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Programs For The Public


Programs For The Public


Public Lectures

The Graduate Center has a mandate to help make the frontiers of our knowledge accessible to the broadest possible audience.  At ITS, we are trying to do this through a series of public lectures and conversations.  All events are free, but we ask that you register in advance at the public programs web site.

Conversations : Theory and Experiment

The Graduate Center has a mandate to help make the frontiers of our knowledge accessible to the broadest possible audience.  In addition to our traditional public lectures, ITS is experimenting with a new and more intimate format, inviting the public to join in a conversation among distinguished scientists who have worked together on major questions at the edge of our understanding.  We hope to give our audience a glimpse of the nature of collaboration between theory and experiment, and of the very human way in which interactions between people lead to intellectual progress.


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Archive of Public Lectures and Events

Monday, 5 March, 2012

6:30 PM in Elebash Recital Hall
The intelligence of swarms
Guy Theraulaz
From soaring flocks of birds to stampeding herds of wildebeest, collective behavior in large groups of animals are among the most beautiful, and occasionally frightening, phenomena in Nature.  But animals can cooperate not just to choose their direction of migration, but to reshape their environment, engaging in construction projects that can be compared meaningfully with human efforts.  One of the leading contributors to the modern study of animal behavior, Guy Theraulaz will take us on a tour of these remarkable phenomena, including a literal 3D tour of insect nests (glasses provided).   We will see "engineering" of startling subtlety, and see how some of these phenomena can be reproduced and studied under controlled conditions in the laboratory, the first steps on the road to understanding. 
Guy Theraulaz is Director of Research in the French National Research Council (CNRS) Center for Animal Cognition at the Universit'e Paul Sabatier, in Toulouse.  In addition to his technical publications, he has written for general audiences in France, Germany, Japan and Spain.  He has received the Bronze Medal of the CNRS, among other honors.

Tuesday, 21 February, 2012
Lyman Page and David Spergel in a conversation about The origins and evolution of the universe.
Lyman Page is the Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor and Chair of Physics at Princeton University.  He and his colleagues have done a series of experiments to explore the "cosmic microwave background," radiation left over from the big bang.  From initial efforts with balloon borne instruments to the WMAP satellite and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, these measurements have transformed the subject of cosmology, showing conclusively that only 4.6% of the mass in the universe is the matter that we see in everyday life, and determining the age of the universe to 1% accuracy.  
David Spergel is the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy and Chair of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. A theoretical astrophysicist, he is a leading contributor to the modern theory of the origin and evolution of the universe, from the mysterious "dark matter" to the possibility of phase transitions in the early universe.   His work has consistently emphasized the connection of theory to experiment, playing a central role in the design and analysis of large scale cosmological observations, including WMAP,  as well as being interested in the search for earth-like planets.   
In 2010, Page and Spergel, along with Charles Bennett, shared the Shaw Prize, "for their contributions to the WMAP experiment, which helped determine the geometry, age and composition of universe."
Wednesday, 2 November, 2011
Michel Devoret, Steven Girvin and Robert Schoelkopf in a conversation about Exploring the quantum.
Michel Devoret is the Beinecke Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale University, and holds a Chair in the College de France. He has been a pioneer in the development of experiments that allow us to observe the behavior of single electrons as they move through electronic circuits.
Steven Girvin is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Yale University, where he also serves as Deputy Provost for Science and Technology.  He has made profound theoretical contributions to our understanding of the quantum behavior of electrons in solids.
Robert Schoelkopf is the Norton Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale University.  His experiments have pushed the familiar transistor to the scale where it operates with single electrons, creating measurement tools with broad applications.
Much honored on both sides of the Atlantic, Devoret, Girvin and Schoelkopf now collaborate to bring the mysteries of quantum mechanics under control, with the goal of building a quantum computer.
Cancelled! To be rescheduled for Fall 2012, we hope
Mitchell Feigenbaum and Albert Libchaber in a conversation about Dynamics, chaos and life.
Mitchell Feigenbaum is the Toyota Professor of Mathematical Physics at Rockefeller University, where he also directs the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology.  He is best known for his discovery of simple systems which can generate extraordinarily complex, even seemingly random, dynamics - chaos - and, astonishingly, that there are universal paths to chaos, independent of details.  He also has tackled problems ranging from the "moon illusion" to the best way of drawing maps.  
Albert Libchaber is the Detlev W. Bronk Professor at Rockefeller University.  He is a "theorist's experimentalist," taming complex systems to the point where they yield data of extraordinary precision.  Among his results are the experimental demonstration of Feigenbaum's route to chaos in fluid motion, the exploration of scaling in fluid turbulence, and more recent forays into the dynamics of living systems, from attempts to construct an artificial cell to the possible origin of life in thermal plumes.  
In 1986 Feigenbaum and Libchaber shared Israel's highest scientific honor, the Wolf Prize, for their contributions to the theoretical and experimental elucidation of chaos.

Monday, 14 November, 2011
6:30 PM in Proshansky Auditorium
Superconductivity and other insoluble problems:  
Are there limits to scientific understanding?
Leon N. Cooper
When an ordinary metal is cooled to very low temperatures - near absolute zero - its electrical resistance vanishes.  Once a current starts to flow in a loop of such "superconducting" wire, it flows forever.  Discovered in 1911, this remarkable phenomenon defied explanation for nearly fifty years, until the work of John Bardeen, Leon Cooper and J. Robert Schrieffer.  Today, superconductivity is still a central topic in scientific research and in the search for new technologies, while the "BCS" theory has had implications for our understanding of systems ranging from the atomic nucleus to the behavior of massive stars.   To celebrate the centennial of the original discovery, we are delighted to welcome Professor Cooper, who will reflect on the history of superconductivity and on the nature of scientific explanation.
Leon Cooper is the Thomas J. Watson, Sr., Professor of Science at Brown University, where he also directs the Center for Neural Science.   A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, he shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for Physics for his contributions to the theory of superconductivity.