Category Archives: Videos

The Universe from Nothing

Tuesday 21st May, 5:30pm, Arts 1 room 315

We watch a Lawrence Krauss talk/documentary

Physicist Lawrence Krauss considers that the information recoverable by any civilization over the entire history of our universe is finite in an ever-expanding universe.


The Man From Earth – film night

Tuesday 14th May

5:30pm Arts 1 Room 315

David Attenborough, Population and Resources

On the Tuesday 9th October we didn’t have a guest speaker planned, so we watched a David Attenborough documentary and then discussed issues of population growth and the earth’s resources.


David Krofcheck on the Higgs Boson

New Zealand at CERN and the Discovery of a new Particle: The shock of the “New”

Dr David Krofcheck from the department of physics will be joining us to talk about the discovery of the Higgs boson, what it means for particle physics, and life at CERN. David is a member of the CMS collaboration (one of the two major experiments being conducted at the LHC), so he knows first hand what goes on at CERN.

The Physics world was rocked by the July announcement of the discovery of a new particle that possesses characteristics of the long hypothesized Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is the physical manifestation of the Higgs field which is predicted to generate masses of all fundamental particles. The shock of initial observations is that the discovered particle may have properties that point towards “new physics”. We will follow the 50 year path of discovery and look at up-to-date arguments about the nature of the new particle. New Zealand is one of 39 nations forming the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Collaoration at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland.
EDIT: This talk can be viewed here:

Final meeting for sem1, 2012: The functions of language and the plural of ‘octopus’

On June 22 we’re having our last meeting of the semester: Dr. Jonathan McKeown-Green from the philosophy dept. will be joining us to give a talk called The functions of language and the plural of ‘octopus’ (link to Facebook event), at our usual time of 5 pm but in Case Room 2 instead of Case Room 1 (Owen G. Glenn building ground floor). This is the first time we’ll explore the philosophy of language.  Here is a shortened abstract for the talk:

“Correctors of essays and letter-writers in newspapers complain about mislaid or misplaced prepositions, clumsy sentences, infelicitous pluralisations and sometimes even split infinitives. Descriptive linguists don’t care. They rely on the testimony of individual speakers when they hypothesise about grammars for particular languages, but they do not assume that there are community standards that these grammars should track. Sociolinguists are more generous, noting that the language one uses reveals much about one’s social status, but even they are not interested in the idea that some constructions are better than others. I want to see whether this idea has anything going for it.”

McKeown-Green’s current research interests include philosophy of language, logic, philosophical logic and philosophy of music. He gave a talk last year on logic, part 1 (of 2) of which can be found below. Recently we’ve uploaded a lot of past videos, so check out our YouTube channel for some videos from late last year and most of this semester’s meetings. We’ll do our best to record this one too and have it online before too long.

Human evolution videos

Today we’re discussing human evolution at our new second regular weekly meeting slot of Thursday 4-5pm OGGB5. We’ll only have time to watch a few short videos before the discussion, but here are some cool longer ones.

Also some “interesting” videos I saw on my travels: An anti-evolution Christian video and one which prefers Sumerian mythology.

What we did in February

We got through a lot in February, starting with our first guest speaker of the year and ending at the beginning of clubs week, where we had a busy RSS stall every day.

Matthew Flannagan, a Christian philosopher, ethicist and theologian (and popular blogger) joined us to talk about Divine Command Theory (DCT), a topic in ethics and the philosophy of religion. Matt spoke gave a talk defending DCT, especially explaining why he thinks the Euthyphro objection is not all it’s cracked up to be. The video for the talk is online if you missed it or want to watch it again. We had a two hour long meeting, most of it involving discussion with the audience, many of us objecting to DCT.

In the next week of February we had another guest speaker – this time a returning speaker, Matthew Dentith from the philosophy department. Matthew is in the final stages of completing his PhD on conspiracy theories, a topic he spoke about at RSS last year. This time he talked about appeals to authority – when they’re valid and when they’re not.

On the 18th we discussed the future of the internet, after watching a video on the subject by Kevin Kelly at TED talks. Some of his themes for the future of the web were personalization and a smarter (semantic) web. We also talked about other aspects like the role of the internet in politics.

At our 4th meeting of the month we discussed Facebook, the social networking website that started from a Harvard dorm room and became one of the biggest websites and social phenomenons of the decade (and even had a movie made about it). We touched on various issues including privacy and its role in politics. If you’d like to read more about Facebook’s history, I recommend the book The Facebook Effect.

On Monday 28 Feb we set up our RSS stall. With a gazebo, table and chairs provided by various RSS members, and a shiny new banner (our first club asset, paid for by donations from members) we looked pretty organized. We signed up at least 50 people on the first day and took in lots of guesses for our jelly bean jar fundraiser. We gave out fliers to interested people, which were designed a week earlier by some enthusiastic RSS members.

That evening we had our first meeting of the semester in iSpace of the Kate Edger IC, with a surprisingly big turnout of over 30 people, easily a record for the club. Natasha gave a talk and showed videos relating to interpersonal attraction, touching on subjects such as the role of smell, voice and personality. Here’s one of the videos we watched, from The Science of Attraction presented by Derren Brown.

We also had a couple of administrative meetings with the newly formed committee of twelve. We’ll continue to have these throughout the year as RSS grows and develops.

January in review

We resumed meetings early in 2011 and have done quite a bit before the first semester at the UoA has started.

Our first meeting was on the 10th of January, where we discussed mental disorders. We watched a video from MIT about recent research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which you can find here.

At our second meetup we talked about aesthetics. We watched a video of Denis Dutton discussing evolutionary aesthetics at TED (link). For a longer talk by Dutton, see this Authors@Google talk.

For our first social event, we went to see The King’s Speech at the movies. Most seem to think it was a great film (but see Christopher Hitchens’ article “Churchill Didn’t Say That“).

We discussed placebos and the placebo effect the same week, starting with a podcast from Skeptoid on the subject, which details some interesting research. We mainly focused on the ethics of using placebos, and the relationship with alternative medicine.

Videos of past meetings online, and starting again soon

Videos of meetings from October are now on our YouTube channel. We now have videos of 7 meetings available online – of guest academics and RSS members giving talks (the Robert Nola one includes a fair bit of interaction with members too).

Robert Nola on Karl Popper and science

Ben on neuroscience and will

Sam on death and burial traditions

We can also upload videos of any length now, as you can see with Sam’s talk (50 mins – normally there’s a 15 minute cap). I’m not sure what we’ve done to earn this, but it will save some time using software to cut the videos up into parts.

We should have plenty more videos coming online next year as we get back into things. We’re going to have our first meeting next week (starting 10th January). You can let us know when you’re available here so that we can schedule the meetings to allow the most people to come.

So, how much wood can he chuck, exactly?

Today RSSers met for a social gathering. The formal topic being: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if you held his wife and kids hostage?

The answer to this question has not been precisely defined, although an estimate of the distance he can chuck two pieces, based on the technical diagram below, is 57.69 cm

Technical Diagram:

I hope you realise that I actually worked that out based on the scale provided and an average of the parabolic trajectories of the two bits of wood. You can check.

Anyway, we watched some videos of Derren Brown doing some awesome mind tricks. Although, there were sceptics among us, they are still some pretty cool tricks/funny videos. View the evidence yourself:

Have a great day, reasonable people!!!
Don’t forget we are meeting with the Islamic Society this Friday at 3pm (location tbc).