Day One - Opening Ceremony

Outline

The first day of ISS!

Excited scholars dressed up in their school uniforms for the official photos and opening ceremony held in the new law lecture theatre. The 35th Professor Harry Messel International Science school "Genes to Galaxies" was officially opened by her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, Governor of New South Wales.

Honourable Justice Robert French, an ISS scholar from 1964, presented the opening lecture in the law lecture theatre. He recounted his career and experiences since his ISS, in studying science and then turning to law and how that helped him to gain the position of Chief Justice of Australia.

The second lecture of the day was presented in the Slade lecture theatre by Malcolm Walter. His fascinating lecture talked about the conditions which life needs and the techniques used to find early forms of life on Earth.

The afternoon activity was "Meet-a-Geek", where the scholars were able to mingle with some of the physics staff and look at the diverse range of careers avaiable to them. It was also a good time in which to discover their interests within the physics fields and get in touch with their inner geek.

The YSA organised some rock climbing for the evening, for all the adventurous scholars, before a well deserved sleep after a tiring first day of the ISS.

Lectures

Lecture 1: From Light and Life to Genes and Galaxies - 45 Years Onby Chief Justice Robert French

"Forty five years ago, in 1964, I was one of two secondary school students from Western Australia who attended the precursor to this International Science School, namely the Nuclear Research Foundation Summer Science School at the University of Sydney. One of us from Western Australia went on to become a distinguished scientist. That was the other one."

"Accepting the proposition that the moon is made of cheese requires acceptance of the existence of a cosmic cow. That would be a singularity and we do not get singularities in a rational universe."

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Lecture 2: The Earliest Evidence of Life on Earthby Professor Malcolm Walter

The oldest convincing evidence of life is in 3.5 Ga rocks in the Pilbara region of WA and the Barberton Mountainland of South Africa. Diverse microbial communities lived in environments ranging from volcanic calderas to open marine settings. There is tenuous evidence for life in 3.8-3.9 Ga rocks of Greenland, but the record is obscured by the pervasive alteration of all known rock successions of this age and older. Thus there are no known well preserved rocks older than 3.5 Ga - so, no convincing fossil record. The best we can do at present is to infer the earliest stages of life from studies of extant organisms and from theoretical and experimental approaches to the origin of life.

The oldest known macroscopic organisms preserved in the rock record are dated at 2.1 Ga. Their affinities are obscure, but they may have been algae. There is chemical evidence for eukaryotes (nucleated sexually reproducing organisms) back to 2.7-2.8 Ga, and tentative morphological evidence at 3.0 Ga or even earlier.

Oxygen isotope studies hint at the possibility that the oceans of these times were hot, perhaps 60-800C or so, despite the low luminosity of the Sun. An enhanced greenhouse resulting from high CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere is the likely cause. The bulk of the evidence indicates an atmosphere and hydrosphere with little or no free oxygen and oceans with little sulfate. Oxygenation of the surface of the Earth resulted from oxygenic photosynthesis by cyanobacteria.

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