Alert Newsletter 680

1. “The Mysterious Maya – an ancient American civilisation”, a free public lecture by Professor Norman Hammond in August – book now

Internationally renowned archaeologist Professor Norman Hammond is the visiting lecturer for the 2011 New Zealand Aronui Lecture Series of the Royal Society of New Zealand in August.

Professor Hammond has had a distinguished career in archaeology, specialising in the ancient Maya civilisation of Central America. He holds positions at Boston, Harvard and Cambridge universities and is the archaeology correspondent for The Times newspaper. The Great Cycle of the Maya calendar runs out on 23 December 2012, which some predict to be a signal for the ‘end of the world’.

Professor Hammond is an accomplished communicator and we expect a lot of interest in his lecture, so bookings are advisable.

  • Auckland – 6.00pm, Thursday 11 August, Auditorium, Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell (entry via the Southern Entrance, car parking available in the Domain and the Museum underground carpark $8) – Seats in the Auditorium are now full. Due the popularity of this event, we have organised a limited number of seats in an overflow room where a live video feed will be held.
  • Hamilton – 7.00pm, Friday 12 August, Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato Campus (entry via Gate 2b on Knighton Road)
  • Napier – 7.30pm, Tuesday 16 August, Exhibition Hall, War Memorial Conference Centre, 48 Marine Parade
  • Wellington – 6.00pm, Thursday 18 August, Illot Theatre, Wellington Town Hall (entry via Town Hall Foyer, Wakefield Street) – This lecture is now full. If you would still like to attend, we suggest queuing from 5.30pm as there may be no-shows.
  • Nelson – 7.00pm, Friday 19 August, The Suter Theatre, 208 Bridge Street
  • Dunedin – 6.00pm, Thursday 25 August, Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, Great King Street

The 2011 New Zealand Aronui Lectures are free and open to the general public. Bookings are advised and can be made at

2. Membership Support at the Royal Society of New Zealand – a great time to become a member

The new position of Membership Support Officer has been created at the Royal Society of New Zealand to provide support and information services for members of the Society. Tracy Farr has recently commenced in the position. She has a research background in biological science. Tracy will be managing new membership applications and renewals, as well as working with members to refine current benefits and seek new benefits and services, enhance communication channels with the various membership groups, and promote membership of the Society. You can contact her by email or

The Membership pages on the Royal Society of New Zealand’s website have been redesigned, providing easier access to information for and about members. If you’re not already a member, visit our website and follow the links from the home page to find out about the benefits of membership, and to join online.

3. ‘How to Make Life from the Primordial Soup’, 2011 New Zealand Rutherford Lectures

Professor Warren Tate, the 2010 Rutherford Medal winner, has been touring New Zealand delivering a free lecture looking at one of the biggest questions in life “How did we get here?”

Professor Tate is an expert in RNA and how understanding the history of this molecule can help with the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In his lecture, ‘How to make life from the primordial soup’, he will explain RNA’s role 3-4 billion years ago in the origin of genetic code and protein synthesis, and how this knowledge is benefiting modern medical research.

The 2011 New Zealand Rutherford Lectures from the Royal Society of New Zealand are free and open to the general public. Bookings are advised.

  • Christchurch – Thursday 15 September, 6.30pm, University of Canterbury, Lecture theatre C1 (directions on website).
  • The Rotorua and Palmerston North lectures are currently being rescheduled.

4. TVNZ 7 ‘Spotlight on Science + Innovation’, throughout August

During August, TVNZ 7 is focusing on science and innovation with an exciting range of programmes, both local and international. TVNZ has partnered with the Ministry of Science and Innovation for the ‘Spotlight on Science + Innovation’ month, and with the Royal Society of New Zealand for a second 10-part series of the Ever Wondered?

Ever Wondered? – starts Thursday 4 August at 7.05pm. To find out more visit

Other programmes this coming week –

  • Talk Talk, Professor Sir Paul Callaghan – 9 August, 9.05pm.
  • Media7 – 4 August, 9.05pm.
  • Elements – Every Monday, 9.05pm.
  • Race & Intelligence: Science’s Last Taboo – 9 August, 10.05pm
  • Bang Goes the Theory – every Saturday at 6.30pm
  • Wonders of the Universe – every Saturday at 7.05pm
  • NOVA scienceNOW – 6 Big Questions – every Thursday at 10.05 pm

More information at TVNZ 7 is available on Freeview channel 7 and on SKY channel 077.

5. “Talking of Michelangelo…” – A Symposium on the ongoing status of European high culture in New Zealand Aotearoa, University of Otago, 9am – 5pm on Saturday 20 August

In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917) T.S. Eliot tells us that ‘In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.’ But do we talk of Michelangelo? Do we talk of T.S. Eliot? Are the products of European high culture still significant in the contemporary world? What is the appropriate place for them in the mix that makes up our cultural scene, and in the education and cultural policies of Aotearoa New Zealand? How does their presence – or absence – affect the collective memory? These are among the questions this symposium seeks to address.

Guest presenters are: Professor Brian Boyd (University of Auckland), Professor William Dominik (University of Otago), Dr Jonathan Lecocq (University of Canterbury), Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (University of Auckland), Professor Tim Mehigan (University of Otago), and Professor Hilary Radner (University of Otago). Chair: Professor Alistair Fox, University of Otago.

The symposium is being held in Moot Hall, 10th floor, Richardson Building at the University of Otago. If you wish to attend please email

The symposium is presented by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the University of Otago Centre for Research in National Identity.

