Thursday, August 30, 2012

SEPTEMBER 2012

Two of the best talks in Canberra in recent weeks have been by Richard Kingsford on the challenges facing Australia’s river systems and by Prof Brian Schmidt on his Nobel prize-winning investigations on the expansion of the Universe and the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Both are great speakers and exceptionally knowledgeable about their subject-matter. Thankfully, both talks are available on-line: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/eric-rolls-lecture/4187884


Enjoy!

Tuesday 4 September
Title: Buying biodiversity - the role of philanthropy in nature conservation
Time: 6pm
Venue: Shine Dome, Gordon Street
Cost: Free, registration required

Most protection of Australia’s biodiversity occurs on public land, yet two thirds of Australian land is privately managed. Therefore, programs are required to achieve conservation outcomes on private lands. Over the past 20 years, private philanthropy has increasingly played an important role in nature conservation through mechanisms such as land acquisition, conservation covenants, management programs and the creation of other new models for conservation. In this lecture, Michael Looker, Director of the Australia Program at The Nature Conservancy will discuss the role of private philanthropy to achieve significant and lasting outcomes for nature conservation.

Learn more about The Nature Conservancy at: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/australia/index.htm

Wednesday 5 September
Title: One False Move – book-talk
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Cost: Free, registration required

Journalist, author and film-maker Robert Macklin will talk about his latest book, ‘One False Move’, about the small number of Australians who – with great bravery and precise skills - worked as mine-defusers during the Second World War. Australians like Leon Goldsworthy who specialised in underwater defusing, often by touch alone, and worked out how to defuse the K mine, and so made possible the neutralising of the German mine defences before the invasion of Normandy.

Thursday 6 September

Title: Chronology of the first few hundred million years of the Solar System

Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm
Venue: Leonard Huxley lecture theatre, Research School of Physics, ANU
Cost: Free

The stable elements known to us in nature were all made in stars over the whole history of the Universe. Radioactive nuclides on the other hand, can serve as geochemical clocks for events such as the formation of planets and their satellites and this allows us to revisit the chronology of our own solar system. Professor Michael Paul from the Hebrew University in Israel will explain.

Thursday 6 September
Title: Early Warning of Critical Transitions in Nature and Society
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm
Venue: Fenner Seminar Room Building 141 Linnaeus Way ANU
Cost: Free

A wide variety of systems in nature and society – including fisheries, coral reefs, productive farmland, planetary climate, neural activity in the brain, and financial markets – are known to be susceptible to sudden changes leading to drastic re-organization or collapse. In this talk, Dr Steve Lade of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Germany will look at how methods from physics, mathematics and statistics can provide early warning signals that are complementary to existing approaches.

Monday 10 September
Title: Sentinel chickens: what birds can tell us about our health and world – book-talk
Time: 6:00 -7:00pm
Venue: Theatre 1 Manning Clark Centre, Union Court, ANU
Cost: Free

Birds pollinate, spread plant seeds and control insects Studying birds has also helped us to understand the nature of human cancer, malaria and influenza and contributed to the development of new vaccines and other cures. In his new book ‘Sentinel Chickens’, Nobel prize-winner Peter Doherty argues that since birds continually sample the atmosphere, oceans, fields and forests, they signal toxic and environmental dangers that threaten all vertebrates. Therefore, endangering their habitats through human activities is a threat to our own wellbeing. Prof Doherty earned the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1996 for his pioneering research at ANU into human immune systems.


Tuesday 11 September
Title: The Coast (A Journey along Australia’s Eastern Shores) – book-talk
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Cost: Free, registration required

Print and TV journalist Chris Hammer will talk about his latest book ‘Coast’, a celebration of the Australian seascape, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania, and those who live beside it.

