Next: An Enormous Picture of the Universe

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

John Schaefer, UA President Emeritus and President of LSST Corporation

Being built now, with “first light” planned for Fall 2015, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will be very large and very different. Unlike previous telescopes, LSST will photograph the entire sky every night recording all movements and brightness changes and producing unprecedented volumes of data. Observing change is a key to answering pressing questions in astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics. LSST will provide the fastest, widest, deepest eye of our new digital age and may also help us understand when Earth may next be at risk of being struck by an asteroid.

Next: Unlocking the Mystery of Matter

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

Elliott Cheu, Professor of Physics

Since the time of the Greeks, humans have sought to understand the most fundamental constituents that make up all things. The 27 km circumference Large Hadron Collider (LHC), built in a tunnel beneath the French/Swiss border, is designed to smash protons into each other as they race at 99.999999% of the speed of light. The recent start-up of the LHC could allow mankind to journey further into the mystery of matter as we probe the processes of the first second of time following the Big Bang. Hear how UA physicists’ involvement in this historic experiment is key to the LHC’s potential.

Next: A Great Leap for Bioresearch

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

Vicki Chandler, Regents' Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Plant Sciences; Director of Bio5 Institute
Plants, from mosses to giant trees, are essential for human life on earth – we eat them, wear them, live in them and every breath we take depends on them. Our ability to understand plants – from their most minute cellular processes to their roles in ecosystems – is critical for the long-term sustainability of land life on our planet. Based at the UA, the iPlant Collaborative will provide global reach – bringing together scientists from many different fields to build a deep data infrastructure within which researchers can tackle some of the toughest problems facing life.

Next: Darwin's Strange Inversion of Reasoning

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

Daniel Dennett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University
Until Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species it was assumed that life forms were built to a pre-existing plan. When Darwin showed that small inherited modifications – shaped by survival – sufficed to shape life on Earth, he was greeted by criticism for his “strange inversion of reasoning”. A century later, Alan Turing added his own strange inversion: “in order to be a perfect and beautiful computer, it is not requisite to know what arithmetic is.” Today, we can for the first time observe and understand Darwin’s reasoning – as the trillions of tiny robotic agencies called cells, that know nothing of the role they are playing, work together to compose the human minds that are able to discover this very fact.

Next: Visualizing Human Thought

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

Elena Plante, