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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.


page 9


Three happy faces from the Science Faculty Ball.—Chris Black photo.

Three happy faces from the Science Faculty Ball.—Chris Black photo.

Points from Sci-Con Papers

Pure Or Applied Science?

During a discussion on the above subject Professor R. H. Clark of the Geology Department gave a great deal of good advice to New Zealand scientists. He told the delegates at the Science Student Conference that New Zealanders often complain that science hasn't a chance to develop here because of the smallness of the country and the population.

It is a fact that because of our financial situation we cannot compete with larger countries in expensive pure research and we should be foolish to try. But the New Zealand environment is suitable for many applied sciences. The New Zealander has a national vigour and is very good at improvisation, and with these talents we should make full use of the natural laboratory surrounding us.

The most successful sciences in this country all make use of the environment. Marine research is very active here, and atmospheric sciences such as theories on climate control, and studies of the upper atmosphere in Canterbury are other examples. Consequently, Professor Clark feels that New Zealanders should concentrate on applied science in the sense of science applied to our country, and we should leave the pure sciences to the larger countries who have not the natural advantages we have in New Zealand.


In Antarctica there is an important factor which governs the lives of all the men who live there. It is called the Antarctic factor, and it states that if anything can go wrong it will. Some of the effects of the Antarctic factor were introduced to the delegates of the Science Student Conference by Professor A. T. Wilson during his lecture on Antarctic Research. The accompanying slides emphasised Professor Wilson's comments on the bleakness of the terrain in Antarctica, and showed up the differences between the Polar plateau which is ice, 9000ft thick, and the dry valleys which contain relatively little ice.

Professor Wilson described the research he was engaged in during his two trips to Antarctica. The university teams he was with were investigating the past climatic conditions of the continent from data taken from the many lakes in the dry valleys. They also spent some time working on the effects of the Aurora. One of the more dangerous parts of the work was measuring the temperatures of the bottoms of glaciers. This was done by drilling down through the sheer sides of the glaciers and there was always the risk of a chunk of ice breaking off the glacier and falling on them.

Many phenomena which occurred in the outside world could be studied in Antarctica in isolated conditions, without interference from conflicting factors, said Professor Wilson. Antarctica is so simple that it is a perfect natural laboratory for scientists.

Science Conference a Success

During the May holidays the University's Science Clubs were the hosts for the first New Zealand Science Conference. Over 100 Science Students attended; 50 of these came from universities other than Victoria. About 10 addresses from various well-known members of the science community were given. Some enjoyable social functions and a tour of Wellington were included in the programme. The following is the report of it :—

The conference theme was "Science in the Community." Many prominent scientists and community leaders from within and without the University gave lectures or led discussions on topics ranging from "Where is Scientific Enquiry Leading Us" to "Electronic Music: Illustrated," and from "Science and Religion" to "Opportunities for Science Graduates in Industry."

Delegates were encouraged to question lecturers and to participate in discussions. Prior to the latter, two speakers with opposing points of view reviewed the subject critically, often controversially, with the aim of promoting open discussion. These were very successful.

A Science Forum

Opening the Conference, Sir Ernest Marsden expressed the hope that science clubs would always remain a forum where students could learn to express their ideas to others, and where students could be stimulated to continue the pursuit of knowledge after graduation. He advised students to admit ignorance of what they did not know and yet to act boldly for what they thought was right.

Visits by Delegates

Delegates visited factories and research institutions in the Wellington district, where they had the opportunity of seeing science and scientists at work in the community. Wellington is particularly fortunate to have many DSIR and commercial laboratories close at hand and the committee is very grateful to the many organisations which opened their doors to the conference.

Social events included an opening buffet tea and dance, a day tour of Wellington, a wine and cheese tasting evening, and the final conference dinner. There were, therefore, many opportunities for delegates from different universities to meet informally to discuss their own study and research projects, and to discuss their own club activities.

New Clubs

As a direct result of this, plans have been made to form Science Clubs at Massey and Auckland— universities which to date have no common meeting ground or spokesman for science students.

In spite of formidable problems regarding constitution and finance, it is hoped to form a New Zealand National Science Faculty Association (akin to that in Australia) within the next 18 months to handle future conference arrangements, to encourage exchange of science students and correspondence with other countries, and to facilitate meetings of students within New Zealand. A second conference will be held at Canterbury University next year, and in the meanwhile a newssheet will keep the universities in touch.

The cost of the conference exceeded £700. Half of this was paid by the delegates themselves and half by donations from University, DSIR student and commercial organisations. The committee would like to record their gratitude to the above organisations whose very generous support made the conference possible, and contributed greatly to its success.

It is appropriate to record here our debt to the National Science Faculty Association of Australia. Our conference was a direct result of their invitation in 1964 to four New Zealand students to attend the Canberra Ansfa conference. We were glad to welcome to Wellington their representative, Miss Rosalind Russell, and hope that Australia and New Zealand will continue to exchange delegates in the interests of international cooperation and the advancement of science.

The conference is indebted, too, to the speakers who went to personal inconvenience, gave much time and thought, and in some cases travelled considerable distances to address delegates.

Sterling Work

I would like to personally thank the conference committee for their sterling work during the past year. Without their initiative and energy the conference would have been impossible. Particularly we are indebted to the indefatigable Miss Alexa Cameron, Conference Secretary, on whom much of the tedious paper-work and domestic detail fell. Finally, I thank the University, City, Government and Business officials who willingly assisted us in many ways.

We extend our best wishes to the Canterbury University Science Society, who will be hosts to the Second New Zealand Conference, and look forward to meeting again in Christchurch in 1966.—