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s02e09: Ernest J. Moniz: Accelerating the Clean Energy Transformation

The key outcomes of the Paris COP21 meeting in 2015 included: first, both an acknowledgement that global warming must be held below two degrees Celsius and national commitments to start down the road of deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions; second, a multinational recognition that clean energy technology innovation is at the center of solutions to the climate challenge with associated commitments to double their innovation R&D budgets. Today, a consensus is emerging that we are collectively well behind any semblance of a successful trajectory to those ends. We must dramatically accelerate the clean energy transformation to a deeply decarbonized energy economy. This calls for a significantly expanded and refocused innovation agenda across multiple sectors of the economy – not just the electricity sector. The innovation pathway to a deeply decarbonized energy economy will be addressed.

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s02e08: Katharine Hayhoe: A Climate for Change

Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, founder and CEO of ATMOS Research and author of A Climate for Change.

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s02e07: Paul Dawson: Double-Dipping and Other Food Peculiarities

Have you ever eaten food after it has been dropped on the floor or double-dipped a chip? What about the cleanliness of restaurant menus or how sanitary it is to play beer pong. Paul Dawson will talk about what the research says on these and other topics related to the bacterial transfer on and around food. We’ll look at the ways bacteria live and move around the surfaces where we eat, drink and celebrate. Ice, lemon slices, sharing food, and even blowing out birthday candles will be placed under the microscope for close examination. So if you are still wondering who was correct, George Costanza (the infamous double-dipper from Seinfeld) or Timmy (the dip protestor), then come out on September 12th to hear some trivia and find the answer to these and other questions about food and bacteria.

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s02e06: Katalin Gothard: The Magic of Emotional Touch

Touch is essential for communicating our emotions. Indeed our earliest socio-emotional experience may be the protective embrace of a parent. Humans and non-human primates use touch to build and maintain bonds throughout life, yet little is known about how the brain extracts the emotional content of social touch. This talk will focus on the role of the amygdala, the emotional hub of the brain, in processing touch and in extracting the positive or negative valence of touch stimuli. Dr. Gothard will explain how neuroscientists explore questions related to touch and emotion, emphasizing the value and the benefits of gaining new, significant knowledge in this area of research.

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s02e05: Anthony James: La Zanzara Vitruviana: Synthetic Biology and Malaria

New technologies hold great promise for sustainable control of malaria parasite transmission by mosquitoes. The science of these technologies has advanced so quickly that the public understanding of their benefits and risks lags far behind. The challenge is to develop these new disease control methods while at the same time recruiting public support for the efforts.

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s02e04: Michael M. Merzenich: Brain Power and Brain Health

Neuroscience research over the past several decades has revolutionized our understanding of the change processes in the brain that underlie the development and elaboration of our skills and abilities in younger life, and that account for their predictable, progressive decline at an older age. Neuroplasticity studies also provide us with important new insights into strategies for overcoming those losses, and for managing our brain health all across the span of our lives. Our goal is to explain how this science relates to YOUR health--and to explain how the great personal endowment of "brain plasticity" contributes to YOUR potential for continuous personal growth.

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s02e03: Emily Chew: Nutrition, Genetics and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The most common factor that increases the risk of AMD is increasing age. However, environmental factors including cigarette smoking and nutrition also play important roles in the development of AMD. This lecture will discuss specifically how researchers examined the role of diets and the use of nutritional supplements for the treatment of AMD. Unlike other medical conditions, nutritional supplements are effective in reducing the risk of progression to vision-threatening AMD. While the role of genetics may be important in AMD but the use of genetic testing in the treatment of AMD is not warranted. These recommendations of nutritional supplements and genetic testing for AMD will be discussed.

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s02e02: Jonathan P. Stewart: Earthquake Resilience of California’s Water Distribution System

California relies on a network of dams and aqueducts to store and transport water from the primary source areas (e.g., Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills) to usage areas (e.g., Central Valley farms and coastal urban regions). Southern California, in particular, relies on this infrastructure for 60% of its water, with the primary supply aqueducts importing from Owens Valley (eastern Sierra), Colorado River, and the California Bay-Delta Region. In this seminar, the presenter will define the meaning of resilience as applied to water systems. He will provide examples of stressing events in which the subsequent response demonstrated resilience (Los Angeles water system following Northridge earthquake) and did not (communities in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina). He will then describe seismic threats to California’s water systems and opine upon critical system components with and without suitable resilience.

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s02e01: Alex Stone: The Science of Magic and the Art of Deception

Magic is dramatized deception, lying as performance art, cons as theatre. Magicians trick our brains into seeing what isn’t real, and for whatever reason our brains let them get away with it.Turns out, you can learn a lot about how the mind works—and why it sometimes doesn’t—by looking at how magicians distort our perception.Through a mix of psychology, storytelling, and sleight-of-hand, Stone explores the cognitive underpinnings of misdirection, illusion, scams, and secrecy, pulling back the curtain on the many curious and powerful ways our brains deceive us—not just when we’re watching a magician stage his swindles, but throughout our daily lives.

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s01e14: Jill McDermott: A Deep Sea Hunt for Evidence of Dark Life

If you want to find life on other worlds, then you may want to start by searching the deepest, most remote areas of our seafloor. At hydrothermal vents, high pressure and heat from volcanic activity transforms seawater into hot, mineral-laden water. These hot springs support thriving ecosystems that exist completely devoid of sunlight. Chemical clues in hydrothermal vent fluids reveal the presence of a subseafloor biosphere, and recent exploration in the Arctic uncovers the nature of hydrothermal venting below meter-thick ice at the top of the world.

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s01e13: Shane Ardo: Development of a Plastic Water Bottle for Sunlight-Driven Desalination

One in ten human beings does not have access to clean potable water, a number that the United Nations predicts will more than quadruple in the next 13 years, mostly due to population growth in developing nations. These water needs can be met by desalination of ocean water but that requires a capital investment exceeding one trillion U.S. dollars. Therefore, development of affordable technologies to desalinate salt water for human consumption and agriculture is important. Toward this, my group recently invented a process for sunlight-driven desalination that can theoretically generate potable water 20 times faster than the competing process of solar thermal distillation. Central to our approach is a mechanism for direct conversion of sunlight into ionic power that we have demonstrated using inexpensive and scalable sheets of plastic.

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s01e12: Krysta Svore: Quantum Computing: Revolutionizing Computation Through Quantum Mechanics

Since 1981 when Richard Feynman proposed a device called a "quantum computer" to take advantage of the laws of quantum physics to achieve computational speed-ups over classical methods, quantum algorithms have been developed that offer fast solutions to problems in a variety of fields including number theory, optimization, chemistry, physics, and materials science. Quantum devices have also significantly advanced such that components of a scalable quantum computer have been demonstrated; the promise of implementing quantum algorithms is in our near future. This talk will reveal some of the mysteries of this disruptive, revolutionary computational paradigm and how it will transform our digital age.

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s01e11: Nels Elde: Microbial Control of Hosts: Annual Seymour Benzer Lecture

Microscopic beasts including viruses, bacteria, and fungi often associate with hosts to facilitate their spread and reproduction. Host-microbial interactions stretch back to the origins of cellular life. These alliances range from hostile to cooperative and from transient to permanent. We will explore the influence of microbes on their hosts and how they gain the ability to manipulate cell functions and organismal behavior. Understanding how microbes control hosts is helping unlock the secrets of our own biology and behavior.

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s01e10: Rob Rubin: What Can the Development of the Flu Vaccine Teach Us About Online Learning and Skilling the Workforce?

This lecture will explore what happens when you look at online learning as a complex system, analogous to the yearly development of the flu vaccine. Dr. Rubin will draw on the complexity theory behind two-sided networks (critical to understanding both the economics of Health Maintenance Organizations and vaccine creation) and identify fundamental gaps in learning systems. He will then describe how Microsoft applied this work to the reskilling challenge in Data Science. Drawing on the work enabled from the analysis of big data by learning scientists, we can understand the DNA of a professional program and the behaviors of successful learners. This work led to a dramatic increase in ROI for education/workforce skilling, and has introduced approximately 2000 newly trained Data Scientists in little over a year.

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s01e09: James Robinson: Where You Live Should Not Determine IF You Live

Traumatic injury in the United States presents a staggering national economic and social burden. Unfortunately, despite the burden, trauma care does not garner the leadership, funding or research commensurate to it. If there is any positive to armed conflict, one might be that war advances trauma care in both the military and civilian sectors. It is important that these hard-earned lessons, paid for in blood, be translated diffusely across the civilian sector. Recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee’s report A national trauma care system: Integrating military and civilian trauma systems to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury, provide a roadmap to improve survival, but will require concerted leadership and engagement from the point of injury through a return to daily living.

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S01E08: Stephen Levinson - Cultural Diversity in an Age of Fear

We live in an era where the values of an open society are being challenged by rising xenophobia. It is timely then to remind ourselves of the multiple gifts we have received from other cultures, from morphine to the alphabet, from our cultivars to our mathematics. Culture is the human way of adapting to local ecologies, social and political forces, and each one offers thousands of years of collective experiment. We still have very much to learn from these well-honed solutions both practically and scientifically. Critically, we need the foil of cultural diversity to help us understand the fundamentals of human nature – to distinguish native propensities from cultural formation. There is an urgency to this endeavor – the 7000 odd cultures of the world are being rapidly eroded by the forces of globalization, ethnic cleansing and state centralization or collapse.

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S01E07: David Mills - Mammals, Milk, and Microbes — The Role of Milk in the Establishment and Function of the Gut Microbiome

Human milk contains numerous components that shape the microbial content of the developing infant gastrointestinal tract. Studies suggest a co-evolutionary relationship between mammalian milk glycans, infant-borne bifidobacteria and the infant host resulting in a programmed enrichment of a protective bifidobacterial-dominant community during a critical stage of infant development. Disruption of this programmed enrichment, by poor environmental transfer, antibiotic use, or infection, can lead to a “poorly functioning” milk-oriented microbiota that may pose a risk for negative health outcomes. Further analysis of this naturally evolved system will shed light on effective pre- and probiotic tools that support and ensure a protective gut microbiota for at-risk infants.

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S01E06: Deborah Cramer - The Narrow Edge

Each year tiny sandpipers -- red knots -- undertake a near miraculous 19,000 mile journey from one end of the earth to the other and back. In this firsthand account, Deborah Cramer accompanies them on their extraordinary odyssey along the length of two continents, tracking birds from remote Tierra del Fuego to the icy Arctic. On the full moon of spring's highest tides, she seeks out horseshoe crabs -- ancient, primordial animals whose eggs are essential to migrating shorebirds, and whose blue blood, unbeknownst to most people, safeguards human health. The Narrow Edge offers unique insight into how the lives of humans, red knots and horseshoe crabs are intertwined. It is an inspiring portrait of loss and resilience, of the tenacity of birds, and the courage of the many people who bird by bird and beach by beach, keep red knots flying.

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S01E05: James Fallon - The Psychopath Inside

Neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans of serial killers at the same time that he was also doing a study on Alzheimer’s and had brain scans from himself and members of his family on his desk. He discovered that the psychopathic brain pictured in a particular scan was his own. The fact that a person with the genes and brain of a psychopath could end up a non-violent, stable and successful scientist made Fallon reconsider the ambiguity of the term. Research shows that a serotonin transporter protein present in the brain put people at higher risk for psychopathic tendencies, but also opens up the ventromedial prefrontal cortex region to be more significantly affected by environmental influences such that a positive (or negative) childhood is especially pivotal in determining behavioral outcomes.

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S01E04: Britney Schmidt: Robots Under the Ice, and One Day, In Space?

Europa is one of the most enticing targets in the search for life beyond Earth. With an icy outer shell hiding a global ocean, Europa exists in a dynamic environment and sources of energy that could sustain a biosphere. Beneath ice shelves on Earth, processes such as accretion, melt and circulation mediate the ice as an important element of the climate system. Here, ice-ocean exchange may be similar to that on Europa, but the harsh environment and thickness of the ice make it difficult to observe.
This presentation will explore environments on Europa and their analogs here on Earth. NASA will launch the Europa Clipper Mission in 2021, but while we wait to get there, current research is being conducted on the McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves using the under ice AUV/ROV Icefin. This new robotic capability is used to gather unique new data relevant to climate and planetary science, and develop techniques for exploring Europa, an ice covered world not so unlike our own.

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S01E03: Richard Harris - Science Friction: What’s Slowing Progress in Biomedicine

American taxpayers spend about $30 billion a year to support the National Institutes of Health. Most of that funding supports research at universities, at the boundary of medicine and biology. Unfortunately it appears that a great deal of that research is not robust, and can't be reproduced in other labs. Richard Harris took a year's leave from his job as science correspondent at National Public Radio to explore the reasons for these failings and to explore ways that the scientific enterprise can be improved. The result was his book, Rigor Mortis.
» Richard Harris, National Public Radio

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S01E02: Wendy Rogers - Robots to Support Successful Aging: Potential and Challenges

There is much potential for robots to support older adults in their goal of successful aging with high quality of life. However, for human-robot interactions to be successful, the robots must be designed with user needs, preferences, and attitudes in mind. The Human Factors and Aging Laboratory is specifically oriented toward developing a fundamental understanding of aging and bringing that knowledge to bear on design issues important to the enjoyment, quality, and safety of everyday activities of older adults. Our research does not emphasize loss of function associated with aging; rather, we wish to understand how to enhance a person's ability to function well in later life, perhaps through technology. In this presentation, I will describe our research with robots: personal, social, telepresence. We focus on the human side of human-robot interaction, answering questions such as, are older adults willing to interact with a robot? What do they want the robot to do? To look like? How do they want to communicate with a robot? Through research examples, I will illustrate the potential for robots to support successful aging as well as the challenges that remain for the design and widespread deployment of robots in this context.
» Wendy Rogers, University of Illinois

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S01E01: Nichole Lighthall - The Adaptable Aging Brain

For many, the phrase “brain aging” is accompanied by thoughts of cognitive decline or even dementia. In reality, brain aging is far more complex – involving both gains and losses with a high degree of variability from person to person. Changes to the brain in healthy aging can best be understood as a lifelong process of adaptation to biological, psychological, and environmental factors. This talk will focus on what has been learned from studying seniors with high levels of cognitive function. It will tackle questions such as, how do "optimally aging" brains respond to challenges like stress and memory demand? And, how do the the brains of optimally-aging seniors compensate for decline in important cognitive functions like learning and memory? In addressing these questions, this presentation will highlight discoveries in the neuroscience of aging and provide a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the aging brain.
» Nichole Lighthall, University of Central Florida

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