Science and Society

I'm back!

I have, once again, been remiss in my blogging.

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To those who noticed: my most humble of apologies.  Rest assured the self-flagellation in this respect has been more than adequate.  To those who didn’t: um, yes.  At least you were saved any potential pain and/or horror at the situation.  And, hopefully, I once more have a little bit of time for blogging occasionally.

So, what have I been doing that’s had me so distracted?!  A number of things, not all of which this is the forum to discuss.  But one, certainly, bears an update and brief description.

Last Monday, the first ever Southern Hemisphere Nerdnite took place.  Here, in Wellington.  Some of my readers may remember that I wrote of starting said chapter, with the fantastic Brian Calhoun, in early June of this year.  And start it we did!  Even more exciting, people actually turned up, and in numbers greater than we had expected.

Held at Betty’s, in part due to the fantastic wraparound projectors the bar sports (it’s certainly not a sports bar, though), we survived the rather major technical glitch which had the inhouse projectors refusing to speak to any of our laptops (requiring a run to SilverStripe to borrow their projector), and the evening got under way.

At this point, many of our patrons were on their second round, which always helps, and our speakers had definitely* been matching pace.

First up was Daniel Spector, who had transported himself back to 1912, donned a gorgeously appropriate suit and hairstyle, and was discussing past, present and future trends in self-propelled motor vehicle transport.  You know.  Cars.  Buses.  And verily, was there some wonderful madness in all that early design, and, at the end, some highly amusing badinage.  I shan’t bother trying to replicate it,** though.

Next was Chelfyn Baxter, of ‘the g33k show‘ fame.  Taking transport somewhat into the future, he talked of better ways of getting, well, stuff into space than rockets or space elevators.  Key parameters for acceptance into his talk included cost and danger***.  Much hysterial laughter ensued, and a great deal of audience participation.  He also used a brilliant presentation tool called prezi, which we all love because a) it’s free, b) it’s easy to use and c) it should replace the dreaded (and dreadful) powerpoint in the very near future.

Third up was Matthew Holloway, of the Creative Freedom Foundation, to talk about copyright in New Zealand, and how it differs to that used by countries such as the UK and the US.  For example, copying content for the use of satire and parody is completely legal in the US (otherwise a great many comedy shows would be in trouble).  In the UK there’s no such actual law allowing it, but it’s generally accepted that it’s OK.  In New Zealand, unfortunately, there’s no law protecting it, and no general acceptance, meaning that all copied/parodied/satirized content here is actually illegal, and could genuinely get people into trouble.  Not, in my opinion, a very good thing at all.  Audience interest was measured here not so much in peanut-gallery comments and good-natured heckling, but in serious questions at the end of the talk, as people tried to get some granularity for how things here actually work.

Finally, we had Joel Pitt speaking of consciousness, AGI, and the Singularity. AGI, for the uninitiated, stands for ‘artificial general intelligence’ (a branch of AI), and the Singularity, well, go here for an explanation****.  The talk was expected to melt brains and that it most certainly did, particularly for those members of the audience who had not come across the latter two concepts!  It’s always wonderful to watch people be exposed to new, brilliant information like that :)

Oh yes, and there was much happy drinking.

In short, then, the night was a great success - a great mix of science/tech, people and conversation.  The next one’s to be expected in mid-ish September (I’m going to be in SA in early October, so we brought it forward a bit). Anyone who has a topic they’d like to talk about, get hold of us! We intend to choose speakers for the next round by early September…

Oh yeah, and anyone who missed the talks/hilarity and would like to see them - stay tuned!  We’ve got video etc currently being assembled into a thing of sheer awesomeness :)  Stay tuned for the announcement of its readyness (on Twitter, most likely).


* And at the very least.  With Brian and I keeping pace, of course, with no regard for life nor limb, in order to ensure that no one felt awkward (we’re heroic like that).

** Because we have footage.

*** The more, the better.  Obviously.

**** I’ve been following it for years and, I must admit, can’t wait.  Especially since the date moves forward every year :)


Contact details:

Twitter: unbrand / teh_aimee / nerdnitewelly

Email: brian / aimee at nerdnite dot com

Website: nerdnite Wellington

Facebook page: nerdnite wellington

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  • dpt01

    At first, I was shocked and horrified to learn that Aimee Whitcroft had been recently absent from the blogging world. But thanks to my Royal Society of NZ daily email updates, I was reassured that Aimee was back and would inform us all as to what she had been up to and the reasons for her absence. Then I wondered, who the hell is Aimee Whitcroft?! Following some investigation, I can now report that Aimee is one of many in this world who consider it important to inform the rest of us about her daily movements, thoughts and other such mundane dribble. We can only hope that she and other such types never disappear from the world’s blogospheres ever again. Thank Jesus, Allah and Buddah she is back!

    • Aimee Whitcroft

      Dear Sir/Madam

      Since your handle precludes my ability to look into your habits, might I simply thank you for taking the time to write, and for this, no doubt invaluable, contribution to the internet, science blogging and the discourse thereon/thereabout.

  • Alison Campbell

    To dpt01 - apart from the obvious sarcasm, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. No-one’s forcing you to read Aimee’s blog. But many of us view our blogs as attempting to set up a personal conversation (which sometimes works, & sometimes doesn’t!), & when you know you’ve got regular readers then as part of that ‘personal’ thing it’s nice to let them know if you’re going to be away, & also to welcome them back.

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