Skip to content Skip to main navigation

News

Chamberlains - complete legal services for business

New Chief Scientist a ‘why not’ kinda guy

By RIOTACT_commentator - 27 October 2015 15

Alan Finkel

Catriona Jackson

Scientists have welcomed the news that science entrepreneur and publisher Dr Alan Finkel is to be the next Chief Scientist for Australia, and with good reason.

Finkel is a successful businessman, science publisher, respected neuroscientist and university Chancellor. He has first hand understanding of the relationship between science and productivity, between research and creating good jobs.

He is a man very well=suited to the times in a number of ways.

Announcing his appointment Prime Minster Turnbull said:

“He has been a very successful businessman, entrepreneur. He has applied the knowledge that he learned at university, he’s applied that knowledge to do extremely well. He absolutely fits the spirit of the times in which we live. A scientist and an entrepreneur, an innovator, a communicator.”

But perhaps the most interesting comments come from the man who understands the demands and importance of the job like no other, the incumbent Professor Ian Chubb, who winds up his term at the end of this year.

Chubb described his successor’s appointment as a “testament to his [Finkel’s] great vision for Australia, pursued with energy, insight and imagination over many decades.

“He comes to the role of Chief Scientist with that rare blend of passion, patience and persistence the position demands.

“Dr Finkel has called in recent days for Australian governments to ‘wrap their arms around the future’. As Chief Scientist, he will encourage all of us to embrace a bolder vision of the century ahead,” Professor Chubb said.

Finkel did his PhD in electrical engineering at Monash, and came to Canberra and ANU as a post doc researcher. Like many other highly qualified and skilled Australians he went to the United States to make his fortune. He founded his own company AXON, which supplies top-of-the-line robotic and electronic instruments and later designed a device that speeds up drug research. He is co-founder of Cosmos magazine, as well as an investor and philanthropist across a wide range of projects.

He has been an advocate for nuclear power and electricity as replacements for coal, and when questioned at his first press conference he stuck by his zero emissions vision: “My vision is for a country, society and world where we don’t use any coal, oil or natural gas, where we have zero emissions electricity…” but he tempered it with “but you can’t get there overnight.”

The Finkel appointment is part of a wave of optimism that has swept the science and technology community as the Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasised the importance of science and innovation to prosperity.

And there are reasons for everyone to smile. Finkel has a nuanced understanding of how to turn knowledge into products and jobs, and that’s essential if we are to prosper.

Like Larry Marshall before him – the Australian scientist and business man who was appointed head of the CSIRO last year – Finkel knows that innovation involves taking risks and sometime failing as well as succeeding.

And he’s an adventurer, one of the first people to book a $200,000-plus seat on the Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic private space flights. When asked why, he said: “Why not? Who wouldn’t fly into space if they had the chance?”

It seems Alan Finkel is a “why not” kinda guy, unafraid of taking evidence-based risks, profoundly interested in science and its power, with an infectious ability to have us all share that enthusiasm. It sounds like it will be a pretty exciting ride for all of us.

Catriona Jackson is CEO of Science & Technology Australia, the peak body for science and those working in technology.

What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments
15 Responses to
New Chief Scientist a ‘why not’ kinda guy
1
Grail 5:46 pm
27 Oct 15
#

And with his strong pro-nuclear stance not being mentioned once in this article, one is immediately reminded of the reason Alan was appointed Chief Scientist: the Liberals want Australia to be the world’s nuclear waste dump.

Report this comment

2
rubaiyat 1:21 am
28 Oct 15
#

Interesting to see the body language and happy rapore of Turnbull and the new Chief Scientist compared with Abbott and the previous incumbent.

Malcolm happily embraces science and its promise exactly as Tony feared and mistrusted it.

And the public certainly is appreciating having a less medieval and witch burning leader.

Report this comment

3
HenryBG 1:01 pm
28 Oct 15
#

HenryBG said :

“Dr Finkel has called in recent days for Australian governments to ‘wrap their arms around the future’.

