Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-9

Professor Sandra Lynch“Relativity revealed: Einstein’s discoveries, the origin and shape of the universe”

Ian Bryce

Date: Wednesday, 18 November 2020 at 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Mittagong RSL, Carrington Room 
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
All are welcome

(*) This event will be the branch’s first face-to-face event since March.  Due to social distancing requirements, however, attendance is limited to at most 30 people.  Please register for this event with Hubert Regtop, Chair, Southern Highlands Branch of the Royal Society of NSW at the email address above. 

Ian BryceIan Bryce graduated with a BSc in physics from Monash University, Melbourne, in 1970, followed by Engineering in 1972. He has long experience as an aerospace engineer with Telstra, Optus, and Hawker de Havilland, on aircraft, spacecraft and launch vehicle projects. As Chief Engineer for the Asia Pacific Space Centre, he worked closely with the Russians on a proposed spaceport on Christmas island. With Aerospace Concepts, he developed complex methodologies for risk analysis of weapons and rocket tests at Australia’s test site at Woomera. Ian lectured at several universities in space sciences. This includes 7 years at University of NSW, where he created a subject Space Vehicle Design. He has moved to applying the methods of science to human welfare, including a methodology called Measuring Morality. Ian teaches NSW Primary Ethics, and is active in the Skeptics (Challenge Coordinator) and Humanist societies.



Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-8

Susannah Fullerton“Literary England: Susannah’s Top Ten Places”

Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN
Literary Lecturer and President, Jane Austen Society of Australia

Date: Thursday, 15 October 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.


In her memoir 84 Charing Cross Road, American Helene Hanff goes searching for the ‘England of English Literature’. I know just how she felt. I first went to England in 1980, with a long list of literary places I just had to see – I longed to visit the homes of favourite novelists and poets, walk the paths they had trodden, pay my respects at their graves, and see with my own eyes the landscapes that had filled my imagination since I had learned to read.

England is so rich in literary connections that it was terribly hard choosing only ten places for this talk. I have tried to include variety – of authors, of sites and of geographical area. There’s a library, houses large and small, churches, a graveyard and an ancient charitable institution. I will take you from the gentle countryside of southern England, up to more dramatic northern landscapes.

I hope that this virtual travel will enchant and intrigue you, will give you ideas of places to include in your next visit to England, or bring back wonderful memories. I have not included literary places in London – that has to be a separate talk.

What I hope this talk will make you do is to consider which Top Ten places you would choose, and to consider with a deeper appreciation the incredible riches of the England of English Literature.

The lecture can be access from this link.

Susannah Fullerton  has been the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for more than twenty years. She has written several books about Jane Austen and has lectured about her favourite novelist around Australia and overseas. She received an OAM for services to literature and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. Susannah is also the Patron of the Kipling Society of Australia. She leads literary tours to the UK, Europe, NZ and the USA, and she sends out a popular and free monthly blog, ‘Notes from a Book Addict’ which you can sign up for on her website. Susannah is one of ADFAS’s most popular Australia lecturers and she offers a wide range of talks about famous writers and their works.


Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-7

Professor Sandra Lynch“Philosophical Ethics in Schools: Plan and Paradox”

Adjunct Professor Sandra Lynch 
Institute for Ethics and Society
University of Notre Dame Australia

Date: Thursday, 17 September 2020 at 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video presentation: YouTube video

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the Southern Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers. This month, the Branch will be presenting its first webinar, which will be recorded and posted for later viewing. It will be available from the Southern Highlands Branch website and from the YouTube Channel of the Royal Society of NSW. 


 This presentation considers the rationale for and the value of the teaching of philosophy in contemporary classrooms, particularly in relation to the teaching of ethics. It explores the suppositions we bring to the philosophy classroom, how we might best meet our aims in regard to teaching ethics and the challenges we face in achieving those aims. The different approaches taken to the teaching of philosophical ethics in schools in Australia suggests both the need for greater clarity of purpose in this enterprise and the need to convince educational administrators as well as the broader community of the value of training those who undertake the teaching of philosophical ethics in schools.

Professor Sandra Lynch is the former inaugural Director of the Institute for Ethics and Society and currently Adjunct Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney campus). Dr. Lynch’s expertise lies in applied and professional ethics, ethics and values education, the constitution of the self, friendship, critical thinking, and the intersection of philosophy and literature. Her recent research has focussed on models for the teaching of professional ethics, particularly in healthcare ethics, both within educational and professional practice contexts.

