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George B. Pegram Lectures

Pegram Lecture series organizer: Peter Wanderer


  1. Pegram Lecture

    "Precision Measurements of the Hubble Constant and PASS"

    Presented by Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: P. Wanderer

    The Hubble constant remains one of the most important parameters in the cosmological model, setting the size and age scales of the Universe. Present uncertainties in the cosmological model including the nature of dark energy, the properties of neutrinos and the scale of departures from flat geometry can be constrained by measurements of the Hubble constant made to higher precision than was possible with the first generations of Hubble Telescope instruments. Streamlined distances ladders constructed from infrared observations of Cepheids and type Ia supernovae with ruthless attention paid to systematics now provide 3.5% precision and offer the means to do much better. While WFC3 has helped open this new route, its full exploitation can come from a new technique, Parallel Astrometric Spatial Scanning (PASS), to measure parallax distances beyond a kiloparsec. I will review recent and expected progress.

  2. Pegram Lecture

    "Supernovae and the Discovery of the Accelerating Universe"

    Presented by Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University

    Monday, September 23, 2013, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: P. Wanderer

    In 1929 Edwin Hubble discovered that our Universe is expanding. Eighty years later, the Space Telescope which bears his name is being used to study an even more surprising phenomenon, that the expansion is speeding up. The origin of this effect is not known, but is broadly attributed to a type of "dark energy" first posited to exist by Albert Einstein and now dominating the mass-energy budget of the Universe. I will describe how our team discovered the acceleration of the Universe and why understanding the nature of dark energy presents one of the greatest remaining challenges in astrophysics and cosmology.

  3. Pegram Lecture

    "Biology Past and Biology Future: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going"

    Presented by Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Our view of the chemistry of life has changed dramatically over the course of the past 40 years. At any moment of time, we have always vastly underestimated the sophistication of cellular mechanisms, and it is certain that we still have an enormous number of surprises ahead of us. This is therefore an exciting and challenging time to be a biological scientist, and there are enormous opportunities for discovery. , I shall discuss two of the challenges created by three recent surprises: 1) The recognition that positive and negative feedback loops underlie nearly all of cell chemistry. 2) The recognition that extensive scaffold networks produce biochemical sub-compartments in the cell, without requiring a membrane.

  4. Pegram Lecture

    "Science Education: From Kindergarten through College"

    Presented by Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall, Room B

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Alberts will draw on his two decades of experience in working with elementary and secondary teachers in San Francisco, where he launched a program that pairs college students and faculty with teachers from more than 80 percent of the children’s schools. He has also worked to develop the first national educational science curriculum standards for K-12 education. Currently, he serves as one of three U.S. Science Envoys to the Muslim world for President Obama; his mission includes providing help with science education at all levels through partnerships with U.S. institutions.

  5. Pegram Lecture

    "Searching for Novel Gravitational Effects."

    Presented by Christopher Stubbs, Haravard University

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Astrophysical observations provide robust evidence that our current picture of fundamental physics is incomplete. The discovery in 1998 that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating (apparently due to gravitational repulsion between regions of empty space!) presents us with a profound challenge, at the interface between gravity and quantum mechanics. This "Dark Energy" problem is arguably the most pressing open question in modern fundamental physics. The first talk will describe why the Dark Energy problem constitutes a crisis, with wide-reaching ramifications. One consequence is that we should probe our understanding of gravity at all accessible scales, and the second talk will present experiments and observations that are exploring this issue.

  6. Pegram Lecture

    "Dark Energy: A Crisis for Fundamental Physics"

    Presented by Christopher Stubbs, Harvard University

    Monday, April 12, 2010, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Astrophysical observations provide robust evidence that our current picture of fundamental physics is incomplete. The discovery in 1998 that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating (apparently due to gravitational repulsion between regions of empty space!) presents us with a profound challenge, at the interface between gravity and quantum mechanics. This "Dark Energy" problem is arguably the most pressing open question in modern fundamental physics. The first talk will describe why the Dark Energy problem constitutes a crisis, with wide-reaching ramifications. One consequence is that we should probe our understanding of gravity at all accessible scales, and the second talk will present experiments and observations that are exploring this issue.

  7. Pegram Lecture

    "The Great Ideas of Biology"

    Presented by Paul Nurse, The Rockefeller University

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Three of the ideas of biology are the gene theory, the theory of evolution by natural selection, and the proposal that the cell is the fundamental unit of all life. When considering the question of what is life these ideas come together, because the special way cells reproduce provides the conditions by which natural selection takes place allowing living organisms to evolve. A fourth idea is that the organization of chemistry within the cell provides explanations for lifes phenomena. A new idea is the nature of biological self organization on which living cells and organisms process information and acquire specific forms.

