initiative will invite eminent international researchers to spend time in residence at the University.

Elizabeth Blackburn

Dr Elizabeth Blackburn has been a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research, having discovered the molecular nature of telomeres – the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and co-discovered the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase.  She is also known for her championing of diversity and inclusion in the sciences.  Blackburn and her research team also collaborate in a range of investigations of the roles of telomere biology in human health and diseases, through clinical and other human studies.  Born in Australia, Dr Blackburn earned degrees from the University of Melbourne, University of Cambridge and Yale University.  She has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award for Basic Medical Research, and in 2007 was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

1275th OGM and open lecture

Peter Shergold  “Democracy under challenge:
  how can we restore a sense of citizenship?”

  Professor Peter Shergold AC FRSN
  Chancellor, Western Sydney University

Wednesday 7 August 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

As in many liberal democracies, there is an increasing sense of concern in Australia that representative government is starting to erode from within - trust in political institutions is declining (especially amongst the young), consensus is fragmenting, populist responses are on the rise and ‘technocratic’ expertise and professional authority are increasingly decried. The public discourse that helps bind a civil society seems to be becoming ever less civil. Authoritarian leadership is more evident.

This talk discussed how a sense of democratic purpose might be restored though public services engaging their ‘publics’ in decision-making in more substantive ways. Peter is seeking to walk his talk, reflecting on his three decades as a ‘mandarin’ but focussing on his present role as Coordinator General of Refugee Resettlement in NSW.

Peter was an academic historian who became an influential public servant who ended up as a University Chancellor. In the Australian Public Service he headed successively the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Department of Employment and the Department of Education, Science and Training. He was then appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He now serves on boards, writes government reports and - amongst other things - is Chancellor of Western Sydney University and Coordinator General of Refugee Resettlement.

Women and science: lecture 4

Women and Science  “Visual perception in Aboriginal art”

  Emeritus Professor Barbara Gillam
  FASSA FRSN
  School of Psychology, UNSW

Thursday, 18 July 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney

Aboriginal painting now has a world-wide reputation.  However it has largely been regarded as conceptual rather than perceptual with a very strong emphasis on the stories depicted.

Barbara Gillam will examine the innovative perceptual skills of Aboriginal bark painters, especially in depicting figure-ground and occlusion.  She will also discuss the visual meaning of this art and its interaction with conceptual meanings.

Out of respect for cultural practices, we will not be featuring the bark paintings referenced in Barbara’s presentation in any of our promotional materials.

Barbara GillamBarbara Gillam was educated at the University of Sydney and ANU.  After two years as a Lecturer in the UK, she moved to New York with academic positions at Columbia and SUNY.  She returned to Australia in 1987 to take up the Chair of Psychology at the University of New South Wales, where she is still a professor.

Presented jointly by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, the Women and Science lecture series examines the huge changes we have seen in the roles women have played in science, and the view science has held of women.

1274th OGM and open lecture

Burford
   “Past, present and future of polymers:
    is the plastics age over?”

   Emeritus Professor Robert Burford FRSN
   UNSW

Wednesday 3 July 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

The search for synthetic alternatives (including polymers) to scarce natural materials is not new, and substitution occurred well before today’s plastic bottles and packaging.  A reward of $10,000 for billiard balls, hitherto made from Sri Lankan elephant tusks, ultimately led to thermosets derived from cellulose.  Synthetic nylon stockings replaced unavailable silk (and made Du Pont wealthy) whilst synthetic rubber helped win the war.  The early history of polymer manufacture combines uneducated invention and entrepreneurship with debtor’s courts and skulduggery.  During the 20th century today’s ‘commodity’ polymers emerged, these being based on hydrocarbons including ethylene and propylene.  The public appetite for new synthetics that peaked in the 1950s and 60s (think of the movie The Graduate) has reversed despite polymer production showing unabated growth.  Scarcely a day now passes without reminders of waste, whether it is floating ‘continents’ or containers of Australian plastic being returned from overseas.  The solutions to today’s ‘polymer pollution’ need creative ideas and imaginative solutions but may provide lucrative opportunities.  Several possibilities wiere discussed..

