Our Changing World
Thursday 14 October 2010, with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna
9:06 pm Thursday 20 June: Our Changing World
In a world first, a New Zealand vision scientist has discovered that playing Tetris under controlled conditions may be a cure for lazy eye in both children and adults. While some might query whether a video-game played close up is good for eyesight, Ben Thompson from the University of Auckland has proven otherwise, with the popular tile-matching game helping to train both eyes to work together. Lisa Thompson spoke with Ben and trial participant Jane Brock, who is seeing improvements in her vision first-hand.
At GNS, ion beams are being used to force atoms into solid materials and change their properties, for example making them harder, or more compatible with the human body. Ruth Beran meets John Futter to see some of the projects he is working on.
Since kaka were introduced to the fenced sanctuary Zealandia in 2002 they have grown in numbers to more than 200, and have become a regular sight in parks and gardens in central Wellington. Kerry Charles has just completed her Masters degree at Victoria University, investigating the damage kaka are inflicting on some urban trees, and Alison Ballance joins her in the Botanic Gardens to find out more.
Dillon Mayhew from Victoria University explains how the mathematics of codes and ciphers allows us to transmit volumes of information accurately and securely electronically around the world.
On This Programme
Hierarchy of Disaster Robots
Dale Carnegie with the 'mother' robot (left) and Michael Rothbock with the 'grandmother' robot (right). Images: A. Ballance
The threat of being buried in rubble in an earthquake is a real and horrifying prospect, and trying to rescue trapped people from collapsed buildings is a dangerous task. To help in such situations, Victoria University engineer, Dale Carnegie, from the Mechatronics Research Group, is developing a hierarchy of small, autonomous 'rubble robots' - he tells Alison Ballance how the 'grandmother' will deploy all-terrain 'mother' robots (in video below), that enter such sites and in their turn deploy expendable mobile phone-sized 'daughter' robots to search for signs of life.
Student Michael Rothbock is working on the currently out-of-commission grandmother robot, nicknamed the 'tank' because of the tank tracks that make her mobile, updating all her sensors and computers.
Dale Carnegie is presenting a Victoria University Public Lecture in Blenheim on 3 November at 5.30 pm - phone the Victoria University Information Desk on 04-463 6700 for more information, or to register to attend.
Virtual Hearing Patient
Testing a person's hearing is a lengthy and involved process, and students train using volunteers in audiology booths. But that may be about to change.
To see how it's done in real life, Ruth Beran goes to the Department of Communication Disorders, and meets Kathleen Stoop and watches as student Louise Thompson steps Jocelyn Moynehan's through the process.
To Believe or not to Believe
Alan Musgrave is a philosopher at the University of Otago. He was educated at the London School of Economics, where his doctorate was supervised by Sir Karl Popper, whom he acknowledges as his inspiration to focus on the philosophy of science. With Imre Lakatos, Alan Musgrave edited Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, which is seen as one of the most influential collections of essays on 20th-century science philosophy. In his latest book, Secular Sermons, published by University of Otago Press and described as entertaining and provocative, he explores many basic assumptions in science, religion and mathematics. In this interview, he discusses how our beliefs are formed and what role science plays in uncovering reliable truths. Next month, he will explore what it takes to make a discovery.
Creating High-Value Products from Marine By-Products
A year ago Plant and Food Research opened a new pilot processing plant in Nelson to enable the scaling-up of laboratory efforts to find new high-value uses for fish by-products. Alison Ballance catches up with Natural Extracts Team members Susan Marshall and Matt Miller, and PhD student Tim Nalder, to find out about their work, and learns they are particularly interested in proteins, enzymes, and in fatty acids such as Omega 3. She joins the team in the pilot processing plant as they use a large centrifuge to concentrate marine algae which produce Omega 3, and could potentially be used to help produce 'designer' Omega 3 products that target specific parts of the body, such as the brain or heart.
2010 Talking Heads Lecture Series
The 2010 Talking Heads lecture series has kicked off in Auckland and continues round the country for the next few weeks. The series will explore what goes on in our own heads and what makes us tick, including: how we learned to talk, how we know who we are, how memories are made, why we do bad things, and what happens when things go wrong. Produced by Radio New Zealand in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand. More information on dates and locations can be found here.
Liggins Institute lectures on nutrition
Nutrition - more than a good square meal is the theme of this year's Liggins Institute lecture series, which started this week and continues on four consecutive Wednesdays, at the University of Auckland. The series examines how the foods we eat affect our development, health and well-being and it explores broader aspects of nutrition, including ways in which people might personalise foods and their diets to optimise health and performance. Next Wednesday, October 20, Liggins Institute scientist Deborah Sloboda explores the ways in which a mother's diet during pregnancy and lactation affects her children's reproductive health and development.
Optical tweezers, the momentum of the race track, using resonant frequencies to test the strength of corrugated cardboard, and recognising World Statistics Day on October 20 with a story about industrial mathematics and 'exploding ships'.
Audio from Thursday 14 October 2010
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
Autonomous Rescue Robots ( 12′ 49″ )
21:06 'Grandmother' heads a hierarchy of robots designed by Victoria University to search for survivors in collapsed buildings
A Virtual Hearing Patient ( 13′ 06″ )
21:20 At the University of Canterbury, a virtual patient allows students to learn how to test hearing in a simulated audiology booth
Philosophy, Science and Belief ( 13′ 16″ )
21:34 We think we are free to choose what to believe but University of Otago philosopher Alan Musgrave challenges this notion
New Uses for Marine By-Products ( 13′ 31″ )
21:46 Plant and Food Research's Natural Extracts team find novel high-value uses for molecules found in fish waste, such as Omega 3