Issue 3
Tuesday, 07 May 2019
Charles Darwin University
Selby Fellow, Professor Herbert Huppert
Selby Fellow, Professor Herbert Huppert

Professor to reflect on politics and science of cheating

By Patrick Nelson

Highly regarded Cambridge geophysicist Professor Herbert Huppert promises to deliver a stimulating perspective on a provocative topic when he delivers the Selby Lecture in Alice Springs tomorrow night.

The presentation, titled “Cheating: in science, sport, politics, business, the animal kingdom, life …” is particularly timely, given the posturing in the lead up to the 18 May Federal election.

“It may sound strange that a good, honest scientist is interested, and even worse, knowledgeable about, cheating,” Professor Huppert said.

“I’ll challenge the notion that cheating is the receiving of a reward for finding an easy way out of an unpleasant situation.

“I’ll describe examples of outright cheating, followed by questions of where exactly to draw the dividing line between cheating and possibly even exemplary behaviour, although this is not always clear.”

The lecture follows one delivered in Darwin last week, on the unrelated topic, “Will the Earth become too hot for your grandchildren to handle: the science and politics of carbon emissions and storage?”

In that lecture, Professor Huppert, summarised a number of relevant lightbulb moments in science, including the 19th Century discovery of the greenhouse effect and the mid-20th Century discovery of rising carbon dioxide content in the Earth’s atmosphere.

“As the atmosphere gets hotter, oceans get hotter and expand, polar ice melts and sea levels rise,” he said.

“Places most likely to be affected include low-lying Bangladesh, home to more than 150 million people, many of whom will have to go somewhere else.

“Darwin also is in the list of the 10 cities most likely to be affected by climate change and rising sea levels and may become totally uninhabitable in the near future.”

Professor Huppert referred to several sequestration initiatives around the world and argued that part of the solution was to store carbon dioxide in porous rock about 800m-1000m below the Earth’s surface.

“I am confident that the best experimental sequestration plant anywhere was in Australia at Otway (Victoria), which always worked well and showed that deep geological storage was safe, efficient and relatively inexpensive.

“However, politicians don’t seem to be interested to support properly the best project in the world.

“Viewed from a politician’s standpoint, nothing really serious may happen in their (political) lifetime. However, the cost - financially and to human life - of doing nothing now could be rather large.”

The Selby Travelling Fellowship is awarded by the Australian Academy of Science to distinguished overseas scientists to give public lectures and visit scientific centres in Australia.

The lecture “Cheating: in science, sport, politics, business, the animal kingdom, life …” is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday 8 May from 6pm in the Higher Education Theatre, CDU campus, Grevillea Dve. It is free and open to the public.