Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events
APR
18

New President's message

At the 151st AGM held on 4 April 2018, Emeritus Scientia Professor Ian Sloan AO FRSN was installed as President of the Society.  As Professor Sloan was overseas and unable to attend the meeting, he addressed the audience in a video.  The text of his address is given here.


Ian SloanIf you are seeing this video, then I must have been elected as President of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and I must be in Providence, Rhode Island.  I’m sorry that I can’t be with you.

What an honour it is to be President of our Royal Society!  By my count I am the 119th President, in a line stretching back to 1821.

Let me tell you a little about our first President.  Sir Thomas arrived as Governor of New South Wales in 1821.  He was a soldier (finishing with the rank of Major General).  But he was also a scientist, specifically an astronomer, and a great patron of science.  He built an astronomical observatory at Parramatta, something wonderful to think about with the colony only 35 years old.  After returning to Great Britain he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Our first President was a fine example of all that is best about our Royal Society.  There are many other great names among the presidents that follow, but I want to jump forward around 200 years, because our proud history counts for little unless we are doing something now.  I want to pay particular respect to my recent predecessors as President: to John Hardie and Donald Hector, and especially to immediate-past-President Brynn Hibbert.  These three have presided over major transformation and reform.  Especially important has been the reinvention of the Fellows program, and a renewed emphasis on expanded membership.  By now the Fellows and Members together number around 400, giving us increased strength as a society.  Recent presidents have also been taking seriously the commitment not just to science (though science remains deep in our DNA) but also to “Art, Literature and Philosophy”, which we nowadays interpret rather broadly, to include all of the key intellectual and creative endeavours of our time.  My commitment as President will be to continue to develop in these directions, and to make sure that the Society is important to its Members and Fellows.

Thank you.

DEC
08

Forum 2017: presentation abstracts

The Society's annual RSNSW and Four Academies Forum took place on 29 November last, hosted by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales at Government House.  The abstracts of the presentations can be accessed here.

MAR
19

Results of the Council election 2018

In accordance with the Society's rules, the list of candidates is displayed here.

The election took place at the annual general meeting on Wednesday 4 April 2018 at the Union University & Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney.  Polling opened at 5.30pm and closed at 6.15pm.

The results of the election were as follows.

Aslaksen

Erik

Councillor - TAS management

Bertram

Chris

Honorary Webmaster

Bhathal

Ragbir

Honorary Librarian

Buttner

Herma

Honorary Secretary (General)

Choucair

Mohammad

Councillor

Clancy

Robert

Councillor

Dyson

Laurel

Councillor - Bulletin Editor

Gibson

Margaret

Councillor – new

Hardie

John

Vice-President 

Hector

Donald

Councillor

Hibbert

Brynn

Vice-President – immediate past president

Joshi

Nalini

Councillor – new 

Judge

Virginia

Councillor – new

Kehoe

Jim

Councillor 

Marks

Robert

Honorary Secretary (Editor)

Sloan

Ian

President

Wheeldon

Judith

Vice-President

Wilkinson

Ian

Councillor

Wilmott 

Richard

Honorary Treasurer

Wood

Anne

Southern Highlands representative (to be confirmed)

SEP
27

RSNSW & SMSA strategic partnership

SMSA logoThe Council of the Society is pleased to announce that it has reached agreement with the Board of the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts (SMSA) to establish a strategic partnership. This partnership reflects the similar heritage of the two organisations and their commitment to advancing knowledge and engaging with the broadest possible audience in New South Wales.

The Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts (SMSA) was established in 1833, following the Scottish example of providing open access to education for the working classes, who, historically, had been excluded from formal, traditional education systems. The Governor at the time was Sir Richard Bourke, who was a strong supporter of it with an annual allowance of £200. In 1886, the SMSA was incorporated by an act of the NSW Parliament, similar to the act which, in 1881, formally established the Society as a body corporate.

SMSA buildingOriginally, the SMSA occupied the building that is currently the Arthouse Hotel, at 271 Pitt Street. The SMSA sold this building in the 1990s to Alan Bond’s corporation for redevelopment of the site. With the proceeds, the SMSA bought a building at 280 Pitt Street that could house their activities and provide a source of rental income. The SMSA occupies three floors of this building. The third floor houses offices and meeting rooms and the Thomas Kenneally Collection, the private library donated to the SMSA some years ago by Thomas Keneally FRSN. The second floor houses an extensive lending library and the first floor has an auditorium that seats about 130 people, some smaller meeting rooms, and facilities for limited catering.

Over the last 18 months or so, the Council of the Society and the Board of the SMSA have had extensive discussions regarding ways in which the two organisations could collaborate to gain synergies from their similar objectives and activities and to enhance the standing of both organisations. The governing bodies of both organisations formally signed off on the strategic partnership in September.

Key elements of this agreement include:
• Development of a joint program of events that will be broadly attractive to members of both organisations and the general public;
• Display of important selections of material from the Society’s library;
• Reciprocal membership benefits between the two organisations when engaged in joint activities.

In addition, the Society will hold some of its own functions at the SMSA auditorium and meeting rooms, particularly when they are expected to attract larger audiences. The location near Town Hall station and one of the new Metro line stations is particularly convenient. The Society’s presence in the building will be identified in the main foyer with its name and seal.

signing the SMSA MoUThe Council believes this partnership is a very important initiative and will further consolidate our efforts to promote the Society plus increasing its influence in the intellectual life of New South Wales. We look forward very much to working with the SMSA in taking this arrangement forward.

A formal Memorandum of Understanding between the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts and the Royal Society of NSW was signed on 30 October 2017.  At the signing were [front row, L to R] Thomas Kenneally AO FRSN, Winsome Allen (SMSA President), Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert (RSNSW President), [back row, L to R] Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, Denis Mockler (SMSA Board member) and John Hardie FRSN (RSNSW Councillor).

APR
14

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

APR
06

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. 

DEC
01

Sydney meetings in 2016

Wednesday 3 February

Royal Society 2014 Scholarship Presentations – the 1240th OGM and Public Lecture

“Problems and prime numbers”
Adrian Dudek, Australian National University

“How old are flowers?”
Charles Foster, University of Sydney

“Manifestations of dark matter and variation of fundamental constants”
Yevgeny Stadnik, UNSW

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

Thursday 25 February

Four Societies Meeting

“Energy sources in Australia’s future”

Professor Robert Clark AO FAA FRSN

47th Floor MLC Centre, Sydney

Wednesday 2 March

1241st OGM and Public Lecture

“How to win an Ignoble Prize: communicating science”

Dr Len Fisher, Bristol University

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

Wednesday 16 March

RSNSW and Australian Institute of Physics Meeting

“The science of sleep”

Professor Ron Grunstein, University of Sydney

Venue: Trinity Grammar School PD Centre, 5 Thomas St. Lewisham

Wednesday 6 April

AGM and 1242nd OGM and Public Lecture

President’s Address

Dr Don Hector, President of the Royal Society of NSW

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

Wednesday 4 May

Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow's Lecture

“Science policy”

Professor Eugenie Lumbers, UNSW

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

Wednesday 1 June

1243rd OGM and Public Lecture

Professor Peter Hiscock, University of Sydney

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

Wednesday 6 July

1244th OGM and Public Lecture

“Royal”, not “Philosophical” - W.B. Clarke's inaugural address to the Royal Society of NSW

Associate Professor Rob Young (ret'd.), University of Wollongong

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

Wednesday 3 August

1245th OGM and Public Lecture

“Celebrating the 200th birthday of Royal Botanic Gardens: a personal history of 57 years of science”

Dr Barbara Briggs, Royal Botanic Gardens

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

Wednesday 7 September

1246th OGM and Public Lecture

“A source of inspiration and delight: the Mitchell Library”

Richard Neville, Mitchell Library

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

Wednesday 5 October

1247th OGM and Public Lecture

“From sand and rice bubbles to earthquakes and volcanos”

Professor Itai Einav, University of Sydney

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

Wednesday 2 November

1248th OGM and Public Lecture

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

Professor Jim Kehoe, UNSW

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

Wednesday 7 December

1249th OGM and Public Lecture and Christmas Party

Jak Kelly Award Winner 2016 (presented by Irene Kelly)

“Imaging with a deft touch: The scanning helium microscope – a modern pinhole camera!”

