The Mysterious Maya: an ancient American civilisation
Professor Norman Hammond
Fellow of the British Academy and Archaeology Correspondent for The Times, London
The Maya created one of the New World’s most surprising and accomplished civilizations in the tropical forest of Central America and Yucatan. Over a period of 2500 years, ending with the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century, they moved from simple villages of maize farmers to great cities with impressive temples and palaces, adorned with sculptures and paintings praising their divine kings. Inscriptions in Maya hieroglyphics recorded history and the passage of time, precise to the day; the Great Cycle of the Maya calendar will end on December 23rd, 2012. Most of the cities were abandoned, afflicted by overpopulation, warfare and drought, by AD 900, but Maya culture, and the Maya people, have survived into the 21st century.
2011 Rutherford Lecture- How to Make Life from the Primordial Soup
Why RNA is the key ingredient to human life.
One of the biggest questions in life is how did we get here? How did rock and steam become our world, full of life and diversity?
The science community thought they had the answer with the achievement of the Human Genome Project just after the turn of the new millennium, however ten years on it seems that it may not be DNA which is the star but its sibling RNA.
In this lecture, 2010 Rutherford Medallist Professor Warren Tate will speculate on RNA’s role 3‐4 billion years ago in the origin of protein synthesis and the genetic code, and how understanding the history of this fascinating molecule might lead us into the future with the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease, HIV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Professor Sir Paul Callaghan
2011 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year
Soundings Theatre, Te Papa
19 May 2011
New Zealand: the place talent wants to live
This is an extraordinarily pleasant country in which to live. What holds us back is a self-serving mythology. Overcome that and we unleash our full potential.
This lecture will issue a challenge to a new generation to lead New Zealand's transformation through the use of science, technology and an evidence base for decision making. The new economy will improve and not imperil our real wealth: our forests, land, rivers, seas, our fauna, and of course, our remarkable peoples.
In 2001 Professor Callaghan became the 36th New Zealander to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He was awarded the Ampere Prize in 2004 and the Rutherford Medal in 2005. He was appointed a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 and in 2007 was recognised by a KEA/NZTE World Class New Zealander Award and the Sir Peter Blake Medal. He was knighted in August 2009. In 2010 he was awarded the international Günther Laukien Prize and in New Zealand shared with his team, the Prime Minister's Science Prize. In 2011 he was named Kiwibank "New Zealander of the Year".
Converting most of our forest into greenhouse gas has given us an abundance of grass and a thriving dairy industry. Yet through good fortune and some wise heads, we have, notwithstanding attempts to subdue it, sufficient residual natural environment to claim the label "clean and green".
Our landscape is magnificent and helps define who we are. But this lecture will argue that we have the potential to be a great deal more besides, and that we must be if we are to build the society we want our children to thrive in. It will argue that we can enhance our prosperity through sensible investment in science and technology, coupled with culture change.
The first part is the easy bit. The second requires self-belief and a sense of purpose. David Lange once said New Zealand's destiny was to be a theme park (and Australia's, a quarry). We can surely think and act beyond that. Indeed New Zealand is such an interesting place to live precisely because we are so capable of determining our future.