Sort­ing wheat from the chaff

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS -

To ‘‘take some­thing with a pinch of salt,’’ is a sig­nal for skep­ti­cism. The warn­ing car­ries con­sid­er­ably more weight to­day thanks to so­cial media and the of­ten sus­pect in­for­ma­tion on the in­ter­net.

Un­der­lin­ing the need for doubt, ‘Take it With a Pinch of Salt’, is the ti­tle of a five-lec­ture seminar se­ries hosted by U3A (Univer­sity of the Third Age) .

Be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 14, the first seminar cov­ers public in­ter­est in vac­cines, flu­o­ri­da­tion, GMOs and di­ets.

Dis­cern­ing the va­lid­ity or oth­er­wise of such in­for­ma­tion clouds our abil­ity to make in­formed choices. Is it weird and won­der­ful or cred­i­ble science? Try­ing to bring some clar­ity to the is­sue is Dr Doug Ash­well, Massey School of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Jour­nal­ism and Mar­ket­ing.

De­cep­tion hap­pens in the an­i­mal king­dom also. On Oc­to­ber 21, re­tired en­to­mol­o­gist, Jim Es­son, will re­veal de­cep­tion as a means to sur­vival, with an­i­mals such as but­ter­flies dis­play­ing fierce ‘eyes’ on their wings, and us­ing strate­gies like cam­ou­flage.

Caveat emp­tor, like the pinch of salt, is a warn­ing over copies, fakes, forg­eries and sim­i­lar de­cep­tions. On Oc­to­ber 28 pre­sen­ter, Dr Gina Sala­p­ata, Se­nior lec­turer and pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor of Massey’s Clas­si­cal Stud­ies, ex­plains how fakes are fas­ci­nat­ing only be­cause no­body, es­pe­cially ex­perts claim­ing in­fal­li­bil­ity, wants to be as­so­ci­ated with them. She will re­veal great clas­si­cal de­cep­tions, their man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques and de­tec­tions in this il­lus­trated talk.

‘Crete – knowl­edge, truth, blame’ takes a Kiwi slant on the adage that truth is the first ca­su­alty of war. This Novem­ber 4 talk by Dr Rachael Bell, a lec­turer at Massey’s School of Hu­man­i­ties about the 1941 Bat­tle for Crete, traces how New Zealand’s War History Branch de­ter­mined the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the cru­cial with­drawal from Maleme Air­field, and the ef­fect of that on our history.

Who said sta­tis­tics are dull? The fi­nal lec­ture on Novem­ber 11 shows how sta­tis­tics are es­sen­tial in the search for sci­en­tific truth. Statis­ti­cian, Pro­fes­sor Martin Hazel­ton at Massey’s In­sti­tute of Fun­da­men­tal Sciences, will ex­am­ine a sci­en­tific scan­dal un­earthed by a sta­tis­ti­cal de­tec­tive.

Sem­i­nars are at All Saints Com­mu­nity Cen­tre from 2.15pm to 4pm. Ad­mis­sion is free with a gold coin for re­fresh­ments.

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