The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy.

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.


1. Comet ISON Cancelled?
2. The Solar System in December
3. Stardate North Island, January 3-5
4. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3
5. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
6. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8
7. Earth-like Planets Common
8. Hot Earths Too!
9. Dark Matter Still not Found
10. 'On the Radar'
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Overly Honest Methods

1. Comet ISON Cancelled?


While comet ISON C/2012 S1 has been showing rapidly increasing activity in recent days, it seems likely that it is too late for a good show in the southern hemisphere. At 5 a.m. NZDT on Nov. 21, after nautical twilight starts, the comet's head will be just 3° above the horizon and a little south of due east. It will be to the right of and slightly lower than Spica: at an angle of 4 o'clock and about 8 degrees from the star. From our southern viewpoint the comet's tail is rather flat to the skyline, tilted 30° above horizontal. It runs leftward and upward toward Spica.

Over the coming week the comet moves directly toward the sun, getting lower and shifting southward along the skyline. After perihelion, on the morning of Nov. 29 NZDT the comet will be rising after the sun and setting before it, so it is completely inaccessible in our sky.

It's still not impossible that the comet could do something spectacular. It was reported last month that the comet's nucleus appears to have kept one hemisphere facing the sun on its approach. The other hemisphere, presumably rich in volatile material on this 'new' comet, begins to be exposed to the sun about now. That assumes that the spin-axis determination was reliable. Several observers reported a rapid increase in the comet's gas production between November 12 and 14.

Sun-grazing comets sometimes break up near perihelion. When that happens a cloud of dust is suddenly made. Pressure of sunlight pushes it away from the sun along a narrow steam, making a bright narrow tail. Comet Lovejoy C/2011 W3 did this around Christmas 2011. However, its position caused a tail vertical to our horizon. Also Comet Lovejoy was a true sun- grazer: one of the group of fragments in a similar orbit from an earlier large comet. Such fragments have already been weakened by previous solar cooking.

Comet ISON passes 1.2 million km from the surface on November 28.776 UT. That is still very close to the sun. Some evidence that its nucleus may be breaking up was reported by a group from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, and from Astronomical Institute, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, on November 16. They observed arclet-like wings growing on opposite sides of the nucleus in images obtained on November 14 and 16 where none were seen on the 13th. {Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 3715.]

If the nucleus did break up at perihelion then there is a chance of a narrow dust tail being flung vertically into our dawn sky.

All one can do is look and see if anything happens.

-- Ed.

2. The Solar System in December

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      December  3 at  1.23 pm (00:23 UT        )
First quarter: December 10 at  4.12 am (Dec  9, 15:12 UT)
Full moon:     December 17 at 10.28 pm (09:28 UT        )
Last quarter   December 26 at  2.48 am (Dec 25, 13:48 UT)

The southern hemisphere summer solstice is on December 22 at 6:12 am (December 21, 17:12 UT).

The planets in december

Venus starts December high and prominent in the evening sky, but will steadily lose altitude during the month as it moves towards conjunction early in 2014. Jupiter will become visible in the late evening.

Jupiter will also be visible in the morning sky, while Mars will rise some hours before the Sun. Saturn will emerge out of twilight during December, but Mercury will be too low in the dawn sky to see.

Venus, the evening planet

December sees the virtual disappearance of Venus from the evening sky. At first it sets more than 3 hours after the Sun, just after midnight (NZDT) for much of New Zealand. In the early part of the month it will remain readily visible quite high to the west shortly after sunset. As the month progresses the planet´s elongation from the Sun rapidly declines so it will get lower in the sky and set earlier, so that by the end of December it will set less than an hour after the Sun.

At the beginning of December Venus will be some 30% sunlit as seen from the Earth. During the month as it catches up with the Earth in it orbit, the amount lit will drop to little more than 4%, so the planet will look like a very thin, brilliant, crescent moon as seen through a small telescope. Its distance from the Earth drops from 66 to 42 million km during December and the apparent size of the disc increases correspondingly. As a result the brightness of the planet scarcely changes.

