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Opening Of Stonehenge Aotearoa - E=mc² Launched

Announcement by the Royal Society of New Zealand

Monday 7 February

E=mc² The Story of the Universe

On Saturday 12 February, Nobel laureate Professor Alan MacDiarmid will officially open Stonehenge Aotearoa in the Wairarapa, his birthplace, and at the same time launch the New Zealand programme to celebrate World Year of Physics: E=mc² The Story of the Universe. It is a hundred years since Einstein, aged only 26, published his three great seminal papers on Special Theory of Relativity (E=mc²), the Photoelectric Effect, and Brownian Motion.

Stonehenge Aotearoa harks back to the very beginning of science: man’s first attempts to measure his time and position in the Universe. The henge, which is positioned to mark local celestial events such as solstices, will be a practical teaching tool to demonstrate how ancient people got practical information on the seasons, time and navigation. The site was built with thousands of hours of enthusiastic voluntary labour and $56,500 from the government’s Science and Technology Promotion Fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. More information on the site is given below and at

Dr Steve Thompson, Chief Executive of the Royal Society, said “What better place to kick off the Year of Physics, which is all about the long genealogy of scientists from prehistoric times, who gradually worked out our place in the Universe, how to navigate, how to record the passing of time, and the rules that make the Universe tick. Einstein came up with radical new theories that overturned established thinking about time and space. A century later, we are still struggling to think about time as a changing dimension.”

The Royal Society, the NZ Institute of Physics, and the physics and astronomy departments of our Universities, are pooling resources to put on a comprehensive programme for the year, which includes a nationwide secondary school video competition sponsored by Freemasons New Zealand, broadcast lectures, tours by international scientists, and a comprehensive website which also opens this weekend. The site, which is developed by e-net Ltd and hosted by The University of Auckland, has also been made possible by the government’s Science and Technology Promotion Fund. The information on the site takes visitors from the ancient Greeks, and follows developments right through to the current work of our own physicists. More information will be added as the year progresses, and it is hoped that it can be maintained as an ongoing resource for students and teachers, in particular.

President of the NZ Institute of Physics, Professor Geoff Austin, said, “New Zealand physicists from the Universities and Crown Research Institutes have written different parts of the information for the site and it has been tremendous to have the Einstein Celebration of the International Year of Physics as a common cause to bring us all together. We are driven by our collective enthusiasm for Physics and its applications. New Zealand’s physicists are involved in a great variety of exciting fundamental and applied research which will be illustrated in the website. As the website will show much of this current research, ranging from how the dust in the atmosphere of Mars remains there because of Brownian Motion (first properly analysed by Einstein in 1905), Quantum Optics (which in a way all started with Einstein’s insights in his 1905 Photo electric Effect paper) and the search for new planets using gravitational lensing (which was first predicted by Einstein) all lead back to Einstein and 1905.

“We all find Physics the most fascinating of careers and want to share some of this enthusiasm with young people by showing Physics as a special way of knowing about the processes that make the Universe the way it is. Physics is a single integrated insight and flows logically from its historical origins in Ancient Greece through to contemporary science. We hope this dramatic story will be more apparent to young people as a result of our efforts and that this collaborative effort will help a little to produce a new generation of up and coming distinguished scientists to rank alongside Ernest Rutherford, Maurice Wilkins and Alan MacDiarmid.”

The first big event in the 2005 calendar, is the Queenstown conference of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, 6-11 February, which has attracted top scientists from around the world, including our own Alan MacDiarmid for whom the centre of research excellence is named. There will be a special forum on the issues associated with the emerging and possibly revolutionary science of nanotechnology, which we are just starting to get to grips with. The forum has been organized by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in association with the Conference.

The programme of events will be at and

So, if you’ve always wondered what E=mc² actually means, what sort of bloke Isaac Newton was, and why clouds don’t fall down, this is your chance to find out.

More information on Stonehenge Aotearoa:

Stonehenge Aotearoa stands on a magnificent rural site a few kilometers east of Carterton. It is the brainchild of astronomer Richard Hall and members of the Phoenix Astronomical Society, who have put many hours into surveying and building the site over the last 15 months.

It is an adaptation of the mysterious 4,000 year-old monument on England’s Salisbury Plains, and has been specially designed for the Southern Hemisphere. The project took well over 1,000 hours of surveying and astronomical calculation. It combines modern scientific knowledge with Celtic and Babylonian astronomy, Polynesian navigation and Maori star lore.

The henge includes a tall obelisk; ‘heel stone’ to mark solstices and equinoxes; and an astronomical analemma, which traces the movement of the sun through the year.

There are two observatories on the site, one of which contains the telescope of the New Zealand astronomer Peter Read. A third, the Marariki Observatory is under construction using a dome donated by the United States Navy from its former installation at Black Birch near Blenheim.

2005 Programme


 6-11 Feb MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology AMN2 Conference in Queenstown / Feb 10 special session on issues relating to nanotechnology organised by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology

 12 Feb Nobel Laureate Professor Alan MacDiarmid opens Stonehenge Aotearoa nr Carterton and launches NZ programme for 2005 World Year of Physics (E=mc² The Story of the Universe).
Dedicated website on the genealogy of physics, from ancient Greece to current work in New Zealand also launched. Both Stonehenge Aotearoa and the website are part-funded by the government’s Science and Technology Promotion Fund.

