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BSA Distinguished Lectures

BSA Distinguished Lectures are sponsored by Brookhaven Science Associates, the company that manages Brookhaven Lab, to bring topics of general interest before the Laboratory community and the public.

Lecture series organizer: Christie Nelson

  1. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Seeing the Unseeable: Making the First Image of a Black Hole"

    Presented by Dr. Sheperd Doeleman, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

    Wednesday, September 25, 2019, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Christie Nelson

  2. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Science of Laughter"

    Presented by Professor Sophie Scott, University College London, United Kingdom

    Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Christie Nelson

  3. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Illuminating Dark Matter"

    Presented by Professor Neal Weiner, NYU

    Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Christie Nelson

    We have understood robustly that the overwhelming majority of matter throughout our galaxy and the universe is something other than what we are made of. We remain profoundly ignorant of what it is. In this talk, Neal Weiner will describe the range of ideas that have arisen as to what this mysterious stuff might be, where it came from, and how to look for it. He will detail the progress made in the search to understand the nature of dark matter, and what questions this era hopes to answer, including perhaps the central one: what does the dark universe have to do with the one we can see?

  4. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Biodesign Under Pressure: 10 Molecules. 90 Days. Go."

    Presented by Dr. Benjamin Gordon, Director, MIT-Broad Foundry

    Monday, August 20, 2018, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  5. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release"

    Presented by Axel T. Brunger, HHMI & Stanford University

    Thursday, April 26, 2018, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The central nervous system relies on electrical signals traveling along neurons at high speeds. Signals are also transmitted between two neurons, or from a neuron to a muscle fiber through synaptic junctions. Synaptic transmission relies on the release of neurotransmitter molecules into the synaptic cleft. This release in turn depends on a process called membrane fusion to ensure that the neurotransmitter molecules that are contained in synaptic vesicles are released into the synaptic cleft as quickly as possible. Membrane fusion is an important process in many areas of biology, including intracellular transport and hormone release, but it occurs much faster (< 1 millisecond) for synaptic vesicle fusion than for these other processes. Moreover, it is precisely calcium regulated. Recent structural and biophysical studies of the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release will be presented.

  6. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Warped Universe: The One-Hundred-Year Quest to Discover Einstein's Gravitational Waves"

    Presented by Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, Marble Prof. of Astrophysics, MIT

    Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In 2016, scientists announced the first ever detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes, launching a new era of gravitational wave astrophysics. Since then there have been a couple more detections. Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein a hundred years earlier. I will describe the science, technology, and human story behind these discoveries that provide a window into some of the most violent and warped events in the Universe.

  7. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Preventing tick-borne disease by heritably immunizing populations of white-footed mice"

    Presented by Professor Kevin Esvelt, MIT

    Thursday, June 8, 2017, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Because most ticks are infected with the pathogens causing Lyme and other diseases when they bite a white-footed mouse, immunizing the local mouse population could prevent most cases of human illness. Guided by the communities of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, our laboratory is working on a project to heritably immunize populations of white-footed mice. The goal is to immunize mice against both Lyme disease and tick saliva, identify the mouse antibody genes that confer protection, and encode them into the mouse genome so that they will be inherited by future generations. Releasing large numbers of these engineered but "100% mouse" animals on a small uninhabited island would test their ability to reduce the infected tick population and provide an opportunity to spot any unexpected ecological side-effects. An independent assessment and positive report to the island communities would lead to a vote on whether to introduce mice on the islands. If successful, the preventative effects might be extended to larger islands and the mainland using our new "daisy drive" technology to spread the protective antibodies through local mouse populations.

