The conference fee is $959 and includes all sixteen (16) 90-minute seminars below.
JOAO VARELA, PH.D.
GARY LAGERLOEF, PH.D.
VICTOR A. RAMOS, PH.D.
MICHAEL SHERMER, PH.D.
SETH SHOSTAK, PH.D.
CHRISTOPHER SORENSEN, PH.D.
The long quest for today’s theory of the fundamental particles and forces was initiated with the discoveries of electrons, X-rays, and radioactivity in the end of the 19th century. Dr. Varela follows this trajectory highlighting its major milestones to gain insight of the present understanding of the physical world. In this period, physicists uncovered some of the deepest secrets of matter like the quantum fields, the symmetries between forces, and the origin of mass. A fundamentally different view of the world and its constituents has emerged, showing that a large number of natural phenomena can be described in terms of underlying principles of great simplicity and beauty. This theory, named the standard model of particles and interactions, is one of the greatest scientific achievements of humankind.
The world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, is an underground ring 17 miles long (27 km) buried beneath Switzerland and France. Inside this machine, subatomic particles racing near the speed of light collide to produce the highest energies ever achieved in a laboratory, recreating the state of the universe instants after it begun in the Big Bang. This energy gives rise to new and exotic particles that are detected by gigantic instruments in underground laboratories. One of these particles, the Higgs boson, has never been detected before, and scientists think it holds the key to explaining why all particles have mass. This “Big Bang factory” is a technological marvel 20 years in the making that was conceived and built by a tribe of 10,000 particle physicists and engineers from around the planet. Hear the story of the world’s largest machine, a social and technological adventure that’s already revolutionizing physics.
The discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider was announced this summer as the major result in particle physics in the past decades. The Higgs is the last missing piece in the standard model of fundamental particles and forces to be discovered, fulfilling a 48-year-old prediction. In this lecture Dr. Varela translates the equations of the theory into accessible language, disclosing the nature of the Higgs boson and at the same time understanding how and why it was predicted. The Higgs boson has been the subject of numerous searches at accelerators around the world for decades and still was not found. Find out how and why a new boson was discovered by the experiments CMS and ATLAS at the LHC.
What impact will the Higgs boson discovery have on everyday life? What applications can be expected from this research that justify the big investments? These are legitimate questions that taxpayers would like to see answered. But they are not simple questions. Dr. Varela will address them from several perspectives including technological, economical, scientific, sociological, and philosophical — hopefully getting to some answers. As these could be controversial, an open debate will follow.
The space programs nationally and internationally have long focused on measurements of Planet Earth. NASA has more than a dozen satellites of various kinds in orbit collecting a variety of data to understand weather, climate change, the land, ocean and polar regions. They reveal Earth’s ever changing biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and ice. Get a guided tour of an active and dynamic Earth with amazing and astonishing images and videos.
Since the dawn of the Space Age, the exploration of our oceans, viewed from space has led to many discoveries. Early weather satellite images revealed complex eddies and meanders of ocean currents detected in the ocean surface temperature patterns. Since then, new satellite technologies have revolutionized our scientific understanding of the oceans. Find out what we can measure from space today, objectives of measurement, the amazing technology behind these abilities, and the latest compelling discoveries:
Climate variability and change is one of the most important societal issues of our time. Signs of rising global temperatures are obvious in meteorology and oceanography. Gain perspectives to effectively sort through contemporary debate about climate change while discussing short, medium and long-term climate variability & change:
Aquarius/SAC-D was launched in June 2011 to explore the link between the changing water cycle, ocean circulation, and climate by measuring ocean salinity. This partnership between the United States and Argentina incorporates a number of remote sensing instruments from the USA, Argentina, Italy, France, and Canada. We’ll take quick tour of the various sensors and a behind-the-scenes peek at the process of developing and launching a new satellite mission. Dr. Lagerloef will brief you on Aquarius/SAC-D’s core scientific mission, how satellites take important salinity measurements, and the new technology created for the mission. You’ll get a look at initial batches of Aquarius/SAC-D data and findings and discuss the significance for the ocean and climate research. Dive into a session that ties together the Aquarius/SAC-D mission, its scientific yield, and the application of its research.
Did Patagonia evolve as an independent microcontinent that fused with South America 265 million years ago? Dr. Ramos will give you the latest theory on the complex development of Patagonia. We’ll look at the geologic evidence of Patagonia’s close relationships with Antarctica, Africa, and South America, plus archaeologic evidence suggestive of Patagonia’s origins.
Delve into the dynamic nature of South Georgia and the South Sandwich and South Orkney Islands. They’re clustered on the Scotia Plate, one of the youngest, and most active tectonic plates andp part of an underwater mountain range running from Antarctica to the tip of South America. Dr. Ramos will decipher the history and origin of these complex and isolated islands and explain the connection of knowledge of the Scotia Arc to South American geology. We’ll look at the Scotia Arc’s geologic parallels to the Caribbean Islands and Central America, and will take a look at the Arc as part of a mountain range essentially stretching from Antarctica to Alaska. Deepen your understanding of the geology, ecosystems, and history of the Scotia Arc as part of the backbone of the Americas.
Discover the history and ongoing significance of the geologic history of the Andes. Learn how the Andes shaped competing 18th century theories about rock formation which are still in play. Dr. Ramos unfolds deep time and shows how South America initially took shape, how the Andean uplift began and why the mega-mammals native to the area became extinct after the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. Get the details on how the Andes formed, why they’re still growing, how active Andean volcanos are, how they serve as a unique laboratory for measuring and learning about climatic changes, and the lessons learned from the Chilean earthquakes of Valdivia (1960) and the Maule mega-earthquake (2011). Gain an understanding of the Andes past and present certain to give you food for thought on your voyage around the Horn.