Good, I fully support embracing the future.

Let’s hope therefore that Finkel has outgrown his youthful enthusiasm for the past in the form of the 1950’s nuclear technology which has proven to be an uneconomical, severely polluting, and uninsurably dangerous method for boiling water whose only saving grace was its military application which was the only reason it was ever developed as a (failed) civilian technology.

Report this comment

4
dungfungus 3:16 pm
28 Oct 15
#

Grail said :

And with his strong pro-nuclear stance not being mentioned once in this article, one is immediately reminded of the reason Alan was appointed Chief Scientist: the Liberals want Australia to be the world’s nuclear waste dump.

And what is wrong with that?
We are already the biggest carbon polluters by population and there is no evidence that is harming anybody so all the world’s nuclear waste could be buried safely in one of the soon to be abandoned open pit mines in remote Australia and no one will know the difference.
Australia showing leadership again.

Report this comment

5
Testfest 3:17 pm
28 Oct 15
#

Grail said :

And with his strong pro-nuclear stance not being mentioned once in this article, one is immediately reminded of the reason Alan was appointed Chief Scientist: the Liberals want Australia to be the world’s nuclear waste dump.

No mention of his pro-nuclear stance? Maybe Catriona added this paragraph after you submitted your comment:

“He has been an advocate for nuclear power and electricity as replacements for coal, and when questioned at his first press conference he stuck by his zero emissions vision: “My vision is for a country, society and world where we don’t use any coal, oil or natural gas, where we have zero emissions electricity…” but he tempered it with “but you can’t get there overnight.”

Report this comment

6
HenryBG 11:09 am
29 Oct 15
#

dungfungus said :

… all the world’s nuclear waste could be buried safely in one of the soon to be abandoned open pit mines in remote Australia ….

Yes, and the vast herds of outback unicorns will ensure your “safely” is real..

Report this comment

7
rubaiyat 1:33 pm
30 Oct 15
#

dungfungus said :

We are already the biggest carbon polluters by population and there is no evidence that is harming anybody so all the world’s nuclear waste could be buried safely in one of the soon to be abandoned open pit mines in remote Australia and no one will know the difference.
Australia showing leadership again.

Well if you have your eyes clenched firmly shut on the mountain of evidence showing carbon dioxide is causing global warming you may as well go for the complete “ignore it at your peril” of open cut nuclear waste dumps.

Why not just put it in the boot of your car, or in the Mugga Way tip you so admire because the one sense that hasn’t left you is your olfactory sense?

Report this comment

8
rubaiyat 1:40 pm
30 Oct 15
#

Testfest said :

Grail said :

And with his strong pro-nuclear stance not being mentioned once in this article, one is immediately reminded of the reason Alan was appointed Chief Scientist: the Liberals want Australia to be the world’s nuclear waste dump.

No mention of his pro-nuclear stance? Maybe Catriona added this paragraph after you submitted your comment:

“He has been an advocate for nuclear power and electricity as replacements for coal, and when questioned at his first press conference he stuck by his zero emissions vision: “My vision is for a country, society and world where we don’t use any coal, oil or natural gas, where we have zero emissions electricity…” but he tempered it with “but you can’t get there overnight.”

His stance on nuclear power is well known.

He hasn’t got around the real problems of nuclear power. The nasty byproducts that last a huge amount of time and the fact that there isn’t enough cheap uranium to do the job, as well as it is dangerous to transport and leads to nuclear weapons.

The alternative of Thorium reactors may have some potential but like any new nuclear power stations, are stop gaps and a long way off contributing to our energy needs.

Meanwhile there are a stack of clean alternatives if people would stop playing the fool and get on with installing them.