Mathew Barr, School of Mathematical and Physical Science, University of Newcastle

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

JAN
25

Sydney meetings in 2017

Wednesday 1 February

1250th OGM and open lecture: 2015 Scholarship presentations

Yik Lung (Jeremy) Chan, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

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

Andrew Ritchie, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

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

Isobel Ronai, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

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

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 23 February

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies

“South Australia: a nuclear State in a global solution”

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

Venue: International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour

Time: 6pm to 8pm (reception from 5.30pm)

Wednesday 1 March

1251st OGM and open lecture

“Creative minds: artistic and scientific endeavour on polar expeditions 1851 to 1951”

Richard Ferguson FRGS, Executive Director, Craft Australia

Venue: University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Wednesday 5 April

AGM and 1252nd OGM and open lecture

“The science of beer”

Dr Greg Organ, Chief Scientist, Lion Company

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

Time: 5.45 for 6pm start of AGM. Open lecture and OGM 6.30pm

Wednesday 3 May

Annual dinner of the Royal Society of NSW

Guests of honour: The Honourable General David Hurley AC DSC (ret'd.) Governor of NSW and Mrs Hurley

Distinguished Fellow's Lecture and presentation of Awards for 2016

Distinguished Fellow's Address: Peter Baume

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

Time: 6.30 for 7pm

Wednesday 7 June

1253rd OGM and open lecture

“Are you smarter than a slime mould?”

Professor Madeleine Beekman, University of Sydney

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 5 July

1254th OGM and open lecture

“Understanding quantum theory”

Professor Andrea Morello, University of NSW

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 2 August

1255th OGM and open lecture

“Self-driving cars: will they help?”

Professor Ann Williamson, University of NSW

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Dates in August 

Science Week: Royal Society of NSW lunchtime science talks

Wednesday 6 September

1256th OGM and open lecture

“The complexity of music”

Helen Mitchell, Conservatorium of Music

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 4 October

1257th OGM and open lecture

“Understanding social networks”

Professor Pip Pattison, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Sydney

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 1 November

1258th OGM and open lecture

“Women in art”

Pamela Griffith

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 29 November

Royal Society of NSW and Four Learned Academies Forum

“Science and society in a post-truth world”

Venue: Government House

Time: 8.30am to 5pm, with a reception the preceding evening

Wednesday 6 December

1259th OGM and open lecture

Royal Society of NSW 2016 Jak Kelly Award and Christmas Party

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

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

DEC
15

Royal Society of NSW Awards 2016

James Cook Medal

Scientia Professor David Cooper BSc(Med) MBBS(Syd) MD DSc(UNSW) FRACP FRCPA FRCP FAA FAHMS was the winner of the James Cook Medal. Located at UNSW, he is Professor of Medicine and Director, Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society.

Professor Cooper's research has been focused on the understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS. He introduced one of the first tests for HIV infection to Australia and has made a number of contributions and discoveries in areas such as antiretroviral therapy, complications of HIV treatment, and HIV pathogenesis. His current focus is on dose optimisation in immunotherapy and vaccination.

The James Cook Medal is awarded from time to time for outstanding contributions to both science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere.

Edgeworth David Medal

The Edgeworth David Medal for 2016 was awarded to Dr Muireann Irish. She is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychology, UNSW, a Senior Research Officer, FRONTIER, Neuroscience Research Australia, and an Associate Investigator, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Memory Node.

Dr Irish's research focuses on memory disruption in dementia, and she is considered to be at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience. Her research contributions include, amongst many, establishing the impairment of planning in dementia patients and differentiation among dementia syndromes at initial presentation. She is also a spokesperson for women in science

The Edgeworth David Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research by a young scientist under the age of 35 years for work done mainly in Australia or for contributing to the advancement of Australian science.

Clarke Medal for Geology

This year's winner of the Clarke Medal was ​Professor Simon P. TurnerHe is the Distinguished Professor and Director of Research, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University.

As a geochemist, Professor Turner is an active member of the geologic community. His most notable contributions have involved the application of short-lived Uranium-series isotopes to estimate the time scales of magma formation, transport, and differentiation as well as soil production and erosion rates.

The Clarke Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research in the natural sciences conducted in the Australian Commonwealth and its territories. The fields of botany, geology, and zoology are considered in rotation. For 2016, the medal was awarded in Geology.

History and Philosophy of Science Medal

Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod received the History and Philosophy of Science Medal for 2016. Professor MacLeod is Emeritus Professor, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney.

