Science for the Public Presents Archive
Archived videos from Science for the Public Presents. Click below to view each video on the Archive.org website. Return to program
Dr. Philippe Grandjean, a prominent endocrinologist discusses the health and environmental impact of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS, PFOS), chemical compounds used in many products -from popcorn bags to fire-fighting foam to upholstery materials. These compounds are now found globally -- in people, animals, and environment. They affect, among other things, the brain, kidneys and the immune system, and are associated with a number of diseases. The producers of PFOAs were aware of the toxicity of these chemicals even in the late 1970s, but only recently have scientists been able to obtain that data. Because PFAS remain in the body over the lifespan, the withholding of data for decades has undermined medical research.
We visit the Jasanoff Lab at MIT to learn about advances in imaging the brain. Dr. Jasanoff and several research associates in his lab explain the importance of this research and several innovative approaches used in this lab to improve brain imaging.
Susan Heideman and Michelle Lougee, currently in a joint exhibit at the Maud Morgan Arts Chandler Gallery in Cambridge, discuss their respective artworks and artistic approaches to Nature’s variety. They also describe some similarities in the way that artists and scientists look at Nature. 08/30/18
Wendy Jacobs, Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law, and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School discusses how citizens can utilize the law to restore protective regulations for our environment. This video includes a link to the Clinic’s excellent online manual that contains all the information concerned citizens need to guide environmental action.
Science For The Public: Lecture Series - Nanotechnology Advances for Healthcare and Environment 05/08/18
This is the fifth and final presentation in our Science Literacy series at MIT. Dr. Sonkusale describes the advantages of nano-scale science and the remarkable nano-innovations in sensory devices for environment and medicine that his lab has produced. He also discusses how the Tufts Nano Lab creates devices that can be used around the world –a democratizing of nanotechnology.
Professor Daniel Cziczo provides an overview of the climate change issue and then a critique of geoengineering. He explains the options, and --more importantly—the misinformation that seems to accompany the solar radiation management option in particular. He lists the kinds of questions the public needs to ask in the effort to determine a policy for reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere that is rapidly warning the planet.
Science For The Public: Lecture Series - Infinitely Small to Infinitely Great: The Search for Microbial Life on Other Worlds
Very little is known about most of the deep-sea organisms on this planet. Since these organisms represent “extreme life,” they provide potential insights about how life might emerge on other worlds. Dr. Peter Girguis describes innovative studies of some deep-sea organisms, the technological advances that are making these investigations possible, and the exciting collaboration between marine biologists and astrophysicists.
Dr. Alan Jasanoff discusses his book, "The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are". In his new book and in this discussion, Dr. Jasanoff explains why the brain must be considered within its biological, natural and social environment. The tendency to see the mind as completely autonomous, a view he calls the “cerebral mystique” doesn't hold up. Jasanoff’s discussion includes brain dysfunctions as well as recent trends such as brain hacking –and the transhumanist aspiration that our brains can someday be preserved and then revived much later.
Dr. Mara Prentiss, explains the vital need to switch to renewable energy and she describes here –and in her book Energy Revolution- just how that change can be implemented. Mara Prentiss, Ph.D., is Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University, and author of Energy Revolution: The Physics and Promise of Efficient Energy.
Dr. Julie Guthman discusses the important role of California’s massive strawberry crop, the toxins used to protect the crop from pests and fungi, and the effect of toxins on the environment and health.
Science For The Public: Lecture Series - Ecological and Psychological Perspectives on Climate Change
Dr. Helmuth and Dr. Coley combine their expertise to discuss how we respond to uncomfortable facts of climate change.
This is the first presentation in the Citizens Literacy program, a joint project between Science for the Public, Belmont Library and Belmont Media Center. The Citizens Literacy program will present speakers on science issues, civic issues and media issues in an effort to promote public awareness and response to important concerns of our time. Dr. Cziczo explains climate change, plus how we can help shape policy.
Science for the Public Science Literacy Series: What Should We Talk about When We Talk about Health?
Dr. Sandro Galea discusses the numerous socio-economic factors that impact health. He also provides some comparisons between the cost of health and the state of health between the U.S. and other wealthy nations.
Dr. Andrew Kemp explains the cycles of ocean rise and fall over the past 2000 years. For most of that time these changes were due to natural forces; but the present sea level rise is due to human-produced climate change.
Astrobiologist Dr. Sukrit Ranjan discusses the potential importance of UV radiation as a trigger for the emergence of life, and whether red dwarf stars might provide the necessary UV spark to generate life on optimal exoplanets.
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: What Mathematicians Reveal about Gerrymandering 10/25/17
Dr. Justin Solomon discusses how the gerrymander distorts the voting population to favor one group of voters over others. Today, mathematicians have the tools to analyze the gerrymander and recommend more equitable structuring of voting districts. This effort is an outstanding demonstration of mathematicians representing the public interest. Dr. Solomon's discussion is of great importance at this time and we will likely hear much more about this group (MGGG) in the future.
Mycologist David Hibbett introduces us to the fascinating world of mushrooms and fungi, their role in Nature and in evolution. Mushrooms do not get much media attention, but they serve an important function in many ecological systems, and Dr. Hibbett is committed to raising awareness of their role.
Dr. Galea discusses his new book Healthier: Fifty Thoughts on the Foundation of Population Health and his distinctive work in public health, which emphasizes complexity. He is especially renowned for his emphasis on the connections between social environment and population health.
The Sonkusale Nanolab at Tufts University is currently engaged in cutting-edge research in several interdisciplinary areas, including nano-devices that benefit medicine and the life sciences. A major interest is the development of flexible, embedded sensors for diagnostics. Dr. Sonkusale and his team also work on zero-cost "do-it-yourself" diagnostics for the developing world. BIO INFO: Sameer Sonkusale, Ph,D, is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Tufts University; Principal Investigator, Nanoscale Integrated Sensors and Circuits Laboratory (NanoLab).
In June 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, an accord that represents the commitment of almost all nations to address global warming. The U.S., which, under the Obama administration, was a major force in creating the 2015 Paris accord, is now almost alone among nations in rejecting this commitment. Professor Selin describes the long struggle to commit the international community to prepare for the worldwide climate crisis and he explains why tackling the crisis requires global action.
Atmospheric scientist Dr. Alexandria Johnson describes how scientists in her field apply their expertise to the young field of exoplanet atmospheres.
Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University is a member of an interdepartmental Harvard team or researchers developing "green" batteries. Such batteries are made from organic molecules (or synthesis) and are environmentally friendly. Dr. Aspuru-Guzik explains how candidate plant molecules are selected (his role in this project) and how such batteries work and store energy.
Professor Jack Ridge explains how the analysis of glacial varves (sediment deposits over centuries) provide crucial information about climate changes over thousands of years.
Dr. Daniel Cziczo explains what atmosphere is, what it does, how it changes, why it needs our care on Earth. He also explains terraforming, geoengineering, and the search for atmospheres on certain moons and even exoplanets.
Dr. Helmuth discusses how climate change is experienced by different species on very local level. Organisms such as mussels and fish in the same environment can be impacted by local ocean temperature and acidity very differently. Understanding these differences in this time of rapid climate changes can help us understand the variability of different species to adapt –or not. Dr. Helmuth also describes some of the innovative and international projects from his lab that engage young people in addressing the climate change challenge.
Professor Sonkusale’s Nano Lab at Tufts University is a leader in medical applications for nanotechnology. In this tour of the Nano Lab, he shows how nano-devices such as magnetic nanorobots, smart threads, and an electronic nose are improving modern medicine.
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Plankton - The Humble Base of Ocean Ecosystems 02/14/17
Plankton represent the foundation of the marine food chain. As such, their vitality determines the health of the ocean ecosystems in general. For this reason, there is much concern and interest in the impact of climate change and environmental pollution on the global ocean. Dr Chris Bowler studies the genetic effects of environmental changes on ancient diatoms in an effort to predict the ability of today's plankton to adapt to anticipated stress caused by climate change. To analyze the evolutionary record he gathers plankton fossils from deep ocean deposits around the world.
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Microbes Matter! From Healthy Soil to Your Healthy Gut 02/08/17
Authors David Montgomery and Anne Bikle discuss their book "The Hidden Half of Nature" on how the microbial world sustains the planet and its life.
Dr. Robert Simcoe explains how the universe became transparent, how the first stars probably formed and how subsequent generations evolved. We learn how today's sophisticated optical telescopes penetrate billions of light years to the early universe and how astronomers distinguish "early" from "recent" stars and galaxies.
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Vital Role of Seagrasses in Marine Ecosystems 01/10/17
Seagrasses are fundamental to the health of marine ecosystems, providing food and shelter to many organisms. Because of the dual impact of climate change and ocean pollution, many seagrass varieties are dying off. Dr. Barnabas Daru explains the vital role of seagrasses in maintaining marine life, and how different seagrass varieties vary in the ability to adapt to changing ocean environments around the world. This area of research is very important in the urgent effort today to save marine biodiversity.
Professor David Toomey explains why time travel is so alluring, not just for science fiction, and he’ll tell us about the major contributions to the development of the idea. He also discusses the significance of science fiction in the evolution of time travel.
Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan discusses fundamental knowns and unknowns of astrophysics --and what is most important for the public to understand. She discusses the need for both science literacy and civic literacy in this era of an emerging global culture, when everyone needs to be an active citizen.
Tulika Bose, PhD, describes the findings so far in this year's testing --at the highest energy ever-- at the LHC, and also the search for new physics. She recently completed a two-year term as CMS trigger coordinator for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (the trigger sets the data selection process). She now heads a CMS physics group that searches for new physics.
In recent years a combination of climate change, massive depletion of fish stocks by commercial fishing fleets, and exploitative trade policies are together creating nutritional crises in many poor nations. Christopher Golden explains the impact of these conditions on the health of millions of people. He also provides important facts about the nutritional differences between wild and farmed fish.
Microbes are virtually everywhere on the planet and all life depends on this microbial foundation. However, 99 percent of these microbes the dark matter have not been identified. Dr. Epstein explains why it is so difficult to isolate and identify microbes in general, and why there is an urgent search for bacteria for developing antibiotics.
Dr. William Moomaw explains how industrial agriculture, especially through synthetic fertilizers, has produced unprecedented damage to our soil, water, and atmosphere. The only viable option for recovering the health of these systems is restorative development, which emphasizes more natural approaches to farming that will revive the health of our soil, water and air. Restorative development addresses some of the gravest of climate risks, such as increased droughts, floods and atmospheric pollution. Recorded on 9/13/16
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Enigmas of Life: Getting It Started and Becoming Complex 08/09/16
Scientists are still uncertain how the components of life on Earth combined to produce the simplest cells, and how complex cells eventually developed. Dr. Zachary Adam investigates both of these major questions and some associated assumptions, including whether the origin of life must have required water. The latter question is of great interest to astrobiologists engaged in the search for life elsewhere.
Dr. Nick Patterson explains how the ancient populations of Europe are now being traced through DNA analysis of fossil remains, and why mathematical modeling is essential in developing this reconstruction.
Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan discusses her new book , Mapping the Heavens, which describes the initial resistance to most of the major concepts of modern astronomy. In some cases, it was decades before radical ideas about the universe, such as black holes, dark matter, gravitational lensing became standard knowledge. She also discusses her own cutting-edge research in these particular areas.
Dr. Kamal Bawa is a world leader in ecology research and conservation and the impact of climate change on the Himalayan and Western Ghats regions. The impact of rapid warming on the rich but delicate ecology of the Himalaya region is coupled with environmental damage from development. In this discussion, Dr. Bawa explains what organizations like ATREE are doing to save the Himalayan environment and its native populations.
Philip Warburg is an author, lawyer and former director of the Conservation Law Foundation, New England's oldest and largest environmental watchdog group. He is the author of two respected books on renewable energy, Harvest the Wind: America's Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Stability (Beacon Press 2012, 2013) and Harness the Sun: America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future (Beacon Press, 2015).
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: What Arctic Caves Reveal about Ancient Climate Cycles 06/14/16
Dr. Jeremy Shakun discusses how information about ancient climate cycles is preserved in stalactites and stalagmites (speleothems) in Arctic caves, and how scientists gather and analyze that very precise archive. He also explains other types of climate data, such as marine cores, Antarctic ice cores, glacial boulders and tree rings.
Scientists are now able to study in detail the dynamic volcanic activity of the deep ocean ridges. Dr. Daniel Fornari describes what scientists are learning and how this activity affects the planet.
What to do about the excess CO2 in our atmosphere that will remain for hundreds of years --even as we transition to renewable energy? To reduce the inevitable climate damage, we have to find a way to deal with that long-term CO2. Various "solutions," commonly known as types of geoengineering, have been proposed. Here, Professor Cziczo explains the CO2 problem and the three major types of geoengineering. We learn why the only viable approach is CO2 sequestration --pulling the CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Dr. John Ebel explains the geological forces that cause earthquakes and the areas on the planet most vulnerable to tsunamis. We learn how seismologists track earthquake-prone areas of the planet and how they predict the possibility of tsunamis.
Dr. Henrik Selin explains the urgent need for a serious international commitment to deal with climate change and its impact on all nations. He assesses the recent Paris agreement and he explains why public engagement and pressure will be essential to establishing a viable climate policy.
Dr. Andrew Knoll explains the relationship between the evolution of life and environment and his very significant contributions to the methods of identifying the chemical traces of life in ancient rocks. He also describes his work on the NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission, which has been concerned with analyzing the geological history of that planet.
Dr. Betul Kacar discusses the young field of paleogenomics, and how researchers are able to unravel the genetic evolution of modern organisms. The value of this work is important not only for establishing an accurate biography of Earth's organisms; paleogenomics is of interest in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.
David Mindell, Ph.D. examines our relationship with robots. How truly independent are they presently, and how autonomous can they be in the future? In the robots we use for space exploration, deep-sea research, and many other tasks. The real "brain" seems to be human, not robotic. His recent book, which he discusses, explains both the value of robots and the actual limits of robotic autonomy at a time when there is increasing controversy about the capabilities of robots.
Dr. Raul Jimenez describes one of the most fascinating enigmas in science: gamma ray bursts (GRBs), the most powerful explosions in the universe. He explains the relationship between GRBs and life: areas of the universe where planets might be relatively safe --or not-- from the destructive force of GRB radiation. Earth, we learn, has been relatively fortunate, but at least one of the ancient mass extinctions on our planet may have been due to the radiation from a GRB.
Dr. Licia Verde explains what the large-scale universe consists of. Included in the discussion are dark matter and dark energy, the expansion of the universe and the acceleration of the expansion. Dr. Verde explains how astrophysicists are investigating these mysteries and how they do these investigations.
The great Himalaya mountain range, known as the "roof of the world," plays a critical role in the Earth's climate. Dr. Maharaj Pandit, an internationally recognized expert on the complex ecology of the Himalayas, discusses the impact of climate change, increasing settlement and development on this region. He explains the urgent need for conservation in the Himalayas.
Professor David Toomey explains how scientists have had to revise the concept of life since the discovery of organisms in very extreme environments on our planet, and how that discovery is shaping astrobiology--the search for life on moons and exoplanets. Dr. Toomey's discussion is based on his book, "Weird Life: the search for life that is very, very different from our own."
Dr. Seth Lloyd, Ph.D., explains the progress of quantum computing and his pioneering role in the field, his concept of the universe as a quantum computer, and the increasing interest in quantum mechanisms in biological systems such as photosynthesis. He also talks about his book for general readers, Programming the Universe.
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How the Brain Produces Language and What Can Go Wrong 11/17/15
Dr. Frank Guenther, Ph.D. explains some basics about the complexity of both normal speech and speech disorders such as stuttering. He discusses also his work on a brain-computer-interface system that aims to make communication possible for patients with locked-in syndrome, and his work on the leading computational model (DIVA) for speech production.
Jeff Deyette from the Union of Concerned Scientists gives an update on the rapid transition to renewable energy across the US, which progresses despite the well-financed resistance of the fossil fuel industry.
In this presentation Dr. Bose explains how the collider works and what the collisions produce. The 2010-2012 run brought confirmation of the long-sought Higgs boson. This time, with nearly double the collision energy (13 TeV) scientists anticipate some entirely new discoveries.
Dudley Foster, the Woods Hole engineer closely associated with the Alvin's history, describes explorations of the deep-sea submersible.
Professor Girguis, a leader in the study of the exotic microbial life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, explains the significance of these life forms beyond the reach of sunlight, and their potential use for generating electricity and for eliminating toxins.
Origami is not limited to art. In this lecture, Dr. Mahadevan explains the geometrical basis of origami and how origami is widespread in structures throughout nature. He also shows the recent applications of origami in engineering and technology.
Senior Astrophysicist Dr. Scott Kenyon explains how stars and their planetary systems form. He also discusses the significance of the New Horizons flyby mission to Pluto for scientific understanding of planet formation.
On this visit to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dr. Mahadevan explains the vital role of the oceans in climate and climate change. We learn how she and others in an international research project carry out investigations on a research vessel in the Indian Ocean, and we see the sophisticated equipment that ocean scientists have developed for this difficult research.
We visit the Helmuth Lab at Northeastern University's Marine Science Center we see how marine scientists investigate the effects of climate change on seacoast species, including mussels and oysters.
Science for the Public's Working Science mini-documentary series visits Amala Mahadevan at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Dr. Mahadevan explains the vital role of the oceans in climate and climate change, and the challenge of developing accurate models for this dynamic relationship. She focuses on an upcoming research expedition to the Indian Ocean in which she and an international team will gather data on that ocean and monsoon cycle that more than a billion people depend on. In this visit to WHOI we see sophisticated equipment and a research ship, and we learn how scientists on such research expeditions must structure their time and investigations.
The U.S. wastes two-thirds of its energy, including 80 percent of the energy used in transportation. As Dr. Prentiss demonstrates in her book, Energy Revolution: The Physics and Promise of Efficient Energy Harvard Press: 2015), conversion to wind and solar power could generate 100 percent of the United States average total energy demand for the foreseeable future. She discusses how these technologies work and how they can be phased in quickly.
In this lecture, Dr. Greenhill describes the period of the early universe called the "Dark Age." The universe had become transparent, but there was no visible light because. By probing this era with radio telescopes astronomers have recently begun to test theories about this mysterious era, when stars and galaxies were just forming.
As one of the lead participating labs in NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project, the Roger Summons Lab at MIT analyzes potential bio-molecules in ancient Earth sediments and rocks, and applies that expertise to the search for bio-molecules or their precursors on Mars. the Mars Curiosity Rover investigates soil samples on our favorite planet. In this video, we see how geobiologists/astrobiologists select and chemically analyze rock and soil samples on Earth, and how they also analyze data received from the Mars Curiosity Rover.
All of life today is exposed to an unprecedented environmental challenge: the need to adapt quickly to hundreds of human-produced toxins. Extinctions are becoming commonplace, but some species manage to adapt. Although the successful species are predominantly the â€œpestâ€ species, toxicologist Emily Monosson suggests those species might be a source of valuable information.
An innovation in the development of antibiotics at the Kim Lewis Lab at Northeastern University is generating global excitement. Dr. Lewis explains how bacterial resistance to our current antibiotics has reached a critical point. He describes the traditional method of developing antibiotics and then the unique method he and his colleagues pioneered that has led to a major breakthrough. The first result is a new antibiotic, teixobactin, which is in the early stages of testing, but is already making headlines around the world.
Clouds are a major concern for climate science because there are still many unknowns about their two important functions. Certain types of clouds tend to reflect incoming sunlight back into space. Other types trap the CO2 that is accumulating in Earthâ€™s atmosphere. The Cizczo Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a prominent role in the study of the particles (aerosols) that form clouds and the different conditions that affect the function of clouds in the global climate system.
Professor Roger Summons describes how he and other scientists on the NASA Mars team search for and analyze possible bio-signatures on Mars. We learn also how his discoveries of extremely ancient bio-signatures on Earth are applied to the Mars investigation. Dr. Summons is distinguished for his technical analysis of sediments of the Precambrian age and modern microbes, and this expertise is crucial for the identification of organic remains in the Martian geology. Dr. Summons is a Professor of Geobiology at MIT.
The excess CO2 in our atmosphere will affect Earth's climate for centuries to come, and we need to understand why. Professor Cziczo is an atmospheric scientist who is an expert on the crucial role of clouds in the dynamics of climate. He explains the vital relationship between clouds and climate, and the present options for reducing atmospheric CO2.
Microscopic plankton play a vital role in the oceanâ€™s absorption of atmospheric CO2. And since that absorption represents about one third of the planetâ€™s CO2, scientists are keen to understand this very complex cycle. Dr. Mahadevan explains how ocean eddies shift layers of warm and cold water, so that the phytoplankton are exposed to sunlight, and then begin to photosynthesize much like plants on land. The process leads to enormous â€œbloomsâ€ that can be seen from space.
Dr. Richard Murray, Professor of Earth Sciences at Boston University and Ocean Sciences Division Director at National Science Foundation, explains how ocean sediments record millions of years of Earth's climate history, and why they are such a valued resource for climate scientists.
