Welcome to the Queensland Skeptics Association Inc.

We meet on the last Monday of each month from February through November at The Junction Hotel, cnr Ipswich and Annerley Rd, Annerley. Plenty of parking. Dinner from 6 pm. Speaker at 7.30 pm upstairs in the Library Room at the Hotel. Members $3.00 entry - Visitors $5.00. No need to book. Membership is $10.00 pp per year.

 

Sunday 10th Feb 2019 - Celebrating Darwin Day with the Gold Coast Skeptics.

Venue: Parkwood Tavern – cnr Olsen Ave & Wintergreen Dr, Parkwood (Kids eat free on a Sunday) https://www.parkwoodtavern.com.au/

3.30 - 5.00pm mingle

5.00 - 5.30pm Mr Jake Clark PhD Candidate, Centre for Astrophysics

Topic: exoplanets/astrobiology 101 https://theconversation.com/profiles/jake-clark-391989/articles

5.30 - 6pm Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau (PhD), SCU EMCR representative, Australian Academy of Science, School Director HDR Southern cross GeoScience, Head of Geoarchaeology and Archaeometry Research Group (GARG) Topic: New findings in human evolution

6.00 – 6.30pm Q&A

6.30 – 7.00pm Wrap up

Monday 26th November 2018 Our Guest Speaker is Emeritus Professor Peter Gresshoff - Sustainability, basic science, biotechnology and application of the biofuel tree Pongamia pinnata.

Energy is required for all our domestic, municipal, and industrial processes. For centuries, most of that came from fossil fuel (coal, crude oil, natural gas) as well as some hydro-electric and nuclear energy sources. The last few decades have seen a rapid rise of solar and wind-derived energy. Sadly, derived electrical energy, though highly useful, is not permanent, unless complex storage is used. These capabilities are developing but not for the complete global industry.

Biofuel is an alternative. Solar energy is captured through plant photosynthesis allowing the synthesis of plant products, mainly oils (fatty acids) and sugars. These are relatively easily converted to fuels, which are storable, and easily integrated into end usage (e.g., bioethanol for cars, biodiesel for trucks and machinery, oils for heating, etc.).

However, the bioenergy crop needs to have certain properties to be effective. Needed are (i) environmental robustness, (ii) low fertiliser input costs, (iii) low water/irrigation demands, (iv) high yield of product, and (v) potential for huge acreage of cultivation without competition of food crops.

The legume tree species Pongamia pinnata (also called Millitia pinnata, native from Northern Australia to India) produces yearly pods filled with one or two seeds. The seed contains about 40% oil; annual yield per tree can be 20,000 seeds, each weighing 2-3 gm. About 400-600 trees are planted per hectare. First harvest for commercial purposes is after 4 years, though first flowering occurs after 12-15 months. Pongamia, as a legume, makes its own nitrogen fertiliser, and is drought and salinity tolerant. Brisbane has about 20,000 street and park trees for ornamental reasons (in bloom now). {all values are subject to regional conditions, many yet defined for optimal yield).

We, at the University of Queensland, initiated a research program 10 years ago. Trial planting are in place in a range of environments (Gatton, Sunshine Coast, Roma, Atherton Tableland, near Tully, and others). Collaboration exists with US, European and South American commercial interests.

This presentation will give background to what we have done so far and what the future may promise. Critical in the development of this new industry is the basic biology of the plant, the industrial/commercial application, and the development of markets for the diverse end-products. Interview

 

Monday 29th October 2018 Our Guest Speaker is Peter Ellerton - Public reasoning in a time of epistemic crisis

We all struggle under the burden of cognitive biases, comfortable narratives, fake news and the “infoglut” that is the Internet. While some worry about ‘truth decay’, the truth is not decaying, just becoming harder to find. So what are our best strategies for coping with this situation? One is to focus on what we understand by ‘public reasoning’ and how this Enlightenment ideal can be made to work in the modern age. This talk will address public reasoning as a solution to our current epistemic crisis.

Peter Ellerton is a lecturer in Critical Thinking at the University of Queensland and is the founding Director of the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project. He is a former Head of Experimental Sciences at the Queensland Academy of Science, Mathematics and Technology. Peter is also an advisor to the International Baccalaureate Organisation on the development of the new Nature of Science subject and has advised on the structure of all the new science syllabus materials. Peter is currently working with the European Commission Joint research Centre on the public understanding of science. Peter is a Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority syllabus writer and Chief Examiner for External Physics in Queensland.

Monday 24th September 2018 Our Guest Speaker is Jos Hall - President of Dying With Dignity Queensland. During 48 years working as a registered nurse, Jos has seen people die in ways that no-one should die. She joined the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of QLD (VESQ) in 2003. VESQ changed its name to Dying with Dignity Queensland (DWDQ) in 2009. The aim of DWDQ is to have laws introduced in Queensland so that mentally competent, adult residents of Queensland who have a terminal illness and are suffering intolerably, can after appropriate checks and reviews, legally access medical help to end their life should they choose to do so. Voluntary Assisted Dying became law in Victoria in November 2017 and will be available for residents of that state in mid 2019. Please come to this talk to hear about progress in other Australian states and territories and what is happening in Queensland, and how you may be able to help. Join Jos and other Skeptics for dinner.