Professor MacLeod is an historian of science focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the course of his career he has opened new fields of enquiry including: history of British imperial science, history of science in Australasia and the Pacific, Museum studies, and the development of science policy. He also co-founded the international journal Social Studies of Science. A copy of his book "Archibald Liversidge: Imperial Science under the Southern Cross" was presented to the Governor of NSW at the recent celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Royal patronage of the RSNSW.

The Society's History and Philosophy of Science Medal is awarded each year to recognize outstanding achievement in the History and Philosophy of Science, with preference being given to the study of ideas, institutions and individuals of significance to the practice of the natural sciences in Australia.

Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships

Three scholarships of $500 plus a complimentary year of membership of the Society are awarded each year in order to acknowledge outstanding achievements by young researchers in any field of science. Applicants must be enrolled as research students in a university in either NSW or the ACT.This year's winners were:

Jeremy Chan, PhD Candidate, School of Life Science, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney. Mr. Chan's research focuses on the impact of maternal smoking on newborn brain injury. His work will provide new insight into how maternal smoking affects the recovery of hypoxic injury in offspring and potential pathways for therapeutic interventions.

Andrew Ritchie, PhD Candidate, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. Mr Ritchie's area of research is in the investigation of different evolutionary processes across the natural and social sciences using statistical models of diversification over time. His investigations are intended to improve understanding of the evolution of language and determine new parallels between the evolutionary processes underlying biology and human culture.

Isobel Ronai, PhD Candidate, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. Ms Ronai's concerns solving the mystery of altruistic action by sterile worker bee through identifying the gene that regulates worker fertility. Her research has helped to explain worker sterility by focusing on a particular gene pathway.

Walter Burfitt Prize and the Archibald Liversidge Medal

The Walter Burfitt Prize and the Archibald Liversidge Medal for 2016 were awarded to Scientia Professor Justin Gooding FAA FRACI FRSC FISE FRSN. He is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Deputy Head of School of Chemistry, School of Chemistry, UNSW.

Professor Gooding's field is surface chemistry. He is a leading authority in the field of surface modification of electrodes, mostly focused on bioelectronics interfaces. He has had a number of pioneering achievements, including understanding electron transfer at surfaces, making silicon compatible with aqueous solutions, advanced electrochemical techniques, and single nanoparticle sensors.

The Walter Burfitt Prize consists of a bronze medal and $150, awarded every three years for research in pure or applied science, deemed to be of the highest scientific merit. The papers and other contributions must have been published during the past six years for research conducted mainly in these countries.

The Archibald Liversidge Medal is awarded at intervals of two years for the purpose of encouragement of research in Chemistry. The prize is awarded in conjunction with the Royal Australia Chemical Institute. It was established under the terms of a bequest to the Society by Professor Archibald Liversidge MA LLD FRS.

DEC
08

See the slides from the 2016 Forum

The slides used by the speakers at the 2016 RSNSW and Four Academies Forum, held on 29 November at Government House, are now available for download.

SEP
08

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.

AUG
06

2015 Clarke Lecture

"From the Solar Nebula to the Deep Earth – a Geological Journey"

Griffin  Professor Bill Griffin

  Distinguished Professor of Geochemistry,
  Macquarie University

Date: Thursday 6 August 2015

Venue: Building Y3A, Theatre 1, Macquarie University

Bill will tell the story of the journey to the surface of the remarkable rocks of Southern Tibet.  These are large fragments of the Earth’s mantle that originate from very great depths (>500 km down) under extreme conditions not ordinarily expected within the mantle and which play an important role in the evolution of igneous systems. To learn the story of these remarkable rocks, we have to understand both the mechanisms that have brought them up to the surface, and the origins of these super-reducing conditions in the mantle. This has involved field studies, geodynamic modeling, a range of techniques for micron-scale chemical, microstructural and isotopic analysis, and a bit of good luck.  One of the keys to the Tibetan riddles lies near the Sea of Galilee in Israel, and involves a remarkable, still poorly-understood type of volcanic activity.  Bill will lead you through this story, which is still evolving by the day; it illustrates the diversity of approaches required in modern geological research, and some of the excitement of that research work.

Bill Griffin is Distinguished Professor of Geochemistry at Macquarie University and Program Director at the RC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems. Before that he spent 20 years at the University of Oslo, mainly in the Geological Museum, which is the centre of geochemical research in Scandinavia. He moved to Australia in 1985, to be with his Aussie wife and to help develop geological applications for the CSIRO’s new proton microprobe.  In 2006 he left the CSIRO and moved to Macquarie University.