The Voyage of the Beagle is a story of incredibly rich scientific and human experience. Dr. Ramos takes you through highlights of the HMS Beagle’s main mission in southern South America in 1833–1835, including expeditions during landings on the Atlantic Coast, and observations in the Pacific islands of Chile. We’ll look at Darwin’s important geological observations and analyses of key localities. Dr. Ramos will discuss the validity of Darwin’s ideas under a XXI century perspective and his legacy to present geological and biological sciences. You’ll gain a sense of South America’s role in Darwin’s life work, as well as an understanding of Darwin’s contribution in the context of contemporary science.
Synthesizing thirty years of research, Michael Shermer upends traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Learn how our brains’ pattern-recognition process and confirmation bias help form and reinforce beliefs. Dr. Shermer provides real-world examples of the process from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. This discussion will leave you confident that science is the best tool to determine whether beliefs match reality.
Tackle two of the deepest and most challenging questions of our age with Michael Shermer: (1) The origins of morality and (2) the foundations of ethics. Take a look at big issues through evolutionary and cultural lenses. Does evil exist, and if so, what is the nature of evil? Is it in our nature to be moral, immoral, or amoral? If we evolved by natural forces then what was the natural purpose of morality? If we live in a determined universe, then how can we make free moral choices? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there justice in the world beyond the social order? If there is no outside source to validate moral principles, does anything go? Can we be good without God? Dr. Shermer peels back the inner layers covering our core being to reveal a complexity of human motives — selfish and selfless, cooperative and competitive, virtue and vice, good and evil, moral and immoral — and how these motives came into being as a product of both our evolutionary heritage and cultural history.
Harvest decades of insights for skeptical thinking and brush up on critical analysis skills in a lively session that addresses the most mysterious, controversial, and contentious issues in science and skepticism. Join Dr. Shermer and look at:
Using examples, learn how to think scientifically and skeptically. Dr. Shermer will show how to be open-minded enough to accept new ideas without being too open-minded.
How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-traders? Why are people so irrational when it comes to money and business? Michael Shermer argues that evolution provides an answer to both of these questions through the new science of evolutionary economics. Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. Employing research from complexity theory, Shermer shows how evolution and economics are both examples of a larger phenomenon of complex adaptive systems. Shermer answers such provocative questions as, ‘Do our tribal roots mean that we will always be a sucker for brands?’ and ‘How can nations increase trust within and between their borders?’. Finally, Shermer considers the consequences of globalization and what will happen if nations allow free trade across their borders.
Is Earth the only planet to sport life? Researchers are hot on the trail of biology beyond Earth, and there’s good reason to think that we might find it within a decade or two. How will we find alien biology, and what would it mean to learn that life is not a miracle, but as common as cheap motels?
Life might be commonplace, but what about intelligent life? What’s being done to find our cosmic confreres, and what are the chances we’ll discover them soon? Also, while most people expect that the cosmos is populated with anthropomorphic aliens aka “little gray guys with large eyes and no hair” you’ll hear that the truth could be enormously different.
One-third of the public believes that aliens are visiting Earth, pirouetting across the skies in their saucers. Few scientists agree, but researchers may soon discover intelligent beings sharing our part of the galaxy. Could we handle the news? What facts could be gleaned immediately, and what would be the long-term effects such a discovery would have on us and our institutions, such as religion?
Where and when did the cosmos begin, and what’s our deep, deep future? The book of Genesis gives only a short description of the birth of the cosmos, but modern science can tell a more complex tale. How did the universe get started, and could there be other universes? And how does it all end, or does it end at all?
Soot, the by-product of combustion, that smoky, black stuff from chimneys and power plants and tail pipes — what scientist would ever bother to study soot? Particle physicist Dr. Christopher Sorensen discusses the mysteries, beauties, and curiosities of soot. Soot leads us on an unlikely journey of discovery to find fractal structures with non-Euclidian dimensionality, networks that tenuously span space and common themes between spirals, sunflowers, and soot. Gain an appreciation for the unity of Nature, and the profound lessons Nature offers in the commonplace as well as the sublime through soot!
We live in a universe of light! We see all non-luminous objects through the process of light scattering. Dr. Sorensen takes a particle physics perspective and asks: how do particles scatter light and why does light scatter in the first place? Why is the sky blue and why are clouds white? What are the effects of scattering on the polarization of light? How do rainbows, glories, and sundogs work? How is light scattering used by scientists in their laboratories? What are the effects of light scattering and absorption for our global environment? Get the latest on scattering and see your universe in a new light.
The rise of nanoscience and technology promises to create a whole world of new materials. What makes “nano’ so special? Why does nano hold such great promise? We’ll describe some of the clever chemistry that creates the nanoparticle building blocks of the new nanomaterials. Explore the reasons why physical properties of nanoparticles, small but not yet atomic, differ from larger particles. Dr. Sorenson will show a bottom-up approach to assembling nanoparticles into a myriad of remarkable structures. When this session is over, you’ll understand why small can be better.
The wellspring of modern technology is science. Nanoscience has spawned a significant nanotechnology. Explore new nanomaterials such as self cleaning surfaces and fibers stronger yet lighter than steel. Then we’ll do some informed daydreaming about far reaching possibilities like nanobots that could take a “fantastic voyage” inside your body to seek out cancerous cells or stealth materials for chameleon skin or the invisible man. Enjoy reality science fiction at its best!
264 S. Meridith Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106 • 650-787-5665 • Copyright 2012