 7-22 Feb Series of lectures at the Canterbury Arts Centre, Christchurch, organised by the University of Canterbury Department of Physics and Astronomy:

Monday 7 February 7pm
Elizabeth Wylie Introduction: Einstein’s life and his theory of special relativity

Wednesday 9 February 7pm
Pauline Harris A history of Maori science and physics in New Zealand

Sunday 13 February 1pm
Ben Carter The photoelectric effect and quantum mechanics

Sunday 20 February 1pm
Suruj Seunarine Brownian motion and the existence of atoms

Tuesday 22 February 7pm
Duncan Wright The Big Bang, Einstein’s greatest blunder

 16 Feb BBC4 Science journalist Quentin Cooper meets Year 13 boys at Nelson College, and chairs discussion at local Branch of the Royal Society.
 17 Feb (4.15pm) Briefing for Auckland science and video teachers at Epsom Girls Grammar School, hosted by Director of Science Graham Foster


 1 March Presentation at Parliament on Australian/NZ plans to bid for $Euro billion contract to build the world’s largest radio telescope, spanning 5,000km from Western Australia to New Zealand. Presenters: Professor Brian Boyle (Australian National Telescope Facility), Professor Geoff Austin (University of Auckland), and Professor John Hearnshaw (University of Canterbury).
 Beginning 7 March (7.30pm), Of Stars and Standing Stones, the first in a series of astronomy courses to be held in Science House, 11 Turnbull St, Thorndon, Wellington. Suitable for any interested adult, layperson or amateur astronomer. Inquiries, phone Kay Leather 04 385 2349, evenings.
 8-24 March Visit by Professor Frank Close, Oxford University.
Professor Close is a guest of Massey University in Palmerston North; he will also visit Auckland, Wellington (lecture on 16 March), Nelson (Rutherford’s birthplace), Christchurch and Dunedin. See bio at end of document.
 Space Exhibition opens at Canterbury Museum


 7 April School video competition entries due
 12 April Wellington Lecture by Professor Mark Warner, ex-pat, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University
 15 and 22 April Judging of video competition
 18-30 April Carter Lecture Series by Bob Mitchell, NASA (Cassini Project)


 Visit by Simon Singh, author of “Fermat’s Last Theorem” and “Big Bang” for Auckland Writers’ Festival - 18 May presentation to Wellington secondary school students on the Big Bang, and lecture at Victoria University’s Rutherford House, Lecture Theatre 1 (time to be advised)
 1st week of May - surprise announcements at schools for winners of video competition
 Royal Society of New Zealand/Radio New Zealand lecture series begins. Each lecture will be broadcast on National Radio at 2.04pm the Sunday after recording.

Auckland, Wednesday 4 May
Dr Matt Visser, Department of Mathematics, Victoria University of Wellington

Palmerston North, Wednesday 11 May
Asst Professor Robert Hannah, Department of Classics, Otago University

New Plymouth, Wednesday 18 May
Dr John Stenhouse, Department of History, Otago University

Whangarei, Wednesday 25 May
Dr Hamish Campbell, Geological and Nuclear Sciences/Te Papa


 3 June Winners of school video competition depart for the UK and Europe
 7 June Richard Hall, Phoenix Astronomical Society, lectures on extra-terrestrial life at Canterbury Museum (in association with Space Exhibition)
 18 June Winners of school video competition return from Europe

 Royal Society of New Zealand/Radio New Zealand lecture series continues. (Each lecture will be broadcast on National Radio at 2.04pm the Sunday after recording.)

Timaru, Wednesday 1 June
Professor Paul Callaghan, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Nelson, Wednesday 8 June
Richard Hall, Phoenix Astronomical Society, and Dr Lesley Hall, Department of Women’s Studies, Victoria University

Wellington, Wednesday 15 June, broadcast live from Te Papa, 6.00pm - 8.00pm.
Professor Tom Barnes, The University of Auckland


 13-15 July NZ Institute of Physics Conference, Auckland
 Visit by ex-pat Professor Gerry Gilmore, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge (see bio at end of document). Professor Gilmore is a guest of the NZ Institute of Physics. He will speak at the Conference and visit other locations in New Zealand. Details to be advised.


 Visit by Mick Nott, Sheffield Hallam University (see bio at end of document)


 24 September to 23 October Visit by Professor Malcolm Longair, director of Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University. Professor Longair is coming as Canterbury University’s Erskine Fellow, and will visit other centres. See bio at end of document.


 Visit by Professor Carl Wieman (2001 Nobel Prize for Physics), University of Colorado. Professor Wieman is a guest of Otago University. He will also give The University of Auckland’s Sir Douglas Robb Lectures, and travel to other centres.
 Professor Malcolm Longair will visit other centres in New Zealand. He departs on 23 October.


 16 November End of year celebration at Science Honours dinner in Wellington, including presentation of awards to teachers of physics, nominated by the NZ Institute of Physics.