SEP
01

Dirac Lecture 2015

“Quantum entanglement and superconductivity”

sachdev  Professor Subir Sachdev

  Professor of Physics, Harvard University

Held in conjunction with UNSW and the Australian Institute of Physics

Tuesday 1 September 2015
John B. Reid Theatre, AGSM Building, UNSW

Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance". Entanglement is a counter-intuitive feature of quantum theory by which two particles are deeply correlated even when separated by vast distances, such that a measurement of one particle instantaneously determines the state of the other. Remarkably, quantum entanglement can also happen en masse, determining the macroscopic properties of many electrons in certain crystals. Such states of matter can exhibit superconductivity, the ability to conduct electricity without measurable resistance, at much higher temperatures than was previously possible.

Professor Sachdev also described newly emerging connections between the theory of macroscopic quantum entanglement and Hawking's theory of black holes.

FEB
26

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies 2016

Four Societies 2016  “Australian energy policy”

  Professor Robert Clark AO FAA DistFRSN
  Chair of Energy Strategy and Policy, UNSW

Thursday 25 February 2016

Hamilton and Parkes Rooms, Level 47, MLC Centre, King and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney

Professor Robert Clark has had a distinguished career, having headed a research group in experimental quantum physics at Oxford's Clarendon Laboratory and been the Chair of Experimental Physics at UNSW. He has been head of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology at UNSW and has been Australia's Chief Defence Scientist and CEO of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

The agreement resulting from the Paris climate change conference held in December 2015 is one of the most important initiatives to address climate change so far. Some key points that came from a conference that will affect Australia other massive investment in solar energy technology (India and China have committed US$1 trillion to the development of solar energy technology over the next decade or two. Australia has committed to emissions targets of a 5% reduction (compared to 2000 levels) by 2020 and, by 2030, a 26-28% reduction compared to 2005 levels. In addition, Australia has committed to a target of 24% of Australia's generation capacity to be renewable by 2020. Nonetheless, German modelling shows that very large amounts of coal, oil and gas will be required to meet global energy demand at least until 2050 and probably well beyond then. Over the next 20 years, the urbanisation of India's population and the investment in base-load, coal-fired power generation capacity, even taking into account substantial expansion of nuclear capacity will result in a very substantial increase in coal-based CO2 emissions. Australia's energy requirements are characterised by having very large amounts of LNG, coal, coal-seam gas and shale gas but a deficiency in liquid fuels – most of Australia's liquid fuels are imported.

Professor Clark has devoted several years to looking at a number of specific problems in the energy sector and gave several examples of his work. One major user of liquid fuels is freight forwarding. The movement of freight accounts for 194 billion freight-tonne-kilometres per year. Of this 151 billion is moved by B-double trucks (there are 84,000 of these servicing freight routes in Australia). Converting these trucks from diesel (most of which is imported) to LNG (which could be sourced locally) would result in a substantial improvement in emissions (gas produces a little over 70% of the CO2 that diesel emits, for the same energy output) and would have a noticeable impact on Australia's liquid fuels balance and the current account.

Nuclear energy is an area that has been contentious in Australia. In the last few years, there has been a call to consider installation of substantial base-load nuclear generation capacity. Professor Clark noted that the future total Australian electricity generation requirement at the investment horizon is about 250 TW-hours. If nuclear generation capacity were to provide 15% of this, it would require five 1,000-MW nuclear reactors – one near every major city. The political, planning and capital requirements of such an investment are probably insurmountable. On the other hand, if Australia were to export uranium (on a lease, not sale basis, so that the uranium can be tracked, accounted for and ultimately returned to Australia for reprocessing or final storage), the impact on global CO2 emissions by supplying Australian uranium to existing and proposed nuclear generation plants, particularly in China and India would provide 10 times the impact on CO2 emissions compared to building base-load generation in Australia. This case demonstrates the importance of taking a global perspective on CO2 emissions and climate change, rather than a purely domestic analysis.

Professor Clark concluded by observing that there is still a need for substantive policy development in this area. The recent Energy White Paper 2015 is more of a statement regarding the energy situation, than a policy document. An important point that emerged from Professor Clark's wide-ranging talk is that energy policy ultimately will need to address a complex mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

The Four Societies Lecture is presented annually by the Royal Society of NSW, the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia (Sydney Division) and the Australian Nuclear Association.

