2006 - 2007

Prof. Sydney Brenner: "The Architecture of Biological Complexity"

When Oct 19, 2006
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Togo Salmon Hall (TSH), Rm 120
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Sydney Brenner

Prof. Sydney Brenner
2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology

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We now have unprecedented ability to analyse biological systems in great detail. In particular, we can determine the complete sequences of genomes, thus giving us direct access to the genetic information specifying the development, structure and function of may different organisms including ourselves. How are we to document, understand and apply the vast heaps of data being collected by the many scientists working in biology today? I will show that what is required is a theory of complexity in biological systems and a sketch will be described. An important feature will be to incorporate the constraints imposed by the fact that these are evolved sytems and differ fundamentally from artificial designed sytems.

Prof. Peter Goldreich: "Three Easy Pieces: Examples of Chaos in the Solar System"

When Feb 08, 2007
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery, Room 1305/07
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Peter Goldreich

Prof. Peter Goldreich
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

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Chaos frustrates our ability to predict the future from knowledge of the present. Weather prediction and human behavior are prime examples. I will explain the origin of chaos by considering the swing of a pendulum. Then I will describe the role it plays in unpredictable orbits, in climate variations on Mars, and in the transport of meteorites from the asteroid belt to Earth. The pendulum that underlies each example will be revealed. My presentation will include movies, demonstrations, and meteorites.

Speaker backgroundProfessor Peter Goldreich is one of the most prominent theoretical astrophysicists of our time. His work has provided fundamental theoretical insights for understanding the rotation of planets, the dynamics of Saturn's rings, pulsars, astrophysical masers, the spiral arms of galaxies, oscillations of the sun and white dwarfs, and astrophysical turbulence.

Many of his greatest contributions have been to our understanding of how planets form, migrate, and evolve. His studies are of great importance to investigations of the newly discovered planetary systems around other stars.

He completed his Ph.D. at Cornell University (Physics) in 1963, and after completing two years of postdoctoral research at Cambridge University, joined the Faculty of UCLA in 1964, and then on to Caltech. He remained in that institution until 2003. He is currently a professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Peter Goldreich's many honors include his early election to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (1972), the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society for preemninence in astronomical research (1979), the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1993), and the National Medal of Science (1995).


Dr. Jill Tarter: "SETI: Science Fact, Not Fiction"

When Mar 08, 2007
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery, Room 1305/07
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Jill Tarter

Dr. Jill Tarter
SETI Institute

Another summer, another “blockbuster” movie about aliens... but do they really exist? The real scientific search for evidence of life, and particularly intelligent life, elsewhere in the cosmos is just as exciting as the “reel” version, and a lot more logical. So far, we have only life-as-we-know-it to guide our speculations and observations. But new technologies, a new appreciation of the tenacity of life and a growing respect for the world of microbes, new spacecraft and missions, and new observatory facilities are rapidly expanding our viewpoint and surprising us. We can expect more surprises. In the next few decades we will take a much closer look at the places within our solar system where liquid water (even vast oceans) may exist and harbor life. We will probe the closest stars to see if other ‘Earths’ and ‘biospheres’ exist. SETI will broaden its strategies and extend its range out into the galaxy, looking for evidence of someone else’s technology. We don’t know what we will find; that’s part of the excitement.

Speaker backgroundJill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and is Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to secure private funding to continue this exploratory science. Currently, she serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, a joint project between the SETI Institute and the UC Berkeley Radio Astronomy Laboratory. When this innovative array of 350 6-m antennas begins operations at the UC’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory, it will simultaneously survey the radio universe for known and unexpected sources of astrophysical emissions, and speed up the search for radio emissions from other distant technologies by orders of magnitude.

Tarter’s work has brought her wide recognition in the scientific community, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace, two Public Service Medals from NASA, Chabot Observatory’s Person of the Year award (1997), Women of Achievement Award in the Science and Technology category by the Women’s Fund and the San Jose Mercury News (1998), and the Tesla Award of Technology at the Telluride Tech Festival (2001). She was elected an AAAS Fellow in 2002 and a California Academy of Sciences Fellow in 2003. In 2004 Time Magazine named her one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2005 Tarter was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization at Wonderfest, the biannual San Francisco Bay Area Festival of Science. In 2006 Tarter became a National Advisory Board member for the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC. She is also a Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) Fellow.

Tarter is deeply involved in the education of future citizens and scientists. In addition to her scientific leadership at NASA and SETI Institute, Tarter has been the Principal Investigator for two curriculum development projects funded by NSF, NASA, and others. The first, the Life in the Universe series, created 6 science teaching guides for grades 3-9 (published 1994-96). Her second project, Voyages Through Time, is an integrated high school science curriculum on the fundamental theme of evolution in six modules: Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin of Life, Evolution of Life, Hominid Evolution and Elution of Technology (published 2003). Tarter is a frequent speaker for science teacher meetings and at museums and science centers, bringing her commitment to science and education to both teachers and the public. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.

Prof. Edward W. Kolb: "Mysteries of the Dark Universe"

When May 15, 2007
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery, Room 1305/07
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Edward W. Kolb

Prof. Edward W. Kolb
University of Chicago / Fermilab

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Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing! Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called ?dark matter? and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called dark energy. Unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will shed light on the nature of space and time and connect the quantum and the cosmos.

Speaker backgroundEdward W. Kolb (known to most as Rocky ) is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, as well as a Professor in the College, and a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. In 1983 he was the founding head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group and in 2004 the founding Director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

Kolb is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was the recipient of the 2003 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the 1993 Quantrell Prize for teaching excellence at the University of Chicago. His book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky, received the 1996 Emme Award of the American Aeronautical Society.

The field of Rocky's research is the application of elementary-particle physics to the very early Universe. In addition to over 200 scientific papers, he is a co-author of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology.

He has travelled the world, if not yet the Universe, giving scientific and public lectures. In addition to occasional lectures at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, Rocky has been a Harlow Shapley Visiting Lecturer with the American Astronomical Society since 1984. In recent years he has been selected by the American Physical Society and the International Conference on High-Energy Physics to present public lectures in conjunction with international physics meetings. Rocky presented a special public lecture in Salonika Greece as part of the cultural celebration of that city, and he was selected to address the president of Pakistan as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country. He has been the Oppenheimer lecturer in Los Alamos, and in Athens (Ohio) and Troy (New York) he presented the Graselli Lecture and the Resnick Lecture. He has also presented public lectures at the Royal Society of London, as well as Vienna, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Valencia, Rome, Toronto, and Vancouver. He is a past Fellow of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

Rocky has appeared in several television productions, most recently in a BBC special, Cosmology on Trial. He can also be seen in the IMAX film The Cosmic Voyage, released in the summer of 1996.