  8. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Unlocking the Materials Genome through Combinatorial Nanoscience"

    Presented by Professor Chad Mirkin, Northwestern University

    Thursday, March 23, 2017, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The development of next-generation materials that address many of the world's most significant challenges requires the exploration of a vast space of new material compositions and structures at both the atomic- and nano-scales. All materials are composed of some combination of the elements that make up the Periodic Table, but traditional approaches to materials discovery have been limited in the scope of possible combinations that can be rapidly synthesized and characterized. This talk will present "nanocombinatorics" as a novel, highly parallel approach to materials discovery. Nanocombinatorics leverages recent advances in nanoscale lithography to rapidly print large libraries of nanomaterial arrays on a surface with millions of different compositions and sizes. Specifically, nanoscale tips are used to deliver polymer droplets loaded with metal precursors to precise locations on a surface. These polymer droplets act as nanoscale reactors that convert, upon heating, into multimetallic nanoparticles with predetermined composition, size, and structural sophistication. To date, our laboratory has used this technique to synthesize combinatorial nanoparticle libraries composed of metals, metal oxides, multimetallic alloys, and phase-segregated structures—many of which have never been made before—with unprecedented speed and precision. This revolutionary approach to materials discovery is expected to lead to new compositions of matter with properties that accelerate breakthroughs in catalysis, energy, electronics, optics, magnetism, and medicine.

  9. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Quantum Universe"

    Presented by Prof. Hitoshi Murayama, Univ. of California Berkeley and Kavli Institute, Univ. of Tokyo

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Where do we come from? Science is making progress on this age-old question of humankind. The Universe was once much smaller than the size of an atom. Small things mattered in the small Universe, where quantum physics dominated the scene. To understand the way the Universe is today, we have to solve remaining major puzzles. The Higgs boson that was discovered recently is holding our body together from evaporating in a nanosecond. But we still do not know what exactly it is. The mysterious dark matter is holding the galaxy together, and we would not have been born without it. But nobody has seen it directly. And what is the very beginning of the Universe?

  10. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Solar Driven Water Splitting"

    Presented by Professor Harry Gray, California Institute of Technology

    Thursday, September 15, 2016, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  11. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Discovery of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes"

    Presented by Dr. Imre Bartos, Physics Department, Columbia University

    Thursday, June 16, 2016, 4:30 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, ripples in the very fabric of space-time. Gravitational waves can be created during the birth and collision of black holes, and can reach us from distant galaxies. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) recently detected gravitational waves for the first time in history from black holes billions of light years away. LIGO measured miniscule disturbances in space, much smaller than the size of the atoms from which the detector is built. The detection of gravitational waves and black holes will fundamentally change our understanding of gravity and space, and will expand the frontiers of astrophysics and cosmology by opening a new window to the universe. I will introduce gravitational waves, their recent discovery and how this will change the course of astronomy.

  12. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Universe or Multiverse?"

    Presented by Andrei Linde, Stanford University

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Cosmological observations show that the universe is very uniform on the maximally large scale accessible to our telescopes. The best theoretical explanation of this uniformity is provided by the inflationary theory. Andrei Linde will briefly describe the status of this theory in view of recent observational data. Rather paradoxically, this theory predicts that on an extremely large scales, much greater than what we can see now, the world may look totally different. Instead of being a single spherically symmetric balloon, our universe may look like a "multiverse," a collection of many different exponentially large balloons ("universes") with different laws of low-energy physics operating in each of them. The new cosmological paradigm, supported by developments in string theory, changes the standard views on the origin and the global structure of the universe and on our own place in the world.

  13. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "A Hundred Years of Visualizing Molecular Structure"

    Presented by Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

    Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    It has been a hundred years since molecules were first visualized directly by using x-ray crystallography. That technique gave us our first look at molecules as simple as common salt to one as complex as the ribosome that has almost a million atoms. In the last few years, electron microscopy has offered an alternative to directly obtaining the structure of very large molecules. I will describe some highlights in this journey with an emphasis on the recent developments in electron microscopy and how it is creating a new range of possibilities for visualizing biological structures.

  14. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Advancing Science"

    Presented by Dr. Rush Holt, American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Thursday, June 11, 2015, 1:30 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  15. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "What Are Climate Models Good For?"

    Presented by Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 4:30 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Climate simulations are fundamental for understanding the emergent patterns of the climate systems, attribution of past climate change and for projections of the future. But how are they constructed and how do we assess their skill and credibility? I will discuss the use and misuse of climate models and demonstrate that they are indeed good for something(s).