MAY
25

New webmaster for RSNSW

As of April 2016, Chris Bertram has taken on the job of RSNSW Webmaster.

Chris Bertram 2010

DEC
31

History Week 2008

Science House, 157 Gloucester Street

The Royal Society of New South Wales presents "Science then and now - What 100 years have done for Science"

The Royal Society returns to Science House for History Week. Come and hear the lecture, come and see this magnificent building in The Rocks.

Saturday 6 September, 2-4 pm, Science House, 157 Gloucester Street (corner of Essex and Gloucester Sts) in the city. This is a free event and bookings are not essential.

The Royal Society of NSW has been invited to participate in History Week and where better to stage an event than the heritage-listed Science House in the heritage-listed Rocks. Our former president, Professor Jak Kelly will present "Science then and now - what 100 years have done for science". Jak will both act and dress for the role when he delivers an important scientific paper exactly as it was delivered to a meeting of the Royal Society of NSW around the turn of the 20th Century. An equally eminent scientist will demonstrate the advances since that time when delivering an equivalent address on the topic. Authentic technology and equipment of the period with copies of the original paper will help to transport the audience back to those heady days when science was considered of paramount importance.

Robyn Stutchbury addresses the Blue Mountains Historical Society;
"Unearthing the Buried Treasures of the Royal Society of NSW"

Robyn Stutchbury has been invited to address the Blue Mountains Historical Society. Her address, "Unearthing the buried treasures of the Royal Society of NSW" will focus on the work we have been doing on the Society's collection as a result of two Community Heritage Grants (CHG) from the National Library of Australia. She will report on the problems of maintaining our collection and the steps we are taking to overcome these.

The assessments reported by the two professional historians engaged through the CHG funding indicate that we are the custodians of a highly significant collection both culturally and historically. We are now faced with the problems of how to carefully conserve the collection and how to make it available to researchers and the public alike.

Blue Mountains Society headquarters, "Hobby's Reach" 99 Blaxland Road, Wentworth Falls. Saturday 6 September, 10.30 - 12 noon

Global Warming & The Cosmos

Dr Graeme Pearman (left) with Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen at the Global Warming Symposium.

The Royal Society of NSW arranged for two of the world's leading climate scientists to give a presentation on whether climate change is man-made, natural or both. The presentation was made to an enthusiastic audience of some 250 people, followed by a lively Q&A session. The presenters were: Dr Graeme Pearman, former head of the CSIRO Atmospheric Division and adviser to Al Gore and to the Garnaut Climate Change Review and Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen, director of the National Space Institute (NSI) (previously the Danish National Space Centre) at the Technical University of Denmark.

Both speakers agreed that much more research is needed into the ways in which solar variation affects climate, and to investigate whether there is a link between GCRs and cloud formation which is significant in the context of climate change.

The Royal Society of NSW wishes to thank the two speakers for presenting their papers. They also wish to thank Dick Whitaker for chairing the meeting, and Frensham School for hosting the event.

Date: Saturday 5 April 2008
Time: 1.30 pm for 2.00 pm
Venue: Clubbe Hall, Frensham, Cnr of Range Rd and Waverley Pde Mittagong

Annual Dinner

The Society held a very successful Annual Dinner at the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, University of Sydney on Friday 14 March 2008.

The guest of honour was Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of NSW, who presented our Awards for 2007. She also addressed those attending and spoke about the achievements of the Society and its place in the modern world and how pleased she was to be our Patron.

Her Excellency with Clarke Medal recipient Professor Suzanne O'Reilly
A light-hearted moment during the presentation of the Edgeworth David Medal to Dr Stuart Wyithe (second from left) with the Governor, the President and the reader of the citations, Professor Pete Williams
Her Excellency awards the Walter Burfitt Prize to Professor Matthew Colless
Professor Gavin Brown, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney and winner of the Society's Medal for 2007, with Her Excellency
A Vote of Thanks to Her Excellency was offered by A/Professor Bill Sewell
Dr David Branagan with Office Manager Irene Kelly
The President, Mr John Hardie (left) with the Governor and Award recipients: (l-r) Professor Gavin Brown, Dr Stuart Wyithe, Professor Suzanne O'Reilly, HE Professor Marie Bashir, Professor Matthew Colless
DEC
31

RSN Fellow & Medallist win NSW Scientist of Year Awards

Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons from UNSW was elected Fellow of the Society in 2010 and was presented with her award by our Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, at our 2011 Annual Dinner. Professor Simmons was named the 2011 NSW Scientist of the Year and winner of the Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy category.