Most recently her work has been focused on responding to the need to deepen students’ active engagement in ethical discourse and to enrich their studies by including a focus on the demands of acting on one’s well justified values in complex workplace and social settings. Her research into best practice in the teaching of ethics is underpinned by a commitment to ensuring that students develop the confidence and competence to contribute to the flourishing of their professions and of the societies of which they are part.

 As a former primary schoolteacher with a long-standing involvement in the Philosophy in Schools Association of NSW, Sandra has a strong interest in values education and philosophical inquiry within primary and secondary education, which led to research on values education and the promotion of critical and creative thinking skills in school and tertiary contexts. Her publications include: Strategies for a Thinking Classroom (NSW Primary English Teachers Association, 2008; Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Play: From Birth and Beyond (Springer, 2017); “Philosophy, play and ethics in education” in Philosophical Perspectives on Play (Routledge, 2016); ”Practical and Applied Ethics” in An Introduction to Philosophy and Theology within Catholic Liberal Education (McGraw Hill, 2014); “Relativism tolerance and morality” in Today’s Tyrants (Kapunda Prees, 2019). She is also the author of Philosophy and Friendship (Edinburgh: EUP, 2005) and Friendship and Happiness from a Philosophical Perspective” in Friendship and Happiness ed. by Meliksah Demir (Springer, 2015). In addition, she has also co-edited and contributed to a number of books, including Conscience, Leadership and the Problem of 'Dirty Hands’ (REIO, 2015) and Faith and Reason: Vistas and Visions (Wipf & Stock, forthcoming 2020)



Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-6

Professor Toby Walsh“2062—The year that Artificial Intelligence (AI) made”

Professor Toby Walsh
Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence
UNSW Sydney and CSIRO Data61

Date: Thursday, 20 August 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.


Professor Walsh was due to present this lecture at the August meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, this lecture has been replaced by recordings of two recent presentations he has made:

Professor Toby Walsh is Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales and Data61, a guest professor at theTechnical University of Berlin, and an adjunct professor at QUT. He was named by the Australian newspaper as one of the “rock stars” of Australia’s digital revolution. He is a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI is used to improve our lives. Professor Walsh has been a leading voice in the discussion about autonomous weapons (aka “killer robots”), speaking at the UN in New York and Geneva on the topic.

Professor Walsh is a Fellow of the Australia Academy of Science and a recipient of the NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Engineering and ICT. He recently was made ARC Laureate Fellow. He appears regularly on TV and radio, and has authored two books on AI for a general audience, the most recent titled “2062: The World that AI Made”.


Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-5

Dr Brad Tucker“Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the end of the Universe”

Dr Brad Tucker
Astronomer and Research Fellow, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Australia National University

Date: Thursday, 20 July 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.


We began with a bang 13.72 billion years ago and are surrounded by hundreds of billions of galaxies. Our knowledge of space–time has expanded greatly over the past century. Technology has allowed us to discover, explore and theorise about the mysteries of our universe at the very small and very large scale. Compounds, atoms and subatomic particles have been discovered. The mystery of dark matter and dark energy are perplexing us today.

Dr Tucker will take us through the brilliant explosions known as supernova and our understanding of the life of stars and what the Universe is made of and how its growing and accelerating due to dark energy. The Universe is growing away from us leaving us with our own Milky Way and our own black hole, the question is “ is this the end of our Universe?”.

Most stars end their lives in brilliant explosions known as supernovae. These massive bursts briefly outshine all the light from the galaxy wherein they occur. The past 15 years has been a “boom” period for supernovae with vast amounts of time and effort being invested in these objects. Not only are they important for understanding the life of stars, but they can be used use as cosmological probes to study what the Universe is made of and how it is growing. This use has shown that the Universe is accelerating in its expansion, the subject of the 2011 Nobel Prize, and is being caused by dark energy which will cause the end of the Universe. I will show how our understanding of these objects has been revolutionized using new techniques including the Kepler Space Telescope and what this means for the Universe.

Dr Tucker was due to present this lecture at the July meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, this lecture has been replaced by a recordings of a recent presentations he has made:

Dr Brad Tucker is an Astrophysicist/Cosmologist, and currently a Research Fellow. at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University. He received Bachelor’s degrees in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He then undertook a PhD at Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University, working with Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt. He is currently working on projects trying to discover the true nature of dark energy, the mysterious substance causing the accelerating expansion of the Universe, which makes up 70% of the Universe. He is the lead of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey, a program to understand why and how stars blow up. He is also leading a project to build a network of ultraviolet telescopes in the upper atmosphere, which are being built at Mt. Stromlo, a search for Planet 9, a proposed new planet in our Solar System, and also leading a group designing an Asteroid Mining Mission.

