The conference fee is $1,475 and includes nineteen (19) 90-minute seminars below.
CHRIS STRINGER, PH.D.
JEANETTE NORDEN, PH.D.
DAVID LUNNEY, PH.D.
JAMES GILLIES, PH.D.
STEPHEN MACKNIK, PH.D. & SUSANA MARTINEZ-CONDE, PH.D.
An introduction to 6 million years of human evolution, from the time of our divergence from the African apes to the emergence of humans. In 1871, before there was any significant fossil evidence, Charles Darwin suggested that our evolution had begun in Africa. But it took another 50 years before that evidence started to emerge. The fact that we habitually walk bipedally — on two legs — distinguishes us from all our primate relatives, and Darwin attempted to explain this in evolutionary terms. Together we will look at how Darwin’s ideas have fared in the face of the latest discoveries, putting Darwin in context and perspective.
Here are the slides (3mb file).
About 2 million years ago the first humans appeared in Africa. Through their larger brains, human body shape, tool-making and meat-eating, they were different from their more ancient African ancestors. Discover what drove their evolution and led to a spread from their evolutionary homeland to Asia and Europe. Could a controversial find on the far-away island of Flores, in Indonesia, be a relic of these early stages of human evolution? Find out with Dr. Stringer.
Here are the slides (4mb file).
Our close relatives, the Neanderthals, evolved in parallel with our own species. They are often depicted as bestial ape-men, but in reality they walked upright as well as we do, and their brains were as large as ours. So how much like us were they, and what was their fate? Track the evolution of the Neanderthals in the light of the latest discoveries, including reconstructions of the Neanderthal genome, and be open to surprise.
Here are the slides (4mb file).
Modern humans are characterised by large brains and creativity. How did our species arise and spread across the world, and how did we interact with other human species? We will examine the different theories about modern human origins, including Recent African Origin (“Out of Africa”), Assimilation, and Multiregional Evolution. Delve in to the origins of human behavioural traits such as complex technology, symbolism and burial of the dead for insights into essential humanness.
Here are the slides (2mb file).
Get the lay of the land in this introductory neuroscience session which shows how the brain is divided into functional systems. A special emphasis will be on limbic and reticular systems which underlie learning and memory, executive function, arousal, attention, and consciousness.
Here are the slides (20mb file).
Memory is surely one of the most precious of all of our abilities. Find out what neuroscience has revealed about how we learn and remember. We’ll talk about about how different areas of the brain encode different types of information — from the phone number we need only remember for a few minutes or less — to the childhood memories we retain for a lifetime.
Here are the slides (3mb file).
When we lose our memories, we lose a critical part of ourselves and our lives. Dr. Norden will introduce the many clinical conditions that can affect different types of learning and memory.
Here are the slides (4mb file).
While memory can be lost under a wide variety of clinical conditions, most memory loss which occurs during aging is not due to strokes or neurodegenerative disease, but due to our lifestyles. Accumulating evidence suggests that aging need not be associated with significant memory loss. Explore what modern neuroscience has revealed about how to keep your brain healthy as you age.
Here are the slides (2mb file).
Get the big picture in an introduction to the formation and composition of the visible Universe, with emphasis on the synthesis of our chemical elements in the stars. After a quick explanation of what we believe to be the history of the Universe, we’ll explore where we sit in the heavens and try to fathom the rich phenomena and the incredible distance scales of the Cosmos.
We’ll learn how the stars shine, what their light tells us, and examine their different destinies. Everything happening in stars is determined by nuclear reactions, thus the need to understand some nuclear physics. Stars burn nuclear fuel into heavier and heavier species, liberating lots of heat (and light) in the process. Because E = mc^2, knowing the mass of those elements tells us how much energy a star will produce. Take a seat in a precise corner of the physics kitchen and get the latest on nucleosynthesis. Discover the key reactions, process of evolution of nuclear systems, and forces that shape the ongoing debates in nuclear astrophysics.
The most precise balance known to man is an electromagetic trap in which ionized atoms are made to dance, revealing their mass. Certain nuclear species are overweight, and shedding those extra calories is what gives the stars their energy to shine. Ion traps confine these species where they can be observed for long periods, allowing precision measurements of their fundamental properties, including mass. We will descibe how these traps work and their widespread applications. See the state of the art and and glimpse the shape of the future of precision measurement.
It is feasible that a supernova may have exploded close enough to Earth to have caused mass extinctions. It should then be possible to detect traces of the star-born heavy elements that would have rained down on our planet. But to distinguish such material from the fallout of the nuclear age, we must dig deep into the pristine repositories of ocean sediment. Hear about deep-sea astronomy: the passionate odyssey of searching for a single atom of plutonium in a heap of sea sludge, using the same particle accelerator techniques that brought us carbon dating.
Particle physics is a science of extremes. It studies the tiniest constituents of matter using the largest machines ever built. It is today’s frontier in a quest for understanding that is as old as humanity itself. Human beings have always been curious about their surroundings. That’s why Columbus sailed the ocean blue, why men have walked on the moon, and why particle physics labs like CERN exist.
In the western scientific tradition, particle physics can be traced back to the Greeks, specifically to Leucippus of Miletus and Democritus who developed the idea of atomism. They wondered whether if a substance were repeatedly cut in half there would be a smallest indivisible unit of that substance: an atom. It’s remarkable how well this idea has stood the test of time. Today’s atoms are indeed the smallest recognisable units of the elements. They are not, however, indivisible.
