Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations

Most Recent Episode Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 11/28/17

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.

Episodes

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 11/28/17

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: 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 10/05/17

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.

Contemporary Science Issues & Innovations : 09/12/17

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.

Contemporary Science Issues & Innovations: 05/23/17

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 05/16/17

Professor Jack Ridge explains how the analysis of glacial varves (sediment deposits over centuries) provide crucial information about climate changes over thousands of years.

SFTP Lecture: Communicating Climate Change: 04/25/17

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 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: 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 01/24/17

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: 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: 12/20/16

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The 2016 Large Hadron Collider Update

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Troubled Waters

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Exploring the World of Microbial Dark Matter

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.

Contemporary Science Issues & Innovations: Breakthroughs in Nanotechnology

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).

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How Restorative Development Can Address Climate Change

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 Started, Becoming Complex

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Mapping the Heavens

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: New Paradigms for Conversation

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Push for Renewable Energy

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

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Earthquakes and Tsunamis

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Climate Change Policy

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Co-Evolution of Organisms and Their Environments

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 NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission, which has been concerned with analyzing the geological history of that planet.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Reconstructing Evolution

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Our Robots, Ourselves

David Mindell 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Gamma Ray Bursts

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Probing the Large-Scale Universe

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Saving the Himalayas

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Quantum Computing, Quantum Biology

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: Quantum Computing, Quantum Biology

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: Renewable Energy Progress

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How the Brain Produces Language and What Can Go Wrong

Dr. Frank Guenther, Ph.D., Guenther 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How the Brain Produces Language and What Can Go Wrong

Dr. Frank Guenther, Ph.D., Guenther 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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Renewable Energy Progress

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Soil- The Skin of Earth

Dr. Andrew Kurtz explains how soils evolve, diversify and enable plant and animal life. And why there is increasing concern today about threats to soil, the “skin” of the Earth.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Soil- The Skin of Earth

Dr. Andrew Kurtz explains how soils evolve, diversify and enable plant and animal life. And why there is increasing concern today about threats to soil, the “skin” of the Earth.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Formation of Stars and Planets

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Formation of Stars and Planets

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Natural Mathematics: Intuition and Insight

A lecture by 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 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Conflicting Science on the Safety of Genetically Modified Food

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? This lecture is presented by Sheldon Krimsky, PhD, Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities & Social Sciences; and Adjunct Professor, Department of Public Health & Community Medicine, Tufts University.

Contemporary Science Issues & Innovations: What Ocean Sediments Reveal About Climate Change

Richard Murray, PhD, describes the enormous amount of information contained in ocean sediments. These sediments record the history of Earth’s climate and the many changes in the evolution of our planet. Dr. Murray explains how scientists gather sediment cores and analyze them. He also describes his climate work as a Selectman in Scituate, MA.

Contemporary Science Issues: Mathematics and the Universe

Max Tegmark, PhD, Professor of Physics, MIT gives a lecture on Mathematics and the Universe. 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Earth and Humans: A Planetary Perspective

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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Pollutants Affect Brain Development

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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Massive Galaxies

Arjun Dey, PhD of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory describes how astronomers, with advanced techniques and powerful telescopes, investigate the formation and distribution of massive galaxies. By analyzing the distribution of these galaxies astronomers anticipate insights into the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that accounts for almost all of the energy in the universe.

Contemporary Science Issues: How Solar Systems Form

Guest: Joan Najita, PhD, National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Dr. Najita discusses why planetary system formation is such a big question. As a prominent astronomer in this field, she has made important discoveries. Here, 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: How Cells Make Decisions

Guest: Jané Kondev, PhD, Brandeis University. Dr. Kondev describes the latest findings regarding the random nature of the decisions that cells make. He explains the implications of such randomness for many areas of biological research, including studies on cancer and bacterial diseases.

Contemporary Science Issues: TB Bacteria Evading Treatment
Contemporary Science Issues: Fossil Teeth
Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Breakthrough in Antibiotic Resistance

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Looking for Signatures of Life on Mars

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How Plankton Blooms Absorb CO2

Microscopic plankton play a vital role in the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric CO2. And since that absorption represents about one third of the planet’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 “blooms” that can be seen from space.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Social Context of Science

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: What Happened to the Honeybees?

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Coastal Ecosystems

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.

Cosmic Evolution

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Creating Public Doubt about Scientific Facts

Dr. Naomi Oreskes, PhD, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, 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).

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Exoplanet Atmospheres

Dr. Mercedes Lopez-Murphy, PhD, Astrophysicistsat the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics explains how she and her colleagues detect and then analyze exoplanet atmospheres, a very exciting part of the exoplanet frontier. She is involved in several large international projects, and she what the exo-atmospheric signatures reveal up to now.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Great Expectations: The Large Hadron Collider 2015

Dr. Tulika Bose is the Trigger Coordinator of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment for the 2015 run. The CMS is one of the major experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The trigger is the set of algorithms that select for particular data in the LHC particle collisions. Most of the data produced in particle collisions is not captured –algorithms are designed to capture only a very small percent for analysis. The 2015 run will about double the energy of the 2012 particle collisions that produced the Higgs boson. So 2015 is expected to produce a whole range of surprises, and scientists hope to get some insights on big mysteries such as dark matter.

