Minutes of Science, Once a Week
That's exactly what is provided
at the Center,” a
series of 10-minute lectures every Wednesday from 12:50 to
1 p.m., in McConnell foyer. Informal mini-presentations by
science faculty highlight their research interests
and topics of interest.
The goal of the series is to provide a weekly event that
brings faculty and students together over a science topic.
Check out what’s coming up. And stop by Wednesdays
for some science.
October 6: “Stars
Outwit Gravity—Insights of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.”
Suzan Edwards, astronomy. This October
marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one
of the great astrophysicists of the 20th century,
Nobel Prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
In anticipation of a talk on his work by Professor
Emeritus R. E. White on Oct. 19, I will give an
overview of how stars evolve in response to the
inexorable force of gravity squeezing them down,
including the brilliant insights of Chandrasekhar
that led to our modern understanding of stellar
corpses called White Dwarfs and Black Holes.
13: “It's 10 O'clock: Do You Know Where
Your Liver Is?”
Mary Harrington, psychology. Daily rhythms
are generated by cells throughout the body. How
are all these cellular circadian clocks able to
agree on what time it is? The master pacemaker in
the brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, plays a
very important role in keeping everyone in sync.
However, on occasion the liver can go its own way,
keeping time independently of the brain. What is
the liver thinking? How are the liver cells communicating?
A type of camera developed by astronomers has been
able to help us track rhythms in liver cells.
20: “Do Plants Know Math?”
Chris Gole, mathematics and statistics. The phenomenon
of spirals in plants coming in pairs of consecutive
Fibonacci numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 ...) has
fascinated scientists of many disciplines for centuries.
There is a certain mystic attached to the subject
that pervades the Internet—and the "Da Vinci Code."
Do we have to be mystical about it? I will try to
show that some simple geometry may be enough to
explain this phenomenon.
October 27: “Why
Believe When You Can See for Yourself?”
Joyce Palmer Fortune, physics. We are
using consumer grade high speed video to observe
very fast processes such as collisions, as well
as time lapse video to observe very slow processes,
such as the rotation of Foucault's pendulum. I'll
show a few of the more interesting clips taken
by my students in the past year. Be ready to see
things you maybe had to just believe up till now.
3: “Symmetry: A Mathematician's
Michael Bush, mathematics and statistics. Symmetries
of various kinds show up all over the place in nature. Over
the last 150 years mathematicians have developed an abstract
framework for describing and investigating symmetry. In this
talk I'll give a brief description and some applications
(both serious and fun) of the ideas involved.
10: “Digging Deeper (With Shovels) Into The
Story of Alaska's Shrinking Glaciers.”
Mark Brandiss, geology. The growth
and shrinkage of glaciers are dramatic indicators
of climate change. We'll examine the results
of an ongoing 60-year field study in which
undergraduate students (including some recent
Smithies) have been using snow shovels, dynamite,
and high-precision GPS measurements to monitor
changes in the alpine glaciers of Alaska's
Juneau Icefield. What are these glaciers telling
us about climate change, and what are some
likely trends for the future?
November 17: “Dancing
in the Sky: Flight Demonstration of the World’s
Smallest Long-duration Controllable Balloon.”
Paul Voss, engineering. Over the past
220 years, balloons have been used to explore
the atmosphere, carry astronomical instruments
to the edge of space, track air pollution over
great distances, and make the routine measurements
used by weather forecast models. I will demonstrate
a new type of balloon that can remain airborne
for days to weeks, change altitude on command,
and relay data in near real time from almost
anywhere on earth. This platform opens many
new opportunities for atmospheric research.