Science, art, literature and philosophy. What would life be without this stuff?
Pretty primitive. We'd still have sport, though. Just no screens to watch it on.
Anyhow, we're delighted to announce that the Royal Society of NSW is opening a Newcastle-Hunter branch.
The new branch will be launched at an event on Wednesday at the Newcastle Club.
The society's reason for being is to encourage interest in science, art, literature and philosophy.
The society's president, Professor Ian Sloan, said it had a long history, going back almost 200 years.
It was originally established in June 1821 as the Philosophical Society of Australasia.
"It's had its ups and downs, but it's now in a period of resurgence," Professor Sloan said.
"It's a really important development for us to have what looks to be a very interesting, viable, Hunter branch."
One benefit of being a member was "you meet the most interesting people and hear the most interesting things".
He said the fab four subjects of science, art, literature and philosophy were "a 19th century formulation of everything that's intellectually creative".
But in the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, these things - to some at least - acquire even more value.
"They're still the best and most important things in life," Professor Sloan said.
One problem with modern-day life was a lack of evidence-based argument.
"It could be said that we don't have enough of this in public discourse," he said.
The society, he said, was "trying to reinstate a belief in intellectual values and the importance of science and evidence-based approach to public policy".
Nevertheless, he said the society was "intellectual, rather than perhaps political".
The birth of a Newcastle-Hunter branch represents the rise of the region in academic endeavour, education, research and technological enterprise.
The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, will be guest of honour at the launch.
Professor Durrant-Whyte, an authority on the science of robotics, will speak on the "Industries of the Future".
Professor Eugenie Lumbers said membership of the branch was open to anyone interested in science and culture.
The society aims to attract academics and professionals as members, but also people with "particular interests in scientific and cultural pursuits or simply generalists with inquiring minds".
More younger members are being sought.
Professor Lumbers said the new branch was recognition of the "remarkable rise" of Newcastle and the Hunter as an "impressive reservoir of intellectual, scientific, technological and cultural knowledge and skills".
She sees an increasing role for a "respected credible, informed and fact-based institution" in providing society with "evidence-based information on a wide range of matters".
"Many unsubstantiated or misleading claims are often launched through social media, leading to the spread of false, fabricated and harmful information," she said.
"I believe there is an ever-increasing risk that the opinions of experts based on evidence is drowned out by non-evidence based opinions [through social media]."
She said there was a danger that decisions not based on informed evidence would cause "long-term damage to community health and welfare".
"Never in the history of human development has there been a more pressing need to promote rational debate and knowledge because of its global impact."
Those interested in attending the free inaugural meeting can contact the society on 9431 8691 or visit the website royalsoc.org.au/contact.
Round and Round We Go
Reader David was recently on a road trip to Tamworth, Gunnedah, Coonbarabran, Gilgandra, Dubbo and Mudgee.
"Several of the country towns had roundabouts with signs saying 'indicate when exiting'," David, of Merewether, said.
"It is so good. You know where the car in front of you is going. The confusion is taken out to a large degree."
But hang on, isn't it mainly people going straight ahead who don't indicate?
"Even if going straight ahead, they indicate [in the country towns]," David said.
We tend to disagree with this. Isn't it safer and simpler not to indicate when going straight ahead on a roundabout? We looked up the road rules.
"There is no requirement for drivers to signal when approaching the roundabout, if they are going straight ahead," a NSW road safety guide said.
However, drivers must "signal left when exiting a roundabout, if it is practical to do so, and stop indicating as soon as they have exited the roundabout".
"When travelling straight ahead on a small single lane roundabout, it may be impractical to indicate left when exiting."
Hmmm. Sounds confusing.