  16. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "LCLS: A Stunning New View Through X-ray Laser Eyes"

    Presented by Chi-Chang Kao, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world's first x-ray free electron laser, was successfully commissioned at SLAC in 2009. Scientists from around the world have been exploring the use of this extraordinary light source for the last five years. In this talk, I will provide an overview of the progress, from our understanding of the source to scientific discoveries made and the future plan of LCLS.

  17. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Life Redesigned: The Emergence of Synthetic Biology"

    Presented by Professor James Collins, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston University, Harvard University

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    From cheaper drugs and rapid diagnostic tests to targeted therapies that attack antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," synthetic biology will change lives in years to come. Engineers, physicists, and biologists in this growing field are making such advancements possible using proteins, genes, and other bits of DNA to rewire and reprogram organisms with biological circuits similar to electronic networks. During his talk, Collins will highlight recent efforts to create synthetic gene networks and programmable cells. He will also discuss a variety of synthetic biology applications for computing, technology, and medicine.

  18. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Paradigms for a 21st Century University: Building a Research University 'From the Sand Up'"

    Presented by David Keyes, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Set on the Saudi Arabian shores of the Red Sea, KAUST is an international, graduate research institution with research thrusts in energy, environment, food, and water and supporting initiatives to advance data-driven modeling, simulation, analytics, software, and hardware. KAUST was founded in 2009 in the spirit of the Bayt al Hikmah, the "House of Wisdom" where 12 centuries ago, scholars made great contributions in developing foundations for modern mathematics, physics, chemistry, and medicine. KAUST has been endowed with world-class facilities and has recruited distinguished research faculty, including the university's current president Jean-Lou Chameau, former president of Caltech, who accepted this role during the growing institution's fifth year of academic operations. During this BSA Distinguished Lecture, Keyes will describe the motivation, strategies, and progress toward the ambitious goal of building a world-class research university "from the sand up."

  19. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Research at CERN - From the Highest Energies to the Smallest Particles"

    Presented by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director-General, CERN, Switzerland

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 5:30 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    With the start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, particle physics entered a new era. The LHC will provide a deeper understanding of the universe and the insights gained could change our view of the world, and the talk will present some of the reasons for the excitement surrounding the LHC. The LHC is expected to yield insights into the origin of mass, the nature of dark matter and into many other key questions. This lecture will address the exciting physics prospects offered by the LHC, present first results, in particular the recent discovery of a new 'Higgs-like' Boson, and also a look forward.

  20. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Spheres: One Hundred Years of Topology"

    Presented by Professor John Milnor, Department of Mathematics, Stony Brook University

    Thursday, November 8, 2012, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Everyone knows the familiar 2-dimensional spherical surface; but spheres of higher dimension also play in important role in mathematics and its applications. (Believe it or not the 3-dimensional sphere was first described around the year 1320, by Dante.) For topologists, the key problem was posed by Poincar\'e in 1904. Topologists are interested not only in the standard round sphere, but also in deformed or wrinkled versions of it. Poincar\'e proposed a simple criterion for deciding whether a given object is a three dimensional topological sphere. For the next hundred years topologists were totally frustrated in trying to find a proof or counterexample for his proposed statement, and for its higher dimensional analogues. There were many important steps along the way, with partial results which generated a great deal of interesting mathematics. But there were also many false proofs, and ideas which didn't pan out. The successful proof by Grisha Perelman in 2003 was a real triumph. The talk will provide a tour through some of these results and the people who developed them.

  21. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Atomic Bombs President Truman Did Not Drop"

    Presented by Michael Devine, Director, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall, Room A

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    President Harry S. Truman will be known forever as the world leader who authorized the use of nuclear weapons. It was Truman’s decision to bring the Second World War to a conclusion by using atomic weapons against the Empire of Japan in 1945. During his presidency, Truman also decided to initiate the building and stockpiling of a huge atomic arsenal and to develop a second generation nuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb (or “super”). It was also President Truman who insisted on civilian control over nuclear weapons, and he refused to deploy nuclear weapons at several times of crisis, most significantly during the Korean War of 1950 – 53.

  22. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "A discovery! The Higgs? Why is this important? How it was done."

