Surviving August

By Michael Edmonds 29/08/2011

This month has been an extremely busy one for me, consequently I haven’t been doing much blogging at all. Instead I’ve been involved in organising several science related events.

On August 18th, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) hosted “A Soupcon of Science: Creativity at the Interface of Chemistry and Cuisine” a lecture with demonstrations by Associate Professor Kent Kirshenbaum of New York University. During this event Kent, with the help of his colleague Anne McBride whipped up (literally) a saponin based dessert foam which could also be used as a cleaning agent! He also described the creation of a vegan pavlova, stretchy ice cream and mango caviar. The audience of over 100 people were very impressed with the presentation. The event was sponsored by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry as part of celebrations of the International Year of Chemistry.

Kent is a founding member of the Experimental Cuisine Collective, a group of scientists, chefs, food enthusiasts and others who collaborate at the interface of cuisine and science, developing novel new techniques and food creations. Given the interest shown at the evening I’m hoping it may be possible to set up a similar collective here in Christchurch.

Kent’s presentation was followed by a degustation meal at Visions, CPIT’s on site restaurant. Diners were treated to a range of creative dishes, although the parmesan flavoured ice cream was a little too novel for many diners. Still an excellent evening was had by all.

Less than a week later, I was doing the introductions at “The Chemistry of Fireworks” a lecture with demonstrations of various fireworks techniques. The speaker was Anthony Lealand of Firework Professionals Ltd. With over 35 year of experience in pyrotechnics Anthony wowed the audience of over 300 people at the University of Canterbury with the fascinating history and chemistry of fireworks as well as some rather spectacular indoor demonstrations.

And this last weekend, was spent helping organise the NZ Skeptics Conference at the University of Canterbury. This year we had a good range of speakers – Dr Mark Quigley from the University of Canterbury provided an interesting account of how the public perception of scientists had changed through out the quakes as well as explaining some of the science of earthquakes. Clinical psychologist, Mark Ottley, described the application of science to morality, while Dr Simon Pollard from Canterbury Museum gave a fascinating talk on the various aspects of human mortality.

Visiting speakers from Australia, Dr Martin Bridgstock and Kylie Sturgess described how skepticism was going across “the ditch” and how technology (websites, podcasts, vodcasts etc) is providing new fora for skeptical viewpoints.

My own contribution was a talk on how an understanding of chemistry can help challenge certain areas of pseudoscience, while fellow sciblogger Alison Campbell presented an thought provoking talk on how critical examination of pseudoscience can be actually be used to teach the scientific method.

As well as the formal talks the breaks and meal sessions were invaluable for swapping stories and making contacts with other skeptically minded people, including another Sciblogger, Siouxsie Wiles. And the collective sigh when it was announced that Ken Ring had made yet another “prediction” was most amusing.

All in all it has been a busy but very satisfying month.

0 Responses to “Surviving August”

  • I really enjoyed your talk Michael, it made me really think about the possibility of going into teaching science after I finish my degree.

  • K J Moodie

    Your comment has got to be the one of the most rewarding responses to one of my posts that I have ever had. Thank you.