Category Archives: Other’s Events

When Does Science Go Beyond Hypothesis Testing?

Professor Martin Manning at the Holt Planetarium, Chambers St, Napier

Thursday 12 February at 7:30 pm

martin-manningProf. Martin Manning represented New Zealand on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He spent five years in Colorado managing the recent IPCC assessment of the physical science of climate change and was a member of the IPCC that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He is now responsible for establishing an interdisciplinary New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute hosted by Victoria University.

Prof. Manning delivered an excellent presentation questioning traditional science approaches based strongly on hypothesis testing. He noted that scientists working in the physical and natural sciences are often told that they should propose a hypothesis and test it thoroughly.

This relates to classic works by statistician Ronald Fisher in the first half of the twentieth century that moved away from subjective forms of inference and focussed on explicitly formulating and testing hypotheses.However, another leading statistician, George Box, showed that some forms of subjective judgement will always be involved. Then German climate scientist, Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, noted that “hypotheses about global change are the less falsifiable the more they are relevant to humanity”.

An example: A new and very detailed model for the Antarctic ice sheets now explains why sea level was 20m higher in the past and implies that it could increase by as much as 2m in the next 100 years. But do we really want to test that model by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and what would it mean for the Hawke’s Bay coastline and flood plains? If not, at what point does, or did, further testing of climate models become unnecessary to scientifically justify radical changes in our use of fossil fuels?

Prof. Manning was in Hawke’s Bay to present at “Future Directions of Rationalism and Humanism“, a three day conference for New Zealand Rationalists, Humanists, Skeptics.


Future Directions of Rationalism and Humanism

A Conference for New Zealand Rationalists, Humanists, Skeptics and you
February 13 to 15, 2015
Duart House, Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay

  • Future Issues for Young People in New Zealand – Russell Wills,
    New Zealand Children’s Commissioner
  • The Precariat – The New Dangerous Class
    Guy Standing, Professor University of London
  • What does a Rational Approach to Climate Change mean for New Zealand?
    Martin Manning, Professor Victoria University

The conference will include presentations from the three free-thought organizations – NZ Rationalists and Humanists, Humanist Society of NZ and NZ Skeptics. There will be opportunities for around-the-table discussions by attendees and Q and As.

Link to Conference Site here>

Download pdf here>

Download MS Word Registration Form here>


Scientists on Air

RadioKidnappersThe Branch has, in conjunction with our local Community Radio Station, Radio Kidnappers, been interviewing a number of local scientists about their lives, careers and the science in which they have been involved.

Scientists on Air play on the second Monday of the month at 9:30 am. Replays of aired programmes can be found on the Radio Kidnappers’ Internet Radio site. Search for “Scientists on Air”. See also our Scientists on Air page.

Among those interviewed to date are the Branch’s past-President, Dr Jeff Reid and our long standing Treasurer, Dr Jennifer Hartley.

Hawke’s Bay has a much larger history of science than many people realise. Our own Branch began over a century ago as a forum for scientific discussion and dissertation. Much more recently the region hosted a branch of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Technical Research (MAF Tech) which were replaced by the current Crown Research Institutes.

Our public science institutions now include Plant and Food Research, Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and more. We also have a number of private research and development companies, many not recognised locally because their main business in off-shore.

Dinosaur Footprints

A story of discovery

GNS Science Geologist, Greg Browne

GNS Science Geologist, Greg Browne

Greg Browne at the National Aquarium, Wednesday 5 November

Dinosaur Footprints – a story of discovery is on display at the National Aquarium until 11 January 2015.

GNS Science Geologist Greg Browne talked of his fascinating discovery of the first dinosaur footprints to be found in New Zealand. Which way were the dinosaurs were heading and how were the footprints preserved?



Download a flier here>

2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture

Tamara Davis: The Dark Side

7.00 PM Tuesday 23 September, Hawke’s Bay Holt Planetarium, Chambers St, Napier

The Hawke’s Bay Astronomical Society invited our members to join their 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture by Dr Tamara Davis.

Dr Tamara Davis

Dr. Davis is the Future Fellow of the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia.  She is a cosmologist who spends her time investigating why the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Dr. Davis was part of the WiggleZ Dark Energy Survey, which made one of the largest ever maps of the distribution of galaxies in the universe, and uses supernovae to measure the properties of “dark energy”. She’s an avid science communicator and has a knack for turning complex concepts into everyday language.

The Dark Side

Observations of the universe over the last few decades have thrown us some curve balls.  We thought we had the basic picture — the universe is expanding, and all the structure we now see formed thanks to gravity out of little over-dense clumps in the hot, dense, early universe.  Well that was all true, but we’ve realised that that’s not the end of the story.  There’s a dark side to the universe that we don’t usually see, and it seems that everything we thought we knew makes up only 5% of the universe.  Dark matter and dark energy make up the rest….
In this talk I’ll explain why we are so certain of such a seemingly ludicrous proposition, and what we can hope to learn by studying these wild and wonderful phenomena.

Entry is by gold coin donation and seating is on a first come, first served basis