A few noteworthy happenings

By Shaun Hendy 04/03/2010

The Crown Research Institute (CRI) Taskforce report was released this morning — it is available here.  Reading the recommendations, I think that the Taskforce has nailed it.  If its recommendations are implemented, I think CRIs will finally gain the ability to work strategically for the interests of New Zealand.  Not everyone will be pleased; I have no doubt that fully contestable funding has been good for the universities, but I would argue that it has forced the CRIs to become more like universities, while neglecting their role as agents of technology transfer.

Tonight I am back on Bryan Crump’s show (‘Nights’) on Radio New Zealand at 8.40pm.  I am planning that this will be the first in a series of chats about nanotechnology.

And get in quick to get your tickets to see talks by Martin Lord Rees this month.  Tickets are free (but disappearing fast) from the Royal Society’s website.  He is giving a talk in Wellington and a talk in Christchurch:

Martin Lord Rees is a successor of Sir Isaac Newton and Ernest Lord Rutherford as President of the Royal Society of London, the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific institution.  He is also UK’s Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  He comes to New Zealand as the Rutherford Memorial Lecturer in the 350th year since the founding the Royal Society of London.

The World in 2050

7.00pm, Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Wellington Town Hall, Wakefield Street, Wellington

As a cosmologist, Lord Rees studies the universe and tries to understand its evolution on grand timescales of billions of years.  But he is also concerned with the much smaller time scale of a human life.  In his book Our Final Century, he gave our civilization a 50/50 chance of surviving the 21st century.  He is not a prophet or a doomsayer, but a scientist and ‘a worried member of the human race’.  What does he think now, five years on from the publishing of his book and what is his view of how things will stand in 2050?

The next 20 years in astronomy:  Probing the Big Bang, Galaxies and Planets

7.30pm, Monday, 22 March
Limes Room, Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch

We can trace cosmic history from the mysterious ‘beginning’  of the universe nearly 14 billion years ago to our current home and the complex biosphere of which we are part.  But with advancing technology  in the coming decades, we can expect further breakthroughs in our knowledge of the spread of life in our cosmos.  Is physical reality even more extensive than the domain that our telescopes can probe?  What can we expect in the next 20 years in astronomy?

I will certainly be going to his Wellington talk.

Finally, congratulations to one of my PhD students, Dmitri Schebarchov, who submitted his thesis today.  He has done some fantastic work on the growth of carbon nanotubes, something that is still poorly understood, despite almost two decades of intense research.