Monday 27th August 2018 Madeline Horton is a Community Relations Officer for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service Brisbane Donor Centre. She is a Brisbane local who enjoys working with corporate, community and tertiary groups in and around Brisbane city. Madeline and her community relations colleagues work within their local regions to educate our wider communities about the need for blood donors. With 25000 donations needed each week in Australia the Blood Service is always looking for new donors. Madeline also helps facilitate the Blood Service’s Red25 group donation program – designed to encourage businesses and community groups to play a part in maintaining Australia’s blood supply. During Madeline’s presentation you’ll learn more about

  • the ongoing need for blood and blood products,
  • what the blood products are used for, and who benefits from them,
  • a brief history of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service,
  • the setup of the Blood Service including funding, storage and distribution across Australia, and
  • the collection of donations from non-remunerated volunteers

Madeline will be happy to take questions on the night, and, if you’re interested in becoming a blood donor, she can help sign you up.

 

Monday 30th July 2018 David Gillespie is the author of Toxic People - How to Manage or Work for a workplace Psychopath Toxic People

Psychopaths are real people. They work with you, and for you, and could easily be your boss. In any given Anglo-Saxon dominated workplace there are probably more psychopaths than people with red hair (no, they are not the same people – well, not always). They exist. They are not a figment of a psychologist’s imagination. They are not (usually) axe-murderers. They have not decided to be a psychopath. They just suffer from an irreversible failure of socialisation which impairs their ability to co-operate with other humans and which means they always act in a self-serving fashion without regard to the consequences.

And while psychopaths certainly don’t regard themselves as having a disability, that is no reason not to treat them as if they do. We wouldn’t expect a diagnosed kleptomaniac (an obsessive compulsive disorder which involves impulsive theft) to perform work that involved unsupervised access to goods which could be stolen. We would ensure that their job matched their limitations and, where appropriate, we would modify their working environment to match those limitations.

There is a very particular art to managing a psychopath, (assuming you are silly enough to hire one) and there is any even more particular art to surviving the experience of working for one. David will walk us through what the science tells us are the strategies likely to preserve our sanity and even improve our workplace despite it being riddled with psychopaths.

 

Celebrating National Science Week The Science Nation is going to determine once and for all what is the Greatest Discovery Ever Made. Join the fun and mayhem as the best, brightest and bravest science aficionados in the land do battle in a debate tournament of whits and wittiness.

 

When: Thursday, August 16 2018. 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Download event for your calendar
Where: Queensland Museum
Grey Street, South Brisbane, QLD, 4101
Topic: Archaeology and antiquity, Human body and movement, Energy and transport, Environment and nature, Health and medical, Space and astronomy, Innovation and technology
Cost: $10 online, $15 at the door (cash only).
Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/WBAO
Other: Wheelchair access
Social Media: Facebook
Twitter

 

We’ve all been there, having that age old argument, what’s the bigger breakthrough: the existence of atoms or quantum mechanics; DNA or CRISPR; the wheel or sliced bread.

Well to celebrate National Science Week the Science Nation is going to answer this question once and for all. Join the fun and mayhem as the best, brightest and bravest science aficionados in the land do battle in a debate tournament of whits and wittiness in order to find out what is the Greatest Discovery Ever Made!

Contact details: Andrew Stephenson - The Science Nation Phone: 0421 400 688
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. See more at:www.thesciencenation.com
 

Monday 25th June 2018 We have asked Steven Bates to be our guest speaker. He is an Inspector with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services within the Fire and Rescue Agency and is currently the Area Commander for Petrie which covers an area from Kippa-Ring west to Dayboro and south to Arana Hills. He has worked in several roles over the past 29 years that he has been a firefighter and has had vast experience in a training environment where he managed the South Queensland unit of Training and Emergency Management. He has also worked in the unit of Community Education as well as several projects for the Service. We have asked him to speak on the following:

Fire in highrise buildings.

What is the co-ordination between personnel in Fire Brigade, Police, Army and Emergency Services?

Discuss the giving of advice to residents to vacate with the approach of a hazard - fire, flood.

What is the status of citizens providing help to neighbours or community members when a hazard exists, eg temporary roof repairs, chain sawing fallen trees.

Is there any difference of provision of emergency services between Federal and State services.

The use of Ambulances - access along freeways jammed with traffic.

 

Monday 28th May 2018 Darryl Jones is a Professor at Griffith University where he researches all aspects of urban ecology and the many ways humans interact with nature. Bird Feeding: What does the science say? The feeding of wild birds is a hugely controversial issue in Australia and has generated many urban (and rural) myths and memes. Everyone seems to 'know' that it is 'wrong' yet millions of people still do it. Does feeding cause birds to become dependent on human-provided food? Does it spread disease? Does all that extra food have any effect? And what about feeding ducks? These questions and more will be explored by Darryl Jones, author of The Birds At My Table which has just been published and will be available for sale for $20.00 cash on the night.

Monday 30th April 2018 Mandy-Lee Noble is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist who specialises in translating nutrition research into evidence-based health promoting behaviours and dispelling nutrition myths. Mandy is also a sceptic and an advocate for science-based medicine who provides regular content for The Skeptic Magazine and The Skeptic Zone Podcast. Like many dietitians Mandy has many roles, providing care in private practice and the community as well as developing and facilitating nutrition education for other health professions. www.nourishedapproach.com.au

Monday 26th March 2018 Our guest speaker Charles McInnes will be talking on the green tax shift concept and the economics of climate change.

