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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

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

Date: Wednesday 7 August 2019, 6pm for 6.30
Venue: Gallery Room, State Library of NSW (enter by Shakespeare Place)
Entry (includes a welcome drink): $25 for non-members, $15 for Members and Associate Members of the Society 
Dress code: business
Dinner (including drinks): $85 for Members and Associate Members, $95 for non-members. Reservations must be made at least 2 days before.
Reservations: here
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or phone 9431 8691

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 suggests how a sense of democratic purpose might be restored though public services engaging their ‘publics’ in decision-making in more substantive ways. It will reveal how 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Calendar of Sydney meetings in 2019

Wednesday 6 February

1270th OGM and open lecture: 2018 Scholarship presentations

Evelyn Todd, University of Sydney

“Using genetics to improve athletic performance in throughbred horses”

Fiona McDougall, Macquarie University

“Human-associated bacteria and antibiotic resistance in grey-headed flying foxes”

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Monday 25 February

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies

“Nuclear energy as an option for Australia?”

Helen Cook, GNE Advisory

Venue: Allens, Level 28, Deutsche Bank Place, 126 Phillip Street, Sydney

Time: 7.15 ‒ 9am

Tuesday 26 February

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Speaking of music"

“Jazz and democracy”

Dr. Wesley J. Watkins IV

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 6 March

1271st OGM and open lecture

“Using genomics to conserve Australia's biodiversity”

Professor Katherine Belov FRSN, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 21 March

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

“Mary Shelley, scientist, and Frankenstein”

Suzanne Burdon

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 3 April

AGM and 1272nd OGM and open lecture

Address by ex-President: “Measuring what we can: or how to lose weight on May 20th”

Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN, School of Chemistry, UNSW

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

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

Thursday 2 May

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

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

Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Friday 10 May

Annual dinner of the Royal Society of NSW

Guest of honour: Her Excellency Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of NSW

Presentation of awards for 2018

Distinguished Fellow's address: Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons FRS FAA DistFRSN FTSE, School of Physics, UNSW
“The new field of atomic electronics”

Venue: Swissotel, 48 Market St, Sydney

Time: 6.15 for 7pm

Wednesday 5 June

1273rd OGM and open lecture

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

Dr Kate Faasse, School of Psychology, UNSW

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 20 June

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

“Climate change and our life support system”

Professor Lesley Hughes, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 3 July

1274th OGM and open lecture

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

Professor Robert Burford FRSN, School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 18 July

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

Visual perception in aboriginal art

Emeritus Professor Barbara Gillam FASSA FRSN, School of Psychology, UNSW

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

tba

Dirac lecture

“Nothing goes faster than light - usually!”

Professor Lene Hau, Department of Physics, Harvard University

Venue: Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Dirac Lecture by Professor Lene Hau on Tuesday 23 July has been cancelled. The lecture will be rescheduled.

Wednesday 7 August

1275th OGM and open lecture

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

Professor Peter Shergold AC FRSN, Chancellor, Western Sydney University

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Monday 12 August

National Science Week: talk 1

“Aboriginal astronomy”

Dr Ragbir Bhathal FRSN

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6pm for 6.30

Tuesday 13 August

National Science Week: talk 2

“Unexpected results – Australian science to 1950”

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6pm for 6.30

Wednesday 14 August

Poggendorff lecture

“Cereal killers: how plant diseases affect food security”

Professor Robert F. Park FATSE, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Venue: Level 5 Function Room, Building F23, University of Sydney

Time: 5:30 for 6pm

Thursday 15 August

National Science Week: talk 3

“Machine aesthetics of the human body”

Dr Josh Harle

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 12.30pm to 1.30

Thursday 15 August

National Science Week: talk 4

“Computer modeling of epidemics”

Professor Mikhail Prokopenko

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6pm for 6.30

Wednesday 4 September

1276th OGM and open lecture

“History and sociology of medicine in south-east Asia”

Associate Professor Hans Pols, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 19 September

