Fascination of Science previous lectures

Massey University Auckland scientists take you into the fascinating world of scientific discoveries.

The microbiome: how the legions of micro organisms within you are affecting your health

David Relman (Thomas C. and Joan M Merigan Professor and Professor of Microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine) 

The diversity and intimacy of our relationships with the microbes and viruses that live in and on our body is nothing short of breathtaking. Recent findings raise questions about how these relationships get started early in life, the ways in which they contribute to human health, and how these relationships are maintained in the face of disturbance, especially the major disturbances produced by modern health care and lifestyle.

 

Our goal is to arrive at a predictive understanding of the microbiome and the mechanisms that underlie resilience. Also develop well-informed strategies for its manipulation that will allow us to maintain or restore health, and avoid or lessen disease.

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Can we teach lasers how to perform brain-inspired information processing?

Professor Ingo Fischer
Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems, Palma, Spain

For decades electronic computers have dominated advances in computing. Nevertheless, for certain tasks, including speech, image and pattern recognition, we humans still easily outperform computers. Moreover, physical limitations in transistor size and the power consumption of electronic computers call for alternative concepts and hardware.

This lecture examined one among these new concepts: brain-inspired information processing. What if we could create learning-based brain-inspired information processing concepts by using light? With a minimal design approach and components that are usually the backbone of our global communication networks (such as a simple semiconductor laser and some optical fibre), powerful computing can be achieved.

Gaven Martin

Special snowflakes

DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR GAVEN MARTIN

Fractals and fractal structures are ubiquitous in nature where small scale symmetries are repeated at ever larger scales or large scale symmetries repeated at ever finer detail – we can see this in snowflakes and in the Mandelbrot set.

The remarkable fractal Lorenz Butterfly (the butterfly effect) arising from simple models of weather predictions shows fractal structures naturally arising in chaotic systems.

Kermadec Islands underwater looking up at shark

New marine discoveries at the Kermadec Islands

Dr Libby Liggins (Massey University) and Dr.Tom Trnski (Auckland Museum)

Small, remote islands such as New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands have long been revered as natural laboratories­. Here we can examine the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity.

Typically, the biodiversity of the marine environments surrounding islands is less-studied. However, our recent expeditions to these Islands have exponentially increased our knowledge of the marine biodiversity. This highlights the scientific and conservation importance of this region.

Dr Liggins and Dr Trnski have dived and explored the Kermadec islands and will share some, until now, secrets of the intriguing marine biodiversity from this special place. They will talk about their expeditions and highlight recent discoveries.

Gravitational waves: listening in to the sounds of the universe

Professor Joachim Brand

This lecture examined how the detection of gravitational waves resembles listening more than seeing and how the merging of two black holes was 'heard', a discovery that most likely could never have been made with conventional telescopes.

Joachim also looked at the amazing technology of laser interferometry that made this detection possible, and the development of quantum technologies that will make future detectors even more sensitive.



Antibiotic resistance: how did this happen and what happens next?

DR HEATHER HENDRICKSON (MASSEY UNIVERSITY

Antibiotics save countless lives every year, but like an ageing title-fighter, their punch weakens over time.

Dr Heather Hendrickson presented a lecture on what we might do when the antibiotic-era comes to an end and who the next contender will be.

Why is the universe left-handed?

Professor Peter SchwerdtfegeR (massey university)

Single-handedness is present in everything, down to the tiniest molecule. This was startling to 20th Century scientists, who until then presumed the
world was symmetrical. We now know right-handed sugars and left-handed amino acids completely dominate the biochemistry of living organisms.


But if our universe is left-handed, why are humans predominantly right-handed? Even though our hearts are on the left? What is responsible for this leaning toward one side or the other?

Bird brains

Professor Dianne Brunton (Massey university)

Bird song has been enthralling humans for millennia. With urban sprawl scientists have seen how complex song can be affected by environment and how birds adapt and change.


We are discovering that these delightful creatures have a highly complex system of communication that involves many more of their senses. Find out what we know about bird brains, how and why they sing and how their anatomical structure and brain affects their ability to communicate.

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