Wednesday, January 30, 2013


As usual, the summer months have been quiet on the Canberra intellectual scene although we did attend Michael Clemens’ talk on the economics of migration at the ANU’s Crawford School. We also managed to get down to Melbourne for David Coles’ pre-Christmas talk on the impact on civil liberties of anti-terrorism legislation in the United States and how the balance has been negotiated.

Next month

In February, things start to pick up again with a couple of excellent talks on the latest developments in bio-medical science, on cancer research in particular, by world-leading scientists. Also, keep an eye out for the program of activities happening in conjunction with the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition at the National Gallery. One of Canberra's favourite events (if for no other reason that the chance to sample beers from around the world), the annual National Multicultural Festival is on in the city ( Finally, the program of cinema in the courtyard of the National Film Archives is coming to its final weeks but you still have a chance to catch Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (recently voted the best movie ever in a survey of leading critics).

Tuesday 5 February
Title: Harnessing death for life
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Australian Academy of Science, Shine Dome, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

The past 30 years have seen a revolution in our understanding of the genetic factors that contribute to cancer development. One of the most surprising discoveries has been that impairment of the natural process of cell death (apoptosis) is a critical step towards malignancy and impedes effective cancer therapy. In this lecture, Professor Suzanne Cory from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research will describe how detailed knowledge about the molecular circuitry regulating the switch between cellular life/death is leading to the development of a new class of drugs that should greatly aid treatment of many types of cancer.

Monday 11 February
Title: The discovery of quasi-periodic materials - a paradigm change in crystallography
Time: 4:00 - 5:00pm
Venue: Chemistry theatre, Building 34, ANU
Cost: Free

OK, this lecture is a bit more technical than most of the talks that we highlight here. But Professor Dan Shechtman is a Nobel prize-winner in Chemistry and his work overturned what had previously been dogma in the field of crystallography. The following article gives you a taste of his work but also gives an insight into the challenging world of scientific research, the passions and personalities involved, the persistence that is required and the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made.

Tuesday 12 February
Title: Toulouse-Lautrec – Director’s view
Time: 12:45pm
Venue: Fairfax theatre, National Gallery of Australia
Cost: Free (but entry charges apply for the exhibition)

Director of the NGA, Ron Radford, will give a talk about his latest blockbuster exhibition. There are a number of talks and other events in February about the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition. Check out the NGA’s website for details:

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Reine de Joie [Queen of Pleasure]

Tuesday 12 February
Title: The hallmarks of cancer
Time: 5:30 – 6:15pm
Venue: Finkel lecture theatre, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

Based on his decades of research, Doug Hanahan - Director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research – has proposed that all cancers share a set of characteristic features. For example, they all seem to be resistant to natural growth suppressors, they evade normal cell death (see Prof Cory’s lecture above), they induce angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels) and they undergo invasion of other tissues. Dr Hanahan will discuss these ideas and what they might suggest about how to develop and test potential therapies.

Thursday 14 February
Title: Tasmania – the Tipping Point?
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Cost: Free, registration required

For those of you with an interest in the great state of Tasmania, the odd goings-on down there and the occasional surprising cultural, scientific or social policy development, come along to the launch of the latest edition of the Griffith Review which features slices of the island-state’s past and present to give an indication of where its future might lie. The co-editor of the publication will be at the launch: Natasha Cica from the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society at the University of Tasmania. Peter Whish-Wilson, who is an environmental campaigner, owner of a vineyard and an economist as well as Senator from Tasmania, will do the launching.

Friday 15 February
Title: But once in a history: Canberra’s foundation stones and naming ceremonies
Time: 12:15 – 1:15pm
Venue: Senate theatre, Parliament House
Cost: Free

Most Australians think they know why Canberra was selected to be the capital city of the newly federated country a hundred years ago – as a compromise between the two feuding large cities, Sydney and Melbourne. However, the reality is a lot more complex and interesting than that. Dr David Headon will reveal what he knows in this talk. He is currently curator of an exhibition at Parliament House on the centenary of Canberra.

Thursday 21 February
Title: Security Council mandates and the use of lethal force by peace-keepers
Time: 6:00 - 7:00pm
Venue: Sparke Helmore Theatre, ANU College of Law
Cost: Free, registration required

In some recent conflicts, international peace-keepers have been criticised for their failure to protect civilians and to safeguard the peace process. This has been the case even when mandates from the UN Security Council have authorised – or even required – peace-keepers to use lethal force. Nigel D White - Professor of Public International Law at the University of Nottingham and author of several books and journal articles on international security – will explore the reasons for this gap, particularly the international legal framework on which Security Council mandates are based.

Wednesday 27 February
Title: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking
Time: 6:00 - 7:00pm
Venue: Manning Clark Centre, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

For a species so fixated on achieving happiness, humans seem very bad at it. Oliver Burkeman is the author of the best-selling book “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”. He points out that we’re not even particularly clear about what we mean by happiness and he is very sceptical about self-help books. In his book he has turned to a diverse range of fields for answers - psychology and comparative religion, terrorism experts, business and philosophy – and concluded that positive thinking is in fact part of the problem. Instead he argues we have to embrace failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty.

Read a review of “The Antidote” here:


* 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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