Events are held on the last Wednesday of the month, March - October

The Horse and Trap
3 Enfield Street
Mount Eden, Auckland
Phone: 09 630 3055
Arrive 6pm for 6:30pm start until ~8pm

The Auckland Museum Institute presents

Cafe Scientifique - Auckland

Auckland Museum Institute Whaowhia 2012



Visit our CafeScientifiqueNZ channel on YouTube to view archived videos of Cafe Scientifique events from 2011 and earlier.

Jessica Costa
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Website Auckland Museum Institute - Cafe Scientifique
Twitter @CS_NZ
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Remember: our events are always the last Wednesday of the month, March - October!

October 26, 2016


Do animals think like we do?

A/Prof Douglas Elliffe

School of Psychology, University of Auckland


When animals solve complex problems, do they do it in the same way people do?  Do they ‘understand’ the problem, or do they just repeat behaviour that’s worked in the past?  What would evidence for that look like?  Graham will explore recent experiments on this question, investigating causal understanding in the Aesop’s Fable problem, metatool use and behavioural innovation, and flexible tool manufacture, all by New Caledonian crows.  The conclusion may be that we underestimate animal intelligence, but that perhaps we overestimate human intelligence at the same time.


Doug Elliffe has had a long-standing research interest in animal behaviour and in particular in the similarities and differences between animal and human behaviour.  He is a recent Head of Psychology at Auckland, directs the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour Research Group, and is currently Deputy Dean of Science.


Recent speakers   

September 28, 2016

 An Incomplete Picture: Interpreting the Past in the Future

Louise Furey, Curator, Archaeology – Auckland Museum


New Zealand has a dynamic coastline and the sea is constantly eating away the land, carrying with it anything in its path. Are we considering the effect of rising sea levels on heritage sites, and the associated loss of information, which will affect our ability to interpret the past?


Louise has been an archaeologist for 35 years and has carried out site assessments and archaeological excavations in the upper North Island. Louise's research interests are focused on Māori material culture, Māori gardening, archaeology of the Coromandel Peninsula, and Polynesian-Māori sites of the first 100-200 years after arrival in Aotearoa.August 31, 2016

August 31, 2016
Black holes in space and time – the remarkable inadequacies of what we know about what we put in our mouths and what impact it has on our health
Ask anyone what they eat and the response is midway between outright fiction and distorted, rose-tinted memory. It’s hardly the solid base on which to build a better understanding of the impacts of eating patterns on health. Moreover, few studies have studied mid-life, those mysterious lost years between fertility and the end of life – yet there is good reason to speculate that during this period, nutrition remains vital for both survival and health! Join David Cameron-Smith for a discussion of our limited current understanding of our most important black hole (our mouths), and of the health consequences of unwanted surplus nutrition to health.

David Cameron-Smith is Chair of Nutrition, University of Auckland, based within the Liggins Institute. He is also Science Director of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, where the objective is to create economic gain through identifying relationships between food and health in areas of competitive advantage for NZ food and beverage exporters. He maintains an active research program directed towards nutrient digestion , focusing on protein and the complexities of what protein does to skeletal muscle

July 27, 2016
Why Online Dating Doesn’t Work
Dr Martin Graff
School of Psychology, University of South Wales
There is much evidence that being in a good relationship can be beneficial to our health, happiness and general well-being. However, should we resort to online dating in the pursuit of a happy relationship? Psychological research would seem to suggest that online dating may not be the easy answer. 
Come along and hear Dr Martin Graff talk about the reasons why we should be cautious in our online dating pursuits. For example, people make bad decisions in online dating and often who we contact are often not what they appear to be. Additionally, there is no evidence that the algorithms employed by dating sites which purport to match us with a desirable partner actually work in reality. However don’t despair - Dr Graff will also touch on how to maximize your chances in an online dating environment.

June 29, 2016
Mana Taiao - Living in the Maori Natural World 
When the MV Rena struck Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef in the Bay of Plenty in October 2011, the impacts on Ngai Te Hapu’s customary use of the area and associated kaitiakitanga (stewardship) obligations were immense and ongoing. Briefly, the Rena disaster brought to public attention the on-going collision between Maori and Pakeha cultural perspectives on the environment, and the difficulties in reconciling the two. 
Buddy Mikaere has a background in Human Resources and Industrial Relations and is a former Director of the Waitangi Tribunal. In the last twenty years he has been a consultant in the Resource Management Area specialising in cultural issues and consultation with tangata whenua.

