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Clark Science Center press release   Date: 9/10/09 Bookmark and Share

Series to Present Ten Minutes of Science Once a Week

“Science at the Center” is a weekly event, held every Wednesday from 12:50 to 1 p.m., organized to highlight faculty research. The 10-minute talks will take place in the foyer of McConnell Hall (see schedule of topics below) beginning September 16.

Once a week, a faculty member will give an informal presentation for the Smith community. Imagine something like a Hyde Park soapbox scene that brings people together and offers peek into the “science at the center” of a topic.

The following schedule will also be posted on the Science Center Web site.

Science at the Center Fall 2009

September 16
“What is the Universe Made of?” Gary Felder, physics

The things we are familiar with—atoms and the particles that make them up—account for less than 5 percent of what's out there in the universe. We know that the rest is made up of two mysterious substances called "dark matter" and "dark energy," but we don't know what they actually are. I'll briefly describe what we do and don't know about the stuff that makes up 95 percent of the universe we live in.

September 23
"The day the Earth froze over: New observations on Snowball Earth from Northern Namibia.” Sara Pruss, geology

The theory of Snowball Earth postulates that the Earth was completely entombed in ice around 700 million years ago. As a geologist who is interested in Snowball Earth, I visited Namibia (southern Africa) this past summer to study ancient sediments left behind from these massive glaciers that covered all of the oceans and continents. Please stop by Clark Corner to hear about geological field work in remote parts of Africa and how we geologists study rocks to learn about a prehistoric frozen World!

September 30
"Thunder Demonstration"

October 7
“After the Dark Ages: Viewing the Earliest Stars in the Universe.” James Lowenthal, astronomy

Astronomers look far away to look back in time, thanks to the finite speed of light. New telescopes now nearing completion will allow us to witness the formation of the first stars and galaxies, following a period of rapid but relatively dark expansion of the Universe less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

October 14
"Nucleon: what is it made of?" Piotr Decowski, physics

Despite common anticipation that the nucleon is made of three quarks, its structure is much more complex with dominant features determined by properties of vacuum.

October 21
Topic TBA. Pau Atela, mathematics

October 28
“The H1N1 virus.” Christine White-Ziegler, biology

November 4
“What is bio-geometric computing?” Ileana Streinu, computer science

Techniques from Computational Geometry, Robotics, Algorithms and other areas of Computer Science are being applied to understanding important questions in Molecular Biology, related to protein structure and function.

November 11
“Water and Climate: Field Investigations at the MacLeish Field Station.” Andrew Guswa, engineering

Smith College recently established the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station, a 200-acre parcel located amid a patchwork of protected land and farmland making up one of the largest tracks of undeveloped land in the state. This site and the associated infrastructure provide a platform for faculty and student research.

November 18
“The cheapest instrument ever: A drop of water.” Kate Queeney, chemistry

Layers a molecule (or an atom) thick can change a surface from hydrophilic—water spreads out to form a sheet on it—to hydrophobic—water beads up in nearly spherical droplets. We'll look at some surfaces that look to the eye to be identical—shiny gray pieces of silicon. Then we will dunk them in water to see what happens.

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