Jupiter will be visible for much of the night by the end of December, rather low to the northeast in the evening. It rises shortly before midnight in New Zealand at the beginning of the month, but gets steadily earlier to rise only a few minutes after sunset by the 31st. From New Zealand the planet will remain a low object due to it being well north of the celestial equator.

Jupiter is in Gemini throughout December moving slowly in a retrograde sense towards the west. It will be a few degrees from Pollux, the brightest star of the constellation. The fainter star delta Gem, magnitude 3.5, will be much closer to Jupiter, with the two only 15 arc- minutes apart, half the diameter of the full moon, on the 10th.

The moon, just past full, will be about 5° from Jupiter on the evening of the 19th.

The morning sky.

Mars moves higher into the morning sky during December. It rises about 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st and four and a half hours earlier by the 31st. The planet is close to the celestial equator so will get higher than Jupiter. It brightens slightly during the month from magnitude 1.2 to 0.9.

Mars is in Virgo throughout December and will move in the direction of Spica, the brightest star in the constellation. The moon, at last quarter, will be just over 5° from Mars on the morning of December 26.

Saturn moves out from the Sun into the morning sky during the month. It rises about 1 hour before the Sun on the 1st and 3 hours before it on the 31st. At first in December it will be low and difficult to see. By the end of December the planet will be readily visible before dawn about 20° above the horizon to the east.

Saturn is in Libra all month. At the end of December it will be almost equidistant from the two brightest stars in Libra. The crescent moon will be a degree from alpha Lib and just under 5° from Saturn on the morning of the 29th.

Mercury rises little more than half an hour before the Sun early in the month, making it virtually impossible to see. It closes in on the Sun during the following 4 weeks to be at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun on the 29th.

OUTER PLANETS Both Uranus and Neptune are principally evening objects during December. Uranus at magnitude 5.8 is stationary on the 18th and spends the month on the border of between Pisces and Cetus. It sets well after midnight, about 3.30 am on the 1st and 1.30 am on the 31st.

Neptune is at magnitude 7.9 and is in Aquarius. It sets about 90 minutes before Uranus.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning objects in Virgo a few degrees from one another and a few degrees from Mars. The three form a rough line with Vesta in the middle. Ceres will be to the lower right of Vesta and Mars to its upper left. The two asteroids are 6° apart at the beginning of December, 5° at the end of the month, when Vesta will also be 8° from Mars.

Ceres is at magnitude 8.7 to 8.6 during December while Vesta brightens a little more from 8.0 to 7.7. Both will be readily visible in binoculars, their changing position compared to the stars visible from night to night.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and brightens during December from 8.5 to 8.0 so similar in brightness to Ceres and Vesta. It rises just before 11 pm at the beginning of December and about 9.30 pm by the month´s end.

-- Brian Loader

3. Stardate North Island, January 3-5

Location: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay. When: Official programme runs from Friday 3rd January - Sunday 5th January. You are also welcome to camp Wednesday 1st January and/or Sunday 5th January for a small extra fee

The camp site in Tukituki Valley offers a wonderful horizon, away from cloud-attracting hills and city lights, as well as the normal campsite facilities. Weather permitting; participants will be looking forward to lots of observing time. Many participants bring telescopes while for others it´s their first telescopic view of the heavens. There is ample opportunity to mix and mingle with other astronomy enthusiasts. Some people here have 30-40 years experience; others are complete newcomers.

Even if the weather is unsuitable for observing, there is a programme of talks, workshops and movies organised to complement skywatching. Whatever the weather Stardate is great astronomical experience. - a chance to ask questions, share ideas, and make or renew old friendships.

We will let you know when registrations are open for Stardate 2014.

Extracted from

4. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley between Friday February 28th and Monday March 3rd.