Emeritus Professor Robert Burford has made and broken plastics and rubber for over 40 years, first investigating cracking in nylons before research at the Australian Synthetic Rubber Company.  Since joining UNSW in 1978 he has interacted with the polymer industry at many levels.  He took students to draconian factories to motivate them beyond the factory floor, was a Co-op Program coordinator to attract top students to sometimes enter the same factories, and has been actively engaged in consulting, often examining polymer failures.  He was a lead researcher with the Cooperative Research Centre for Polymers, helping for example to develop a new family of fire performance cables.  He retired as Head of Chemical Engineering at UNSW in 2014 but still consults and volunteers at the Powerhouse Museum in conservation.

Women and science: lecture 3

Women and science, lecture 3   “Climate change and our
   life support system”

   Professor Lesley Hughes FRSN
   Dept. of Biological Sciences
   Macquarie University

Thursday, 20 June 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney

Our climate system is changing rapidly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. In Australia, we are already experiencing severe drought, increased bushfire and flooding risk, coastal erosion and unprecedented heatwaves. The changing climate is affecting all sectors – our economy, food security, health, and communities. But it is our environmental life support system that is feeling the impacts most significantly, with climate change exacerbating many other factors that lead to species loss and habitat decline.

Lesley HughesDistinguished Professor Lesley Hughes joins us to summarise the latest global and national trends in the climate and identify the most important observed and future impacts, with an emphasis on biodiversity. She will also outline what we need to do to achieve a stable climate by the second half of this century, and how we need to change our approach to conservation.
But it’s not all bad news; we do have many exciting opportunities to ensure a viable future, both for the planet’s species and our children.

Presented jointly by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, the Women and Science lecture series examines the huge changes we have seen in the roles women have played in science, and the view science has held of women.

1273rd OGM and open lecture

Kate Faase

   “This talk may cause side effects: 
     nocebo effects in medicine”

   Dr Kate Faasse
   School of Psychology
   UNSW

Wednesday 5 June 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

Almost everyone has experienced unpleasant side effects from a medical treatment. But what if I were to tell you that most of these side effects aren’t caused by the treatment itself, but by a powerful psychobiological phenomenon called the nocebo effect? The nocebo effect is sometimes seen as the ‘dark side’ of the better-known placebo effect where healing or health improvements are triggered by the treatment context rather than any therapeutic effects of the treatment itself. In contrast, nocebo effects are the unpleasant or adverse outcomes that can be triggered by the treatment context, including information about possible side effects, seeing or reading about someone else experience unpleasant side effects, and generic versus brand name labelling of the medication. This talk used case studies to illustrate the potential impact of nocebo effects in daily life, and discussed recent evidence on the development of nocebo effects, the different treatment context factors that can increase the experience of nocebo effects, the implications of nocebo effects for patients and public health, and evidence on strategies that might help to reduce nocebo effects.

Kate Faasse is an ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales. Originally from New Zealand, Kate completed her Bachelors, Masters, and PhD training in Psychology at the University of Auckland, specializing in Health Psychology. She moved to Sydney to take up a Lecturer position in the School of Psychology at UNSW in 2016. During this time Kate has produced over 35 publication and has received over $1million in competitive funding from sources such as the ARC (Australia), and the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (New Zealand). Highlighting the importance of her research into the nocebo effect, Kate’s work was also supported by the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand (PHARMAC), and her research has informed healthcare policy in New Zealand. Kate’s research in Health Psychology focuses on aspects of medication use, including nocebo and placebo effects, treatment adherence, and perceptions of generic medicines. Ultimately, she hopes that her research will contribute to reducing the burden of nocebo-induced medication side effects in Australia through generating greater understanding of factors that influence the formation and maintenance of nocebo effects, and the development of interventions to reduce nocebo effects in clinical practice.