May 25, 2016
Smart and stylish too - Solutions for smart knitted e-textiles using engineered yarns
Michelle Peddie, Auckland University of Technology
“Smart” or “intelligent” textiles incorporate conductive fibres and embedded electronics, which is pretty clever. However fashion and electronics are markedly different fields – most smart textiles are designed with an emphasis on technical performance rather than aesthetics. They’re smart, but not very smart.
Michele Peddie’s research knits together (ahem) technical skills and design aesthetics, resulting in the construction of conductive yarns that are indistinguishable in appearance and handling characteristics from standard wool yarn. The research makes it possible to knit conductive circuits into garments that combine operational performance with good looks. Join Michele to hear about her curious journey bridging the worlds of design and abstract engineering.

September 30, 2015

Ancient DNA: Secrets from the past
A/Prof Craig Millar
U of Auckland 
Highlighted by Tom Higham in last Thursday night’s lecture ‘When Neanderthals and Modern Humans met’ is the role forensic and ancient DNA methods are playing in the determining of ancient genomes. Early forensic and ancient DNA methods could only recover small amounts of DNA information from relatively large quantities of well-preserved tissue. From these humble beginnings, ancient DNA research has now developed to the point where entire ancient genomes can be retrieved from the extinct New Zealand moa and from Egyptian bird mummies. 
Join Dr Craig Millar as he outlines this ever-advancing research field and the ways it is helping us to unlock some of the best-kept secrets of our recent past. 
July 29, 2015

Does that wine smell of violets to you?...I'm not sure - Do violets have a smell?
Prof Richard Newcomb
U of Auckland and Chief Scientist, Plant & Food
It’s old news that not everyone can smell certain odours, and that different people respond to the same odour in different ways, but with modern genomic tools we can now understand the underlying genetic variations that influence food preferences across populations and ethnic groups. Come along and discover what odours you can smell, and how this probably impacts your preference for different foods and beverages.
Richard Newcomb is Chief Scientist at the Crown Research Institute, Plant & Food Research, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the University of Auckland and a Principal Investigator at the Allan Wilson Centre.

June 24, 2015
Resolving the evolution wars
Dr Graeme Finlay
What do teeth (in hens) and sniffing for mates (in people) have in common? The answer is that they point to quirks in our DNA that we and other species share. Recently our DNA has irrefutably been shown to share a common history with that of other species.

This astonishing science illuminates our biology, and chronicles our genetic journey over millions of years. This seems to provide closure to the evolution-vs-creation wars – can the range of Christian beliefs about evolution survive this challenge from science?
Dr Graeme Finlay is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Auckland’s medical school. He brings two different worlds together: he has published a book on human genetics that overthrows the scientific claims of some biblical literalists and he also has theological training and maintains a strong Christian faith. Come and discuss what we now know about the human races' genetic past and present.

May 27, 2015

A physicist and an anthropologist walk into a bar...
Prof Thegn Ladefoged & Dr Dion O'Neale 
Te Pūnaha Matatini
Network science was "invented" independently by a number of different disciplines. Sociologists came up with sociograms; engineers created wiring diagrams; while mathematicians have long studied graphs.

At Te Pūnaha Matatini – “the meeting place of many faces” – researchers from very different backgrounds are using network science to gain fascinating, and sometimes non-intuitive, insights into New Zealand’s environment, economy and society.

Thegn Ladefoged is a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Auckland who has worked in Rotuma, Hawai‘i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand. He is developing a network approach to investigate the connections between communities in pre-European Māori society.

Dion O'Neale is a Research Fellow in the Physics department at the University of Auckland. He is particularly interested in how the properties of innovation networks might help predict the future economic success of regions. He has been known to (mis)use network science for topics ranging from sports to soils to conversations.

April 29, 2015
Musing on museums: …of ships and shoes … and many things
Roy Clare, CBE
Museums around the world are facing new challenges and are evolving to meet them. Auckland’s own War Memorial Museum, with its unique collections and place in the ongoing story of Auckland, is changing too. Nearly four years after his appointment as Director of the Museum, and following the centennial ANZAC day commemorations on April 25th, Roy Clare scans the horizon and poses some questions for museums and the people who love them.
Roy Clare CBE used to drive an aircraft carrier for a living, before coming ashore to take up leadership roles at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the UK’s Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. He was appointed Director of the Auckland Museum in August 2011.

