Why do clothes look darker when they’re wet? Why might grass “sing” when you blow on it? And how can coffee-loving scientists avoid spilling their drink when walking between labs? These problems, along with 14 more, are the battlegrounds of this year’s Physics World Cup.

Five New Zealand teenagers, four from Wellington, will go head-to-head with 155 other students from Nigeria to Macau in a series of “physics fights” at the annual week-long International Young Physicists’ Tournament held in Thailand on June 27. “It’s not as violent as it sounds,” 16-year-old Onslow College student Matthew Randle said. “The scary is thing is that the jury is made up of university professors.”

Randle, along with Jack Tregidga, 16, and Tess Breitenmoser, 17,  from Wellington High School, Catherine Pot, 16, also from Onslow College and Nicholas Lam,17, from Riccarton High School, make up the New Zealand physics battalion. Since winning spots on the team, the students have been working overtime to prepare for the scientific scuffles.”I’ve already put in almost all my lunchtimes this year and almost every single weekday after school,” Randle said.

Breitenmoser was on a school trip to Japan but had been snapped studying physics on a Japanese bullet train. While for some teenagers this might sounds like torture, for these students it’s fun. “Physics is my social life,” Pot said. “I came to an open day once [at Onslow College] and got slightly stuck in the physics lab, because it was so interesting, and I haven’t really left.”

There was a bit of stigma around doing physics, but Randle wasn’t too worried. “Catherine and I are quite well known around the school as ‘the physics people’, but Catherine does heaps of sport and I write, too.” “There’s an expectation that I’m really nerdy, which I am, but it’s not a bad thing,” he said.

[Reprinted from an article by JESSY EDWARDS, Stuff.co.nz]

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Friend or Foe, how parasites educate our immune system and relate to the global allergic diseases epidemic

The unravelling of the cellular and molecular complexity of the immune system is rapidly leading to exciting breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer and vaccines against some of the most intractable of infectious agents. In parallel with these developments is the realisation that the education and development of our immune system by the parasites and microbes that inhabit us are emerging as increasingly important players in this dynamic system. In particular the immune mechanisms that have evolved that allow us to protect and cope with metazoan parasites are increasingly seen as the mechanisms underpinning pathology of inflammatory diseases that are major burdens on the developed world including allergies, autoimmune conditions and poor gut health.

This talk will detail some of the scientific evidence that now underpins our modern view of the immune system and how it balances health and disease and describes research pointing to potential new therapies on the horizon for treating the many immune mediated diseases we face.

Speaker Bio

Professor Graham Le Gros was appointed Research Director of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in 1994, following a three year Fogarty Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Washington DC, and a five year scientist position with Ciba-Geigy in Basel, Switzerland. He has been a recipient of an International Senior Wellcome Trust Fellowship and James Cook Fellowship. In 2005 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of his research contributions to the fields of immunology and asthma. In 2010 Professor Le Gros was awarded the Wellington Medical Research Foundation Gold Medal, and in 2011 he won the Science and Technology category of the Wellingtonian of the Year Awards, for his contribution to medical research in Wellington and New Zealand. In 2014 Professor Le Gros was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA). In June 2014 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Professor Le Gros has responsibility for the Science, Administration and Fundraising programmes of the Malaghan Institute and he directly leads an active biomedical research programme in the area of Allergic and Parasitic diseases.
Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull Street Thorndon
6pm
Wednesday 29th July
 

We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from climate change to vaccinations—faces furious opposition.
Some even have doubts about the moon landing. By Joel Achenbach in National Geographic. 

Read article: Why do many reasonable people doubt science?

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Welcome to the blog of the Wgtn Branch of the Royal Society of NZ. We’re a small collection of individuals passionate about promoting science and technology in the Wellington region. We run a wide assortment of science events, as well as supporting the bi-weekly science events newsletter published by Glean Media.

During 2013 our new ‘skunkworks’ project team will be trialling an assortment of new initiatives to see what Wellington wants, what it’s curious about and how we can best meet those needs. We’ll be documenting our activities here, but you can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or by old-fashioned email at media@wellington.rsnzbranch.org.nz

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