Podcasts

Society, Geographic Change and the New Longevity

Lecture Series: Living Beyond 100

Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Associate Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
Data demonstrate that the world's human population is getting older as life expectancy continues to increase globally. Much of this increase is taking place in the so-called developing world. Despite these trends, there remains tremendous variability in the geography of life expectancy. There are in fact points in time and place where life expectancies have dropped or will drop in the future. We are just beginning to understand, what the 'new longevity' means for society as we adapt our social welfare systems to the changing demographics of our aging populations. Where will our aging populations live? Who will care for them? How are the roles of older populations changing? Aging will continue to present new challenges as our global population reaches toward 9 billion over the next 40 years. To better respond to the needs of our world's changing demographic distributions, it is critical that we understand the nature of aging at both global and local scales today.

Information and Immortality

Lecture Series: Living Beyond 100

Paul R. Cohen, Director of the School of Information: Science, Technology and Arts, University of Arizona

Information and immortality have always been related by the idea that we are survived by the stories told about us. The Information Age provides increasingly sophisticated tools to create and tell these stories, but of course the relationship between information and immortality encompasses more: robotic elder care, uploading oneself to the Web, and the likelihood that in future, one will have biological and computational parts and entirely computational friends. All of which raises the question, what do we want informatics to do for us as we age? Where is the line between assisting and supplanting? This is not a new question: Anyone who sits for a portrait knows that the likeness might survive, and eventually become, the sitter. Informatics will eventually merge one's self and one's likeness into bio-robotic complexes of parts and information, maintained by corporations and governments. Then the relationship between information and immortality will be more complicated than ever.

Cosmology: Making Sense of the Universe

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Guy Consolmagno SJ, Astronomer and Curator of Meteorites, Vatican Observatory, Castel Gandolfo, Vatican City State Our "cosmology" is the sum of our assumptions and deductions of how the universe behaves. With the advent of modern physics, the term has been appropriated by physicists and astronomers to represent a scientific description of the origin and nature of the physical universe. But cosmologies can also be outlined in ways that don't use physics and astronomy. Indeed, there is continual feedback between prevailing nonscientific assumptions about the universe and the scientific picture, with each influencing the direction of the other. We'll look at a series of historical cosmologies, and discuss the sometimes hidden assumptions that underlie modern astronomy.

The Oldest Question: Is There Life Beyond Earth?

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Christopher D. Impey, Distinguished Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona

Our reconstruction of the chronology of events that led to the origin of the Earth and subsequent chemical evolution on our planet informs us that nothing unusual was required for the origin and development of terrestrial life, and that therefore life may be pervasive throughout the cosmos. Whether extraterrestrial life exists is so ancient and beguiling a question that humankind is actively seeking the answer in its explorations of the planetary systems in our solar system. It may one day transpire that we discover that genesis has occurred, independently, not once but twice in our solar system. At that point, we could safely infer that life is a fundamental feature of our universe ... along with dark matter, supernovae, and black holes.

Origin of the Universe: The Big Bang

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Christopher D. Impey, Distinguished Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona. The scientific story of creation begins 13.7 billion years ago in a circumstance of incredible temperature and density, when all matter and radiation was contained in a region smaller than an atom. The big bang is now a mature theory, with a web of observational evidence supporting it; and the size, shape and age of the universe have been measured with impressive accuracy. This talk will tell the story of how an iota of space-time turned into a vast cold universe of 100 billion galaxies.

Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Inflation: The Big Mysteries of Cosmology

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Michael S. Turner, Professor, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago

Our current cosmological model describes the evolution of the universe from a very early burst of accelerated expansion (known as inflation) a tiny fraction of a second after the beginning, through the assembly of galaxies and large-scale structure shaped by dark matter, to our present epoch where dark energy controls the ultimate fate of the universe. As successful as it is, this model rests upon three mysterious pillars: inflation, dark energy and particle dark matter. All three point to exciting and important new physics that have yet to be revealed and understood – or possibly, to a fatal flaw in the paradigm.
 

Astronomical Alchemy: The Origin of the Elements

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Philip A. Pinto, Associate Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

One of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century science is an understanding of the origin of matter. While hydrogen and helium were produced in the Big Bang, the origin of the heavier elements—the silicon in rocks, the iron in our blood, and the oxygen we breathe–lies in the lifecycle of stars. Nuclear reactions, which transform light elements into heavier ones, cause stars to shine and ultimately to explode, seeding the universe with their production. These newly formed elements, the building blocks of ordinary matter, play a central role in the formation of planets and the evolution of life.

Origins of Black Holes: Gravity at Its Extreme

Lecture Series: Cosmic Origins

Feryal Özel, Associate Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

Gravity is the most important force in the universe, holding together planetary systems, stars, and galaxies. It is what makes the stars hot enough to shine and what keeps the Earth close enough to the Sun for life to form. It is also what ends the life of every massive star with a spectacular collapse and the formation of a black hole. Finding and studying hundreds of black holes within the Milky Way and in other galaxies brings us closer to understanding gravity at its extreme.

Building Brains, Making Minds

Lecture Series: Mind and Brain

Lynn Nadel, Regents' Professor, Psychology

What does the brain do? The ancients thought it was a radiator, cooling the blood. Modern views see it as an activator, using inputs from the environment in combination with prior knowledge to generate behaviors (walking, talking, eating and drinking) and mental states (feelings, desires and beliefs). Recently the idea has emerged that the brain acts as a predictor, using inputs and stored knowledge to generate models of the world, and of the consequences of possible actions we and others might pursue. These models can predict what will happen in the next minute, hour or decade, and allow us to behave in the most adaptive way.

The Plastic Brain

Lecture Series: Mind and Brain

Leslie P. Tolbert, Regents' Professor, Neuroscience and Vice President for Research

The human brain is the most complex object known to us. It contains billions of nerve cells, each of which may make thousands of connections, in immense networks of circuitry that control our sense of self and our appreciation of – and interaction with – the world around us. In the last half century we learned that we are born with raw circuitry that quickly tunes itself to the environment we encounter. Now we are learning that the properties that allow nerve cells to achieve this "plasticity" in response to the early environment are controlled by the very same genes that drive learning and memory in adults.

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