Monday 26th February 2018 Our guest speaker is member Bernie Doran who will speak on "The Enigmatic Koran".

Monday 25th September 2017 Professor Tamara Davis from the School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Qld will speak on Dark Matter.

A multitude of observations have confirmed that the majority of matter in the universe is in a form we can't see. That "Dark Matter" provides the gravitational scaffolding on which all the galaxies are built. However, we still don't know what it might be.

This talk will present the vast array of different types of measurements that have revealed the presence of dark matter. We will look at what we have been able to infer about its properties and discuss how we are continuing observations and tests to figure out exactly what it is. These include dark matter detectors built deep in mines, both overseas and here in Australia as well as dark matter observations probing deep space, such as the recent Dark Energy Survey data that made the most detailed map of the distribution of dark matter ever made:

Meanwhile we'll also look at cases where dark matter doesn't seem to be behaving as we expect, for example, in the cluster of galaxies "Abell 520" and what that might imply about dark matter in all its complexity.

Monday 28th August 2017 Kylie Bevan For most of us, life is a mixed bag of happiness and health, and challenges and disappointments. We each start life in different circumstances, some squandering advantages, others reaching great heights in spite of adversity and deprivation. Getting counsel along the way is useful, and it doesn’t have to be specialist advice. Think back – some of the best advice we ever received was over the back fence from a favourite neighbour or a cuppa with a thoughtful friend. The phenomenon of ‘WellBeing’ springs from the realisation that although ‘duty of care’ is a statutory obligation, nobody was actually responsible for it. Except yourself. * Things have changed, and for the better. There are myriad care / holistic / health / nutrition / healing / help / non-profit organisations. WellBeing groups formalize the response to ‘duty of care’. Kylie Bevan of Health & Wellness Revolution guides clients through a program designed to identify where their health is, where they would prefer it to be, and what steps they are happy to take to achieve that.One focus is on the Circle of Life, as shown in this diagram, as many aspects of our lives combine to ensure overall satisfaction and fulfillment. http://healthwellnessrevolution.com/

 

Monday 31st July 2017 Dr Shyuan Ngo, Affiliate Research Fellow, Qld Brain Institute, UQ

There are rarely any easy answers to research questions. MND is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Stephen Hawking has defied the odds and survived MND/ALS many decades after his first diagnosis. There are genetic markers, environmental and lifestyle factors, and maybe our old favorite vitamin D or B12 deficiency. Toxins from blue/green algae were also thought to be involved, as was head trauma. There is a massive worldwide effort to crack MND; proving causality amid a host of possibilities is tricky.

 

Monday 26th June 2017 STEM Cell Engineering Professor Ernst Wolvetang - Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science.

Qskeptics have learned about STEM cells before but there’s much more to know. It is only since 2007 that it was found that pluripotent cells could be derived from mature cells, sidestepping the enormous ethical obstacles associated with embryonic STEM cells. New techniques and developments emerge every day. It is the nature of Science that one moment of brilliance can ring down the changes for many other endeavours. Thus research must be flexible enough to accommodate almost instant changes. Imagine, for instance, the paradigm shift that occurred when CRISPR Cas9 became available - thousands of projects (and even wisps of good ideas) suddenly became feasible. Other whole projects became redundant or obsolete. That is the nature of Science. It is a very movable feast - but a feast indeed. We can’t begin to appreciate what wonders will come from STEM Cell Engineering.

Monday 29th May 2017 Prof Matthew Hornsey - The Rejection of Science. Prof Hornsey is a Psychologist at UQ specialising in the rationale behind The Rejection of Science.

With International Politics in a tizzy over The Donald and our own government’s blind siding on climate change, Science which was once our moral compass has been weakened, obfuscated and lampooned even when it comes to serious environmental matters. China may do something about burning fossil fuels, if they don’t choke on the pollution first. India probably won’t even though they know they are contributing to a dire end game. Even when it comes to curable cancers some people are deluded by fad diets and they will reject vaccination on the misinformation of the anti-vaxers. Whether it’s coral bleaching, dwindling fish stocks, ocean acidification or the lack of insects, we reject Science at our peril. But then we have been talking about peril now for quite a while and we maybe witnessing the big race to the finish. We are not quite sure what that finish is going to be.

 

Monday 24th April 2017 Assistant Professor Roslyn Petelin - Associate Professor School of Communication and Arts UQ

In a world in which communicating comprehensibly is integrated into all aspects of society, is standard English practiced by everyone, or does it need saving? Is the quest for standard pronunciation, grammar, and spelling elitist? Has there been a lowering of standards in Australia? Are there many proponents of Waynespeak who are unaware that their mispronunciation of ‘pronunciation’, ‘et cetera’, ‘espresso’, and ‘aitch’ erodes their credibility? How about ‘bought’ instead of ‘brought’? ‘Thuh orange’ instead of ‘thee orange’? And what about those who write ‘bunker down’ rather than ‘hunker down’, ‘flaunt’ instead of ‘flout’, and ‘hone’ instead of ‘home’? There are many languages and accents in multicultural Australia, spoken and written by those whose first language is not English. How can we expect them to pick up idioms and know that when they are asked to ‘bring a plate’ that they need to put some food on it? How do we ensure good written and spoken English without enduring the scorn of those who label us as pedants?