Dr. Philippe Grandjean explains that many common chemicals in the environment are toxic to the brain, especially during fetal development. He describes the struggle to limit mercury and lead in the environment and the difficulties that are limiting the research.
Alex Lu, Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology at Harvard School of Public Health, discusses his findings on the decrease of the honeybee population. Dr. Lu's study of the massive loss of honeybees over the last decade (Colony Collapse Disorder) clearly established a link between a neonicotinoid insecticide and CCD. He has also worked to make the public aware of the dangers of this group of insecticides. In this video he also discusses the difficulties scientists encounter when they attempt to launch research on this subject.
Award-winning author of How the Hippies Saved Physics and other popular science books, Dr. David Kaiser, Professor at MIT, describes how scientific developments have been influenced by cultural worldview and concerns. Examples include the development of physics in the United States during the Cold War and during the counter-culture movement of the 1960s-1970s.
Professor Brian Helmuth from the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences at Northeastern University discusses coastal ecosystems and climate change. The vitality of coastal ecosystems is of critical importance to life on Earth. Professor Brian Helmuth's lab is one of the most prominent research groups to carry out very complex investigations of these ecosystems. He discusses this fascinating area of science, his leading role in the international effort to sustain the coastal ecosystems, and how this work is used by policy makers. Dr. Helmuth works closely with teachers, and here how teachers can engage their students in the effort to preserve coastal ecosystems.
Eric Chaisson, PhD, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, is especially well known for his multidisciplinary approach to the evolution of the cosmos: from sub-atomic particles at the very beginning, to the emergence of galaxies (still difficult to explain), to stars, planets, and life. Each stage represents greater complexity, yet there is an underlying order. Dr. Chaisson is the author of the most widely used astronomy textbook, plus several books for the general reader. His lecture series at the Museum of Science some years back was also very popular.
Dr. Lopez-Morales' research is concerned with the detection and characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, a very exciting part of the exoplanet frontier. She is involved in several large international projects that involve the search for exoplanets and the development of techniques for analyzing exo-atmospheres. She discusses these projects, the nature of planetary atmospheres, and what the exo-atmospheric signatures reveal up to now.
Over decades, a few well-known scientists have represented various corporate interests in campaigns to mislead the public about threats to health and environment. Dr. Naomi Oreskes discusses the disinformation campaigns about tobacco and cancer, CFCs and the ozone hole, coal and acid rain, and now climate change. She describes the structure of those disinformation efforts and how the public can combat the "manufacture of doubt," which is the subject of her best-selling book (with Erik Conway).
Viruses: Threats in a Tiny Package, John Connor, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Microbiology at B.U. School of Medicine. Robbins Library, Arlington 11/6/14
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Great Expectations: The Large Hadron Collider 2015
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Great Expectations: The Large Hadron Collider 2015. Professor Tulika Bose, PhD , is the Trigger Coordinator for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). She discusses, in this November 05 recording, what she and her colleagues are anticipating in the way of new physics when the LHC starts up again in early 2015. The 2015 run of the LHC is expected to be about double (approx. 13 TeV) the energy of the 2012 particle collisions. That energy is expected to produce a whole range of surprises, and scientists expect some surprises and also new insights on familiar mysteries such as dark matter.
Sanjoy Mahajan, PhD , Associate Professor of Applied Science and Engineering, Olin College of Engineering; and Visiting Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Mahajan demonstrates some of the innovative approaches to teaching mathematics that are the focus of his two books. Dr. Mahajan appeared on SftPublic's interview program, Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations . The title of that program was Natural Mathematics: Intuition and Insight
Science for the Public: Lecture Series - How DNA is Folded in Cells and Why it Matters. Jané Kondev, Ph.D. DNA is the software that makes every living thing on our planet work. DNA is also a molecule that can be meters in length. So how does it fit inside a cell, and does it matter? Although very long, a DNA molecule is extremely thin, not more than a few water molecules across, which is why it easily fits inside a cell once it's been folded many thousands of times. How it folds is important. Dr. Kondev explains the basic science of how DNA is folded up in viruses and cells and how solving this folding puzzle might affect our understanding of disease and cancer.
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Genetics and Social Responsibility. Throughout his career, Dr. Jon Beckwith, PhD has also been a major voice for educating the public and the broader science community about the social implications of genetic science. He spoke out early against the testing of boys for XYY chromosomes and was a member of the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Committee of the Human Genome Project initiated by James D. Watson. He has worked on issues of social responsibility in science and since 1983 has taught a course on the Social Issues in Biology at Harvard University, one of the first of its kind. His book, Making Genes, Making Waves (Harvard Univ Press, 2002) describes his development as both scientist and activist. In the October 07 program, he discusses his remarkable history.
In this visit to the Connor Lab at Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. John Connor educates us about safety procedures in virus labs and basics about viruses. We see techniques used for understanding how viruses take over cells, and we get an idea of how cells block viruses. Because of the Ebola crisis, Dr. John Connor was in the news.
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Evolution of the Y Chromosome: Males Will Survive
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Evolution of the Y Chromosome: Males Will Survive, David Page, M.D. Forget all the warnings about the future demise of the male chromosome. Despite its diminutive size, the Y is doing fine. David Page has spent a career unraveling the odd history of the Y chromosome, its apparent loss of genes and its presumed fragility. Dr. Page and his colleagues have patiently reconstructed the evolution of the Y. In this program, Dr. Page describes the great difficulty of decoding the Y chromosome, and what scientists have discovered about its complex role in the evolution of life. He also considers the relationship between the Y chromosome and conditions that affect males disproportionately, such as autism.
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - Natural Mathematics: Intuition and Insight, Sanjoy Mahajan, PhD . Dr. Mahajan brings an enlightened approach to teaching mathematics by encouraging intuition and guessing. And he shows that this approach is not only more natural, it's also necessary in a great many of the real problems scientists and engineers try to solve. This is a way of thinking that is also applicable to problem-solving in general, not just in mathematics. Here's an opportunity to celebrate our natural way of thinking. Professor Mahajan explains how to develop this as a genuine skill.
The Connor Lab investigates how viruses take over cells and how cells defend against virus invaders. Dr. Connor's group collaborates with other researchers in both virus research and computer science to develop tools for early identification of viruses, when medication is most effective, and potential vaccines that will prevent infection.In this visit to the Connor Lab at the Boston University School of Medicine, we learn some basics about viruses and working in a virus research lab. We see techniques for discovering how viruses take over cells, and we get an idea of how cells block viruses. A few weeks after this video was recorded, an Ebola crisis emerged in Africa. Since the Ebola virus is a major interest of the Connor Lab, we have listed some articles featuring John Connor.
July 15, 2014 Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge MA Despite decades of research, there is still uncertainty about the biological mechanism that triggers cancer. There are several rival hypotheses, and genuine progress in cancer research will depend on determining the correct one. The prevailing hypothesis is that the accumulation of mutations in the genome of a single normal cell transforms the cell to a neoplasm. In this view, cancer is a cell-based, genetic and molecular disease. But this hypothesis does not explain all cancers, and the theory has required ad hoc arguments that, for a number of researchers, suggest a basic weakness. Since 1999, the acclaimed Tuft University cancer researchers Drs. Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein have developed a different hypothesis. In contrast to the dominant theory, they argue that proliferation is the default state of the cell, and they posit that cancer is a breakdown of tissue organization involving many cells from different embryological layers. In this presentation, Drs. Soto and Sonnenschein explain the major cancer theories and how the differences impact research. They discuss experimental evidence for the rival hypotheses, and how such evidence leads –or not— to an explanation of carcinogenesis.
June 12, 2014 Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA While there have been controversies between vegetarians and meat-eaters or organic versus conventional farming, rarely has there been a time when food has divided society into two major warring camps. But that is the situation regarding genetically modified food (aka genetically modified organisms or GMOs). One camp proclaims that genetically modified crops represent the future of food. The other camp believes it is a corporate conspiracy that will contaminate and endanger the world's food supply. Can science bring us closer to the truth about GMOs? Dr. Krimsky is Chairman of the Board for the Council for Responsible Genetics . The CRG provides a unique historical lens into the modern history, science, ethics, and politics of genetic technologies. Since 1983 the Council has had leading scientists, activists, science writers, and public health advocates researching and reporting on a broad spectrum of issues, including genetically engineered foods, biological weapons, genetic privacy and discrimination, reproductive technologies, and human cloning.