March 25, 2015
Rambling with the wandering mind
School of Psychology
U of Auckland
Does your mind ever drift off what you’re supposed to be doing? You’re not alone. Most of us spend a fair proportion of our waking hours either “zoned out” or worried that we ought to have been paying better attention. But the tendency of our minds to wander is not only commonplace – it’s an essential design feature that helps to keep us sane and stay in touch with our creative sides. Join Michael Corballis as he takes a stroll down the winding path of our mental wanderings.
Michael Corballis is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Auckland. He has written several books on various fascinating features of the human mind.

September 24, 2014
Mathematics and Biology - are they really such strange companions?

Prof James Sneyd
Dept of Mathematics
U of Auckland
James Sneyd is used to getting confused looks from people – all he has to do is tell them he does “Mathematical Biology”.  Aren’t those completely opposite areas?  Well, James says, this might be a popular view, but it’s simply not true. For well over 300 years mathematicians have been deeply interested in biological questions (in musical questions too, another interest of James’), and some of the greatest scientific minds of the past centuries have worked right in that fuzzy area that sits squarely between Math, Physics and Biology. The modern word is “interdisciplinary”, and that is the space where James works. It’s not Math, it’s not Biology, it’s Math Biology, and it’s the wave of the future.
James Sneyd is Professor in Applied Maths at the University of Auckland.

August 27, 2014
Statistics in the media

Prof Thomas Lumley
Dept of Biostatistics
U of Auckland

Journalists are trained to be suspicious and questioning when people try to feed them stories. They typically aren't trained on statistics, which makes dodgy numbers a good strategy for getting stuff into print.  The main issues that we target in StatsChat are bogus polls, failure to divide one number by another, and lack of context, and I will give some examples. Things do seem to be improving, at least in the 'news' parts of the newspapers.

Thomas Lumley is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland, and a major contributor to the StatsChat blog.  He works on genetics, semiparametric statistics, statistical computing, and the statistical problems encountered by his co-workers in heart disease epidemiology.

  July 30, 2014
Get off the Grass: Kickstarting NZ's Innovation Economy

Prof Shaun Hendy
Dept of Physics, U of Auckland
Director, Te Punaha Matatini
New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.  In their book “Get off the Grass”, Shaun Hendy and the late Sir Paul Callaghan argued that if New Zealand is to grow its economy more rapidly it must build nationwide communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses. It must “get off the grass” and diversify its economy beyond the primary sector.  But can New Zealand really learn to innovate like a city of four million people? Can we learn to live off knowledge rather than nature?  Join Shaun Hendy to hear how we can do just that.

Professor Shaun Hendy FRSNZ is Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a Centre of Research Excellence that studies complex systems, and a physicist at the University of Auckland.  In 2013 he was awarded the Royal Society’s Callaghan Medal and the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize for his contributions to communicating science.

June 25, 2014 
Ocean Acidification: Threats and Challenges

Dr Todd Capson
Science and Policy Advisor to the Global Oceans Health Program, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership

Just when you thought the climate change threat couldn’t get any bigger…it turns out that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more carbon dioxide dissolved in the world’s oceans – which makes the seawater more acidic.  That’s a very bad thing if you’re a marine organism that can’t tolerate a change in acidity, or a nation like New Zealand that draws significant economic and cultural value from a healthy sea.  When the problem is this big, what can anyone do?

Join Dr Todd Capson, chemist, biochemist and Science and Policy Advisor to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, to hear how bilateral collaboration between the United States and New Zealand is powering efforts to address acidification in the Pacific and Southern oceans.

April 30, 2014
DNA sequencing: Everything you want to know about yourself, but were afraid to ask

A/Prof Cristin Print, University of Auckland
What do you have in your genes? Would knowing your DNA sequence help you, or could it open a nasty can of worms? Is your DNA yours to sequence anyway, or does it also belong to your parents and children? The first human genome sequenced cost US$ 3 billion and took 13 years. By the end of this year scientists may be able to sequence your genome for as little as US$ 2,000 in 2-3 days. Join medical genomic researcher, Cristin Print to see what a genome sequence really looks like. Discuss the excitement of this world-changing technology and also the ethical considerations and risks.

March 26, 2014
Big News About The Big Bang
Richard Easther, University of Auckland

Cosmology was front page news all over the world this month -- "Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang's Smoking Gun" said the New York Times (Front page, above the fold). Come and ask Prof. Richard Easther, a theoretical cosmologist at the U of Auckland, what this means, what happens now, and what we are doing about it in New Zealand.