Greenfield, Sleek Geeks, Genographic and more – public sessions at Congress

Media bulletins, TV Producers

Get inside the worlds of science and television

Join us at three free public forums in Melbourne on 4 December 2009

  • UK neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield will discuss the brain with Robyn Williams at 9.30 am to 10.30 am
  • Ripping Yarns: murder, dance, obesity, evolution and stars. Five scientists and historians pitch their stories. See what it takes to grab the attention of the world’s TV producers: 11 am to 12 noon
  • We Are Family: Sleek Geeks Adam Spencer and Dr Karl will explore our deep ancestry with Dr Spencer Wells, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and leader of the Genographic Project at 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm.

Grand Hyatt Hotel, 123 Collins Street (cnr Collins and Russell).

Free but booking essential. Details online at Bookings open 20 November.

The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers is an annual meeting of the global community of people who make, buy and broadcast science and factual television. The BBC, Discovery, History Channel, National Geographic, Rai, ABC and over twenty other international broadcasters will be represented.

The organisers are throwing the doors open to the public for the last day of the Congress.

There are LIMITED seats available across the day so book online or miss out.

The sessions are:

Understanding the Human Brain – Baroness Susan Greenfield

ABC Science broadcaster Robyn Williams explores what we know about the brain with UK Baroness Susan Greenfield, neuroscientist, author, broadcaster, and director of the Royal Institution.

In the last few years there have been massive developments in our understanding of the brain’s complexity and plasticity, much of which has been presented on television throughout the world. We’ll see clips from the best work on the marvels and mysteries of the human brain as we hear from two of the big brains in the world of science.

9.30 am to 10.30 am, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 123 Collins Street (cnr Collins and Russell).

Free but booking essential. Details online at

Update: Understanding the Human Brain is now fully booked.

Ripping Yarns: what makes good factual TV?

Five scientists and historians pitch their stories to TV producers – hear their stories and see what it takes to grab the attention of the world’s TV producers.

Was one of Australia’s most distinguished scientists a secret murderer?

Scientist and historian Professor Iain McCalman explores the secret past of William Saville-Kent who published the first serious scientific study of the Great Barrier Reef and reformed the fishing and pearl industries.

Astronomer, communist, woman – the short career of one of Australian astronomy’s brightest stars

US astronomer Professor Miller Goss is fascinated with the career of Ruby Payne-Scott.

Ruby was a pioneer of radio astronomy in the 1940s and 50s and a leader of secret radar research during World War Two. She was also a communist, attracting the attention of ASIO.  And she secretly married – to bypass a public service rule that a married woman could not hold a permanent position.

Miller Goss is on a mission to see Ruby’s achievements recognised.

The Dance of the Little Aboriginal Girl

Faith Bandler is CELEBRATED as a political activist. Her career as a dancer is much less well known. In 1951 Faith toured Europe performing the lead part in ‘The Dance of the Little Aboriginal Girl’, a ballet designed to reveal discrimination against Aboriginal people and to promote Peace and Friendship between the Communist & non-Communist Worlds. On returning to Australia her passport was confiscated for 10 years. Professor Marilyn Lake will reveal Faith’s story.

Breaking the link between fat and diabetes

How does our brain know we’ve eaten enough? How does it know we’ve got enough fat reserves? And what’s causing the global epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Professor Michael Cowley has the answers. He’s shown unequivocally that losing weight isn’t just a matter of will power. He’s working on solutions and has founded a biotech company that’s now trialling four obesity treatments.

Was Wallace cheated – the story of the story of evolution

Alfred Russel Wallace proposed a theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin. So why are we remembering Darwin this year and not Wallace?

Dr Scott Hocknull will explore Wallace’s work in Malaysia and the Wallace line – where Asian and Australian evolutionary lines collide. How important is Wallace’s work to evolutionary theory. Does he deserve more of the credit?

The jury

A panel of producers from RTE, SBS, NOV A/WGBH, ABC TV and Thirteen/WNET will give the researchers’ stories the thumbs up or the thumbs down.

11.00 am to 12 noon, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 123 Collins Street (cnr Collins and Russell).

Free but booking essential. Details online at Update: Ripping Yarns is now fully booked.

We Are Family – the Sleek Geeks and Dr Spencer Wells

The ABC’s Adam Spencer and Dr Karl (the Sleek Geeks) explore their deep ancestry with National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dr. Spencer Wells.

We’re all descended from a group of African ancestors who—about 60,000 years ago—began their journeys out of Africa. But how did our ancestors end up here?

National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dr. Spencer Wells heads up The Genographic Project, which is analysing historical patterns in DNA from more than 370,000 participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots and the migratory history of the human species.

Dr. Wells will discuss The Genographic Project and the making of the National Geographic TV documentary The Human Family Tree with Adam and Karl. The Sleek Geeks and a number of luminaries from the WCSFP family have provided samples of their DNA to the project. In this session we will reveal which particular branches of the human family tree they belong to.

1.30 pm to 3.30 pm, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 123 Collins Street (cnr Collins and Russell).

Seats still available. Free but booking essential. Details online at