Falling Stars

According to Dr Tyson Yunkaporta, we live in a ‘Dynamic Universe – because of the diversity within it.’ Tyson belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland and is a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University. Indigenous knowledge is a dialogue – it’s the yarns, carvings, songs, and dances that change depending on the relationship of the people who are sharing it, where they are, and where they are from. With so many cultures, stories, and points of view, stories of the sky change according to where you stand. ‘Truth is not an empirical thing, but an aggregate of stories and diversity.’ What Westerners call a meteor represents the eye of an evil spirit or death to many Aboriginal groups across northern Australia. Cultural astronomer A/Prof Duane Hamacher has felt privileged to learn how meteors and meteorites are incorporated into Indigenous knowledge systems by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders around Australia.

Seeing the Smoke

We spent long periods shrouded in smoke due to the 2019-2020 bushfires that burned upwards of 12 million hectares. In addition to the tragic loss of life and devastation to ecosystems and infrastructure, there were significant levels of smoke exposure across Australia. The lives lost as a direct result are likely to number in the hundreds. Approximately 10 million people experienced elevated concentrations of fine particles on account of the recent fires, exposed to an air quality equivalent to smoking between 20 to 40 cigarettes. These ultrafine particles, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (a ninth of a grain of sand), are referred to as PM2.5 particles. Following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended that 5% of public land should be burned annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic bushfires. While protective against large, uncontrollable bushfires, these prescribed burns produce smoke that can have a significant impact on health.

Light Conversations: Sustainable Solar Energy

The energy we obtain from burning coal today comes from the energy that prehistoric vegetation absorbed from the Sun millions of years ago. But it instead only takes microseconds to convert sunlight directly into electricity. Global electricity consumption continues to accelerate with economic growth and industrial demand. Around 23 trillion kilowatt hours of energy were consumed in the single year of 2018 – the equivalent power needed to turn on 1,800 billion LED bulbs for an hour. To provide our growing population with the level of energy the developed world is used to, we would need to generate 60 trillion kilowatts worldwide. Power plants as we know them cannot satisfy these demands; however, the sunlight energy striking the Earth’s surface in an area the size of Texas alone could provide up to 300 times the total power output of all the power plants in the world. “Solar energy has the greatest potential to fill this energy gap,” says Dr Wallace Wong.

The RSV Building is Closed until 30 June (subject to review)

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve globally, we wish to provide our members, tenants, partners and clients with an update on the steps our Society is taking to minimise disruption to our operations and enduring mission to promote science, the work of scientists and the scientific literacy of the Victorian community. We understand that this is an uncertain time for all, and we would like to reassure you of our preparedness and commitment to maintaining our various programs in these constrained circumstances. At this time we have decided to close our building in the Melbourne CBD. This means our premises will be unavailable for meetings and events until 30 June, 2020, subject to further assessment of the pandemic situation. We remain open and committed to our programs, if not physically present at our historic headquarters.

From the President: The RSV’s Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic presents our community with some unexpected situations. The RSV is no different, which is why I am writing to update you on our plans until the end of May. When the Executive met last Thursday, we discussed and approved a plan to keep our activities going for the benefit of our members and supporters – but in a way that keeps everyone safe. We agreed that from today until the end of May 2020 all our meetings and lectures will be held online to ensure the safety of our members, tenants, clients, guests and staff. The plans outlined here are subject to change as the COVID-19 situation continues or finishes. These are difficult times for all of us, but I want you to know that the Executive, Council and staff are all working to keep you informed of our activities and plans during this difficult time, and for ways to support the Victorian health authorities.