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Fall 2014 Series
Beckman Center - Irvine, CA

October 15, 2014
Making One from Two (or More): Mergers, Acquisitions, Downsizing and Innovation in Eukaryotic Cell Evolution

Eukaryotic (nucleus-containing) cells are demonstrably chimeric, with genetic contributions from the prokaryotic domains Bacteria and Archaea, as well as genes specific to the eukaryotic domain (Eucarya).  Processes that characterize the evolution of business and industry —mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and innovation—have their parallels in eukaryotic cell evolution.  Prominent among the cell-cell mergers that have led to the contemporary eukaryotic cell are the bacterial endosymbioses that established the energy-generating subcellular organelles, the mitochondrion and plastid (chloroplast).  As businesses and industries gain competitive advantage and find productive niches through mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and innovation, so have eukaryotic cells and the unicellular and multicellular organisms they comprise. 

Michael W. Gray
, Dalhousie University

A private reception for Friends of Distinctive Voices follows the lecture.

October 22, 2014
Bitcoin and Beyond: Cryptocurrencies Explained

Non-state-backed, decentralized “cryptocurrencies” such as bitcoin have introduced new paradigms for money movement in which transfers are public but the identities of the individuals behind the transfers are masked. This presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, cryptocurrencies have important speed, efficiency and (in some respects) security advantages over traditional approaches. Yet, all mechanisms for moving and storing money—new and old—involve risks and the potential for misuse. This presentation will discuss what bitcoin is, how it works, and the broader implications of systems built on the concept of decentralized trust.

John Villasenor is a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at UCLA and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

October 29, 2014
The Promise of Brain Training Games

Imagine if you could see better, hear better, have improved memory, and even become more intelligent through simple training done on your own computer, smartphone, or tablet. Just as physical fitness underwent a revolution in the 20th century, brain fitness is being transformed through innovations in psychology, neuroscience and computer science. This talk discusses recent research that begins to unlock this potential with a focus on a recent vision training game that improves not only visual performance on eye-charts, but also on-field performance in baseball.

Aaron Seitz, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Riverside

November 12, 2014
Collective Behavior: From Cells to Societies

What kinds of social interactions might evolve without memory, brains and nervous systems? Social amoebae live much of their lives in relative solitude, though always keeping track of their neighbors. When they starve their social life begins, either with a sexual stage in which the mating pair cannibalizes thousands of others, or with a social stage in which about a quarter of individuals die in becoming a study pillar for the others to ascend. In addition to altruism, these amoebae recognize and communicate; they cheat non-relatives and even carry future bacterial crops like agricultural herders. This system can reveal core features of the evolution of sociality in the kinds of organisms that can make us sick.

Joan Strassmann, Washington University in St. Louis

November 19, 2014
Ancient DNA

Beth Shapiro, University of California, Santa Cruz



December 3, 2014
Exploring and Managing Earth from the Sky

Earth’s ecosystems are changing faster now than any time since the last ice age.  Ironically we know little about most ecosystems, especially those in remote areas unexplored by scientists.  To address this challenge, Greg Asner’s team combines laser and spectral instrumentation aboard a fixed-wing aircraft, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, to produce detailed, 3-D imagery revealing the composition and health of ecosystems.  Dr. Asner will discuss the Observatory’s revolutionary capabilities, and how it is yielding new scientific discoveries while accelerating conservation and management of our planet’s resources.

Gregory Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science 

December 10, 2014
Kepler-186f – Earth-like planet

Thomas Barclay, NASA Ames Research Center


December 17, 2014
Edible Education: Science and Food

Liz Roth-Johnson, University of California, Los Angeles Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology.



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