 

Monday 27th March 2017 - Genetics - Peter Gresshoff, Emeritus Professor/Emeritus Director, Centre for Integrative Legume Research UQ

You are either a prokaryote: (bacteria and archaea) or eukaryote: (Fungi, animals and plants) with a cell nucleus – but more generally we are the remnants of maybe 1% of all life that has ever lived. Indeed, there are 355 genes that are common to all living organisms today - say “hello” to a banana – because you’re related. More especially, you have half as many genes as has a grain of rice, so get over yourself. Genetics has expanded like no other discipline and our vast knowledge is growing by multiples almost daily. We can now sequence an entire genome in minutes rather than decades. Genetics holds the key to so much human suffering, from congenital defects to targeted pharmaceuticals to disease control. We also expect a huge revolution in food plant development. While it is vitally important to preserve genetic diversity, developing better food crops may be the only way we will be able feed our future world.

Monday 27th February 2017 - Epigenetics - Dr Tim Bredy - Cognitive Neuroepigenetics - Queensland Brain Institute UQ

For a long time Darwinian evolution was accepted as the only mechanism whereby an organism’s genome could change: the principal of random mutations locked in by survival of the fittest and the procreation of the surviving. It became apparent, however, that other forces were at work. The important role of “junk DNA” as suggested by Prof John Mattick (Qskeptics - Nov2011) flagged other mechanisms at work when cells reproduce. Many cell interactions simply fail – they are not viable and slip into abeyance. Successful ones progress and are utilised usefully. So now we are faced with a vast and frankly chaotic system of incredible complexity that turns genes on and off, promoting and facilitating some and suppressing others. As suspected, changes are enabled from immediate generation to generation from the same DNA. The many forms of RNA are the keys - some have only just been discovered. Mind bending stuff. However, once we appreciate what is going on, it ain’t so bad. Just a bit awesome! You won’t want to miss this.

Monday 28th November 2016 Lingering Doubts by Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis

When I first got Brisbane just in time for the 1974 flood, I heard a private talk by the then Principal of the Qld Police Academy Insp Harry Allsopp. For a while there was no mention of him on the Internet but the history of the Academy is now found at: http://mypolice.qld.gov.au/museum/2012/03/27/from-the-vault-the-queensland-police-academy-40th-anniversary/

The academy was the first attempt to educate Qld police beyond year 10 and instil some civility into what was a fairly motley crew at the time – pre-Fitzgerald. Off the record Allsopp described the rampant corruption with the quip “who are you going to report this to??” Implying that it was systemic. A short time after 1974 Harry Allsopp died of a heart attack, apparently – but I have always had my suspicions…………… The police used to meet regularly with the infamous Warren Earl Armstrong under the Story Bridge where I parked my car in the morning.

That was 1974 what was 1947 like?? Frank Bischof went mad.

http://mypolice.qld.gov.au/museum/2016/11/08/vault-cop-francis-erich-bischof/

This was the police culture that confronted the crime scene in the Wallace Bishop Arcade. Some investigators are still convinced of Brown’s guilt. Why did he not report the assault that was his explanation for the injuries. Maybe he didn’t get the chance? One of the criticisms was the indecent haste with which the conviction proceeded. Maybe the police themselves were involved and threats against his family the reason that he never corrected the record.

A life sentence in Boggo Rd would drive most people to suicide in my view. Who wrote the confession with all the detail?

Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis have a sad chapter in their family history that has driven them to seek justice for Reg Brown and in so doing also for Bronia Armstrong and that is everyone’s right.

Bob Bruce *http://www.inspirationalstories.com/proverbs/danish-old-sins-cast-long-shadows/

Monday 31st October 2016 Professor Peter Sly ( click here to read synopsis) Director, Department of Children’s Health and Environment

Monday 26th September 2016 Professor Matti Lang (click here to read synopsis)

 

Monday 25th July 2016 Professor Justin MarshallProf Marshall is a researcher for the Queensland Brain Institute and his qualifications include zoology and neuroscience. He has a special interest in the GBR and has taken many of the photos you have seen in the media on the recent coral bleaching event. We could go on about the parlous state of the eco systems around the world, particularly the collapse of fishing as both an industry and a cultural way of life but as isolated as we are from the rest of the world we are not taking responsibility for the fossil fuels we export. We are beginning to debate nuclear fuels but the timelines are decades long and our economy depends on exports of minerals and we have some big shocks coming. Will the reef survive – it already hasn’t and it is a matter of what will be left for future generations to admire. Our tourism minister hastened to point out that the southern areas did not suffer as badly as the north – a typical political response – would you like to have an investment in a Nth Qld tourist resort? Don’t think so. While there are calls for more resources to ‘ save’ the reef this might be naïve. Climate change is a result of past and continuing inaction by the whole world. Any ideas?

The fishing resources that China is contesting with the Philippines and Vietnam are so depleted from over fishing it is hardly worth it – certainly not worth fighting a war over; however, there are minerals and oil in them thar’ shoals and no one seems to be doing anything about not burning fossil fuels. The GBR (Great Barrier Reef) has suffered the worst coral bleaching event in recorded history and mangroves are dead in the Gulf. The canary in the coalmine has long since died but we are still going ahead with the Adani Carmichael coal mine!What hasn’t been considered, apart from the obvious, is that the rest of the world, which is beginning to panic, may start applying sanctions to countries supplying the coal that is cooking the planet. (You heard it here first) "In Western Australia, in Cockburn Sound, we've lost 80% of our seagrasses. Over 1200 hectares of seagrasses have been lost in the last four decades," * Not climate change but nutrients from coastal developments!?