Professor Rick Shine from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney was awarded the 2010 Walter Burfitt Prize by our Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, at our 2011 Annual Dinner. He won the Plant and Animal Research category at the awards.

More details can be found at the website of the "Office of NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer" NSW-Scientist-of-the-Year-2011

APR
30

The Dirac Lecture 2011

"Beauty and truth: their intersection in mathematics and science"

Robert, Lord May of Oxford, AC FRSN

Friday 29 April 2011 at 6.30 pm

Scientia Building, University of NSW

Meeting report by Donald Hector 

On 29 April 2011, Robert Lord May of Oxford, arguably the greatest mathematician that Australia has produced, was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW by the Governor. Earlier that day, Lord May presented the Dirac Lecture at the University of New South Wales, jointly sponsored by the Society. He took us on interesting exploration of some of the important concepts of mathematics, from Euclidean geometry via the concept of imaginary numbers to the mathematics of fractals and chaos theory and the extraordinary power of mathematics to describe observed real-world phenomena. 

Updating the observation by Galileo, "this grand book is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric objects", Lord May pointed out that rather than triangles and circles, today the mathematical objects are more likely to be fractals and "strange attractors". Nonetheless, as Galileo observed, and referring to the examples of Julia sets and Mandelbrot sets, there is great beauty in the elegance with which we can both describe and understand the immense complexity of the universe. He went on to explore the paradigm shift that Einstein divined from the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment that had found that the speed of light was the same for all observers. Einstein's formulation of the special theory of relativity led to a profound shift in our understanding of the relationships between momentum, mass and energy that has enabled extraordinary insights and understanding of the nature of the universe, from gravity to nuclear fission. Lord May pointed out that, regrettably, many of the great contributions do not get the recognition that they deserve. In his view, Paul Dirac was such a person – his formulation of the Dirac equation and its implication of the existence of positrons was one of the greatest steps forward in theoretical physics in the 20th century, yet his name is nowhere near as well known as that of Einstein. 

Quoting Keats "beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know", Lord May observed: well yes, but not really.

DEC
31

Governor Invests New Fellows

The Society was very pleased to have the remaining two Fellows of the Society for 2010 invested with their Awards by our Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW, at a private function at Government House on 9 November 2011. Professor Kurt Lambeck and Professor Elizabeth Blackburn were overseas when Her Excellency presented our Awards at our Annual Dinner on 18 February so she very kindly agreed to bestow these Awards on them at this time. Lord May was also unable to be present in February and Her Excellency was able to perform his investiture on 29 April during his visit to Australia. 

At this most recent event Professor Blackburn was represented by Professor Roger Reddel, Lorimer Dods Professor and Director, Children's Medical Research Institute Westmead, who indicated that he was able to pass the Award to Professor Blackburn the following week. Our congratulations go out to our new Fellows.

Professors Roger Reddel (left, on behalf of Professor Elizabeth Blackburn) and Kurt Lambeck with the Governor and the President after receiving Fellow Awards at Government House, Sydney.
MAY
21

President delivers Occasional Address

The Society's President was honoured with the opportunity to address new graduates and their families and friends at a graduation ceremony held at the University of Sydney on Friday 20 May 2011. The ceremony was for the Faculty of Science and for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, and was presided over by the university's Chancellor, our Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir. Over 200 new graduates had their degrees conferred, with the majority coming from the Science Faculty.

In his Occasional Address the President referred to the importance of communicating science to a wider audience by all who practise it. He also referred to the value of scientific professional associations and learned societies, particularly as a means of enabling science communication. He cited Professor Archibald Liversidge, the first Dean of Science at the university and a mainstay of the Society for the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as an embodiment of the broad approach that needs to be taken by all, especially today.


Royal Society Events

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

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

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

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

Sydney meetings 

Hunter meetings

Southern Highlands meetings

 

 

Details of events scheduled for the remainder of the current year by the Southern Highlands branch can be found on its website.

Details of past events held by the Southern Highlands branch can be found here.

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