Clarke lecture (as part of a UNSW Faculty of Science event)

“tba”

Professor Emma Johnston AO FAA FRSN, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW

Venue: UNSW

Time: 5.30 - 7.30pm (4 speakers, including Prof. Johnston)

date tba

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

“tba”

speaker tba

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 2 October

1277th OGM and open lecture

“Other minds”

Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 17 October

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

“Electricity, astronomy and natural history”

Anne Harbers

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 6 November

1278th OGM and open lecture

“The beginning of weather forecasting: Matthew Maury, Robert FitzRoy FRS and L. F. Richardson FRS”

Professor Herbert Huppert, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, University of Cambridge

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Thursday 7 November

Royal Society of NSW and Four Learned Academies Forum

“Making space for Australia”

Venue: NSW Government House, Sydney

Time: tba

Thursday 21 November

RSNSW/SMSA joint series "Women and science"

“An accidental radio astronomer”

Emeritus Professor Anne Green, School of Physics, University of Sydney

Venue: Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

Wednesday 4 December

1279th OGM and open lecture

Royal Society of NSW 2019 Jak Kelly Award and Christmas party

“tba”

Jak Kelly Award winner (tba)

Venue: State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Time: 6 for 6.30pm

European tour: the history of science

Academy Travel
Padua – Florence – Paris – London

A tour for the Royal Society of NSW in conjunction with the State Library of NSW Foundation

This tour is now fully subscribed; no more places are available.

19 September – 4 October 2019

Overview

Explore the history of science, from Vesalius in Padua to Galileo in Florence and the flourishing of modern science in Paris and London. This 16-day private tour for the Royal Society of NSW in conjunction with The State Library of NSW Foundation includes guided visits to many exceptional museums, rare access to collections, libraries and archival material, and the expert guidance of specialists and curators. It follows the great story of modern science, taking you from Padua to Florence, Paris and London, and includes day trips to Bologna, Siena and Cambridge. A four-night pre-tour extension to Venice is also available.

Discover
• The birth of modern science, from Galileo’s telescopes to Darwin’s theory of evolution
• The history of medicine: Vesalius in Padua, Pasteur in Paris and the medical collections of London
• The transmission of knowledge, from rare books and manuscripts to the modern museum
• The history of the university at Padua, Bologna, Paris and Cambridge
• Interaction between the arts and sciences in moments of great change from the Renaissance to the modern world.

Tour details

Dates: 19 September – 4 October 2019
Price: $9,270 pp. twin share; $2,280 single supplement
For more information and to register your interest, contact Academy Travel on 9235 0023 or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Maximum group size: 20

Tour highlights

• Padua: the world’s first anatomy theatre, the oldest botanic garden and Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel
• Special access to library collections in Florence, Paris and London
• Private tour of the Pompidou Centre, Paris’ modern art museum
• Day trips to Siena, Bologna, Cambridge and Greenwich
• Specialist museums dedicated to Pasteur, Curie, Galileo and Darwin
• London science: from the manuscripts of the Wellcome Library to the National Science Museum.

Itinerary

map of Europe Tour 2019Days 1–3: arrive Padua.  Visit the world’s oldest anatomy theatre and oldest botanic garden, and the Scrovegni Chapel, Giotto’s masterpiece. Day trip to Bologna.
Days 4–6: explore Florence, including the Galileo Museum, Uffizi, with special access to rare collections. Day trip to Siena and the wonderful cuisine of Chianti.
Days 7–10: discover a different side of Paris, from special museums dedicated to Pasteur and Curie to a private tour of the Pompidou Centre.
Days 11–15: arrive London. Enjoy visits to Down House (the home of Charles Darwin), the National Observatory and prime meridian at Greenwich, and a range of museums, from the Museum of Natural History to the private collection of the Royal College of Physicians. Day trip to Cambridge.
Day 16: departure.

Tour leader

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN has had a distinguished career in medical research and has published books on the early mapping of Australia. He has led many similar successful expeditions. Expert guides will meet the group in each destination.

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