 

Monday 27th June 2016 Professor Rosa Alati Drugs of addiction

This covers a broad field and there are new and more potent drugs being developed constantly. The old drugs of heroin, tobacco and alcohol are still with us and continue to ravage society. Strong views are held on prohibition and access to medical use of otherwise illicit drugs. Our overall concern is what happens to polite society if the precious gene pool that regenerates the population is degraded in general by past and present use of both legal and illegal drugs. There is still cultural use of betel nut, kava and opium which goes back generations but still leaves a trail of biological devastation behind it. Drugs of altered states. Used to get in touch with “ the spirits” drugs or behaviours like the whirling dervishes are a naïve attempt to make contact with the transcendent. Incense is used in churches to associate with the religious. ‘ Hedera’ (a species of ivy) used in the Greek Orthodox church creates mood as does frankincense in other religious contexts; not addictive but very associative.

PS: Please peruse the petition for secular counsellors in schools:

https://www.change.org/p/the-australian-government-no-more-chaplains-in-public-schools-instead-let-s-get-qualified-counsellors?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=602264&alert_id=rdvRxgsCtB_Yx1y2pHKWG%2FjdnWlWMFgjGHTpAx8507FxQVR%2BEsOMz3mXUUFfK30Panqk0rjlkX0

Monday 30th May 2016 - Mates4Mates and PTSD - Janice and Brian Johnston

Janice is a Senior Psychologist with Mates4Mates and Brian served for 25 years as a psychology officer attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Ordinary life can sometimes be troublesome, but we live in a small world, insulated from the terrible conflicts around the globe. Most of us have no idea at all about the invisible trauma of war. What was loosely described as ‘shell shock’ in WWI has been more generally dubbed PTSD in modern times. It is the aftermath of warfare that is not featured in the recruitment brochures. Pilots of drones who are in no physical danger themselves suffer debilitating psychological harm while operating from thousands of kilometres away.

 

Monday 25th April 2016 - Dr Alex Lehn

Our knowledge of the brain is increasing exponentially. Interestingly, much work has been done using people with injured brains that showed brain plasticity and an ability for the brain to reorganise and establish new pathways for cognition.

It is possible for the brain to learn to “see” from a series of skins vibrators on the torso. VS Ramachandran’s pioneering work with mirrors and lights showed that phantom limb pain could be relieved by having the brain believe that phantom limbs were active, using mirrors on other limbs. From this we learn that pain originates in the brain not the point where it is expressed. There is a lot to learn.

Dr Alex Lehn has a clinic at the Mater Hospital that is helping people with neurological injuries (nerves) to get mobile again. Advances in microelectronics may enable direct brain activity to bypass damaged nerves and get limbs viable again or directly control artificial limbs. Advances in microcircuitry, virtual reality and nanotechnology combined with new understandings of brain functioning promises a brave new world for people with Functional Neurological Disorders. Alex is concerned that FND is a fertile field for AltMed and it is important that people are aware of the difference between quackery and real medicine.

 

Monday March 28 2016 - Robotics - Dr Sue Keay

Not unusually for Pure Science, Robotics is taking us places we didn’t know existed. Serendipity can be fickle and mysterious but advantageous.

As new developments occur, new ideas dawn.

Beyond sci-fi, serious robots first appeared in the automotive industry welding up car bodies. They are tireless, precise, unaffected by hazardous processes – and fast.

The famous Patrick’s wharf strike of 1998 heralded the introduction in Australia of automatically controlled cranes to move containers – at 15km/hr. Herein lies the synergism between automation and robotics. When is an automaton a robot and vice versa? You can work on that distinction and let me know what you think it is!

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/01/this-robot-can-solve-a-rubiks-cube-in-one-second/

We can imagine autonomous robots for everything from vacuuming your floors, to remote surgical procedures and to the inevitable military killing machines. We already have UAVs or drones, and we wait with bated breath the first battles between autonomous fighting vehicles (not an entirely bad idea).

Will they take over the world? No, not if you unplug them.

 

Monday 29th February 2016 - Membership is now due.

As we leap into 2016……. Nanotechnology is the hot topic because it is so ubiquitous and almost symbolises how modern technology has advanced not by microns but by orders of magnitude. We now have the premise unfolding before us that small is more – vastly more. It was Richard Feynman who suggested we look to the ‘tiny’ as the gateway to future progress.

Our speaker Prof Chengzhong (Michael) Yu is a lead researcher into all things nano and its applications in so many fields. From the titles of some of his papers we see applications in medicine, batteries, fuel cells, gene modification, catalysts, gas adsorption and mesoporous materials ie the opposite of nanoparticles; ones with lots of tiny holes. Do not be afraid of being blinded by Science – just think - tiny means more compact, more potent and far more dense. Suddenly amazing things become possible. It is probably better to describe the revolution that is nanoscience as more of an upheaval. http://www.aibn.uq.edu.au/michael-yu

Due to a computer crash and a conference booking in India Prof Chengzhong (Michael) Yu has arranged for Prof Jin Zou to do the talk on Nanotechnology. Prof Zou is the Chair of Nanotechnology at UQ and we are very grateful for the support. This comes at a time when Queensland is hosting the World Science Festival: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com.au/ We like to think we are a small part of that. I will be speaking at a forum for the Australian Science Communicators. http://www.asc.asn.au/topic/conference/

 

Monday 30th November 2015

Dr Stephen Hughes - Senior Lecturer Science and Engineering Faculty QUT.

