Minutes of Science, Once a Week
The weekly series “Science
at the Center” continues this fall with eight more
weeks of 10-minute lectures, every Wednesday from 12:50
to 1 p.m., in McConnell Hall foyer. Informal mini-presentations
by science faculty highlight their research interests and
topics of focus. 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 12: “Bell’s
Travis Norsen, physics.
Bell's Theorem, discovered in
1964 by physicist John Bell, has been described as "the
most profound discovery of science." It is also regarded
by many physicists as irrelevant to physics, and hence relegated
to the footnotes and afterwords of most quantum physics texts.
Come learn what Bell's Theorem is, why it's profound, and
why many physicists are flat wrong about its significance!
October 19: "How
much string do you need to tie a knot?"
Elizabeth Denne, mathematics.
This talk gives a very brief
introduction to geometric knot theory. We'll look at thick
knots (knots with tubes of a fixed diameter about them) and
try to answer questions about the shape of thick knots when
their length is minimized (when the knot is pulled tight).
October 26: “Jedi
Psychokinesis: A demonstration that hoodwinked scientists.”
George M. Robinson, psychology.
Magician James Randi demonstrated
that although scientists are experts in analyzing evidence
and critical thinking, they are easily fooled under certain
conditions using “empirical Jujutsu,” in which
their strengths are misdirected to become weaknesses. You
will see a demonstration that baffled 60 Ph.D. scientists
at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. Some of them even
accepted a fictional explanation based on vector gauge bosons
(Gluons) interacting with Gravitons. As scientists we need
to understand how we can be fooled by nature, by misguided
colleagues, by scientific fraud, and even our own enthusiasm.
November 2: “The
Bathtub Effect: Why Stabilizing CO2 emissions won't stabilize
CO2 levels in the atmosphere and why that means it's long
past time to call the plumber."
Nathanael Fortune, physics
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere
is continuing to rise, and with it, the Earth's temperature.
We're already at 390 ppm CO2, and we're rising by about 2
ppm/year. Several target concentrations have been proposed
to avoid runaway climate change, the most common being 550
ppm, 450 ppm or even 350 ppm. Unfortunately, the most common
proposed solution to this problem—finding a way to
stabilize CO2 emissions at or slightly below present levels—won't
keep atmospheric concentrations from continuing to rise.
In 10 short minutes, I'll discuss why, and why that means
we need a plumber.
November 9: “What
is cloud computing? What is it good for? How can I use it?
How do I use it?”
Dominique Theibaut, computer science
In this 10-minute talk I will
explain what cloud computing is, why we should care about
it, how we use it in our everyday life, and how cloud computing
can be useful to scientists for running complex computations.
16: “Co-Opting Nature's Strategy: Evolution
of Functional Molecules by Unnatural Selection.”
David J. Gorin, chemistry
Evolution in nature
requires that traits for fitness pass from one generation
to the next; the preferential survival of some traits over
others occurs by natural selection. Humans have co-opted
this strategy to breed organisms with particular characteristics
(e.g. lap dogs). In the last half-century, we have developed
methods for selection and evolution in non-living systems,
enabling the discovery of molecules with desired properties.
We will discuss the requirements for evolving functional
molecules, notable successes in this area, and the future
promise of evolved molecules.