 

Annual Dinner 2019 and Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture

Guest of Honour:  The Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC
                               Governor of New South Wales

Michelle Simmons  Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture:
  “The new field of atomic electronics”

  Michelle Simmons FRS FAA FTSE DistFRSN
  Australian of the Year 2018
  ARC Laureate Professor 
  Scientia Professor of Physics, UNSW

Award of Distinguished Fellowship:
   Sir Anthony Mason AC KBE CBE FRSN QC

Award of Medals:

James Cook Medal:  
   Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM FRSN, University of Sydney
Edgeworth David Medal: 
   A/Professor Elizabeth J. New FRSN, University of Sydney
Clarke Medal (Zoology):  
   Professor Emma Johnston AO FRSN, UNSW
   
History & Philosophy of Science Medal: 
   Professor Paul Griffiths FRSN, University of Sydney
  
Poggendorff Lecture: 
   Professor Robert F. Park FRSN, University of Sydney

Friday 10 May 2019
Swissôtel – Ballroom, level 8, 68 Market Street, Sydney
Dress: black tie

At the Swissôtel a large function space allows us to collect before the dinner to catch up with friends and colleagues and to enjoy the music and drinks (starting 6.15 pm) before going in to be seated. Our three-course dinner will be complemented by drinks service continuing until 9.30 pm. Guests who would like to extend the conversation can slide over to the very inviting bar in the adjacent lobby when our dinner finishes at 10 pm.

Women and Science: lecture 2

This is the second in a series of lectures about Women and Science presented jointly by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. The series examines the huge changes we have seen in the roles women have played in science, and the view science has held of women.

Ada Lovelace   “Ada Lovelace, without whom
   we might not have computers”

   Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN

Thursday 2 May 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney

The only child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Annabella who adored mathematics, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, worked with Charles Babbage on his ‘analytical engine’. It was Ada who first recognised the future possibilities of the machine, and who made notes which can be considered the first computer programme. Babbage focussed on what his machine could do with numbers, but Ada saw its potential beyond numbers and anticipated the implications of the computer a hundred years before anyone else. Her view was that if you had a machine that manipulated numbers, then the numbers could represent other things — letters, music, symbols — and so could move beyond calculation to computation. Susannah Fullerton presents an illustrated lecture on the short life and far-reaching achievements of this remarkable woman.

Susannah Fullerton is Sydney’s best-known literary lecturer, giving talks on famous authors, their lives and works. She has spoken at literary conferences around the world, and is regularly sought as an entertaining and informative speaker at fund-raising events, conference dinners, schools, libraries, universities, bookshops and clubs. She is a registered speaker for ADFAS (The Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) and travels Australia giving presentations to the groups. She is interviewed regularly on ABC radio and has often been interviewed for TV. She presents regular series at the Art Gallery of NSW and the State Library of New South Wales.

See the calendar of 2019 events for details of further talks in this series.

 

Image credits: Foreground: detail of a watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace) possibly by A E Chalon (1780-1860), from the collection of the Science Museum, used under Creative Commons licence. Background: diagram of an algorithm for the Analytical Engine by Ada Lovelace, from ‘Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage’ by Luigi Menabrea with notes by Ada Lovelace, 1842, Wikimedia Commons.

152nd AGM, 1272nd OGM and retiring president’s address

Brynn Hibbert

   “Measuring what we can:
   or how to lose weight on May 20th”

   Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert
   School of Analytical Chemistry
   UNSW

Wednesday 3 April 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

Galileo said “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so”, which is a statement of how important measurement is, not just to science, but living as a human.  I have spent much of my career measuring things in chemistry, and have become fascinated by why, what and how we measure.  Whether it was the length of a Pharoh’s forearm in 3000 BCE, or a ten-millionth of half a meridian in 1795, we have attempted to understand our world by first measuring it: its extent (length, area and volume), how much of it there is (mass, amount of substance), and duration (time).  Modern phenomena of electricity, forms of energy, temperature and the brightness of light, have all been wrestled into submission by the metrologists.
I raise this now, because on 20 May 2019, World Metrology Day, we will witness a new turn of the metrological wheel, as the dear old kilogramme in Paris is retired in favour of a quantum mechanical definition in which the numerical value of the Planck constant is fixed.  There will be other changes and in my talk I shall tell you whether we will all weigh any different at 00:01 on 20 May than we did at 23:59 on 19 May.

