Writing Science Lives: Why Biography Matters

Speakers
Professor Janet Brown (Harvard University)
Professor Iain McCalman (University of Sydney)
Professor Alison Bashford (University of Sydney)

What do we learn when we revisit scientists’ past worlds? How might one write a life as famous as Charles Darwin’s? Why is biography the best-selling genre of all? Pre-eminent Darwin scholar and Harvard Professor of the History of Science Janet Browne, talks with Sydney’s prizewinning historian Professor Iain McCalman, about the challenges and delights of the biographical genre for historians. In conversation with Alison Bashford, this is an evening that probes the intellectual life of these keen observers and interpreters of the world of Victorian science.

When 6:30pm-8:00pm, Thursday, 12 August 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
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About the Speakers

Janet Browne’s interests range widely over the history of the life sciences and natural history. After a first degree in zoology she studied for a PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London, published as The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography (1983). Ever since then she has specialized in Charles Darwin’s work, first as associate editor of the early volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, and more recently as author of a biographical study that integrated Darwin’s science with his life and times. The biography was awarded several prizes, including the James Tait Black award for non-fiction, the WH.Heinemann Prize from the Royal Literary Society, and the Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society. From 2006 she has been a member of the History of Science Department at Harvard University. She was previously based for many years at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London.

Iain McCalman was born in Nyasaland, Africa and now lives in Sydney, where he is a Research Professor at the University of Sydney. He has held numerous visiting research fellowships in Britain and the United States, most recently at Duke University, North Carolina. In 2007 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to history and humanities. His most recent book, Darwin’s Armada, winner of the Sid Harta Literature Award has been published in Australia, USA and the UK, and was made into a three-part documentary, Darwin’s Brave New World.

Alison Bashford is Professor of Modern History at the University of Sydney. In 2009 -2010 she was Chair of Australian Studies, Harvard University, based in the Department of the History of Science. She has held fellowships at Edinburgh, University College, London, and Warwick Universities in the UK. Her recent books include a biography of geographer and Antarctic explorer Griffith Taylor, and a world history of eugenics.

In Transit: European Cosmologies in the Pacific

Speaker
Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)

Astronomical interests prompted a series of entries by European travellers into the Pacific. In studies of the complex motives and effects of these expeditions, it has been common to treat astronomical interests either as rationales for more profound political and economic enterprise, or as of a strictly utilitarian character. Here the aim is to understand the cosmologies on which certain forms of European astronomy depended, and how the Pacific encounters changed and reoriented their meanings. These cosmologies embraced models of the globe and of its populations, and were very much in question in the patterns of interaction between Pacific peoples and other experts.

Professor Schaffer is a professor in the history of science at the University of Cambridge. He recently co-edited The mindful hand: inquiry and invention from the late Renaissance to early industrialisation (2007) and The brokered world: go-betweens and global intelligence 1770-1820 (2009). He holds a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to study the history of astronomy and British colonialism. He is principal investigator on a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to write a history of the Board of Longitude 1714-1828.

When 6:30pm-8:00pm, Thursday, 5 August 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
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Time, Einstein and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe

Speaker
Professor William D. Phillips (National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland)

At the beginning of the 20th century Einstein changed the way we think about nature. At the beginning of the 21st century Einstein’s thinking is shaping one of the key scientific and technological wonders of contemporary life: atomic clocks, the best timekeepers ever made. Such super-accurate clocks are essential to industry, commerce, and science; they are the heart of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which guides cars, airplanes, and hikers to their destinations.

Today, atomic clocks are still being improved, using atoms cooled to incredibly low temperatures. Atomic gases reach temperatures less than a billionth of a degree above Absolute Zero. Super-cold atoms are at the heart of Primary Clocks, accurate to better than a second in 100 million years. Such atoms also use, and allow tests of, some of Einstein’s strangest predictions.

Professor William D. Phillips, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, will give a lively, multimedia presentation, including experimental demonstrations and down-to-earth explanations about some of today’s most exciting science.

When 6:30pm-8:00pm, Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
RSVP Please click here

The Dynamic Brain

Speaker
Professor Peter Robinson (Double Australian Research Council Federation Fellow)

The brain’s activity varies around the clock in response to stimuli, light inputs, and the build-up and clearance of sleep-promoting chemicals – somnogens. Signatures of brain activity have been observed for over a century and are widely used to probe brain function and disorders, often via the electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded by electrodes on the scalp, or through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures a combination of blood volume and deoxygenation.