Dr Stephen Hughes writes the first book combining astrophysics and cooking. Teaching astrophysics in the kitchen? A strange combination you think?

Many concepts associated with astrophysics are hard to grasp. Gravity, as a result of the warping of space time; black holes and dark matter are still mysterious but our children will probably understand them a lot more readily than we do.

Like quantum physics sometimes we have to give up trying to ‘understand’ and just accept. After all we do have virtual particles popping in and out existence all the time. There goes one now…………..

Helping us to get a handle on the heavens, perhaps a kitchen analogy is just the thing. Aimed at armchair astronomers. His book Gastrophysics is available for download. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/gastrophsyics/id1018147956?mt=13

 

Monday 26th October 2015

Dr Gert Tollesson - Specialist adult and paediatric neurosurgeon

Let’s face it, we are all getting older and our parents, if they are still with us, are even older. There are many variables in familial relationships and while being a carer can be either a joy or a duty, it is a lifetime vocation for some. Looking after demented relatives and coping with dementia ourselves is a big deal for us and our partners.

Interestingly, dementia patients are ‘expected’ to be cared for by families to a large extent because they do not have visible injuries or illness. Anyone with the same level of debility or impairment in a physical sense would be admitted to an emergency ward. Disagree?

We are living longer and healthier (if you are sensible) but the fickle finger of fate might determine that you have low blood pressure to your frontal lobe and you may be looking down the barrel of vascular dementia yourself. There are no favourites when it comes to health and when partners look at one another they might be forgiven for wondering who in the future will be looking after whom?!

The hopeful side is some of the recent promising medical findings. (Down with amyloids I say!)

http://admissions.vanderbilt.edu/insidedores/2011/11/undergraduate-research-at-vanderbilt/amyloid2/

 

Monday 26th September 2015

Andrew Houston - Religion and Hypnosis as Play

Religion and Hypnosis are powerful Karma. Powerful Play? The Amazing Randy doesn’t believe hypnosis is a genuine phenomenon but how else can we explain the above Caesarean Section performed under hypnosis. Closer to home, an acquaintance had open heart surgery under hypnosis AND spoke all the way through the operation.

The phenomenology* of hypnosis puts it in a group of psychological experiences described as ‘play’. This includes following the rules of football or even playing the piano. Where belief and reality begin and end depend on experience and what we have come to accept as true.

Religion and Hypnosis have always been a mystery but they may be a looking glass into our febrile psyche. That people have overwhelming religious experiences or that we fall in love or are genuinely seduced indicates that our precious ‘selves’ are a construct that is not immutable.

What is it that breaks when we suffer a breakdown? If our comfortable view of life is shattered, as in PTSD, it shows that we have developed a mental image of how the world works and how we fit in it; that image can be broken or as in hypnosis can be taken over.

How this is all construed as ‘play’ is the subject of Andrew Houston’s talk. It may also give insights into the mechanism of ‘cult’ behaviours.

 

Monday 31st August 2015

The Psychology of Self Deception - Professor Bill Von Hippel from the The School of Psychology - University of Queensland

Skepticism is not only about deception and being deceived but the what, the why and the how. We are a little querulous when it comes to self-deception – we don’t think it applies to us – we self-deceive!

It is one thing to do randomised controlled trials (multi-centred, triple blind and peer reviewed), but they don’t dispel those little hunches, wonderments and plain old prejudices that egged us in the direction of the original hypothesis.

The effects of self-deception can be inconsequential (benign) or catastrophic (malignant) and everything in between. If nothing else, Skepticism is the pursuit of reality and we don’t always get it right.

 

Monday 27th July 2015

Prof Neal Ashkanasy - Professor of Management – UQ Business School.

Ever wonder why your boss is a domineering psychopath? If you think about it, the system of choosing people to control others is logically tilted towards ruthlessness. Sadly, some people are placed in positions of authority because they ARE commanding first and meritorious second. In short, they are ambitious, highly intelligent and they do as they are told. Such people are dangerous. When the stakes are high – people need their jobs and they need the pay and if all they sacrifice is politeness and the ability to doggedly perform what ever is required by the system, those who can abdicate their self worth and better judgement are only too willing to abandon civility; they are the psychopaths in the management of desperation. The cycle runs full circle when inappropriate personalities leave a swathe of personal destruction behind them and finally come to grief they are packed off to foreign climes.

How do people cope with the stress? Emotional Intelligence? If you have got EI are you the strong type; not emotional? If you haven’t are you a vulnerable weeping mess? But maybe you’re compromise is just being too kind! So what is EI and what is it in relation to healthy emotional and intelligent survival?

As we ‘go forward unpacking’ topics, EI is often bandied about in seminars but may not be that well understood. While jargon may once have had some useful purpose its usage has long since degenerated into meaningless padding. Emotional Intelligence however has its place.