6. New editorial appointment for NZ Journal of Agricultural Research

The Royal Society of New Zealand is delighted to announce that we have a new Senior Editor for the NZ Journal of Agricultural Research. Professor Tim Clough of Lincoln University has agreed to take on the role. He is professor of environmental biogeochemistry, and has also been an Associate Editor on the journal for the last year or so. Read more about Tim –

7. Simplifying Rutherford Foundation funding – no more Distinguished Fellowships

The Rutherford Foundation of the Royal Society of New Zealand has decided to remove the Distinguished Fellowship in 2011, as the purpose of this fellowship is now being substantially supported by the Government’s Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, which have had two application rounds so far.

Other opportunities are still being made and details can be obtained from the Rutherford Foundation at

8. FUSIONZ Science Jobs

This week, Fusionz has 5 vacancies for jobs. The latest jobs are:

  • Postdoctoral Research Manager: Dunedin
  • Team Leader Hydrogeology: Christchurch
  • Aquaculture & Biotechnology Senior Scientist: Nelson
  • Senior Bioinformatician: Auckland
  • Senior Environmental Risk Advisor: Wellington

For more information and to list your vacancy visit

9. Voting for the Molecular Anthology Project – open until 31 August

Chemists and others have been compiling a list of candidate molecules impacting on New Zealand over the last two months. Voting is now starting for the molecule that has most shaped New Zealand.

The top molecules which have influenced New Zealand life as nominated by you are now online as part of the Molecular Anthology Project. Voting will close on 31 August 2011 and top contenders include 1080, Polypropylene and Keratin.

You can have your say at Just one vote per person please.

10. Creative chemistry cuisine, 9 August, University of Waikato, 1pm

Stretched ice-cream and liquid smoke are just some of the quirky foods being made at the University of Waikato next week. Guest speaker Professor Kent Kirshenbaum of New York University is giving a free public lecture on the chemistry and physics of food. His visit is part of his national tour to mark the inaugural International Year of Chemistry. Professor Kirshenbaum’s lecture will involve demonstrations including using industrial processes to turn cheese into airy delights. He will also have samples of new confectionary that he’s been working on.

Professor Kirshenbaum’s presentation, which is supported by the Waikato Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, begins at 1pm on Tuesday August 9 and is held in the PricewaterhouseCoopers lecture theatre at the University of Waikato Hamilton campus. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Kiriwai Mangan, 07 838 4094, or

11. NZ Climate Change Research Institute Seminar Series – “The Meridian First Light House: Victoria University’s entry into the 2011 Solar Decathlon”, 11 August, Wellington

An ever-increasing world population combined with a strong rise in energy demand is challenging architects and engineers to find new approaches for more energy-efficient buildings. The Solar Decathlon, a competition run by the US Department of Energy, challenges student-led teams around the world to do just that. The houses must be powered entirely by solar energy and encompass the latest in energy-efficient design and technologies. A team of 25 students from Victoria University in Wellington is one of 20 selected to compete in this prestigious event, to be held in Washington DC this September.

This uniquely NZ home takes ideas associated with the kiwi ‘bach’ and translates them into a modern zero-energy home. The house will consume less than a third of the energy used each year by a traditional NZ home and will generate all this with rooftop photovoltaics. The Meridian First Light House represents the future of house design in NZ.

The speakers are Eli Nuttall and Ben Jagersma from the School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington. Date and venue: Thursday 11 August 2011, Time:   12:30 – 1:30; Railway Station West Level 5 (RW 501); Pipitea Campus

12. 2011 Population Association of New Zealand Conference, 28-29 November, Auckland

The biennial 2011 Population Association of New Zealand Conference will be held at The University of Auckland on 28 and 29 November 2011. We are now calling for abstracts and will be open for registrations in August. Visit for more information and to access the abstract submission form.

13. Inaugural Asia Pacific Science Policy Studies Research Conference, “Constructing National Wellbeing through Science and Innovation”, 8-10 February 2012, Victoria University of Wellington

What is the relationship between science and policy decision-making? How do nations make decisions to invest in science and technology – and how are citizens involved? The aim of this conference is to showcase the latest international thinking in the field of Science Policy Studies and to support emerging SPS scholarship in the Asia Pacific region.  If you are concerned about the future of science and technology, and if you have ideas about how science policy systems work best, you should be part of this event.

Call for abstracts and expressions of interest:

14. Our Changing World, Thursday 9.00 pm, Radio New Zealand National

Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran and Veronika Meduna, email Tel (04) 474 1910.

Veronika Meduna joins scientists and staff at the Liggins Institute as they celebrate their first decade of research into maternal and foetal health, and how early influences in utero can affect the later onset of adult conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

The Kermadec Islands are well known for being volcanically very active, and to find out more about this long submarine volcanic arc Alison Ballance heads to GNS Science to talk with Cornel de Ronde.

New Zealand’s alpine regions, and the white expanses of Antarctica, may appear pristine, but scientists like the University of Otago’s Kimberly Hageman, and PhD students Karen Lavin and Ruma Ghosh, have found persistent organic chemicals in these areas, and are measuring their impacts.

Federico Formenti from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Auckland tells Alison Ballance about testing the biomechanics and physiology of people wearing medieval armour, and how the heavy energetic cost may have had a bearing on the outcome on the Battle of Agincourt.

Shorter science, health and environment features also air during Afternoons with Jim Mora at 3.45 p.m., Monday to Thursday. The programme is repeated at 1.10 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

You can download a podcast or listen to streaming audio of programmes you’ve missed in the complete programme archive at: