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Video Highlights from Distinctive Voices events

Distinctive Voices has hosted hundreds of lectures and events featuring some of the best minds in the world—including members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Medicine—all who volunteer their time to promote public science programs. Below are some samples of the videos of previous lectures. See the full selection of lectures available on the Distinctive Voices YouTube Channel.



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



Binod Tiwari
Global Trends of Landslides and Mudslide Disasters and Their Impacts on Community

Earthquakes, wildfires, and extreme precipitations are three among the most frequent triggers of landslides that caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of property loss per year, globally. With the current global warming and climate change issues as well as increased urbanization, frequencies and damages made by landslides and mudslides have significantly increased in the past few decades. Although it is impossible to eliminate natural disasters such as landslides, we can reduce the impact of these disasters by understanding the causes, mechanism and effects of such disasters and applying precautionary measures while establishing our infrastructures. With increased awareness about landslides and our understanding to enhance research and technology for investigation of landslide related hazards as well as establishment of early warning systems, there had been significant progress in landslide hazard mitigation in the past few decades. However, there is still a need to spend more resources in research pertinent to this area. This presentation will cover the causes, mechanism, and effects of landslides (and mudslides); recent advances on the science and technology pertinent to landslides hazard mitigation; and possible precautionary measures that our community can take to safeguard against landslide hazards.
» Binod Tiwari, California State University, Fullerton



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.
» Britney Schmidt, Georgia Institute of Technology



Podcasts from Distinctive Voices events

Below are some podcasts of previous lectures. See the full selection of lectures available on the Distinctive Voices Podcast Channel. New podcasts every Wednesday.

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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