Learn more about a quantitative physiologically based model of the working brain is described that responds correctly to the day-night cycle, somnogens, caffeine and pharmaceuticals, and generates activity in the cortex consistent with brain imaging measurements. Successful applications to numerous experiments are described, including EEGs, seizures, sleep deprivation and recovery, fatigue, and shift work. Aside from its scientific uses, this working brain model is currently finding clinical and industrial applications to brain function measurement and to prediction and monitoring of alertness.

When 7:00pm-8:00pm, Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Where The Darlington Centre
Cost FREE for members of the Royal Society of NSW
Otherwise: $5
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The Plastiki Expedition

Speaker:
David de Rothschild (UK environmentalist)

David de Rothschild, leader of the Plastiki Expedition, reveals his motivation for the making the 7,500 nautical mile journey from San Francisco to Sydney on a unique 18.3 mertre catamaran made from 12,500 reclaimed plastic soft drink bottles.

Adventure Ecology founder and environmentalist David de Rothschild conceived the idea of the Plastiki after reading a report Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which indicated that the world’s oceans were in serious threat from pollution, in particular plastic waste. He invited a team of experts to help answer the question: “Could a fully recyclable performing vessel be engineered almost entirely out of reclaimed plastic bottles, cross the Pacific whilst demonstrating real-world solutions?”

The Plastiki is part-inspired by the famous 1947 Kon-Tiki voyage – the expedition, led by Thor Heyerdahl, that sought to prove that Polynesian settlement by South American explorers was possible. A multi-disciplinary team from the fields of marine science, sustainable design, boat building, architecture and material science have taken the Kon-Tiki inspiration one step further and designed a boat that fits all the principles of ‘cradle-to-cradle’ design, and biomimicry, a method that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.

When 6:30pm-7:30pm, Thursday, 29 July 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
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The Green Deal

In an era marked by deep global recession on one hand and the spectre of climate change on the other, the pursuit of so-called green jobs could become a key economic driver in sectors like energy, transportation, buildings, and infrastructure.

A portion of many national economic stimulus programs contain environment-friendly investments, and additional momentum toward a low-carbon global economy could be gained with the help of a so-called “Green New Deal.” In addition to greening production technologies, skill-building will be critical both for new employment and for transforming existing jobs.

When 6:00pm-6:00pm, Thursday, 27 May 2010
Where New Law School Foyer
Cost FREE

Visualising Science Education

Speaker:
Professor Marcia Linn (University of Berkeley, California)

How do we teach the next generation about vital but complex science issues? Like all instructional approaches, scientific visualisations can contribute to, or interfere with, learning. Research into the educational potential of scientific visualisations is contradictory.

Join Professor Marcia Linn as she explores the world of visualisations, virtual experiments and interactive science.

When 11:00am-12:30pm, Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Where Room 230, Education Building
Cost FREE
RSVP Please Click here

End of Evidence Based Medicine

Speaker:
Professor Victor Montori (The Mayo Clinic)

The past 20 years saw an evolution in the idea of evidence based medicine (EBM) founded on two principles: one is most confident about a decision based on high-quality evidence, and evidence from clinical care research alone is insufficient to make a sound decision requiring the incorporation of patient context and preferences.

In this same period there is evolving realisation of the multitude of ways in which the evidence can be corrupted by poor methods, misleading design and dissemination of results, and fraud. As a result, this paradigm of practice is in crisis. This talk will substantiate these points and offer some ideas on a way out.

When 1:00pm-2:00pm, Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Where Conference Rooms, Darlington Centre
Cost FREE
RSVP Please email sphseminars@health.usyd.edu.au

Malnutrition

Speaker:
Professor Stewart Truswell

Malnutrition affects one in three people in the world, and is especially common among the poor and those with inadequate access to health education and to clean water and good sanitation. Chronic food deficits have been worsening as the world food crisis hits the most vulnerable.

This seminar will outline the types of malnutrition and strategies to improving nutrition in developing countries.

When 6:00pm-7:30pm, Tuesday, 18 May
Where Eastern Avenue Auditorium
Cost FREE

Climate Change and Health

Speakers:
Dr Ben Ticehurst (Doctors for the Environment)
Dr Paul Beggs (Winner of 2009 Eureka Prize in Medical Research)

According to a recent report in the Lancet, climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 20th century. The main burden of climate change will arise in issues of food security, clean water and sanitation, infectious disease and natural disasters.

Many developing countries have already experienced severe consequences, and current efforts to improve health and poverty in these countries will face new and unpredictable challenges as global temperatures continue to rise. Health professionals working with these populations are first-hand witnesses to the direct impact of climate change. As such, they have a key role to play, from a clinical, on-the-ground approach to the planning of large scale responses.

When 6:00pm-7:30pm, Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Where Eastern Avenue Auditorium
Cost FREE