A good definition of EI is: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

Sounds nice – OK, go on do it! Not so easy? Sometimes we get het up over the slightest things and imagine malice and conspiracy where there is none. Sometimes we are confused by the hostile reactions we get and are blissfully unaware of the friction and chaos we have caused. Sometimes we are not assertive enough and sometimes we are too aggressive. EI is about keeping your head together through thick and thin; the alternative is losing it.

Prof Ashkanasy promises a lively and provocative talk.

 

Monday 29th June 2015

Kim Garthwaite is our speaker for beyondblue. Kim is a Registered Nurse, Clinical Nutritionist and Mother of two. She has worked in the fields of community nursing and older adults.

3 million Australians live with Anxiety or Depression everyday. We do know that the stress is sadly reflected in suicide rates and self harm. The suicide rate for young aboriginal children in NT is 30 times higher than for young people in NSW.*

An inclusive approach to a pervading condition like depression/anxiety however must apply across demographics. What we do know is that chronic sadness can hit us all at some time or other, and our resilience to that onslaught defines whether we are clinically depressed or not. We have our ups and downs. The key to anxious causes however, is ‘avoidance’. (hint) A Skeptical approach might be to suggest that behavioural therapy can mask some underlying pathology or trauma, and unfortunately therapeutics for depression can do this. Having a divorce, a temporary job, a big mortgage and breast cancer all at once would be depressing? Yes, but the cause is no mystery. Depression without an apparent cause is more of a worry. Why do some people cope (or seem to) and others not?

Half of all soldiers returning from conflict suffer PTSD in some form or other. Imagine if we had a therapy that restored them to full fitness. Well, we could just turn them around and send them back to war – bizarre? Yes? We would save a fortune - thankfully there is no such treatment. Does any treatment work? Ketamine# a drug being tested for depression is being peddled by companies associated with erectile dysfunction (yes, that one!)

There are any number of causes of depression. We all have our own special ways of attracting it. Bullying in the workplace is a big factor as is family tragedy. Some things we can control, some we can’t. Cope with it we must.

Depression may be the result of a personality trait. In-as-much as someone might be an angry person or a happy-go-lucky person or a thoughtful one or a flippant one, everyone is all these traits but it is sometimes life’s circumstances that steer us in one direction or another. Them’s the breaks, luck does play a part. The person who plans their life’s course might be thought of as ambitious, enterprising or maybe grasping or controlling maybe even narcissistic. Maybe they just want an orderly realisation of their potential. Who’s to judge?

In the dodger I left a hint and that there is an association between anxiety and avoidance. I think there is a connection between depression and acrimony. Feel free to disagree. Depression certainly can result from a series of crushing calamities but powerlessness is the fuel. The personal rejection that acrimonious people experience however is even a surprise to them; they don’t understand, they feel targeted and withdraw. Depression is characterised by isolation and withdrawal even in apparently successful people. The cliché associated with Winston Churchill’s black dog is “never ever, ever, ever, give up!” Giving up is the end.

One solution is to do something nice for someone else; it works for a while, keep doing it and it might work for longer. Engender a sense of gratitude and it will make you feel good.

Getting beyondblue on board has been an enterprise in itself. Please take the beyondblue materials that have been provided and leave them sprinkled about where other people can find them. Who knows, the life you save may be your own.

NB. This is not a registered event with beyondblue. Kim is a volunteer for beyondblue and not a health professional and will not be able to comment on or provide advice on specific treatments or mental health conditions.

* http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-suicide-rates#axzz3dDkEaBvW

# Ketamine started life as a horse tranquiliser.

 

Australian Skeptics National Convention 2015 - October 16-18th October 2015

 

Brisbane Skeptic Society is proud to be organising the 2015 Australian Skeptics National Convention! Join us as we explore the frontiers of science and skepticism. We are pleased to announce Nobel Prize winning Brian Schmidt as our headline speaker. We welcome you to Garden’s Theatre at QUT and look forward to meeting you in 2015!

http://convention.brisbaneskeptics.org/

 

Monday 25th May 2015

Professor Ian Lowe is an emeritus professor in the School of Science at Griffith University and his talk will be on sustainability.

 

Monday 27th April 2015 AGM 7.15PM

Guest Speaker 7.30pm. John Cook on Global Warming. This fits neatly with the launch of John’s website on Tue 28th.

https://www.edx.org/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-uqx-denial101x

This is an important resource for people who wish to be informed about the details of climate change or deny it altogether.

We need to understand the issues that are thrown up by those opposed to idea of AGW. The USA and China are now acknowledging their contribution to climate change but India’s latest budget “missed a chance to lay down a roadmap to a low carbon (dioxide) future”

 

Monday 30th March 2015

"Tiny Houses". Lara Nobel is an architectural graduate and final year apprentice carpenter. She tutors design at UQ and is committed to constructing herself a tiny house. Anticipating global economic and environmental disasters and on a more personal level, frustrated by the problematic housing market Lara and a small group have been exploring alternative living options based on the question: What do we really need to live happily?

Armed with a passion for design and construction, Lara will discuss international and local precedents in the emerging Tiny House Movement and walk you through designs for two off-grid, self-sufficient, trailer-sized homes. She will describe the environmental, economic, and social motivators for building small, and demonstrate that these designs need not be limited to rustic cabins in rural settings; the diversity of existing precedents and imagined design outcomes may surprise you.