Brynn Hibbert occupied the Chair of Analytical Chemistry at the University of New South Wales since arriving from England in 1987 until his retirement in 2013.  His research interests are in metrology and statistics in chemistry, ionic liquids and electroanalytical chemistry, but he also does a sideline in expert opinion, scientific fraud and presenting science to the public.  Long a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, he has helped name elements, revise the SI units and write the terminology of chemistry.  More recently he has become a go-to expert witness in matters of drugs (of abuse, and sports).  He is the immediate past President of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2018.

Women and science: lecture 1

RSNSW and SMSA crests

The Women and Science lecture series is co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. It examines the huge changes in the roles women play in science, and the view science has of women. Prohibited for much of history from having a serious interest in such a ‘masculine’ domain, women now abound in science, mathematics and engineering. How did that come to be? How did interaction with the visual and literary arts so often assist women in their scientific endeavours? What fascinating discoveries have women made that have changed our world and our understanding of it?

Mary Shelley
   “Mary Shelley, scientist,
    and Frankenstein”

    Suzanne Burdon

Mary Shelley, by Reginald Easton, and a page of the Frankenstein ms. Both from Bodleian Library, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday 21 March 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Suzanne Burdon discussed the remarkable achievements of Mary Shelley, who, as a feisty 18-year-old, read every important scientific treatise and created Frankenstein and his monster in a moral tale that still highlights the exact scientific ethical dilemmas we face today (for example, the cloning of real human babies).

Special Newcastle meeting

Mechanisms by which the Royal Society of NSW can collaborate with the University of Newcastle for the benefit of the Newcastle region

Thursday 7 March 2019
Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton Heights

The purpose of the meeting was to explore possible collaboration between the Royal Society of NSW and the University of Newcastle in establishing a presence for the Society in Newcastle for the benefit of both organisations and for the Newcastle community as a whole.

The meeting was hosted by the University of Newcastle at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, with the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and several Pro Vice-Chancellors of the University present. It was followed by a dinner at the Newcastle Club at 40 Newcomen Street.

1271st OGM and open lecture

Belov 2019 1712 OGM
    “Using genomics to conserve
     Australia’s biodiversity”

    Katherine Belov
    School of Life and Environmental Sciences
    University of Sydney

There was also a 3-minute thesis (3MT) talk: “Pee-cycling: transforming our urine into valuable fertiliser” by Federico Volpin, University of Technology Sydney.

Wednesday 6 March 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

In recent years innovations in genomic technologies and the drop in the cost of sequencing has made it feasible to apply conservation genomics techniques to conservation of threatened species. The speaker discussed how we have used genomics data to make informed management decisions for the conservation of two iconic Australian marsupials, the Tasmanian devil and the koala.

The Tasmanian devil, Australia’s largest remaining marsupial carnivore, faces extinction in the wild due to the emergence of a new infectious disease. Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a contagious cancer that is spread as an allograft by biting. The tumour spreads due to low levels of genetic diversity in devil populations plus its capacity to evade the immune system. The disease continues to decimate Tasmanian devil populations, with over 85% of the species already lost. Interestingly, although predicted, extinction has not yet occurred. The speaker discussed the use of genomics and transcriptomics to help us to understand the disease, its evolutionary trajectory and the role of genomics in the quest to save the species from extinction in the wild.

The koala is an iconic Australian animal, famous for their ability to sleep up to 22 hours a day high in eucalyptus trees and subsist on a diet of toxic eucalyptus leaves. Joeys are born after a short pregnancy of only 35 days. Sadly the species is threatened due to heavy exploitation for their pelt, followed by habitat clearing and fragmentation of populations. They also have a chequered history of population management, with extensive translocations resulting in population bottlenecks in southern populations. Significant localised extinctions of koalas are occurring, particularly in South-East QLD and Northern NSW. Recent modelling has shown that the best way to stabilise heavily affected koala populations is to target disease. The speaker discussed the use of genomics data to help understand and manage koala populations through greater understanding of disease, immunity and koala biology, including immunological protection in the pouch and eucalyptus detoxification.

