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Meeting Summaries – 2000-2001

2 October 2000

Deep-Sea Corals: Who, Where and Why We Should Care

Dr. Martin Willison, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University

Mr. Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre

(Susan Gass, Dalhousie Biology and School for Resource and Environmental Studies, also was scheduled to take part, but in the end was unable to do so.)

Joint presentation of an illustrated talk on the importance of deep-sea corals, featuring many beautiful videos of corals from Nova Scotian as well as European waters.


6 November 2000 (Panel Discussion)

Global Climate Change


  •  Dr. Petr Chylek – Atmospheric Science Programme, Dalhousie University.
  • Dr. Marlon Lewis – Oceanography Department, Dalhousie University, and CEO Satlantic.
  • Dr. Peter Duinker – Director, School of Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University.
  • Mr. George Foote – Research and Statistical Officer, Energy Utilization, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.

Moderator: Mr. Meinhard Doelle – Director, Clean Nova Scotia.

Topics will include climate change mechanisms, environmental impacts and policy options. After the panelists make brief presentations the discussion will be open to the audience.


4 December 2000

The Probability and Effects of an Asteroid Impact with Earth

Dr. David Turner, Astronomy & Physics Department, Saint Mary’s University

The possibility that the Earth may be struck by a large asteroid or comet sometime in the near future has been given a good workout by Hollywood in recent years. As expected, however, the true situation is quite unlike that depicted by Hollywood. The ability of astronomers to detect potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) as well as to predict accurately their future paths is much more worrisome than described in the movies. Compounding the problem are a rather low regard sometimes held for such research and the low level of research funding it receives, certainly in Canada. While the immediate impact threat appears to be low at present, there is a true need to maintain our growing level of vigilance. The impact threat is real.


8 January 2001

Simon Newcomb—the Maritimes’ Greatest Scientist

Dr. Donald Betts, FRSC, Professor Emeritus, Physics, Dalhousie University

Simon Newcomb was born in Wallace, Nova Scotia in 1835 and grew up in several villages in the Maritimes. He learned much from his father, a country school teacher, and he taught himself much more while he was still a boy. When he was eighteen he moved to the United States and graduated from Harvard University with a B. Sc. in Mathematics. He then worked as a scientist successfully in several disciplines, but he was primarily a mathematical astronomer, and he worked most of his life in the U.S. Navy’s Nautical Almanac Office in Washington. In the latter part of his career Simon Newcomb received Honorary Degrees from seventeen of the world’s best universities. He was regarded as the most distinguished scientist in North America and the world’s most famous astronomer. Albert Einstein was ecstatic when his general relativity calculation of the motion of the perihelion of the planet Mercury agreed well with Newcomb’s very careful astronomical observation. In his later years Simon Newcomb received for a scientist the most unusual position of Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy! He died in 1909, and you can see his grand monument in the village of Wallace.


5 February 2001

Mind Contemplating Mind: An Illustrated History

Dr. Raymond M. Klein, Killam Professor of Science, Psychology Department, Dalhousie University

Perceiving, reasoning, acting, feeling, knowing, remembering,…Whether we say that the mind is these things or that it does them, people have been using their minds to contemplate mind for as long as we know. The history of this effort will be illustrated using pictures (real or imagined). The exhibits will be drawn primarily from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, but other disciplines— such as computer science, linguistics, anthropology—will contribute and so too will our cultural heritage. The application of the scientific method to this effort and conceptual innovations stemming from an interdisciplinary approach has led to tremendous progress in our thinking about thinking. Technological innovations in different, but not unrelated, fields will lead to the development of artificial minds and to a vastly improved understanding of the machinery in the brain which is responsible for natural minds. Through these efforts, will we finally learn what the mind is or does and how it is implemented by the brain? Some say “yea”; others, “nay”. I don’t know the answer but for me the reward is in the effort.


19 February 2001 (Extraordinary meeting)

The Motion of Curling Rocks

Dr. Mark R. A. Shegelski, Department of Physics, University of Northern British Columbia

An overturned, clockwise rotating drinking glass curls to the left as it slides over a smooth surface. In contrast, a clockwise rotating curling rock curls to the right as it slides down the ice. We will explain why the drinking glass and the curling rock curl in different directions, and why they curl at all. Curling rocks exhibit other novel motions. For example, a very rapidly rotating curling rock can stop sliding long before it stops rotating. A model that accounts for these motions will be presented. Predictions of the model will be compared with experimental results. The focus of the talk will be on concepts and ideas. For example, an important part of the model is that a thin liquid film is formed due to the motion of the rock over the ice, and that some of the liquid film can be dragged by the rock. Videotaped motions of the curling rocks and other cylinders will be shown. Time permitting, ongoing work will be briefly described.


5 March 2001 (Panel Discussion)

The Chemistry of Halifax Harbour: Its History and Future


  •  Dr. Peter Strain – Chemical Oceanography and Marine Chemistry Sections, Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
  • Dr. Stephen Armstrong – Biology Department (Adjunct), Dalhousie University.
  • Dr. Dale Buckley – Geological Survey of Canada (Adjunct), Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
  • Dr. Tony Blouin – Manager of Environmental Policy, Planning and Development Services, Halifax Regional Municipality.

Moderator: Dr. Martin Willison – Biology Department, Dalhousie University.

Questions to be addressed from a CHEMICAL perspective include: What is the current condition of the Harbour? What are we currently doing to the Harbour? What are the trends and predictions? Sewage treatment: Its past, present and future.


2 April 2001

Forensic Entomology: Flies that Tell a Tale

Dr. Doug Strongman, Biology Department, St. Mary’s University

Carrion insects are responsible for the quick removal of dead animal bodies from our environment. This recycling service is provided mostly by the immature stages (maggots) of a group of flies called bluebottles or blowflies. These insects are attracted to any dead animal exposed to the elements, including human bodies. The biology of these insects has been used to gather information related to human deaths and this use has been termed forensic entomology. Come learn more about these fascinating insects and how they provide clues that can help solve murders.


7 May 2001 (Annual General Meeting)

Structural Giants Have Feet of Clay?

Dr. T. Stanley Cameron – Chemistry Department, Dalhousie University

From some years before the discovery of X-rays, to the time of the determination of the structure of DNA, and the structures of the common cold and HIV viruses, the study of the internal structure of the material all around us has attracted the attention of the scientific giants of the time. These giants interacted with each other, with science and with their domestic arrangements in curious, bizarre and often illuminating ways. Some of these incidents, with maybe a repeat experiment, will be examined.