Report this comment

9
rubaiyat 2:09 pm
30 Oct 15
#

More on Thorium reactors:

A 2011 MIT study concluded that, although there is little in the way of barriers to a thorium fuel cycle, with current or near term light-water reactor designs there is also little incentive for any significant market penetration to occur. As such they conclude there is little chance of thorium cycles replacing conventional uranium cycles in the current nuclear power market, despite the potential benefits.

http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201101/hargraves.cfm

So sounds like a dud, but very useful as a faux “solution” and excuse to sit on your hands with all the dirty fossil fuel generators.

Report this comment

10
dungfungus 5:31 pm
30 Oct 15
#

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

… all the world’s nuclear waste could be buried safely in one of the soon to be abandoned open pit mines in remote Australia ….

Yes, and the vast herds of outback unicorns will ensure your “safely” is real..

There are aircraft, vehicles and people that have disappeared in the vast outback and they haven’t been found despite a lot of searching so even if nuclear waste was simply thrown on the ground out there the chances of someone stumbling on it are very small.
Even Bob Hawke could see that.
Why is it that when a simple solution is suggested it is ridiculed on this blog?

Report this comment

11
TonyMikinos 7:30 pm
30 Oct 15
#

Amusing to see the green left trying to deal with our new chief scientist. He ticks so many of the right ideological boxes – he wants to shut down the coal industry ( big cheer!), but acknowleges that it won’t happen overnight (muted grumbles ) and then says that *nuclear energy* could be part of the mix. You can almost see the luvvies spluttering into their free-trade flat whites.

Can’t wait to hear what he has to say about GMO, given he is married to the excellent Elizabeth Finkel.

Problem is, he can’t be dismissed easily, since he demonstrably knows what he is talking about.

The ACF says Australia needs ‘an energy mix that is 100 per cent safe’.

Finkel obviously understands that there is no such thing as ‘100% safe’ and that unless we take off our ideological blinkers, we will still be waiting for the perfect solution in 50 years.

By then, it will certainly be too late.

Report this comment

12
Rotten_berry 8:45 pm
30 Oct 15
#

rubaiyat said :

More on Thorium reactors:

A 2011 MIT study concluded that, although there is little in the way of barriers to a thorium fuel cycle, with current or near term light-water reactor designs there is also little incentive for any significant market penetration to occur. As such they conclude there is little chance of thorium cycles replacing conventional uranium cycles in the current nuclear power market, despite the potential benefits.

http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201101/hargraves.cfm

So sounds like a dud, but very useful as a faux “solution” and excuse to sit on your hands with all the dirty fossil fuel generators.

It has potential but there are still a lot of hard engineering and regulatory problems to be solved in the scale up from small research reactors to commercial power plants, despite what the thorium fanboys will say. The molten salt concept seems messy to me, dealing with all that hot and highly radioactive liquid fuel salt. I like it better than the liquid sodium cooled breeder concept, which also has lots of fanboys, but obvious hazards.

But unless somebody cracks the electricity storage problem something like this will be needed eventually. Telsa’s powerwalls are still an order of magnitude too expensive for large-scale grid storage. Eventually we are going to have to replace gas heating with electric heat pumps, and solar isn’t much good during cold cloudy weather when heating demand peaks. While the costs of wind and solar are falling steadily they also suffer from diminishing returns as their penetration increases, because the outputs are somewhat correlated over areas that can be connected together by a grid for reasonable cost, and poorly correlated with demand patterns. Without a cheap way to store the power you will end up dumping it to ground when the wind is blowing, then firing up the gas and coal plants when the wind stops.

TBH I remain agnostic on the question of whether cheap storage or cheap and safe nuclear will be an easier problem to solve.

Report this comment

13
HenryBG 9:43 pm
30 Oct 15
#

rubaiyat said :

More on Thorium reactors:

A 2011 MIT study concluded that, although there is little in the way of barriers to a thorium fuel cycle, with current or near term light-water reactor designs there is also little incentive for any significant market penetration to occur. As such they conclude there is little chance of thorium cycles replacing conventional uranium cycles in the current nuclear power market, despite the potential benefits.

http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201101/hargraves.cfm

So sounds like a dud, but very useful as a faux “solution” and excuse to sit on your hands with all the dirty fossil fuel generators.