    Presented by Howard Gordon Sally Dawson, Physics Department, BNL

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  23. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Starving the Ocean: Why we should Leave Small Fish in the Sea"

    Presented by Ellen Pikitch, SUNY Stony Brook

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Small schooling fish, such as anchovies, herring, sardine, and menhaden, are often referred to as “forage fish” in recognition of their importance as food for other marine life such as mammals, seabirds, and other fish. Currently, more than one of every three fish caught globally is a forage fish, and demand and price are growing. The consequences of the massive removals of these small fish on the survival and health of other ocean life will be explored, and the economic value of forage fish both in the water (as prey) and out of the water (as catch), will be presented.

  24. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Precision Measurement in Biology"

    Presented by Stephen Quake, Stanford Univeristy

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Is biology a quantitative science like physics? I will discuss the role of precision measurement in both physics and biology, and argue that in fact both fields can be tied together by the use and consequences of precision measurement. The elementary quanta of biology are twofold: the macromolecule and the cell. Cells are the fundamental unit of life, and macromolecules are the fundamental elements of the cell. I will describe how precision measurements have been used to explore the basic properties of these quanta, and more generally how the quest for higher precision almost inevitably leads to the development of new technologies, which in turn catalyze further scientific discovery. In the 21st century, there are no remaining experimental barriers to biology becoming a truly quantitative and mathematical science.

  25. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics and the Large Hadron Collider"

    Presented by Nima Arkani-Hamed, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Fundamental physics started the 20th century with the twin revolutions of relativity and quantum mechanics, and much of the second half of the century was devoted to the construction of a theoretical structure unifying these radical ideas, which has been confirmed to exquisite precision by experiments over the past three decades. But these foundations have also led us to a number of precipices in our understanding of Nature. The union of quantum mechanics and gravity strongly suggests that space-time is doomed--what replaces it? Furthermore the unification of relativity and quantum mechanics predicts violent short-distance quantum fluctuations that make existence of a macroscopic world wildly implausible, and yet we comfortably live in a huge universe--what tames these violent quantum fluctuations, and why is there a macroscopic universe? These are some of the central theoretical challenges of fundamental physics in the 21st century. It is very exciting that a spectacular new experiment--the Large Hadron Collider--is now running and poised to shed significant light on at least some of these mysteries. In this talk I will describe these ideas, and discuss what we can expect to know by 2020.

  26. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Creating ‘Personalized’ Solar Energy for Six Billion People"

    Presented by Daniel Nocera, MIT

    Thursday, September 8, 2011, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The capture and storage of solar energy at the individual level -- personalized solar energy -- drives inextricably towards the heart of this energy challenge by addressing the triumvirate of secure, carbon neutral and plentiful energy. The doubling of global energy need by mid-century and tripling by 2100 is driven by 3 billion low-energy users in the non-legacy world and by 3 billion people yet to inhabit the planet over the next half century. The possibility of generating terawatts of carbon-free energy, and thus providing society with its most direct path to realizing a low GHG future, may be realized by making solar PE available to the 6 billion new energy users by high throughput manufacturing. This talk will present the creation of new catalysts for the oxygen evolving reaction (OER) and hydrogen evolving reaction (HER) that capture many of the functional elements of photosynthesis; these catalysts are then integrated to make the first artificial leaf. A movie will be shown of an OER/Si/HER wafer (no wires!) that sits in a glass of water and performs water splitting under one sun irradiation. It is indeed a leaf. The discovery sets a new paradigm for the direct production of solar fuels. In doing so, we provide a highly manufacturable and inexpensive method to effect a carbon-neutral and sustainable method for solar storage solar fuels from water-splitting. By developing an inexpensive 24/7 solar energy system for the individual, a carbon-neutral energy supply for 1 × 6 billion becomes available.

  27. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "North Korea. Iran, and Syria - Lessons Learned from the IAEA Inspections"

    Presented by Olli Heinonen, Harvard University, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

    Friday, June 24, 2011, 3 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    "The current status of nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran, and Syria are reviewed. Verification challenges of them are highlited, and lessons learned are presented. North Korean and Iranian programs are in upswing; what is ahead ? Does the IAEA have adequate inspection authorities or are new instruments and tools required?" The Lecture will be followed by a panel discussion. The panel will be chaired by Ambassador Norman A. Wulf and include the Dr. Heinonen, Ambassador Kenneth C. Brill, and Dr. David Albright.