Stardate SI is held at a hostel and campsite. It has the following facilities: Full toilet & showers, bunkrooms, auditorium, kitchens with shared fridges and freezers, large cafeteria, plenty of space for tents and caravans. The viewing area has excellent horizons in all directions, and space (no pun intended) for many telescopes.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful, with fine walks through beech forests - we recommend you restrict the walks to daytime 8-).

Stardate SI has the following schedule: Start - Friday February 8th; Registration - from 3:30 pm; Speakers - Fri 8 pm to 9 pm; Viewing - Fri night; Speakers - Saturday 10 am to 11 am; Soapbox - 11 am to noon Group photograph - noon; Update on SI astronomical organistions - 12:30-1 pm; Free time and solar observing workshops - 1 to 5 pm; Trade table - 5 to 6 pm; Telescope walk - 6 pm; Pot luck tea Saturday - 7 to 9 pm; Viewing - Saturday night; Speakers - Sunday 10 am - 12:30 pm; Packup - Sunday or Monday at noon (depending on registrations)

REGISTRATION FEES: Approx. $15 per night per person from school age on and free per child under 5 years (actual amounts to be determined). There is no charge for a caravan point. After the refund cut-off date, 24 February 2014, there will be no refunds for cancellations. You can register after this date, however.

Please register on-line at

NB: Even if you are using a tent you need to register so that we can plan effectively

5. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21

The National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) is in Melbourne in Easter 2014, 18-21 April.

NACAA aims to bring together amateur (and not-so-amateur) astronomers from Australia, New Zealand, and beyond to share in learning, disseminating and planning cutting-edge astronomical work in the region. We always plan to have a full weekend, Friday to Monday, of various streams of presentations covering a great width of astronomical work including observing, instrumentation, education, research, history and local activities.

If you would like to be emailed details then go to and sign up for info as it comes available.

The Eighth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO8) will be held over Easter 2014, in conjunction with the 26th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) which will be held in Melbourne, Australia, hosted by the Astronomical Society of Victoria. More information on the NACAA meeting is available on its website:

TTSO8 will feature reviews of recent occultation activity and results, data reduction methods and techniques, updated information on equipment, and sessions devoted to the practical needs of both new and more advanced observers. TTSO8 is expected to draw wide attendance from occultation observers throughout Australia and New Zealand. The organisers also welcome the attendance and participation of observers from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

TTSO8's technical sessions will be split across the weekend. The bulk of the presentations will occur on Sunday and Monday April 20-21, with an "Introducing Occultations Workshop" on Friday April 18.

Information on the TTSO8 meeting will be posted to the RASNZ Occultation Section website: Registrations will be done via the NACAA website.

The organisers also invite presentations for the TTSO8 meeting. Presentation proposals should include a title, brief abstract and requested duration. Submissions to TTSO8 should be sent to the organiser, Dave Gault: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

Members of the Whakatane Astronomical Society are marking their 50th anniversary in 2014 by hosting the annual RASNZ conference. The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June. The venue is situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street.

The third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) will take place on Monday 9th June following the conference. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from the conference venue.

On the Friday afternoon before the conference opens, the Whakatane local organising committee is arranging a bus tour which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society Observatory. More details are in the brochure.

Registration forms for conference will be available on line in the next few days. Forms, along with the conference brochure, will also be included with the December mailing of Southern Stars.

The guest speaker for 2014 is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. The title of her talk is "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The 2014 Fellows´ Speaker is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets".

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

The RASNZ SCC is now inviting submissions to present a paper at the 2014 conference. Papers may be presented orally or as posters. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper. Affiliated Societies and RASNZ Sections should take the opportunity to publicise their activities to other members of the RASNZ and the NZ astronomical community by making a presentation at the conference.

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing you at the conference.

-- Brian Loader, SCC chairman

7. Earth-like Planets Common

Astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life. Given that about 20 percent of stars are sun-like, the researchers say, that amounts to several tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Based in these statistics, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye.

These results come from an analysis of the Kepler data by a team led by led by Erik Petigura, a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley. The team also included Geoffrey Marcy, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy, and Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009 to look for planets outside the solar system that cross in front of, or transit, their stars. Transits cause a slight diminution - about one hundredth of 1 percent - in the star's brightness. 150,000 stars were imaged every 30 minutes for four years. From these NASA's Kepler team reported more than 3,000 planet candidates. Many of these are much larger than Earth ranging from large planets with thick atmospheres, like Neptune, to gas giants like Jupiter. Some orbit so close to their stars that they are roasted.

To sort them out, Petigura and his colleagues are using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to obtain spectra of as many stars as possible. This will help them determine each star's true brightness and calculate the diameter of each transiting planet, with an emphasis on Earth-diameter planets.

Independently, Petigura, Howard and Marcy focused on the 42,000 stars that are like the sun or slightly cooler and smaller, and found 603 candidate planets orbiting them. Only 10 of these were Earth-size, that is, one to two times the diameter of Earth and orbiting their star at a distance where they are heated to lukewarm temperatures suitable for life. The team's definition of habitable is that a planet receives between four times and one-quarter the amount of light that Earth receives from the sun.

What distinguishes the team's analysis from previous analyses of Kepler data is that they subjected Petigura's planet-finding algorithms to a battery of tests in order to measure how many habitable zone, Earth-size planets they missed. Petigura actually introduced fake planets into the Kepler data in order to determine which ones his software could detect and which it couldn't.

Accounting for missed planets, as well as the fact that only a small fraction of planets are oriented so that they cross in front of their host star as seen from Earth, allowed them to estimate that 22 percent of all sun-like stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in their habitable zones.

The results are published in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the [U.S.] National Academy of Sciences.

8. Hot Earths Too!

Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn't exist. This scorching lava world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than 1.5 million km - one of the tightest known orbits. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn't have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.

Not only is Kepler-78b a mystery world, it is the first known Earth-sized planet with an Earth-like density. Kepler-78b is about 20 percent larger than the Earth, with a diameter of 15,000 km, and weighs almost twice as much. As a result it has a density similar to Earth's, which suggests an Earth-like composition of iron and rock. Kepler-78b orbits a Sun-like G-type star located 400 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The tight orbit of Kepler-78b poses a challenge to theorists. When this planetary system was forming, the young star was larger than it is now. As a result, the current orbit of Kepler-78b would have been inside the swollen star.

Kepler-78b is a member of a new class of planets recently identified in data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft. These newfound worlds all orbit their stars with periods of less than 12 hours. They're also small, about the size of Earth. Kepler-78b is the first planet in the new class to have its mass measured.

It is a doomed world. Gravitational tides will draw it even closer to its star. Eventually it will move so close that the star's gravity will rip the world apart. Theorists predict that Kepler-78b will vanish within three billion years. Interestingly, our solar system could have held a planet like Kepler-78b. If it had, the planet would have been destroyed long ago leaving no signs for astronomers today.

The planet's mass was measured by the way it causes its star to wobble as the two circle their centre of mass. Star velocity measurements were made by independent teams using high-precision spectrographs at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma and at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The teams' measurements agreed with each other, increasing their confidence in the result.

For text and images:

-- From a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics pree release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

9. Dark Matter Still not Found

Physicists are learning more about what dark matter isn´t. That will help them find out what it is.

Cosmology and particle physics - or at least, the popular versions of them - tend to the grandiose. The Higgs boson, recently discovered at CERN, Europe´s particle-physics laboratory, is not just any old particle. To the despair of many physicists, it has been dubbed the "God particle". Books on cosmology promise to reveal the "fabric of the cosmos", while their academic authors discuss different flavours of a "theory of everything".