Beyond devil and koala, the speaker talked about the Earth Biogenome project, an ambitious project that aims to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic life on earth and our role in sequencing the genomes of 50 of Australia’s most endangered species with the specific purpose of providing genetic management advice to conservation agencies.

Professor Kathy Belov is a Professor of Comparative Genomics in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney. Kathy’s research expertise is in the area of comparative genomics and immunogenetics of Australian wildlife, including Tasmanian devils and koalas, two iconic species that are threatened by disease processes. Her research team has participated in the koala, opossum, platypus and wallaby genome projects where they have gained insights into genes involved in immunity and defense, including platypus venom genes and novel antimicrobial peptides in the pouch. Kathy has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, including papers in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and PLoS Biology. She has received two Eureka awards, the Crozier medal and the Fenner medal from the Australian Academy of Science for her research. She is currently the immediate past president of the Genetics Society of Australasia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. Kathy is also the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Sydney. In this position she takes responsibility for managing the development and execution of the University’s global engagement strategy. Key priorities are the development of the capacity of academic and professional staff to support international student learning and international research collaborations, and to achieve educational excellence in the international arena. She also promotes the University’s position in the international academic and research community, and identifies and enables strategic opportunities for partnership and collaboration in research and education.

Speaking of music: lecture 1

RSNSW and SMSA crests

The Speaking of Music lecture series is co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. Our speakers will examine music, its relation to the world and its profound power to affect us – sometimes in surprising ways.

dr wes   

    “Jazz and democracy”

   Dr. Wesley J. Watkins IV
   Jazz and Democracy Project

Tuesday 26 February 2019
Thomas Keneally Centre, Level 3, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts

Dr Watkins is founder of the Jazz and Democracy Project, a music integrated curriculum that utilizes jazz as a metaphor to bring American democracy to life, enrich the study and teaching of U.S. history, government, civics and culture, and inspire youth to become active, positive contributors to their communities.

“Dr. Wes,” as his students call him, first proposed such a curriculum as part of the Stanford University School of Education Undergraduate Honors Program. He conducted research for his undergraduate honors thesis at Oxford University where he engaged and learned from music educators at both local elementary schools and world-renowned secondary institutions like The Bedales School, Eaton College, and The Yehudi Menuhin School.

After earning his PhD from the International Centre for Research in Music Education at the University of Reading, England, Dr. Wes immediately applied his knowledge as an independent arts education consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, working at the district, school, and classroom levels. He then spent three years working for education-reform non-profits where he facilitated professional development for teachers, instructional coaches and administrators.

Dr. Wes is an avid music lover—particularly jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz—who loves to witness artists standing emotionally naked, transmitting their emotions to the audience, and modeling the best of what improvised music has to offer: a lesson in unity. Now living in Sydney, Dr Wes is speculating on how these principles might apply to Australian democracy and Australian education.

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies 2019

Four societies crests

 

Helen Cook 4 Societies
   “Legal considerations pertaining to
    nuclear energy as an option for Australia”

   Helen Cook
   GNE Advisory

Monday 25 February 2019
Allens, Level 28, Deutsche Bank Place, 126 Phillip Street, Sydney

This presentation gave an overview of international approaches to the development of nuclear power programmes in emerging nuclear countries, and discussed legal considerations for Australia should Australia wish to develop a domestic nuclear power programme. The speaker drew on her experience advising on nuclear projects and transactions in the United Kingdom, the United States, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, India, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, as well as her cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Helen Cook from GNE Advisory is an independent nuclear energy lawyer dedicated to all aspects of the civil nuclear sector. She is the author of the comprehensive legal text book, The Law of Nuclear Energy published by Sweet & Maxwell, (2nd edition, March 2018), recently reviewed in the International Energy Law Journal by Tim Stone CBE. She is the former chairperson of the Law Working Group of the World Nuclear Association. Helen obtained her law degree from the University of Sydney and commenced her career at Allens Arthur Robinson.

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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