Speaker: Peter Ellerton

PhD Candidate in Educational Philosophy

Peter is director of the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project. His research focuses on the nature and teaching of critical thinking. He has worked for many years as a curriculum head of science, mathematics and philosophy in high schools and is a consultant to the International Baccalaureate Organisation in the design and implementation of science curriclua. He won the 2008 Australian Skeptics $10,000 prize for Critical Thinking for his work in developing educational resources, and he was not improved by being faith-healed on national television.


Just Think – It’s Important

Why is philosophy as a subject such a fizzer in schools, asks Laura Parker.

For Said Bouziane, a year 11 student, using deductive logic is as easy as stacking chairs.

“One day after class I noticed a student pick up a pile of five chairs and place them on a pile of two. I wondered how many times this student chose the bigger, heavier, more troublesome pile of chairs,” he said.

Pondering reason and logic is a normal part of Said’s day at Calamvale Community College in Brisbane, where he studies philosophy under the guidance of teacher Peter Ellerton.

A former physics teacher, Mr Ellerton introduced the philosophy and critical thinking program to Calamvale after joining a network of Queensland teachers which promotes and spreads the teaching of philosophy in high schools throughout the state.

“Some people don’t understand what we mean by philosophy – they think it’s just discussion,” Mr Ellerton said. “The truth is it’s a rigorous and analytical subject; you have to do it properly. We don’t discuss the meaning of life. As a subject, I think it’s more fundamental than maths or English.”

Read More at Sydney Morning Herald

Interview: Future Proof your Thinking

Part 1

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Part 2

Talk The Changing Changing Climate of Skepticism

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty in conversation with Peter Ellerton — Science, Scepticism and Society

Speaker: Scott Watkins

Dr Watkins was born in Sydney, Australia and completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

In December 2000, Dr Watkins moved to the United Kingdom to take up a Postdoctoral Fellowship with Dr Victor Christou at the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory of the University of Oxford, where he worked on novel phosphorescent emitters for use in Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs).
Dr Scott Watkins is currently leading CSIRO’s research stream on Organic Photovoltaics (OPVs).

In 2001 Dr Watkins joined Opsys, a spin-out company originating from the University of Oxford, where he continued his research on OLEDs. Opsys merged with Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) – a Cambridge university spin-out company – in October 2002.

Dr Watkins continued his work on novel phosphorescent cores for both light emitting dendrimers and polymers with CDT, as a research scientist and then as a consultant, until 2004.

In September 2003 he began working with Professor Andrew Holmes at the University of Cambridge where his work centred on the synthesis of triplet emitters for use in OLEDs.

Dr Watkins joined CSIRO in October 2004 and was also appointed as an academic visitor at the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, where he has co-supervised a number of PhD students with Professor Andrew Holmes.

In 2007, Dr Watkins was appointed Stream Leader for Organic Photovoltaics at CSIRO.


Main - csiro - scott watkinsDr Watkins has: published more than 40 peer-reviewed papers and is an inventor on 10 patent applications in the field of organic electronics been an invited speaker at more than 10 international conferences on organic electronics been elected as the Early Career Scientist on the National Executive of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (now Science and Technology Australia), 2007 been awarded CSIRO Julius Fellowship, 2007–10.

Scott Watkins work is key to CSIRO’s research on future manufacturing, specifically flexible electronics.


Developing next generation low-cost solar cells of the future


Dr Scott Watkins is applying CSIRO’s world-class understanding of polymer science to create new electroactive materials for the next generation of plastic electronics and energy devices.

Current activities

Dr Scott Watkins is currently leading CSIRO’s research stream on Organic Photovoltaics (OPVs). This includes scientists working across CSIRO at laboratories based in both Melbourne and Newcastle.

In the area of OPVs, CSIRO is a key member of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) which includes researchers from the University of Melbourne, Monash University, and industry partners Securency, BlueScope Steel, Innovia Films and Robert Bosch SEA.

VICOSC draws together the resources of Australia’s leading research institutions and companies to develop technologies to enable the production of low-cost, printable, organic solar cells.

The aim of the consortia is to replace high-cost silicon based solar cells with low-cost, environmentally friendly, printable, thin-film, plastic solar cells.

Credit : CSIRO

Also see:
And bend and flex: Scott Watkins’ new generation of solar cells
Interview with Dr Watkins – Beyond Zero Emissions

Speaker: Marcus Hutter

Marcus Hutter (born 1967) is a German computer scientist and professor at the Australian National University. Hutter was born and educated in Munich, where he studied physics and computer science at the Technical University of Munich. In 2000 he joined Jürgen Schmidhuber’s group at the Swiss Artificial Intelligence lab IDSIA, where he developed the first mathematical theory of optimal Universal Artificial Intelligence, based on Kolmogorov complexity and Ray Solomonoff’s theory of universal inductive inference. In 2006 he also accepted a professorship at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Hutter’s notion of universal AI describes the optimal strategy of an agent that wants to maximize its future expected reward in some unknown dynamic environment, up to some fixed future horizon. This is the general reinforcement learning problem. Solomonoff/Hutter’s only assumption is that the reactions of the environment in response to the agent’s actions follow some unknown but computable probability distribution.

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