The 2019 UA Science Lecture Series, Searching for Certainty explores the debates and discoveries, from scientists across disciplines, that are shaping science today.
(Event information gathered from uascience.org)
JANUARY 15, 2019 – FEBRUARY 26, 2019
All lectures are free and begin at 7PM, doors open at 6PM. We encourage arriving early to ensure a seat!
We hold scientists in high regard as truth seekers and knowledge keepers. Their findings and research are independently checked, verified, proven and subjected to peer review. These processes and methods are applied rigorously and form a common framework for scientific inquiry. In this series of six lectures, scientists from across disciplines shed light on how the scientific community works together to build consensus from evidence, mediates differences of opinion in the face of debate and ultimately establishes theory – scientific truth that grows and evolves over time.
There Is No Certainty
JANUARY 15, 2019
Not every scientific study gets the answer right. Answers we get from “mining” existing datasets are particularly vulnerable to confounding factors. In contrast, gold-standard experiments, where subjects are randomly assigned to different groups, are an extremely reliable way to get closer to the truth. Given this difference, how much should we rely on mining Big Data to answer scientific questions? Are randomized experiments necessarily too difficult, expensive or unethical to conduct, or are these fixable problems? Does the human desire for certainty predispose us to an irrational dislike of randomized experiments, one that might be holding science back?
Understanding the Unseen Universe
JANUARY 22, 2019
Although astronomy is described as an observational science, throughout time, it has constantly grappled with the unseen. As we have built bigger and more powerful telescopes, larger computers, and better mathematical tools to understand the Universe, we have reached its further corners and discovered a diverse range of objects and phenomena. At the same time, with these discoveries, we have been asked to come to terms with dark energy, dark matter, black holes, Big Bang, and perhaps even a Planet Nine, none of which are directly observable today. How does astronomy address, and perhaps plan to overcome, this core tension? The paradigm will continue to evolve as new evidence comes into light.
Climate and the Deep Blue Sea
JANUARY 29, 2019
As oceanographers have added floating robots to our work from ships, we have discovered that global warming is really ocean warming. It is a triumph of earth system science that the mystery of the deep blue sea’s role in climate and weather is now measured and used to inform our everyday forecasts and our far distant projections. New robots, new sensors and new computer models are transforming how we measure and forecast the vast and accelerating changes in our earth’s climate. The next generation of biogeochemical floats that measure carbon, nutrients and chlorophyll will do for carbon what the first floating robots did for heat, allowing us to verify our new international carbon agreements for the top ten global economies.
The Microbes Shaping Our Lives
FEBRUARY 12, 2019
For decades, biologists and physicians have seen microbes as foes and agents of disease that need to be wiped out. Now they are realizing that the millions of microbes we harbor are essential for our health. Our microbes live in complex eco-systems highly responsive to environmental signals, outnumber the cells of our body by at least 10-fold, and act both locally, in the organs they inhabit, and at a distance, by releasing small metabolites that travel in our blood. Thus, our microbes influence directly or indirectly virtually all our characteristics: our immunity and our blood pressure, our weight and our cognition and possibly even our mood. Microbial diversity is so extraordinary that each of us carries a distinct set of microbes and can be identified by the microbes s/he carries. The discovery of the microbial world has just begun but is already revolutionizing biology and medicine.
The Mind-Body Dialogue
KATALIN M. GOTHARD
FEBRUARY 19, 2019
We rarely hear people say that they are not thinking straight because their kidney or liver is not in good working condition. The brain is always blamed for our mental failures because we believe that our thoughts and feelings arise exclusively from the brain and the rest of our body simply stands by. In reality, the brain exchanges continuously millions of bits of information with each compartment of our body. For the most part we are unaware the dialogue between the brain and the body yet these conversations are critical for our well-being and our mental and physical health.
Can Intelligence be Measured?
FEBRUARY 26, 2019
‘Intelligence’ is a critical part of being human, and we search for it in others, from aliens to pets. But defining intelligence has led to controversies over its nature, and our bias to humanize the familiar and dehumanize the unfamiliar has been misleading. We anthropomorphize pets and PCs, and we wrongly project our thoughts and beliefs on them and others: tail-wagging dogs aren’t happy; ants are not an army of mind-clones; computers may have become more intelligent now that we gave up on making them ‘AI’s. Scientifically rigorous hypothesis testing prevents such misinterpretations of the mind of others, and forces us to accept that we generally share both less and more mental experience with other organisms than we think. A core debate, however, remains about whether intelligence should be seen as a set of decentralized, independent problem-solving modules, or a singular, generalized skill of innovation.