Professor Frank Close
Professor Frank Close OBE is Professor of Theoretical Physics at Oxford University and Fellow in physics at Exeter College, Oxford. He was formerly Head of Theoretical Physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and was Head of Communications and Public Education at CERN, the European Centre for Particle Physics, from 1997-2000. He has been Fellow of the Institute of Physics since 1991, and was awarded the Institute’s Kelvin Medal in 1996 for his contributions to the Public Understanding of Physics.

Educated at St Andrews University and Oxford University, he has published over 200 research papers on theoretical particle physics, and is the author of a text book and 6 popular books on science, the most recent being The Particle Odyssey. His book “Apocalypse When? – cosmic catastrophe and the fate of the universe” was short listed for the Science Book Prize in 1989, being placed ahead of Hawking’s Brief History of Time (but regrettably not ahead in sales). His expose of the cold fusion scandal, “Too Hot To Handle” made the lead headlines in The New York Times in 1991. He presented the televised Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1993, which were shown on BBC2, and also gave them live on Japanese television in 1994. He has made numerous radio presentations about science on the BBC World Service for over 25 years and wrote and presented the highly acclaimed “Lucifer’s Legacy – the meaning of asymmetry” on BBC Radio 4 in 2003. He has written popular science in The Guardian newspaper for 20 years and his article “The Dark Side of the Moon” (about viewing the total solar eclipse in Zambia) won the prestigious British Science Writers award for “the best article on science in a national newspaper in 2001”.

He was Vice President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science with responsibility for the national programme, including National Science week, from 1992-98. He has served on several national and international advisory panels, was Interim Deputy for Science at the USA Jefferson Laboratory during 2000-2003 and is currently chairing a UK Commission investigating the scientific case for human spaceflight as applied to astronomy and geophysics. In 2000 was awarded OBE for "services to research and the public understanding of science".

Professor Close will be the guest of Massey University from March 8-24. He will give the Sir Neil Waters Distinguished Lecture and will visit Auckland, Welllington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

Professor Gerry Gilmore, Inst. of Astronomy, Cambridge University

Gerry Gilmore grew up in New Zealand and became interested in astronomy as a child. His fascination with astronomy has continued throughout his life and he is currently a Professor of Experimental Philosophy with the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. His research is largely related to stellar populations, what matter really is, and where it is. Gerry Gilmore is active on numerous astronomy related projects. Gaia is an ambitious plan to chart a three dimensional map of the Milky Way. It is hoped that this project will provide insight into the composition, formation and evolution of our Galaxy. He is also Chair of Opticon which helps organize and administrate astronomical projects with member EU countries.
Professor Gilmore is coming to New Zealand in July for the New Zealand Institute of Physics Conference.

Prof Malcolm Longair, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Malcom Longair is a professor of natural philosophy and head of Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He conducts research in the field of astrophysics, with an interest in high energy astrophysics, astrophysical cosmology and the history of physics. He has contributed to NASA’s Hubble telescope project and the European space agency program. Additionally, he holds numerous prestigious positions on international committees and panels.
He has published eight books, including, “Theoretical Concepts in Physics”, “Alice and the Space Telescope” and “Galaxy Formation”. Teaching Physics and raising public awareness are important to him. He has authored university texts and delivered television lectures on “The Origins of Our Universe”.
Professor Longair will be the University of Canterbury’s Erskine Fellow from 23 September to 24 October.

Mick Nott, Principle Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University

Mick Nott began his academic studies in chemistry but wasn’t comfortable conforming to conventional thinking. From there he moved to a degree in Logic in Physics at Sussex. He currently teaches at Sheffield Hallam University. He is the editor of “School Science and Review” and has an active role with the Association for Science Education (ASE), one of the largest teachers’ associations in the world. During the 80’s he worked in an advisory position for the Secondary Science Curriculum (SSCR) and his influence can still be seen in today’s national curriculum.
Early teaching experiences forced him to critically evaluate his perspective on teaching. As an educator his teaching methods have evolved as he learned to develop his own creativity and resourcefulness. It could be said that Mick takes a progressive and hands on approach to teaching science. The history and culture of science education are of interest to him and he believes it is important to consider the roots of today’s curriculum in order to develop programmes in the future.
Mick Nott is visiting New Zealand in August as a guest of the NZ Institute of Physics.

Professor Carl Wieman, Department of Physics and JILA, University of Colorado

As an undergraduate Carl Wieman’s research utilised lasers to study atomic physics. Most of his career since has involved this type of investigation with variations on the original theme. He gained worldwide recognition in 1995 for his part in the discovery of a new form of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate. In 2001, Carl Wieman, along with Eric A. Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle won the Nobel Prize for their work in this field.
Recently, Carl Wieman was named the U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He takes an interesting approach to teaching, which could be a result of his own atypical experience. It is a major focus of his, to create an interesting and good learning environment for the average student. He is currently teaching a physics class for students with majors in disciplines other than science.
Professor Wieman will be the guest of Otago University in October. He will also be The University of Auckland’s Sir Douglas Robb Lecturer.

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