  28. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "From the Structure and Function of the Ribosome to New Antibiotics"

    Presented by Thomas Steitz, Yale University

    Monday, May 23, 2011, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The ribosome is a very large macromolecular machine that translates genes encoded in mRNA into proteins in all living cells. It is made out of two-thirds RNA and one third protein, and our structural studies of the larger of the two subunits bound to substrate analogues have shown that the RNA component is responsible for catalyzing the reaction that ties the amino acids together: as Francis Crick suggested in 1968 – the ribosome is a ribozyme. During the process of protein synthesis elongation, the 70S ribosome is in various conformational states bound to various different protein factors that play critical roles in the steps of protein synthesis. We have now determined the structures of these functional states are beginning to emerge. The ribosome is a major target of antibiotics, and we also determined the structures of many complexes of the ribosome with different families of antibiotics. The structures of some of our antibiotic complexes have been used by Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of New Haven to develop new potential antibiotic compounds that are effective against MRSA, one of which has successfully completed phase II clinical trials. Recently, we have determined the crystal structures of the 70S ribosome bound to two compounds that are effective against tuberculosis, capreomycin and viomycin. Since their binding site is adjacent to those of two antibiotics that bind to the small subunit, the design of new anti-TB antibiotics by chemically combining components of the neighboring compounds should be possible.

  29. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Life at the Single Molecule Level"

    Presented by Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, Harvard University

    Friday, March 4, 2011, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In a living cell, gene expression—the transcription of DNA to messenger RNA followed by translation to protein—occurs stochastically, as a consequence of the low copy number of DNA and mRNA molecules involved. Can one monitor these processes in a living cell in real time? How do cells with identical genes exhibit different phenotypes? Recent advances in single-molecule imaging in living bacterial cells allow these questions to be answered at the molecular level in a quantitative manner. It was found that rare events of single molecules can have important biological consequences.

  30. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Answering Gauguin's questions in particle physics: Where are we coming from? What are we? Where are we going?"

    Presented by John Ellis, CERN, Switzerland

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 7 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The knowledge of matter revealed by the current reigning theory of particle physics, the so-called Standard Model, still leaves open many basic questions. What is the origin of the matter in the Universe? How does its mass originate? What is the nature of the dark matter that fills the Universe? Are there additional dimensions of space? The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, where high-energy experiments have now started, will take physics into a new realm of energy and time, and will address these physics analogues of Gauguin's questions. The answers will set the stage for possible future experiments beyond the scope of the LHC.

  31. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Extra Dimensions of Space - Are They Going to Be Found Any Time Soon?"

    Presented by Valery Rubakov, Institute for Nuclear Research, Moscow, Russia

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Dmitri Kharzeev

    Our space may well have more than 3 dimensions. Indeed, theories that pretend to be most fundamental choose to live in higher dimensions: a natural area for superstring/Mtheory is 9- or 10-dimensional space. Extra dimensions have been hidden so far, but they would open up above a certain energy threshold. A fascinating possibility is that this happens within reach of particle colliders. This lecture will address the motivation for such a viewpoint and implications of accessible extra dimensions for our understanding of nature.

  32. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism"

    Presented by Robert Shiller, Yale University

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In his lecture, Shiller will discuss the premise of his 2009 book, coauthored with the Nobel Prize-winning economist George A. Akerlof. Winner of the getAbstract International Book Award and the 2009 TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security, the book, which has the same title as Shiller's lecture, discusses how "animal spirits," or human emotions such as confidence, fear, and a concern for fairness, drive financial events, including today's global financial crisis. John Maynard Keynes coined the phrase "animal spirits" to describe the changing psychology that led to the Great Depression and the recovery from it. Like Keynes, Shiller and Akerlof believe that government intervention is necessary to overcome the adverse effects on the economy brought about by unruly and irrational human emotions. In his talk, Shiller will explain how "animal spirits" lead to adverse economic effects, and he will outline his insights on how the global economy can recover from its recent setbacks.