  8. Pegram Lecture

    "Controlling the Cell Cycle"

    Presented by Paul Nurse, The Rockefeller University

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The growth and reproduction of all living organisms are dependent on the cell cycle, the process which leads to cell division. Uncontrolled division of cells is important for disease particularly cancer. Two events, S-phase and mitosis, are common to all cell cycles and are necessary for the two newly divided cells to receive a full complement of genes. The onset of S-phase and mitosis are controlled by cyclin dependent kinases in all eukaryotes studied from yeast to human beings. Checkpoint controls working through the CDKs block cell cycle progression if cells are too small or DNA is damaged or incompletely replicated. Recent results from the laboratory on these cell cycle controls will be described.

  9. Pegram Lecture

    "Science and Politics"

    Presented by John Marburger, Office of Science and Technology Policy

    Thursday, November 20, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  10. Pegram Lecture

    "Science and Money"

    Presented by John Marburger, Office of Science and Technology Policy

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  11. Pegram Lecture

    "The Science of Science Policy"

    Presented by John Marburger, Office of Science and Technology Policy

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  12. Pegram Lecture

    "Picturing Objectivity"

    Presented by Peter Galison, Harvard University

    Friday, November 3, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    When scientific objectivity became a goal in the early 19th century it was by no means obvious. Natural philosophers had to invert the old epistemic virtues that involved finding ideal forms that lay behind the variations of this or that individual. Where genius was, plain-sight observation came to dominate. I will here track how scientific atlases helped define the modern scientific category of mechanical objectivity-and the new quieted and transparent scientific self that necessarily accompanied it. The fate of objectivity kept turning: 20th century scientists questioned image-based, mechanical objectivity; they demanded more interpretation and modification of images than mechanical objectivity ever allowed. With that shift came a new view of the right scientific self, one now explicitly making use of intuition, expertise, and the unconscious.

  13. Pegram Lecture

    "The Pyramid and the Ring"

    Presented by Peter Galison, Harvard University

    Friday, November 3, 2006, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    "The Pyramid and the Ring" which Ive sometimes called the history of the present is about a restructuring of physics that I now see opening up before us--signaled by the frequent and disquieting accusation that certain branches of research are "not physics": string theory accused of being too far from experiment and too close to mathematics or even worse, a kind of free-range formalistic philosophy; nanoscience accused of being too close to engineering and insufficiently "basic"; and simulations accused of leading 'the young' too far from a grip on real experimental equipment or even objects at all. The reason (or so I argue) that these discussions have gotten so heated inside the physics community is that the discipline itself is changing, moving from a kind of pyramid-like structure with fundamental physics at the top, to something more like a ring, connected parts, no universally-agreed upon center.

  14. Pegram Lecture

    "Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps"

    Presented by Peter Galison, Harvard University

    Thursday, November 2, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In the standard picture of the history of special relativity, Einstein's reformulation of simultaneity is considered a quasi-philosophical intervention, a move made possible by his *dis*-connection from the standard physics and technology of the day. Meanwhile, Einstein's engagement at the Patent Office enters the story as a lowly day job, irrelevant to his work on relativity. I argue, on the contrary, that Einstein's patent work located him squarely in the middle of a wealth of technological developments, cultural discussions about the meaning of time, and important patents that accompanied the coordination of clocks. And Henri Poincare, far from being lost exclusively in the far reaches of abstract mathematics, was at the same time profoundly involved with the use of precision coordinated clocks for long-distance longitude determination. Indeed, at a crucial moment in the development of Poincare's own thoughts on simultaneity, he was presiding of over the Paris Bureau of Longitude. By understanding the history of coordinated clocks, Einstein's and Poincare's work in relativistic physics shines in a very different light: the "modern" of "modern physics" stood was the intersection of physics, technology, and philosophy.

  15. Pegram Lecture

    "The Brave New World of Buckytubes"

    Presented by Prof. Richard Smalley, Rice University

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  16. Pegram Lecture

    "Our Energy Future"

    Presented by Prof. Richard Smalley, Rice University

    Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  17. Pegram Lecture

    "The Future of Science and Technology"

    Presented by George M. Whitesides, Harvard University

    Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  18. Pegram Lecture

    "Microtools for Biology"

    Presented by George M. Whitesides, Harvard University

    Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  19. Pegram Lecture

    "Nanoscience and Nanotechnology"

    Presented by George M. Whitesides, Harvard University

    Monday, September 22, 2003, 5 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium