Current Newsletter

May 2019
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6th MAY

(see below)

14th August
(details to come)

Wellington Regional Science Fair
will be held this year in September, at Victoria University of Wellington.
Details to follow.

Last Months Lecture  by
Associate Professor Richard Arnold 

On Wednesday 10 April Associate Professor Richard Arnold (Programme Director – Data Science at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Victoria University of Wellington)
presented the first Wellington Branch Lecture for 2019, entitled ‘Statistics isn’t the Problem.’

Professor Arnold described how statistics contributes to knowledge and the establishment of evidence rather than anecdote. He gave a brief summary of his own academic career and presented examples of his work as an applied statistician in health, seismology and linguistics. He also discussed the new discipline of Data Science.

The lecture was held at 6.00 pm in the Laby Lecture Theatre (LB118) at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University. Over 60 people attended.

Cafe Scientifique: Exploring Tiny Worlds

The Arborist Rooftop Bar, 166 Willis St, Te Aro, Wellington

Monday 6 May 2019 5:30pm – 7:00pm
5.30pm seating for a 6pm start of talk: Function Room.

The Arborist is accessible through the ground floor of the Trinity Hotel.

Hosted by: The Centre For Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington
Proudly supported by the Wellington Branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.
Email for enquiries:

What happens in cells and materials at the molecular level or the nanoscale? How can we use these properties to make new things? Join me, Upulie Divisekera, to find out how cells work and how we can mimic the things that they do and create new kinds of materials to treat disease.

Upulie Divisekera is a researcher at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, doctoral candidate at Monash University, Australia and science communicator. Her research has covered fields from cancer immunotherapy to nanoparticle drug delivery. She is currently researching women’s reproductive health.

Cafe Scientifique is a place where anyone can come along and enjoy a range of science speakers in a relaxed, friendly environment. The evening consists of a short talk followed by a Q&A.


During the past 12 months a number of our senior members have died, and will be much missed. These include:

Professor John Wells Professor and first Head of School for Biological Science and full-time Dean of Science at Victoria University of Wellington, on November 12 2018, aged 83.

SUTTON Christopher Mannings (Chris). Metrologist. On 13 December 2018at Wellington Hospital aged 70. Dr Sutton was winner of  the Science and Technology award for the 2018 Wellingtonian of the Year awards.On the 20th of this month, the international community will change the way the kilogram is standardised. When the new measurement standards kick in, the kilogram will no longer rely on a 129-year-old little cylinder of metal kept in a vault in Paris. The world scientific community has decided that it will henceforth be defined in terms of quantum physics and the Planck constant. Dr Chris Sutton and his Lower Hutt based colleagues at MSL created a desktop version of a super-precise instrument, the Kibble Balance, that will produce New Zealand’s primary kilogram and could be used by many other countries.

GRINDLEY: Dr George William BSc, MSc, FRSNZ, DSc – Geologist. on 12 February 2019. Died peacefully at home aged 93 years. Respected geologist.  Grindley was a member of geological survey teams in Antarctica in 1961–62, 1977–78, and 1981–82, involved in paleomagnetic surveys and geological mapping. The Grindley plateau in Antarctica is named after him.

DAWSON, John Wyndham. (Ph.D. FLS Botanist) Passed away peacefully on 11 March 2019 at Wellington Hospital aged 91.

Please Pay your Subscriptions

In our recent newsletter we requested that members pay their annual subscriptions, in addition many of you will have received an invoice. Thanks very much to those who have paid. However, many of you have not yet paid up and we respectfully request that you do so as quickly as possible.

The Wellington Branch is a non-profit organisation that supports science and technology in the Wellington Region by hosting public lectures, providing a substantive prize for the annual Wellington Regional Science Fair, providing small scholarships to post-graduate students (when funds are available) and making one-off donations to support scientific activity (including Cafe Scientifique).

All of these activities incur costs, and we can only meet those costs when members pay their annual subscription. Please help us to remain active and relevant to the science and technology in the Wellington Region by paying your subscription today.

Membership Details
Class of membership
Ordinary member ($40 pa)
Student Member ($15 pa)
Senior, 65+ years ($30 pa)
Family Member* ($20 pa per person)
Exempt from fees (including Fellows of RSNZ, Honorary, Emeritus and Life members)
*You qualify for family membership if 2 or more members live in the same household

Payment type (check one)
(1) Post a Cheque and Completed Application to:
RSNZWB; PO Box 3085, Wellington

(2) Direct Credit to:
Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington Branch Incorporated
Bank Account No. 060501 0074841 00
Please put Surname and initials as reference for payment identity
Post completed application to the PO Box, or fill in the application and email to the secretary

The application form was in the March newsletter

Where is our reliance on agricultural production taking us?

In 2017 Sir Peter Gluckman suggested that New Zealand should reconsider its approach to genetically modified crops in response to the threat presented by synthetic meat and milk and he  predicted that most milk sold world wide in 20 to 25 years would be synthetic.

But it is not necessary to use genetically modified plants growing in vast fields to achieve such a result. We are probably all familiar with Crabsticks, patented in 1974, that are made out of trash fish protein (surimi), binders, colouring and artificial crabmeat flavours.

No doubt too, you are all aware of the emerging trend to produce steak in the laboratory, to the point where Air New Zealand offered faux “impossible burger” ( to their first class passengers.  The burgers are based on plant proteins.

But science has the ability now to recreate almost any product and any flavour at a fraction of the cost.  This was recently brought home to me with the emergence of faux wines on retail sale in America which are good enough to fool professional wine tasters.

The chemists can recreate a $100 bottle of wine, molecule by molecule, for about $20. ( The process involves finding cheap wines that have a molecular match to the premium wine and then adding additional molecules to match the premium wine target as closely as possible. “Manuka” honey should be equally possible should anyone wish to have a go.

I suggest Sir Peter was wide of the mark with his time frame estimate.  Commercial plant based milk based on fermentation of yeasts is just around the corner. See www.perfectday

If New Zealand refuses to invest in alternative technologies to the traditionally produced export industries: meat, dairy, wine and timber, then the 21st century will pass New Zealand by.

Did you know?

The Branch is probably the second oldest scientific society in New Zealand. The Branch Archives and the Branch Library are held in the Turnbull Library. The Library hold the minute books records and papers of the Society from 1851 to at least the 1980s.  The Society also had a substantial library back when we had rooms at the Dominion Museum. Those books are also in the library.

Copyright © Royal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
The Secretary, RSNZ Wellington Branch, P.O. Box 3085, Wellington, New Zealand

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