  33. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "From sea anemone to homo sapiens: the evolution of the p53 family of genes"

    Presented by Arnold Levine, Institute for Advanced Study

    Monday, September 14, 2009, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The human genome contains three transcription factors termed p53, p63 and p73 which are related orthologues. The function of the p53 protein is to respond to a wide variety of stresses which can disrupt the fidelity of DNA replication and cell division in somatic cells of the body. These stress signals, such as DNA damage, increase the mutation rate during DNA duplication and so an active p53 protein responds by eliminating clones of cells with mutations employing apoptosis, senescence or cell cycle arrest. In this way the p53 protein acts as a tumor suppressor preventing the mutations that can lead to cancers. The p63 and p73 proteins act in a similar fashion to protect the germ line cells in females (eggs). In addition the p63 protein plays a central role in the formation of epithelial cell layers and p73 plays a critical role in the formation of several structures in the central nervous system. Based upon their amino acid sequences and structural considerations the oldest organisms that contain an ancestor of the p53/p63/p73 gene are the sea anemone or hydra. The present day representatives of these animals contain a p63/p73 like ancestor gene and the protein functions in germ cells of this animal to enforce the fidelity of DNA replication after exposure to ultraviolet light. Thus the structure and functions of this gene family have been preserved for over one billion years of evolution. Other invertebrates such as the worm, the fly and the clam contain a very similar ancestor gene with a similar set of functions. The withdrawal of a food source from a worm results in the p63/p73 mediated apoptosis of the eggs so that new organisms will not be hatched into a poor environment. A similar response is thought to occur in humans. Thus this ancestor gene ensures the fidelity of the next generation of organisms. The first time a clearly distinct new p53 gene arises is in the cartilaginous fish and in the bony fish a separation of the p

  34. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse?"

    Presented by Alan Guth, MIT

    Thursday, November 6, 2008, 7 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In 1981, Guth proposed the theory of the inflationary universe, a modification of the Big Bang theory, which is generally accepted by scientists to explain how the universe began. Nevertheless, the Big Bang theory leaves some questions, and the theory of inflation attempts to answer them. Guth states that a repulsive gravitational force generated by an exotic form of matter brought about the expansion of the universe. He postulates that the universe underwent an expansion of astronomical proportions within the first trillionth of a second of its existence, during which the seeds for its large-scale structure were generated. Guth and colleagues have further explored the possibility of mimicking inflation in a hypothetical laboratory, thereby creating a new universe, and they concluded that it might be theoretically possible. If it happened, the new universe would not endanger our own universe. Instead, it would slip through a wormhole, a hypothetical space-time travel shortcut, and rapidly disconnect from our universe. In this talk, Guth will explain the inflationary theory and review the features that make it scientifically plausible. In addition, he will discuss the biggest mystery in cosmology: Why is the value of the cosmological constant, sometimes called the "anti-gravity" effect, so remarkably small compared to theoretical expectations? Guth will explain how the inflationary theory, combined with other ideas from elementary particle physics and cosmology, can provide a possible explanation for this discrepancy.

  35. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and the IAEA in Tomorrow's World"

    Presented by Jill Cooley, IAEA, Vienna, Austria

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards have evolved considerably during the last five decades and have become an integral part of the international non-proliferation regime and the global security system. To carry on serving well the international community, they need to continue to move with the times -- especially in light of the renewed interest in nuclear energy and its projected expansion in the coming years, which could bring additional nuclear facilities, material and activities under IAEA safeguards. The projected nuclear ˜renaissance" may pose increased proliferation risks as nuclear material, technology and know-how spread in an increasingly globalized world. The presentation will provide an overview of the IAEA safeguards system and describe current verification challenges and potential new IAEA roles.

  36. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Network Science: From the Web to human diseases"

    Presented by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Northeastern University

    Monday, June 9, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Systems as diverse as the world wide web, Internet or the cell are described by highly interconnected networks with amazingly complex topology. Recent studies indicate that the evolution of these complex networks is governed by simple but generic laws, resulting in apparently universal architectural features. I will discuss this amazing order characterizing our interconnected work, and its implications to how we perceive the impact on communications and medicine, as well as touch upon the next challenge of network research, going beyond the structure and quantifying the dynamics of interconnected systems.