In addition to his research, Brad frequently gives talks to school groups and the general public about Astronomy and has regular segments on various radio and TV stations talking about astronomy news and events. Among other things, Brad has also developed a series of Astronomy Coins in conjunction with the Royal Australian Mint and has consulted on science fiction movies such as Alien: Covenant.


Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-4

Professor Geordie Williamson“Light, sound, and the magic of the Fourier Transform”

Professor Geordie Williamson FRS FAA
Director, Mathematics Research Institute
University of Sydney

Date: Thursday, 18 June 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation


Why do guitars, flutes and voices sound different? How do we hear the different notes in a piece of music? What would music look like if we could see it? Most importantly, what does this have to do with the cover of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”? Join Professor Geordie Williamson for a journey into the shape of sound and sound waves to explore the fascinating world of timbre, overtones, modes and frequencies.

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

Professor Williamson was due to present this lecture at the June meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, hislecture has been replaced by a recording of arecent presentation:

It is a great lecture containing plenty of examples with which you can identify. 

Professor Geordie Williamson grew up in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. He was an undergraduate at the University of Sydney, and completed his PhD at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Following his PhD studies he was a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford for three years, and then an Advanced Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn. In 2020/21 he will direct a year long program at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Williamson has lectured all over the world, and has had visiting positions in the US, Germany and Japan. His has been awarded several prizes for his work, including the Chevalley Prize of the American Mathematical Society (2016), the European Mathematical Society Prize (2016), the Clay Research Award (2016), the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize (2017) and the Medal of the Australian Mathematical Society (2018). In 2018 he was elected to the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, and is currently the youngest living fellow of both institutions.


Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-3

Gut Microbes“The Microbiome and Gut-Brain Axis”

Associate Professor Andrew Holmes 
School of Molecular Bioscience and the Charles Perkins Centre
University of Sydney

Date: Thursday, 21 May 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.


For this month, we had scheduled Professor Andrew Holmes to speak on the Gut Microbiome. Instead, we have decided to split the material on this subject into three sections as enumerated below.

  1. An introduction by Dr. Giulia Enders: “The gut, The inside story of our Body’s most underrated organ” (TedX video)
  2. A podcast interview of Associate Professor Andrew Holmes by Tom Ballard and Julia Zemiro: “What's the Story with The Gut by Giulia Enders?” (Apple Podcasts)
  3. A more detailed, academic lecture on the Microbiome by Professor Lora Cooper: “Mammalian Gut Microbiota” (iBiology video)

Biographical Details 

Dr Giulia EndersDr Giulia Enders is working to reveal how our gut is at the core of who we are. She is is a medical doctor and author from Germany. In 2012, her presentation “Darm mit Charme” (“Charming Bowels”) won her first prize at the Science Slam in Berlin and went viral on YouTube. Shortly after that she was asked to write a book which turned out a great success in Germany and around the world. Her bestseller Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ has sold more than four million copies and has been published in over 40 countries. Today Enders is doing research for her medical doctorate at the Institute for Microbiology in Frankfurt and has continued to communicate science in TV and museum projects.

 Associate Professor Andrew HolmesAssociate Professor Andrew Holmes, of the School of Molecular Bioscience and Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, has general interests in microbial diversity, its evolutionary origins and ecological applications. He undertook his PhD studies at the University of Queensland (1989-1992) before postdoctoral stints at the University of Warwick, UK (1992-1996) and Macquarie University (1996-2002). In 2002 he commenced his current position at the University of Sydney where he is now Associate Professor in the School of Molecular Bioscience and Microbiome Project node leader in the Charles Perkins Centre. Andrew’s current research is focussed on understanding the dynamics of gut microbial community composition, the mechanisms of host-microbe interaction in the gut and development of tools to enable management of the gut microbial ecosystem for health. He has particular interests in the relationship between our nutrient environment and its effect on host-microbiome interactions in health. He is a Senior Editor for Microbiology and The ISME Journal and a member of the Editorial Boards of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Microbiology.