The reality, though, is more disappointing - or perhaps more exciting, depending on your point of view. Physicists have excellent, accurate theories to describe the behaviour of the matter that makes up atoms. But they also know that this matter constitutes less than 5% of the substance of creation. The remainder is split between "dark energy", a notional force assigned responsibility for the accelerating expansion of the universe, and "dark matter", ghostly stuff whose existence seems necessary to make sense of the arrangement of the heavens. Both are the subject of intense study, and both remain deeply mysterious.

On October 30th the team running the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, in a mine 1,500 metres below South Dakota, announced the results of their first three months spent hunting for dark matter: nothing. That is big news. It contradicts evidence from several other experiments, which offered hints that dark matter had been spotted. And LUX is the most sensitive dark-matter detector yet built.

The history of dark matter dates back to 1933, when Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astrophysicist working at the California Institute of Technology, noticed something odd. The galaxies he was looking at seemed to be moving in ways inexplicable by the gravitational pull of their neighbours. This led him to argue that the universe is full of much more stuff than can be seen through optical telescopes.

Since then, further evidence has accumulated, from the ways in which galaxies spin, to measurements of the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, and the distorting effects that galaxy-sized concentrations of mass have on light travelling through space. None of these observations makes sense without assuming a large dollop of extra mass (more than five times the amount of atomic matter) alongside what astronomers can actually see. A small fraction of the absent mass might be mundane: sunless planets, wandering black holes, neutron stars and the like. But to be consistent with astronomical observations, most of it must be stranger stuff.

The leading candidate is the WIMP, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, which is physicist-speak for a big particle that responds to only two of the universe´s four fundamental forces. WIMPs feel the weak nuclear force (which governs radioactive decay, among other things) and gravity, but their ability to ignore both electromagnetism and the strong force that holds nuclei together makes them elusive objects that barely interact with atomic matter.

The LUX experiment consists of a cylinder filled with 368kg of liquid and gaseous xenon, which is in turn contained within a 270,000-litre tank of water. If WIMPS are real, then huge numbers of them should be streaming through the cylinder every second. Occasionally, a WIMP should bump straight into a proton or a neutron within the nucleus of a xenon atom, interact with it via the weak nuclear force, and thus cause the nucleus to recoil. The atom will then emit a scintilla of light, which will be picked up by the machine´s ultra-sensitive detectors. The water shield, and the machine´s location deep underground, are designed to protect it from cosmic rays, solar radiation and anything else that could cause false alarms.

That LUX has so far failed to find anything is important, because it runs against a promising line of evidence. Several other dark-matter detectors had seen signs, over the past few years, of the particles LUX is hunting for. Most recently, in April, the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), located in an iron mine in Minnesota, reported three potential WIMP detections, with a confidence level of 99.8%. (That may sound high, but in particle physics it is a result of only middling significance.) Daniel McKinsey, a physicist at Yale University who is a spokesman for LUX, says that if the CDMS results were accurate, then LUX ought to have seen around 1,500 WIMPs during its first three months of operation.

Although a definite detection of dark matter would have generated more headlines (and probably, also, a Nobel prize), coming up empty-handed is a vital part of science. The WIMPs dreamed up by theorists are almost endless in their variety, says Katherine Mack, a cosmologist at the University of Melbourne, with wildly differing masses and levels of shyness about interacting with the rest of the cosmos. Rick Gaitskell, LUX´s chief scientist, reckons two decades of dark-matter hunting have covered about half the possibilities.

While astrophysicists attack the problem by looking outward, their particle-physicist brethren are looking inward. The masters of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, fresh from running the Higgs boson to ground, are trying to spot the signature of dark matter by looking for missing chunks of energy in the debris produced by the machine´s high-speed particle collisions.

Other teams are putting their detectors in space, instead of underground. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), bolted to the side of the International Space Station, is designed to search for dark matter by detecting the particles, called positrons, produced when WIMPS in the Milky Way collide and annihilate each other. In April those running the AMS announced results consistent with the idea that such annihilations are happening, although Dr Mack points out that these results are tentative, and the positrons could also have come from other things, such as pulsars.