Particle physics is the study of nature’s true atoms — the smallest indivisible pieces of matter — and the forces that act between them. This talk will give describe the facilities — particle accelerators, detectors, and computing — that make this research possible, before giving an overview of the state of the art in particle physics, and the challenges that lie ahead. It will be built around CERN’s latest research facility, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The stakes for the LHC are high. Its experiments will allow physicists to complete the journey that started with Newton’s description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain why the fundamental particles have the masses they have. Experiments at the LHC may provide the answer. LHC experiments will also probe the mysterious dark side of the universe — visible matter seems to account for just 5% of what must exist; the rest is dark matter and energy. They will investigate the reason for nature’s preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time. Like Columbus, we are poised to set off in search of new horizons, but this ocean blue is vaster by far than anything imaginable in 1492.
Here are the slides (70mb file).
In the late 1940s, Europe was in tatters in the wake of two world wars, yet some visionary people were actively working for a peaceful future. Among them was the French Nobel Prize winning physicist Louis de Broglie, who saw science as the route to peaceful collaboration across borders. In 1949, de Broglie arranged for a talk to be given in his name at the European Cultural Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, and it was there that the idea of CERN, the European particle physics laboratory, was born. The idea was rapidly adopted in both scientific and political circles, in Europe as well as in the United States, and the idea became reality on 29 September 1954, when 12 European countries signed the document that brought the new laboratory into existence.
This talk will weave the scientific and political stories of CERN’s development and the laboratory’s relationship with research communities around the world. It will show how particle physics has evolved from a regional to a global field of endeavour, with the Large Hadron Collider as its frontier research tool, and it will cover the development of the standard model of particle physics from CERN’s creation to the present day.
Here are the slides (32mb file).
On 4 July 2012, particle physics was headline news around the world thanks to a fundamental particle that goes by the name of Higgs. It was on that day that scientists at CERN announced that they had identified something that shows all the signs of being the long-sought particle first proposed by Peter Higgs and others in 1964. The Higgs particle is linked to a mechanism proposed to explain why one of nature’s fundamental interactions has infinite range while another, similar in strength, is limited in range to the scale of the atomic nucleus. This may seem rather esoteric, but the consequences are profound. The mechanism is responsible for giving mass to all the fundamental particles, and the interactions in question are electromagnetism and the weak interaction. Electromagnetism is what gives structure to matter from the atomic scale to large objects like humans, houses, and planets. It carries energy to us from the sun, and electricity around our homes. The weak interaction is the driving force behind the energy producing reactions in stars. Understanding these interactions is therefore extremely important in humankind’s quest to understand the universe we inhabit.
The particle discovered at CERN may look very much like the Higgs boson, but work is still needed for a positive identification. It has a mass that is in the range where theory and previous measurements suggested it should be, and it was found by looking for the experimental signatures predicted by theory. Nevertheless, we now need to establish what kind of particle it is. It could be the Higgs postulated in the 1960s, or it could be something more exotic. The stakes are high, since the theory we use to describe the fundamental particles from which we are made, and the interactions that give them structure, describes only the visible matter in the universe. It does not account for gravity, and we know that there’s much more than visible matter in the universe. Some 95% of the universe is invisible to us: we know it is there due to the effect it has on the visible 5%. An exotic Higgs particle could open a door to understanding the remainder. This talk will give an overview of the development of the Higgs mechanism, describe how the new particle was found at CERN, and examine the next steps in understanding its significance.
Here are the slides (48mb file).
All our life, every object we see, every person we know, and every incident we experience are derived from brain processes, and not necessarily the result of an event in the real world. The same neural machinery that interprets the sensory inputs also creates our thoughts, imaginations, and dreams; thus the world we experience and the world we imagine have the same physical bases in the brain. Just as physicists study the most minute subatomic particles and the largest galactic conglomerates to understand the universe, neuroscientists must examine the cerebral processes underlying perception to understand our experience of the universe. This seminar will review how our brain constructs‚ rather than reconstructs, the world we see.
As you read this, your eyes are rapidly flicking from left to right in small hops, bringing each word sequentially into focus. When you stare at a person’s face, your eyes will similarly dart here and there, resting momentarily on one eye, the other eye, nose, mouth, and other features. With a little introspection, you can detect this frequent flexing of your eye muscles as you scan a page, face, or scene. But these large voluntary eye movements, called saccades, turn out to be just a small part of the daily workout your eye muscles get. Your eyes never stop moving, even when they are apparently settled, say, on a person’s nose or a sailboat bobbing on the horizon. When the eyes fixate on something, as they do for 80% of your waking hours, they still jump and jiggle imperceptibly in ways that turn out to be essential for seeing. If you could somehow halt these miniature motions while fixing your gaze, a static scene would simply fade from view. Tiny eye movements called microsaccades may also shed light on subliminal thoughts. Recent research suggests that the direction of microsaccades is biased toward objects to which people are unconsciously attracted, no matter where they are actually looking.
Drs. Macknik and Martinez-Conde produce the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest, a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier illusion creators. Visual illusions are those perceptual experiences that do not match the physical reality. Our perception of the outside world is generated indirectly by brain mechanisms, so all visual perception is illusory to some extent. The study of visual illusions is critical to understanding the basic mechanisms of sensory perception, as well as to cure visual and neural diseases. The illusion community includes visual scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, painters, sculptors, magicians, mathematicians, and graphic designers that use a variety of methods to unveil the underpinnings of illusory perception. This class will feature the most exciting novel illusions created by the best and most cutting-edge illusion innovators of the new millennium.
Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable — a good magician uses your mind’s own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu. The insights that magicians have gained over centuries of informal experimentation have led to new discoveries in the cognitive sciences, and they also reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. If you’ve ever bought an expensive item you’d sworn you’d never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the “illusion of choice,” a core technique of magic. The implications of “neuromagic” go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education.
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