Contemporary Science Issues: How DNA is Folded in Cells and Why it Matters

DNA is also a molecule that can be meters in length. So how does it fit inside a cell? Dr. Jane Kondev, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics at Brandeis University, explains how solving this folding puzzle might affect our understanding of disease and cancer.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Genetics and Social Responsibility

Professor Jon Beckwith, PhD is a leading researcher in genetics. Among the many achievements of his group is the isolation of the first gene in 1969. Throughout his career, Dr. Beckwith has also been a major voice for educating the public about the social implications of genetic science, warning against the misuse of genetics (as in the claim for a “criminality” gene) and potentially dangerous applications in genetic engineering.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Evolution of the Y Chromosome

David Page, M.D., Professor of Biology at MIT, describes the odd history of the Y chromosome, its apparent loss of genes and its presumed fragility. He explains the great difficulty of decoding the Y chromosome, and what scientists have discovered about its complex role in evolution. He also discusses an emerging interest in this field regarding the relationship between the sex chromosomes and conditions that affect males or females disproportionately: for example why autism affects males much more than females.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Evolution and Environmental Toxins

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 “pest” species, toxicologist Emily Monosson suggests those species might be a source of valuable information.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Evolution and Environmental Toxins

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 “pest” species, toxicologist Emily Monosson suggests those species might be a source of valuable information.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Breakthrough in Antibiotic Resistance

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Looking for Signatures of Life on Mars

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: How Plankton Blooms Absorb CO2

Microscopic plankton play a vital role in the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric CO2. And since that absorption represents about one third of the planet’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 “blooms” that can be seen from space.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: The Social Context of Science

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: What Happened to the Honeybees?

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Coastal Ecosystems

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.

Cosmic Evolution

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.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Creating Public Doubt about Scientific Facts

Dr. Naomi Oreskes, PhD, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, 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).

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Exoplanet Atmospheres

Dr. Mercedes Lopez-Murphy, PhD, Astrophysicistsat the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics explains how she and her colleagues detect and then analyze exoplanet atmospheres, a very exciting part of the exoplanet frontier. She is involved in several large international projects, and she what the exo-atmospheric signatures reveal up to now.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Great Expectations: The Large Hadron Collider 2015

Dr. Tulika Bose is the Trigger Coordinator of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment for the 2015 run. The CMS is one of the major experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The trigger is the set of algorithms that select for particular data in the LHC particle collisions. Most of the data produced in particle collisions is not captured –algorithms are designed to capture only a very small percent for analysis. The 2015 run will about double the energy of the 2012 particle collisions that produced the Higgs boson. So 2015 is expected to produce a whole range of surprises, and scientists hope to get some insights on big mysteries such as dark matter.

Contemporary Science Issues: How DNA is Folded in Cells and Why it Matters

DNA is also a molecule that can be meters in length. So how does it fit inside a cell? Dr. Jane Kondev, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics at Brandeis University, explains how solving this folding puzzle might affect our understanding of disease and cancer.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Genetics and Social Responsibility

Professor Jon Beckwith, PhD is a leading researcher in genetics. Among the many achievements of his group is the isolation of the first gene in 1969. Throughout his career, Dr. Beckwith has also been a major voice for educating the public about the social implications of genetic science, warning against the misuse of genetics (as in the claim for a “criminality” gene) and potentially dangerous applications in genetic engineering.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Evolution of the Y Chromosome

David Page, M.D., Professor of Biology at MIT, describes the odd history of the Y chromosome, its apparent loss of genes and its presumed fragility. He explains the great difficulty of decoding the Y chromosome, and what scientists have discovered about its complex role in evolution. He also discusses an emerging interest in this field regarding the relationship between the sex chromosomes and conditions that affect males or females disproportionately: for example why autism affects males much more than females.

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations: Natural Mathematics: Intuition and Insight

A lecture by 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 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Conflicting Science on the Safety of Genetically Modified Food

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? This lecture is presented by Sheldon Krimsky, PhD, Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities & Social Sciences; and Adjunct Professor, Department of Public Health & Community Medicine, Tufts University.

Contemporary Science Issues & Innovations: What Ocean Sediments Reveal About Climate Change

Richard Murray, PhD, describes the enormous amount of information contained in ocean sediments. These sediments record the history of Earth’s climate and the many changes in the evolution of our planet. Dr. Murray explains how scientists gather sediment cores and analyze them. He also describes his climate work as a Selectman in Scituate, MA.

Contemporary Science Issues: Mathematics and the Universe

Max Tegmark, PhD, Professor of Physics, MIT gives a lecture on Mathematics and the Universe. 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Earth and Humans: A Planetary Perspective

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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Pollutants Affect Brain Development

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.

Contemporary Science Issues: Massive Galaxies

Arjun Dey, PhD of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory describes how astronomers, with advanced techniques and powerful telescopes, investigate the formation and distribution of massive galaxies. By analyzing the distribution of these galaxies astronomers anticipate insights into the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that accounts for almost all of the energy in the universe.

Contemporary Science Issues: How Solar Systems Form

Guest: Joan Najita, PhD, National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Dr. Najita discusses why planetary system formation is such a big question. As a prominent astronomer in this field, she has made important discoveries. Here, 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.

Contemporary Science Issues: How Cells Make Decisions

Guest: Jané Kondev, PhD, Brandeis University. Dr. Kondev describes the latest findings regarding the random nature of the decisions that cells make. He explains the implications of such randomness for many areas of biological research, including studies on cancer and bacterial diseases.

Contemporary Science Issues: TB Bacteria Evading Treatment
Contemporary Science Issues: Fossil Teeth