  37. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Unraveling the Mystery of an Environmental Disease"

    Presented by Arthur Grollman, Stony Brook University, Dept. of Pharmacology

    Thursday, May 15, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    A progressive, invariably fatal kidney disease, Balkan endemic nephropathy, and the upper urothelial tract cancer associated with it, occur among residents of farming villages in the Danube river basin. Dr. Arthur Grollman and his colleagues began epidemiologic and clinical studies that resulted in the discovery that home-baked bread, a dietary staple of farm families living in the endemic area, was contaminated with aristolochic acid, a powerful kidney toxin and human carcinogen that was present in Aristolochia weeds that grow in local wheatfields.

  38. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Climate Change: Prospects for Nature"

    Presented by Thomas Lovejoy, Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    I will explore climate change's impacts on and interactions with the natural world. I will also talk about the implications for climate policy and natural resource management

  39. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Science Results from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission"

    Presented by Steven Squyres, Cornell University

    Friday, October 5, 2007, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  40. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Einstein's Biggest Blunder?: A Cosmic Mystery Story"

    Presented by Lawrence Krauss, Case-Western University

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 7 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In 1915 Einstein completed his greatest triumph, the General Theory of Relativity. This remarkable theory laid the basis not just for our understanding of the motion of objects within the Universe, but the motion of the universe itself! Yet, in 1916, it looked as if Einstein's theory did not properly account for observations of the universe on large scales. To resolve this problem, he added an additional term to his equations, the so-called "Cosmological Constant". Within a decade however, observations indicated that such a term was not necessary to obtain agreement with observations, and Einstein called this addition his "biggest blunder". Over the past decade, new observations have led to a revolution in cosmology. The standard model of cosmology built up over a 20 year period up until the early 1990's is now dead. Its replacement may be far more bizarre. In particular, new data from a wide variety of independent cosmological and astrophysical observations, combine together to strongly suggest most of the energy density of the universe today may be contained in empty space! Remarkably, this is exactly what one would expect if Einstein's Cosmological Constant really exists! If it does, its origin is the biggest mystery in physics, and presents huge challenges for our fundamental theories of elementary particles and fields. I will close by briefly describing possibile implications for our understanding of nature, for physics, and for life, of this astounding new result.

  41. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Before the Big Bang? A Novel Resolution of a Profound Cosmological Puzzle"

    Presented by Roger Penrose, Oxford University, U.K.

    Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The second law of thermodynamics says, in effect, that things get more "random" as time progresses. This tells us that the beginning of the universe---the "big bang"---must have been an extraordinarily precisely organized (i.e. very non-random) state. What was the particular nature of this state? How can such a special state have come about? In this talk, a novel solution is suggested, which involves an examination of what is to be expected in the very remote future of our universe, with its observed accelerated expansion. It also has some curious implications with regard to particle physics.

  42. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The End of an Era - Science in a flat world"

    Presented by Neal Lane, Rice University

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    The U.S. has enjoyed an extraordinary period of scientific discovery and technological achievement over the past six decades, or so, since the end of WWII. But the world has changed in sixty years. It has grown “flatter” in the sense of Tom Friedman’s view, and “flatter” in another sense – by leveling the playing field for science vs. ideology, religion and superstition. In particular, American attitudes about science and technology, as well as the political winds that affect science, have changed. In discussing these trends, I will suggest that we have reached the “end of an era,” pose some questions about the future of American science, and offer some opinions.

  43. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Confessions of a President's Science Advisor"

    Presented by Neal Lane, Rice University

    Monday, September 11, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Every science advisor to the President of the United States has had interesting issues to deal with, crises to get through, and stories to tell. In this lecture, I will briefly review the history of the job, provide some examples of issues and events during the time I was in the White House (such matters as climate change, stem cells, the human genome, nanotechnology, research funding), and make a few observations about the present and speculations about the future.

