The Royal Society of Victoria convenes Victoria’s science community. It is the State’s oldest learned society and a part of Australia’s intellectual life since 1854. Located in a heritage-listed building at 8 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, the Society provides a dynamic program of lectures, symposia and forums about science.
Free public lectures on compelling topics across the disciplines are held on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. See our upcoming lectures featured on this page, or view the full year’s program of lectures here. While attendance is free, numbers are limited and we recommend booking your place; details are available on each event’s page.
- This year, the assessors of the Royal Society of Victoria's Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award in the Physical Sciences worked diligently through the pile of applicants that grows, year on year, with the growth in Victoria's remarkable pool of talent. It is an intensely competitive field of Early Career Researchers and, this year, our assessors simply could not find a way to separate the two lead applicants.
"Both have made - and continue to make - significant contributions to modern physics with different, substantial potential for application," explained Dr Peter Baines, the Secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria and one of the assessors. Ultimately, the two lead applicants were ruled a dead heat.
The Society congratulates Dr Sumeet Walia and Dr Nishar Hameed on their joint win of the 2018 Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award for the Physical Sciences!
- There were once Eucalypts in South America and New Zealand, and South American conifers in Australia. What’s the link?
Once at the heart of the Gondwana supercontinent, it is unsurprising that Antarctica holds information on plant species that were once common throughout the Southern Hemisphere. First travelling to Antarctica in the summer of 1991-92, Professor Cantrill has since returned eight times to collect data, sometimes spending up to five months at a time out in the field away from shelter and wildlife. Today, the growth and variety of flora in Antarctica is limited, due to the sheer amount of ice cover and inhospitable conditions; however, Professor Cantrill has dug deeper into the past to uncover the southernmost continent’s fossil record, revealing a flourishing environment millions of years ago that supported diverse plant life.
- Four categories of science, eight amazing presentations! What a wonderful night we had at the Society, with these outstanding early-career scientists presenting their remarkable work with passion, humour and poignancy. Drawn from a very competitive applicant pool of 47 final year PhDs from across Victorian research institutions, these newest members of the Royal Society of Victoria were already assured of a prize on the night - it was just a matter of which one.
Ultimately, our competition must acknowledge those who draw ahead of the pack on the grounds of effective communication, robust science, the capacity to answer questions through audience discussion and the significance of their research. The results are listed here in each category, with warm congratulations to all our winners and runners-up.
- Recently, there has been worldwide “hype” around brain interfaces and the seemingly endless possibilities that they provide. Despite bold predictions from several technology companies about the future of neural interfaces (e.g. Elon Musk’s whole brain interface that will allow the brain to connect to an information network), the science of brain augmentation is still in its early days. There is a large gap between what is talked about amongst the hype and what is actually feasible in the near future. Professor Arthur Lowery gave us a reality check of what applications are possible for brain interfaces; electrodes can be placed to stimulate the occipital lobe for sight, the motor cortex for the control of prosthetics, or the speech centre for artificial speech.
- It has long been a popular perception that risk-taking and status-seeking have evolved as masculine traits, as there is less selective pressure for women to develop a “competitive edge” and to take risks. Professor Cordelia Fine discussed the roles of men and women in society, particularly how their behaviour contributes towards “reproductive return” – their passing on genes to offspring and continuing their ancestral line. Scholars have previously reported on links between testosterone levels and risk-taking, their argument being that where men evolved a promiscuous streak to be competitive in order to acquire or defend their status and sexual opportunities, the female strategy has been more focused on ensuring they have enough resources to care for their offspring. As Professor Fine points out, however, women can be big risk-takers in their own right.
- This article from George Hook at Federation University canvasses his extensive collation of clues from historical narratives, maps and surveying techniques to limit the search area for the vantage point where von Guérard sketched the view on which he based his painting of the Kosciuszko massif. Novel use of spatial technology utilising satellite imagery, Global Positioning System (GPS) and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data, particularly digital elevation models, to locate the actual site is explored, and the topographical accuracy of his sketches evaluated when compared with photographs taken from close to the site. Finally, the potential value of using spatial technology in art history field work is discussed.