Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.
Points from Sci-Con Papers
Points from Sci-Con Papers
Pure Or Applied Science?
During a discussion on the above subject Professor R. H. Clark of the Geology Department gave a great deal of good advice to New Zealand scientists. He told the delegates at the Science Student Conference that New Zealanders often complain that science hasn't a chance to develop here because of the smallness of the country and the population.
It is a fact that because of our financial situation we cannot compete with larger countries in expensive pure research and we should be foolish to try. But the New Zealand environment is suitable for many applied sciences. The New Zealander has a national vigour and is very good at improvisation, and with these talents we should make full use of the natural laboratory surrounding us.
The most successful sciences in this country all make use of the environment. Marine research is very active here, and atmospheric sciences such as theories on climate control, and studies of the upper atmosphere in Canterbury are other examples. Consequently, Professor Clark feels that New Zealanders should concentrate on applied science in the sense of science applied to our country, and we should leave the pure sciences to the larger countries who have not the natural advantages we have in New Zealand.
In Antarctica there is an important factor which governs the lives of all the men who live there. It is called the Antarctic factor, and it states that if anything can go wrong it will. Some of the effects of the Antarctic factor were introduced to the delegates of the Science Student Conference by Professor A. T. Wilson during his lecture on Antarctic Research. The accompanying slides emphasised Professor Wilson's comments on the bleakness of the terrain in Antarctica, and showed up the differences between the Polar plateau which is ice, 9000ft thick, and the dry valleys which contain relatively little ice.
Professor Wilson described the research he was engaged in during his two trips to Antarctica. The university teams he was with were investigating the past climatic conditions of the continent from data taken from the many lakes in the dry valleys. They also spent some time working on the effects of the Aurora. One of the more dangerous parts of the work was measuring the temperatures of the bottoms of glaciers. This was done by drilling down through the sheer sides of the glaciers and there was always the risk of a chunk of ice breaking off the glacier and falling on them.
Many phenomena which occurred in the outside world could be studied in Antarctica in isolated conditions, without interference from conflicting factors, said Professor Wilson. Antarctica is so simple that it is a perfect natural laboratory for scientists.