Alert Newsletter 690

Knit the Periodic Table

This fun New Zealand project to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry is nearing completion with the first stitch-up held last weekend in Lower Hutt. See the photos on the project’s Facebook page. When completed the table will span nearly three and a half metres in width. It will first be displayed at the 2011 New Zealand Institute of Chemistry conference, at Victoria University of Wellington, 27 November – 1 December.

1. Invitation to attend Royal Society New Fellows’ Seminar – Auckland, Wednesday 2 November 2011 from 1 pm – all welcome

The Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand is holding its 2011 New Fellows’ Seminar at the Copthorne Hotel, Harbour City, 196-200 Quay Street on Wednesday 2 November 2011. At this seminar, 7 Fellows elected to the Royal Society of New Zealand in November 2010 will each give a 15 minute presentation on their research.

The talks will be pitched at a general audience. All interested people are invited to attend.

1.00 pm – Professor Mick Clout, The University of Auckland, Science for conservation

1.15 pm – Dr Wendy Nelson, NIWA, Exploring New Zealand’s seaweed flora: the intriguing lives of macroalgae

1.30 pm – Professor Barry Scott, Massey University, Plant-microbe symbiosis

1.45 pm – Dr Steven Fischer, Institute of Polynesian Languages, Cracking ancient codes

2.00 pm – Professor David Lowe, Waikato University, Connecting with tephras

2.15 pm – Professor Peter Derrick, Massey University, Stainless steel, rarefied atmospheres and biology

2.30 pm – Professor John Hosking, University of Auckland, Building better software tools faster

Enquiries to:

2. Marie Curie Lecture Series – next lecture 26 October, Napier

There are three more lectures in this year-long Marie Curie lecture series being run by the Royal Society of New Zealand to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry.

The next one is by Professor Alison Downard, Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, speaking in Napier on Wednesday 26 October, at 7.30pm in the Exhibition Hall, Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, 48 Marine Parade, Napier.

This lecture entitled “From the Bottom Up” will showcase some of the ways we make electrodes, enzymes and bugs work together for us, how we can use carbon nanotubes to give us new electrical devices and how electrochemistry may play a role in a future world of nanoscale devices.

Take electrochemistry, materials chemistry and surface chemistry, and mix in some nanotechnology and biology and the possibilities are endless. In electrochemistry, electrical energy is used to force oxidation and reduction (redox) reactions to occur at electrodes. The materials and surfaces of electrodes are the starting point and with the techniques of nanotechnology, we can get right down to the surface to see what is happening and maybe even take control.

There are two lectures in November:

  • Christchurch – “The Light Fantastic” by Dr Cather Simpson, 7.30pm, Tues 8 November, Room 108, Law Building, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
  • Auckland – “The Wonderful World of Enzymes – insights into drug design, catalysis and molecular evolution”, by Associate Professor Emily Parker, Wed 9 Nov, 6.30pm, The Auditorium, Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell, Auckland.

Read more…

3. 2011 New Zealand Research Honours, 16 November 2011, Te Papa, Wellington

Have you booked your ticket for this year’s awards evening? The 2011 New Zealand Research Honours event celebrates top New Zealand researchers and includes the presentation of the Rutherford Medal to honour the foremost scientist of 2011.

The Royal Society of New Zealand is proud to host the event comprising a gala banquet and the presentation of awards to eminent New Zealand academics and researchers.

Three new medals will be awarded this year – the Callaghan Medal for science communication, the MacDiarmid Medal for applied science research, and the Humanities Aronui Medal for outstanding work in the Humanities.

The dinner starts at 7.30pm, preceded by drinks at 7.00pm. Tickets cost $140 per person. Bookings can be made at

Tables of ten can also be booked online. For further information please contact Faith Atkins on 04 470 5781 or

4. Watershed book from freshwater fisheries expert, Dr Bob McDowall FRSNZ

A landmark publication by New Zealand’s most distinguished freshwater fish expert, Dr R. M. (Bob) McDowall FRSNZ, was released posthumously this week.