 

Monday 23rd February 2015

A/Prof Mohamad Abdalla will talk on Sharia Law

 

Monday 24th November 2014

Dr Doone Wyborn who was Chief Scientist for Geodynamics will speak about surviving the future; everything from getting ‘offgrid’ to architecture for surviving the heat.

 

Monday 27th October 2014 Is near term human extinction inevitable?

Dr Geoffrey Chia is a Brisbane based Cardiologist who convened the group “Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice” from 2006 to 2013. Experts in various fields were invited to speak each month, as well as certain politicians such as Andrew McNamara (former Labor State Minister for Sustainability) and Larissa Waters (current Greens Senator for Queensland). The decision to cease those meetings was based on ever more dire overwhelming evidence that the current economic/industrial system, being absurdly unsustainable, is about to unravel, no matter what we do. If anything, those now in power are determined to accelerate rather than ameliorate the problems of resource depletion, ecosystem destruction and climate chaos, all amplified by a global human population predicted by some to reach 9 billion by mid-century. Only one question is worth asking: is near term human extinction inevitable?

 

Monday 29th September 2014 Evidence Based Medicine - Dr David King, Senior Lecturer - School of Medicine UQ. His research interests are in Medical Education, Health Promotion, Mental health, Respiratory infections, Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology.

It is important for Skeptics to be aware of the fundamentals of Evidence Based Medicine because it is what separates real medicine from altmed and speculation, placebos and nocebos.

Medicine has quite a chequered history. In days of yore Medicine had more conjectures than facts. It was considered more of an ‘art’ than a ‘science’. Some treatments thought to be useful were just untested folk remedies and were mysterious, problematical and sometimes deadly. Maybe they worked; maybe patients got better in spite of them, some myths are still around today. Modern medicine is based on the scientific method, but research design suitable to test interventions in populations of patients came of age with the first randomised controlled trial (RCT) in 1948 and the subsequent development of Evidence-based medicine. RCTs overcome the problems of the placebo effect, confounding factors causing the apparent improvement, and the underlying natural history of the disease. However, there are many situations when RCTs are inappropriate or unethical and we need to build a case of evidence using trial design lower in the evidence hierarchy.

Pharmaceutical companies and policy makers have embraced EBM to legitimise their actions, but the process is open to abuse and ‘harder to detect’ biases. There is a need to understand the strengths and limitations of EBM and to develop ethical standards for the conduct and reporting of medical research.

 

Monday 25 August 2014 with Greg McDonald from the Australian Electric Vehicle Assoc.

We in Australia do not have access to the electric vehicles that are rapidly becoming common place overseas. The combination of cheap solar cells and electric cars could revolutionise Australian motoring. I have seen a price of $5000 for 10kW of solar panels ‘including freight’. This is enough power to get you off the grid and run your electric car for free, as well as your house. Already electricity companies are moving to prevent consumers from leaving the grid.

But more about electric cars: It would be great to think we could have a domestic electric car making industry but the loss of our manufacturing base to the overseas giants probably makes this impossible. We would end up buying all the major components from China anyway. All the traditional Australian car makers are finishing up – perhaps they see the writing on the wall. The only defence Australia has is tariffs (mostly they are now quite nominal) and an import licence but the ADR (Australian Design Rules) must also be complied with. Most Chinese vehicles are built to EU standards which are well on the way to conforming to the ADR. Greg will give us a broader picture.

 

Monday 28th July 2014 Professor Matt Cooper - Antibiotics

An antibiotic is an agent that either kills or inhibits the growth of a microorganism.: Ref: Wiki. Prof Cooper’s unit at UQ researches novel antibiotics, methods of delivery and the targeting of drug treatments.

There is a certain complacency in modern society that the major epidemics are history but simple infections tell a different story.

While vaccination rates vary and they need to be quite high in some cases around 90% to ensure herd immunity, common infections are not bound by such immunity. Many diseases of the past such as TB are rapidly becoming drug resistant. A new approach is needed.

There have even been attempts to resurrect old antibiotics that may be effective against contemporary bugs. When it comes to antibiotics we are beginning to grasp at straws. One of our members has indeed been notified that they are on the last regime of antibiotics available for the particular condition. What goes around is coming around fast and with a vengeance.

Bugs however are alive ……… and they evolve. The range of antibiotics we have had available to us is shrinking, not only because of ‘overuse’ but simply because we ‘use’ them at all. We are looking down the barrel of humans dying of infections caused by simple wounds like a graze on the knee. Many strains of known diseases like TB are now MDR (Multiple drug resistant). The Staph above is well on the way to being MDR.

 

Monday the 30th June 2014 - Guest Speaker: Professor Thomas Suddendorf

The Gap The Science of What Separates Us From Other Animals

There are many conjectures that have tried to define what makes us different from the other animals. Once it was that humans were the only animals to use tools until it was shown that everything from birds to primates use tools. Eagles and cuttlefish have better eyes than humans, plenty of animals are stronger, faster, more exquisitely adapted to their environments, hear better and have better senses of all kinds. But we can think....I think; we are 'self aware' whatever that is. I think I am therefore?

Professor Suddendorf's book explores what makes us what we are and not flatworms.

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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