2005 - 2006

Prof. Clifford M. Will: "Was Einstein Right?"

When Oct 18, 2005
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Chester New Hall Rm 104
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Clifford M. Will

Prof. Clifford M. Will
James S. McDonnell Professor of Physics, Washington University

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How has the most celebrated scientific theory of the 20th century held up under the exacting scrutiny of planetary probes, radio telescopes, and atomic clocks? After 100 years, was Einstein right? In this lecture, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's ``miracle year'' and the World Year of Physics, we relate the story of testing relativity, from the 1919 measurements of the bending of light to the 1980s measurements of a decaying double-neutron-star system that reveal the action of gravity waves, to a 2004 space experiment to test whether spacetime ``does the twist''. We will show how a revolution in astronomy and technology led to a renaissance of general relativity in the 1960s, and to a systematic program to try to verify its predictions. We will also demonstrate how relativity plays an important role in daily life.

Prof. Michael S. Turner: "Beyond Einstein: From the Birth of the Universe to the End of Time"

When Nov 17, 2005
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery (MDCL) Room 1305
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Michael S. Turner

Prof. Michael S. Turner
Rauner Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

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Einstein's theory of gravity has given us a remarkable understanding of the evolution of the Universe from the quark soup that existed a fraction of a second after the big bang through the formation of galaxies, stars and planets to the present, some 14 billion years later. There are two burning questions in cosmology today: what happened before the big bang? and What is our cosmic destiny? These questions are ripe to answer, but will require us to going beyond Einstein's theory of gravity.

Speaker backgroundMichael S. Turner is the Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and the Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at The University of Chicago. Turner received his B.S. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (1971) and his Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University (1978).

Turner is a Fellow of the APS and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Turner has been honored with the Helen B. Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Halley Lectureship at Oxford University, the Klopsteg Lecture Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at The University of Chicago.

Turner is one of the pioneers of the interdisciplinary field that has brought together cosmologists and elementary particle physicists, and his research focuses on the earliest moments of creation. His current research deals with the mystery of why the expansion of the Universe is speeding up and not slowing down.


Prof. Ford Doolittle: "The Tree of Life"

When Feb 07, 2006
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where McMaster Student Centre - CIBC Hall - Room 319
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Ford Doolittle

Prof. Ford Doolittle
Canada Research Chair in Comparitive Microbial Genomics, Dalhousie University

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For the last forty years, biologists have been using molecular techniques to reconstruct evolutionary history. With complex multicellular organisms, comparing gene sequences has allowed the construction of a largely self-consistent Tree of Life, often taken as an accurate representation of the 1-2 billion-year history of these organisms. For bacteria, however, it may be more appropriate to speak of the Web of Life, because there is rampant exchange of genes across species lines. The spread of antibiotic resistance and the origin of new pathogens are examples of this, and indeed gene exchange, not primary mutation, may be the principle mode of bacterial evolution. This web-like evolution is a challenge to neo-Darwinism, and a source of controversy within the discipline and in the public arena. Dr. Doolittle will discuss the data and its implications, from practical and philosophical perspectives.

Speaker backgroundFord Doolittle is an evolutionary biologist who uses the information in DNA to reconstruct the history of life on earth. Trained at Harvard and Stanford, since 1971 he has been on the faculty of Dalhousie University, where he holds a Canada Research Chair. His primary interest is in the mechanisms by which genes are exchanged across species lines and the implications of such exchange for our understanding of evolution. In the case of bacteria, this exchange may make the popular concept of a Tree of Life meaningless. Currently, his lab is involved in metagenomics, a new science based on the recovery of DNA directly from the environment, and assessing what biological activities are occurring by decoding this DNA.

Prof. Lynn Margulis: "Gaia's Cells: Towards a Science of Environmental Evolution"

When Mar 23, 2006
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery (MDCL) Rm 1305
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Lynn Margulis

Prof. Lynn Margulis
Distinguished University Professor, University of Massachusetts

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Cosmonauts and astronauts are awed by the "blue marble," the face of the living Earth from space. The Gaia hypothesis, a product of the lively imagination of British atmospheric chemist James E. Lovelock and the international space program, states that the atmospheric temperature and reactive chemical composition of the biota, that is the estimated 30 million species of flora, fauna and microbiota depend ultimately on solar and geothermal energy. The Gaia hypothesis, generative of new ideas that lead to experiments, observations and calculations, is unequivocally science. Since we are all dependent on solar energy I suggest that sun worship or homage to volcanic gods are more justifiable than worship of the vengeful anthropocentric Judeo-Christian God. We people, newly arrived Homo sapiens, are dispensable components of our Gaian Earth. During the last 3500 million years the Earth?s atmosphere and surface have deviated from those of Mars and Venus, its neighboring planets. The excursion of the Earth away from a solar system inner-planetary-norm, is best understood as the planetary response to the evolution of life. Gaia science, made palatable to academics by calling it Earth System Science is an exciting new integrative research initiative of Astrobiology.

Speaker backgroundLynn Margulis is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, received from William J. Clinton the Presidential Medal of Science in 1999. The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., announced in 1998 that it will permanently archive her papers. She was a faculty mentor at Boston University for 22 years.

Prof. Mark Stoneking: "Genetics and Human Origins"

When Aug 04, 2006
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery (MDCL) Room 1305
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Mark Stoneking

Prof. Mark Stoneking
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Who are our neareast living relatives? How did our species originate? These two fundamental questions about the nature of humans, although subject to intense investigation and discussion for centuries, were only recently answered. And, the answers came not from traditional lines of anthropological inquiry, such as analyzing fossils, but rather from analyzing our genes. I will discuss how it is that we carry in our genes the record of our evolutionary past, and also indicate why such seemingly simple questions proved so difficult to answer.