Published by Canterbury University Press in association with the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Ikawai: Freshwater fishes in Māori culture and economy draws together all that has ever been written about the role of freshwater fishes in the lives of early Māori.

Dr McDowall was a widely published author and acknowledged world authority on the taxonomy and biogeography of New Zealand’s freshwater fish. During his 40-year career with the Marine Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and NIWA, he wrote 230 papers (in 66 different journals), 14 books and more than 300 reports and popular articles on freshwater fish.

Dr McDowall was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He passed away in February 2011.


5. Bayer Primary School Science Fund, applications close 25 October

Primary schools throughout New Zealand now have the opportunity to apply for new science project funding, thanks to an initiative created by Bayer New Zealand and the Royal Society of New Zealand. Known as the Bayer Primary School Science Fund, the aim is to provide financial assistance for ‘environmental science’ and ‘nature of science’ school activities.

Bayer is contributing $120,000 to the fund over three years, which will be administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Applications for the 2011 round close 25 October.

For more information:

6. New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Conference, 27 Nov – 1 Dec, Waikato

The New Zealand Institute of Chemistry conference is being held at the University of Waikato from 27 November to 1 December 2011. For details visit

7. FUSIONZ website for science, technology, humanities jobs

This week, Fusionz has 4 vacancies for jobs. The latest jobs are:

  • Post Doctoral Researcher (Natural Environment: Terrestrial Vertebrates) Fixed Term: Te Papa, Wellington
  • International & Policy Officer: The Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington
  • Scientist – pathogen Biology & Ecology: Plant & Food Research, North Island
  • Rock Mechanics Scientist/Soil Mechanics Scientist: GNS Science, Wellington

For more information and to list your vacancy –

8. NZ Climate Change Research Institute Seminar, 6 – 7.30pm 26 October, Wellington

The topic for this seminar is “Climate Change and the End of Exponential Growth” and the speaker is Pieter Tans from the Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Colorado.

The venue is Lecture Theatre 1, Old Government Buildings, Pipitea Campus, Victoria University.

Read more…

9. ScienceTeller 2011 – 15-19 November 2011, Dunedin

ScienceTeller 2011 is a celebration of storytelling and science involving filmmaking, writing, theatre and other media. The festival promises an exciting line-up including Lawrence Krauss, Jay O’Callahan, Wilson Da Silva, Alison Ballance, Arthur Meek, Bill Manhire and involves workshops, talks, performances and film screenings.

The festival also has a competitive element, with entries now being called for the best films, poems, songs, photographs and written stories about science.

Conference registration for the five days is $150. For further information visit or email

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

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

Imagine being able to refuel without having to leave your car. Veronika Meduna meets a group of mechatronics students at the University of Canterbury who have designed a robot that will fill up your car for you.

Torrefaction is a form of pyrolysis that turns wood into a more energy dense fuel, and Scion researcher George Escourt tells Alison Ballance about the process and its possible end uses.

University of Auckland scientist Greg Holwell regales Alison Ballance with tales of how female South African praying mantises are proving fatally attractive to males of the New Zealand praying mantis.

A computer game device called Able-X is helping people with arm disabilities do exercises in their own home. Im Able’s Sunil Vather and IRL’s Marcus King explain how the rehabilitation tool was developed, and stroke survivor Leslie Austin demonstrates how much fun it is to use.

This week we also have a web-only feature on the invasive coastal weed spartina. Donald Strong, from the University of California – Davis, gave a keynote address on the global problem of spartina grass at the New Zealand Ecological Society annual conference in Rotorua, and he talks with Alison Ballance about his research into the plant’s ecology.

Shorter science, health and environment features also air during Afternoons with Jim Mora at 3.35 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:

11. Follow the Royal Society of New Zealand on Facebook and Twitter

Get timely updates from the Royal Society of New Zealand team via our Facebook and Twitter channels.