 Professor Lora CooperProfessor Lora Cooper, a professor of immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, describes her career as “a random walk in science.” Her pursuit of science was aided by inspirational mentors who pointed her in directions she might not otherwise have taken. These unexpected turns ultimately led her to study the microbiome: the community of microorganisms that reside in and on multicellular organisms, including humans. When she began her studies, the microbiome was poorly understood and received little attention, but it has increasingly become apparent that the microbiome is essential for human health. In recognition of her work, particularly on how the microbiome manages to safely coexist with its host, Hooper was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.



Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-2

Professor John Williams“The Murray-Darling Basin Scheme: a challenge in complexity in balancing social, economic and environmental perspectives”

Professor John WIlliams FTSE 
Adjunct Professor
Australian National University and Charles Sturt University 

Date: Thursday, 19 March 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation


The Murray–Darling Basin is the largest and most complex river system in Australia. It covers one million square kilometres of south-eastern Australia, across New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.


Murray-Darling Baasin diagram

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

In place of the this talk, two references are provided:


Professor John WIlliams is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Farrer Memorial Medal for achievement and excellence in agricultural science. As one of Australia’s respected scientists, John has extensive experience in providing national and international thought leadership in natural-resource management, particularly related to agriculture and its environmental impact. He has published more than 120 papers on soil physics/hydrology and sustainability agriculture. John is currently an Adjunct Professor at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and Adjunct Professor at CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society. He was formerly Chair of the Water Forum of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

John retired in 2011 after nearly six years as Commissioner of the NSW Natural Resources Commission. Other former roles include: Chief, CSIRO Land & Water; Chief Scientist, NSW Department of Natural Resources; member of the Steering Committee of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems; inaugural Board member for the CRC for Irrigation Futures; member of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Council for NSW Department of Primary Industry; member of the Commission for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Chair of the Advisory Board to the Commonwealth Environmental Research Fund’s Landscape Logic Hub; Chair of the Environmental Research Advisory Panel to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; Chair of the Research Advisory Council to the Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre; Scientific Adviser to the Board of Landcare Australia; and a founding Director of the Peter Cullen Water & Environment Trust.


Southern Highlands Branch 2020-1

Professor John ThompsonRadoll“Controlling the Australian Melanoma Epidemic”

Professor John Thompson AO
Melanoma Institute and University of Sydney

Date: Thursday, 20 February 2020 
Venue: Face-to-face in Mittagong, NSW.


Melanoma is a serious, often fatal form of skin cancer. Australia and New Zealand have the highest incidence rates of melanoma in the world, and it could justifiably be regarded as an epidemic (particularly in older men). The lifetime risk of melanoma in Australia (to age 85) is now 1 in 13 for men and 1 in 21 for women. Both in Australia and worldwide, the melanoma incidence in fair-skinned races has been increasing steadily for more than 30 years, with lifestyle changes the most likely reason.

Efforts to control the melanoma epidemic and its impact on individuals and society (by causing death) are proceeding on several fronts:

  • Primary prevention – The “Slip, Slop, Slap” campaign (Clothing, sunscreen, shade), lifestyle modification (e.g. banning of solaria);
  • Early diagnosis – Better education of doctors and the population at large;
  • Effective initial treatment (surgical) – National evidence-based guidelines (Cancer Council Australia and Melanoma Institute Australia) available on the Cancer Council Australia website ;
  • “Adjuvant” drug therapy – for high-risk patients;
  • Better drugs for advanced disease – when melanoma has spread to distant sites; and
  • Ongoing basic research, translational research and clinical trials.


Professor John Thompson  is is Professor of Melanoma and Surgical Oncology at The University of Sydney. He was the Director of Sydney Melanoma Unit from 1998 and thereafter Executive Director of Melanoma Institute Australia until the end of 2016. He was a member of the Board of Directors on inception of the company in 2007 until December 2016. He is author of over 700 peer-reviewed scientific articles and holds positions on the editorial boards of several international journals.

Prof Thompson is a past President of the International Sentinel Node Society, and was Chairman of the Australian and New Zealand Melanoma Trials Group for 15 years. He is a member of the Melanoma Staging Committee of the American Joint Committee on Cancer, and chairs the Working Group that is updating the Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Cutaneous Melanoma. He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Surgical Association and the American College of Surgeons, and was made an Inaugural Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in 2015. He was the winner of the prestigious 2018 RPA Foundation Research Medal for his outstanding contribution and dedication to melanoma treatment and research.

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