Wednesday 12 September
Title: Gods, devils and alcohol: their influence in chemical nomenclature
Time: 5:30 – 6:30pm
Venue: Arthur Hambly Lecture Theatre, Building 34, ANU
Cost: Free

Dr Peter Wothers takes us back to the era when chemists put on shows for the public and demonstrated the latest chemical advances in spectacular demonstrations. This first in a series of events is based around the composition of everyday shampoo and explores the often-convoluted history behind the names of the chemical ingredients. After this lecture, you will know what connects a urinating camel to a spiral fossil; what is the significance of a birthing rat; how did Egyptian eyeliner make people drunk, but amethyst kept them sober; and in which brands of shampoo you can find 'Fooles Bolloxe' and 'beaver testicles!

Dr Wothers is Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. He also sits on the Committee for the Chemistry Olympiad for the Royal Society of Chemistry and has spent the past ten years passing on his knowledge and enthusiasm for Science to a wider audience. You can watch some of his demonstrations on You Tube.


Thursday 13 September
Title: A View from the Botanic Gardens – 200 years ago
Time: 12:30pm
Venue: Australian National Botanic Gardens
Cost: Free

Peter White will lead a discussion of how Aboriginal people may have lived for more than 25,000 years, how they obtained their living from the environment and the traces of their lives that can still be seen in the urban landscape of Canberra.

Friday 14 September (repeated Saturday 15 September at 2:00pm)
Title: Gods, devils and alcohol: their influence in chemical nomenclature
Time: 7:00 – 8:00 pm
Venue: Arthur Hambly Lecture Theatre, Building 34, ANU
Cost: Free

Dr Peter Wothers takes us back to the era when chemists put on shows for the public and demonstrated the latest chemical advances in spectacular demonstrations. This second in a series of events explores the properties of the most reactive metals in the periodic table - the Alkali Metals. Starting with an examination of their atomic structure and how this relates to the reactions they undergo, every concept is illustrated with dynamic, often explosive demonstrations!

Dr Wothers is Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. He also sits on the Committee for the Chemistry Olympiad for the Royal Society of Chemistry and has spent the past ten years passing on his knowledge and enthusiasm for Science to a wider audience. You can watch some of his demonstrations on You Tube.

Tuesday 18 September
Title: Politics, public policy and a noisy environment
Time: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Venue: John Curtin School of Medical Research, Garran Road, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

Steve Dovers coined the term 'policy ad hocery and amnesia' to describe politics and public policy and public and media behaviour in Australia but he thinks we can do better by learning from the Australian environment. The Australian environment challenged European comprehension and settlers are only now beginning to appreciate its complexity and the amazing ways in which our flora and fauna co-exist, adapt and thrive in an environment of variability and change.

Prof Dovers is Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the ANU and Co-convenor of the National Institute for Rural and Regional Australia. His books include Environment and sustainability policy and the Handbook of disaster and emergency institutions and policies.

Thursday 20 September
Title: Rabbit Control – past, present and future
Time: 12:30pm
Venue: Australian National Botanic Gardens
Cost: Free

If you think this topic sounds dull and academic, the introduction of rabbits, their impact on the environment and agriculture, and the scientific and other approaches that have been tried to control them have had a huge impact on the development of Australia and our relationship to our country. Dr Peter Kerr of the CSIRO will be a highly-qualified person to talk about this. 

 


Friday 28 September
Title: The scope of executive power
Time: 12:15 1:15pm
Venue: Senate theatre, Australian Parliament House
Cost: Free

In Australia, the relative powers of the executive and the parliament are ill-defined and it is not entirely clear when the government can act without parliamentary authority. See what you make of this – section 61 of the Constitution says “The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.” Successive governments have taken advantage of the uncertainty to expand the authority of the executive and – given the Westminster style of government in which the executive by definition has the support of the legislature – this expansion has often taken place with the compliance of parliament. The main source of challenge has instead come from the High Court, for example in the recent school chaplains case.

Who better to explain the implications of this state of affairs for our notions of representative democracy, federalism, separation of powers and the rule of law than Cheryl Saunders, one of Australia’s foremost constitutional law experts, laureate professor at the University of Melbourne and the founding director of its Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies (and a very good speaker to boot)?

* The information on this site is drawn from the websites of various institutions. The web addresses are supplied. Check the websites to confirm details.

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