Science for the Public: Contemporary Science Issues - What Marine Sediments Reveal about Climate Change
Richard Murray is a major authority on how marine sediments provide records of past climate. In this discussion, he addresses the Asian Monsoon, the glacial record in tropical sediments, and how the delivery of iron-bearing dust to the open ocean may influence ocean life and perhaps be related to climate. He also provides important scientific insights about the current climate change situation, both globally and in his home base, Scituate, Massachusetts, where he is an elected Selectman. June 03, 2014 Belmont Media Center, Belmont MA
May 20, 2014 Robbins Library, Arlington MA Max Tegmark has a proud reputation as an unconventional thinker. In this presentation, Professor Tegmark talks about his famous concept of the multiverse and his view that reality is a mathematical entity. And he makes this material very interesting and accessible to a wide audience --no expertise required. This is an opportunity to meet the very personable and very popular Max Tegmark.
May 06, 2014 Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA Over 4.5 billion years, Earth has evolved from a mass of rock and metal to a planet teeming with life and energy. The emergence and evolution of life has progressively modified the planet, just as the evolution of the planet has influenced the development of the great variety of organisms. For modern humanity, this deep relationship has become increasingly obvious. Placing civilization in the context of this relationship provides a novel perspective on current environmental problems, and raises the question of the potential role of intelligent life in planetary evolution. Charles Langmuir has carved a distinguished career in the international science arena investigating many aspects of the solid earth geochemical cycle. He has recently co-led the first investigation of the Arctic Ocean ridge system, and over two decades has explored the seafloor through some 20 research cruises. Dr. Langmuir is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Geochemical Society, and the American Geophysical Union, from which he received the N. L. Bowen Award in 1996. He received the Holmes Medal of the European Union of Geosciences in 2003.
Arjun Dey, PhD , Astronomer, National Optical Astronomy Observatory , Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Dey is a 2013-14 Research Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge Massachusetts. He is an expert on galaxy evolution, high redshift galaxies, and large-scale structures in the universe. His many discoveries include one of the earliest galaxies in the universe. In this discussion Dr. Dey describes how astrophysicists, with advanced techniques and powerful telescopes, penetrate the most remote areas of the universe, to analyze massive galaxies. He explains how large-scale structures in the cosmos provide information about the distribution and the nature of dark matter -and clues about dark energy. April 15, 2014 Belmont Media Center, Belmont MA
Philippe Grandjean, M.D., D.M.Sc. of the Harvard School of Public Health explains how several common pollutants impair brain development in both the fetal stage and early childhood. During development, the human nervous system is uniquely sensitive to toxic substances. The damage from these substances affects cognition, behavior and health.
Living cells make decisions all the time about where to go, what to eat, when to divide, and what to become. These decisions are made using protein and DNA molecules which are found in all cells. As first described by Brown and then explained by Einstein more than a hundred years ago, small particles in water undergo random motion due to numerous collisions with water molecules that surround them. This "Brownian motion" of proteins and DNA inside a cell can ultimately result in the decisions being made by a cell to be random. For example, two cells that are genetically identical and placed in the same environment may end up behaving in radically different ways. In this presentation Dr. Kondev describes the latest findings regarding the random nature of cellular decision making and how this randomness forces us to reexamine the most basic ideas about "what is life." These findings are also shedding new light on important health related problems like bacterial infections and cancer that affect us all. March 18, 2014
How do solar systems get started? Modern astronomers are still working to figure this out, and there is nothing they like better than a big challenge like this one. Dr. Najita, who is a prominent researcher in this field, discusses why planetary system formation is such a big question. She describes how astronomers investigate the formation of stars, their disks and their planetary systems. And she considers what astronomers are certain about today and why there are still many puzzles. This kind of research makes us realize that there is so much about the cosmos to discover.
Plastic is everywhere and has become a serious threat to the environment and to health. To replace plastic, materials scientists have looked to nature for examples. The target material has to be tough, light, and versatile --like compounds found in silk, insect wings, and shrimp shells. A very promising replacement based on such compounds has been developed by Javier Fernández and Donald Ingber at the Wyss Institute of Harvard. The material, which these scientists called "shrilk," is modeled on natural compounds. It is biodegradable and also biocompatible, meaning it can be used in medical applications including surgery. Shrilk can be produced inexpensively and it can be molded into complex shapes varying in stiffness and elasticity. Dr. Fernández explains the urgent need to replace plastic, the challenge of developing innovative materials like shrilk, and the great many uses for this new material.