There doesn’t seem to be any point to any of that stuff, when wind, sun, and tides are providing us with free power that is totally clean.

The only reason people want govenrments to invest in expensive high-tech nuclear nonsense is because a small number of large corporations stand to make a motza out of the lack of competition in the area of nuclear technology.

Report this comment

14
rubaiyat 9:28 am
31 Oct 15
#

Rotten_berry said :

rubaiyat said :

More on Thorium reactors:

A 2011 MIT study concluded that, although there is little in the way of barriers to a thorium fuel cycle, with current or near term light-water reactor designs there is also little incentive for any significant market penetration to occur. As such they conclude there is little chance of thorium cycles replacing conventional uranium cycles in the current nuclear power market, despite the potential benefits.

http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201101/hargraves.cfm

So sounds like a dud, but very useful as a faux “solution” and excuse to sit on your hands with all the dirty fossil fuel generators.

It has potential but there are still a lot of hard engineering and regulatory problems to be solved in the scale up from small research reactors to commercial power plants, despite what the thorium fanboys will say. The molten salt concept seems messy to me, dealing with all that hot and highly radioactive liquid fuel salt. I like it better than the liquid sodium cooled breeder concept, which also has lots of fanboys, but obvious hazards.

But unless somebody cracks the electricity storage problem something like this will be needed eventually. Telsa’s powerwalls are still an order of magnitude too expensive for large-scale grid storage. Eventually we are going to have to replace gas heating with electric heat pumps, and solar isn’t much good during cold cloudy weather when heating demand peaks. While the costs of wind and solar are falling steadily they also suffer from diminishing returns as their penetration increases, because the outputs are somewhat correlated over areas that can be connected together by a grid for reasonable cost, and poorly correlated with demand patterns. Without a cheap way to store the power you will end up dumping it to ground when the wind is blowing, then firing up the gas and coal plants when the wind stops.

TBH I remain agnostic on the question of whether cheap storage or cheap and safe nuclear will be an easier problem to solve.

Pumped Storage works and if we just stopped building the biggest wasteful consumer of energy, MacMansion filled suburban sprawl, energy demand wouldn’t be overwhelming in the first place, but sigh it’s so obvious that nobody gets it or more importantly does something about it.

We have become Thoughtless the Tanked Out Fat Consumer. Probably the first thing everybody reached for when the WHO issued its warning on processed meats was more bacon and burgers. People have become so brainwashed by universal corporate marketing that they just do what they are told and plug the empty thoughts with consumerism in the hope that that will fix what’s wrong.

Report this comment

15
HenryBG 1:28 pm
03 Nov 15
#

dungfungus said :

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

… all the world’s nuclear waste could be buried safely in one of the soon to be abandoned open pit mines in remote Australia ….

Yes, and the vast herds of outback unicorns will ensure your “safely” is real..

There are aircraft, vehicles and people that have disappeared in the vast outback and they haven’t been found despite a lot of searching so even if nuclear waste was simply thrown on the ground out there the chances of someone stumbling on it are very small.
Even Bob Hawke could see that.
Why is it that when a simple solution is suggested it is ridiculed on this blog?

Your “simple solution”, if I am reading this correctly, being to randomly distribute around the outback radioactive waste in the open air?

I don’t know, Dungfungus – why *would* such a suggestion attract ridicule?

On a more serious note, the US decided on a “simple solution” for their mountains of leaky drums of radioactive waste:
Mount Yucca:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_repository

37 years later, and $12billion spent, and the site has failed as a repository for nuclear waste, proving once and for all that nuclear waste is an intractible issue, and therefore should be costed into the nuclear option as an *infinite* cost.

Report this comment

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Search across the site