  44. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Fractional Quantum Hall Effect"

    Presented by Horst Stormer, Columbia University

    Thursday, May 4, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Morgan May

    Electrons are indivisible, as far as physicists know. In groups, however, electrons can fall apart and create smaller, fractional charges when squeezed onto a plane and exposed to a magnetic field. This phenomenon, known as the fractional quantum Hall effect, implies that many electrons, acting in concert, can create particles with a charge smaller than the charge of any individual electron – a counterintuitive effect, considering a collection of objects usually is bigger than its parts. Fractional charges are bizarre because, not only are they smaller than the charge of any constituent electron, but they are exactly one-third, or one-fifth, or one-seventh, etc., of an electronic charge, depending on the conditions under which they have been prepared.

    Today, the evidence for such perplexing, fractional charges is direct, and scientists understand them in terms of an elaborate, quantum mechanical waltz of electrons. Stormer’s lecture will provide an intuitive insight into this fascinating state of matter, present recent surprises, and finish with a speculated application of these weird particles.

  45. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Origin of Mass and the Feebleness of Gravity"

    Presented by Frank Wilczek, MIT

    Friday, April 21, 2006, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  46. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Searching Scholarly Literature: A Google Scholar Perspective"

    Presented by Anurag Acharya, Google

    Monday, December 5, 2005, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    Google Scholar is a fresh look at the traditional problems of discovering and accessing scholarly literature. It is currently being used by researchers all over the world. I will describe the general principles that underly its design and and the key challenges that we faced. I will also describe our collaborations with libraries to increase visibility of their vast repositories.

  47. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness"

    Presented by John Rigden, Washington U. in St. Louis

    Thursday, November 10, 2005, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In the short duration of six months, one week, and two days, Einstein, in 1905, wrote five papers that stand today at the bedrock of physics. Only one of these papers was revolutionary. This paper, on the nature of light, made him the father of quantum physics. In the other four papers, Einstein clearly eschewed trivialities as he demonstrated the reality of atoms, established the dimensions of atoms, put the laws of thermodynamics on a new footing, established the validity of the kinetic theory, enhanced the significance of the speed of light, and purged the basic concepts of space, time, mass, and energy of profound fallacies. These accomplishments qualified him as one of the greatest physicist, but the Einstein mystique cannot be explained in terms of what he did. Einstein is the standard of greatness for deeper reasons.

  48. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Celebrating Richard Feynman"

    Presented by Ralph Leighton

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

    In honor of the 2005 World Year of Physics, on the birthday of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988), BSA will sponsor readings by film and television actor Norman Parker from Feynman's best-selling books, and a drumming performance and reminiscences of what it was like to drum with Feynman by Ralph Leighton and Tom Rutishauser.

  49. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Structure and Function of Photosystem II"

    Presented by James Barber, Imperial College London, U.K.

    Friday, April 22, 2005, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Hosted by: Peter Wanderer

  50. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Superstring/M-theory: A Lathe for Physics?"

    Presented by Sylvester Gates, Univ. of Maryland

    Monday, January 24, 2005, 4 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

    Physicists are fascinated with Superstring/M-theory because of its reach, but frustrated because of its mathematical difficulty. Gates, a pioneer in the development of the theory, sees it as a 21st century lathe – a machine capable of remarkable precision and versatility, but requiring a skilled and experienced operator for its success. In his lecture, Gates will discuss the mind-bending concepts behind the theory, as well as the astonishing successes it has achieved thus far.

  51. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "The Ribosome: The Cell's Protein-Synthesizing Machine and How Antibiotics Disrupt It"

    Presented by Venki Ramakrishnan, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England

    Friday, December 10, 2004, 11 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  52. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Whose Science is Arabic Science in Renaissance Europe?"

    Presented by George Saliba, Columbia University

    Thursday, August 19, 2004, 4 am
    Berkner Hall Auditorium

  53. BSA Distinguished Lecture

    "Eye of the Forehead and Eye of the Mind: How Engineers and Scientists See"

    Presented by John Lienhard, Public Radio Host

    Monday, July 12, 2004, 12 pm
    Berkner Hall Auditorium