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Fall 2014 Series
Beckman Center - Irvine, CA
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, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a national fellow at the Hoover 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
How (and why) to clone a mammoth
What if extinction is not forever? Recent advances in ancient DNA research and genome engineering technologies have opened the door to turning this idea from science fiction into science fact. But, how close are we to actually making de-extinction happen, and, are there compelling reasons to do so? In this talk, ancient DNA scientist Beth Shapiro will discuss the science and ethics of de-extinction, including what is and what is not technically possible today and how scientists might overcome the existing barriers to bringing extinct species back to life.
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
In search of alien worlds
Are we alone in the Universe? This is a question that has puzzled countless generations. While we are still unable to say whether there is life out there we are beginning to think about whether there are planets that remind us of home. The Kepler spacecraft has been used to identify several planets in the habitable zone of other star - a region around a star where a planet could host liquid water at its surface given an appropriate atmosphere. Of particular note is Kepler-186f which is an Earth-sized planet that orbits within the habitable zone of a star that is smaller and cooler than the Sun. This talk will focus on the search for Earth-like worlds, discuss what we know about the planets we have found and look at what we don't know right now but hope to learn from future NASA missions.
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.