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Science the Eye Can't See

Seeing is believing, or so they say. GNS Science presents a new seminar series on unseen science that is helping shape the future direction of science in New Zealand. From nanotech to indoor air quality, join us on an adventure to find out about the science we can't see!

For recordings of our talks in previous science series see The Sources of our Resources.


What one-cell organisms usually do in their spare time with Giuseppe Cortese

War Memorial Library Thursday 25 October, 6pm-7pm

Tiny does not always equate to insignificant…Microscopic organisms are one of the main reasons humans can inhabit the Earth. Sure, it took cyanobacteria about 3 billion years, but generating enough oxygen to build our atmosphere, thus allowing larger organisms to hang out in it, is not a trivial task after all.

When they are not busy making our planet habitable, micro-organisms go about their daily lives by learning to adapt to very specific conditions in the ocean.

Giuseppe Cortese (GNS Science) is a micro-paleontologist who uses the beautiful fossil remains of plankton (oceanic unicellular organisms) to learn about the past history of our planet, and some of the interesting changes it has undergone.


Partly colourful skies and a chance of blackouts – Monitoring the changes of the Earth’s magnetic field with Tanja Petersen

War Memorial Library Thursday 8 November, 6pm-7pm

Have you heard of Space Weather and geomagnetic storms? The Earth’s magnetic field is not only changing slowly over time periods of thousands of years, its field lines also wiggle and variate with every second. It is being created deep below our feet in the molten core of our planet and reaches far out into space where it meets and redirects charged particles emanating from the sun. Some of these solar bombardments cause the Earth’s magnetic field to rattle creating so called geomagnetic storms. Beautiful auroras occur, but at the same time these events can pose a hazard to technologies on Earth.

Dr Tanja Petersen (GNS Science) is a geophysicist who is interested in these phenomena and is looking after the geomagnetic observatories that are capturing variations of the Earth’s magnetic field here in New Zealand.


Indoor air quality: What tiny particles are in the air we breathe in? with Bill Trompetter

War Memorial Library Thursday 22 November, 6pm-7pm

We cannot see the small airborne particles that we breathe, nevertheless they can have significant impacts on our health.

Indoor air is generally more contaminated with air particulate matter than outdoor air and is therefore of special interest. The GNS Science 3 million volt accelerator is a key capability that allow us to identify sources and concentrations of air particulate matter.

Bill Trompetter (GNS Science) is an air quality scientist and will describe these studies and issues about indoor air quality and the air we breathe.


Tiny Things - what is so special with nanotechnologies? with Jèrôme Leveneur

War Memorial Library Thursday 13 September, 6pm-7pm

You can view the recording of this talk from Thursday 13 September on Facebook.

Nanotechnologies are what makes phones and computers work, and why we can have ultra-high definition screens just a few millimetres thick. It can also be found in some cosmetic products and anti-sceptic sprays. How small are we talking about when we talk of nanotechnologies? Why do we want to go that small?

Come on a journey to a world that can fit on the tip of a needle, where colour is defined by an object’s size and dimensions, where magnets lose their memory, and where the tiniest collection of atoms can completely change the nature of a material. With examples drawn from history, the lab and his kitchen, Dr. Jèrôme Leveneur (GNS Science) will introduce you to these advanced materials.


Ruapehu and Tongariro – Tiny crystals reveal a whole new story with Graham Leonard, GNS Science

War Memorial Library Thursday 27 September, 6pm-7pm

You can view the recording of this talk from Thursday 27 September on Facebook.

The chemistry and isotopic ratios in tiny mineral crystals in lava from the Tongariro National Park have helped us completely revise our understanding of the life histories of these dual world heritage volcanoes.

The volcanoes spent more than 90 % of their lives fighting it out with thick ice. Join Graham Leonard (GNS Science) to find out more about their lives.


Understanding human behaviour during and immediately following earthquake shaking with David Johnston

War Memorial Library Thursday 11 October, 6pm-7pm

You can view the recording of this talk from Thursday 11 October on Facebook.

Globally, little research has analysed the immediate human responses to earthquake shaking. Human behaviour and injury data from the large Canterbury Earthquake Sequence in 2010/11 identified three main influences on human behaviour during earthquake shaking.

The first influence is the human environment during the quake, such as inner-city building, in bed at home, or outside. Second, who an individual is with at the time of the earthquake will affect their behaviour. For example, an adult with a small child will behave differently than an adult alone. Third, an individual’s behaviour during shaking is also influenced by their age, gender, previous earthquake experience, and the size of the earthquake. David Johnston will explain how different human behaviours can either help survival, or increase the risk of injury or even worse, death.

David Johnston (GNS Science/Massey University) is a social scientist who contributes to improving emergency response systems to protect citizens during natural hazards.