So far, then, the great search has found nothing. But each negative result rules out certain theories and strengthens others, shrinking the conceptual space in which dark matter can be hiding. Most physicists expect a robust detection sooner or later. But if every search actually were to come up empty-handed, then that would be the most exciting negative result of all - for it would imply that whatever is responsible for the movements of the galaxies is even stranger than people think.

-- From The Economist, 2 November 2013, p.77. See the original, with cartoon, at

For a completely different viewpoint on dark matter - that it isn't needed at all - listen to Bryan Crump's interview with Hongsheng Zhao of the University of St Andrews at

The interview was broadcast on Monday Nov. 18th, so will be available for download till about Dec. 1.

10. 'On the Radar'

'On the Radar' - The story of Piha´s World War 2 radar station - by Sandra Coney, Published by Keyhole Press & Protect Piha Heritage.

'On the Radar' tells the story of Piha´s World War 2 radar station, where the new high-tech weaponry of radar scanned the skies for signs of invading Japanese and the seas for submarines. One of a coastal network, reporting to the secret nerve centre at the Epsom Filter Room, the Piha station was a key part of New Zealand´s home defence.

This is also a book about a place and the connections between its ancient past, its history and its present. The high hill on which the station sat was sacred to Maori, a place where supernatural feats were performed. In the 1940s, experiments were conducted here, now acclaimed as laying the foundations for the modern science of radio astronomy.

'On the Radar' will be a revelation for readers, containing much new material about strange happenings at New Zealand´s best known beach, along with over 170 previously unseen images. Sandra Coney is a well-known writer with a deep love of the West Coast.

208 pages, over 170 historic and contemporary images, colour throughout,

full reference and index

Paperback, section sewn. RRP $40 / ISBN 978-0-473-24599-3 To order email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Or order online at Available in selected bookshops Phone: (09) 356 7074

Postal Order Form I´d like to order copies of ON THE RADAR @ $40 each Postage $5.50 a copy I enclose a cheque payable to Keyhole Press for $ My name My address Mail to: Keyhole Press, PO Box 106343, Auckland 1143, NZ

11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. Overly Honest Methods


  • We didn't read half the papers we cite because they are behind a paywall.
  • This dye was selected because the bottle was within reach.
  • Reagent became unavailable in 2002 because nobody wanted to order more and risk being added to terrorist watchlists.
  • Sample size was smaller than planned because I had been in grad school for ten years and my advisor wanted me to graduate.
  • PCR reaction repeated for 25 cycles because that's how long it takes to go teach class.
  • We don't know how the results were obtained. The postdoc who did all the work has since left to start a bakery.
  • The samples incubated at ambient temperature in a remote customs office for 5 months.
  • Larval development was accelerated by carrying around subjects in ketchup cups inside the researchers' clothing.
  • Experimental time points were chosen so I didn't have to come into the lab in the middle of the night or over the weekend.
  • Blood samples were spun at 1500 rpm because the centrifuge made scary noises at higher speeds.
  • Tiny metal rods were used to unravel each of the (hundreds of) butterflies' probescus for feeding. Every. Flippin. Day.
  • We assume 50 Ivy League kids represent the general population, because actual 'real people' can be sketchy or expensive.
  • All reagents were purchased from Fisher Scientific because Fisher is like the Walmart of science.
  • We didn't make the corrections suggested by reviewer 1 because we think reviewer 1 is a f***ing idiot.
  • The experiment was carried out from 9am to 5pm because the lab was deserted and creepy after office hours.
  • Rat sacrifices were performed to Tom Petty because that's how we roll in this lab.
  • Our sampling locations happen to match tropical resort towns because field work doesn't have to be mud and agony.

-- See the original with photos at

-- The link passed on by Ned Gilmore.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand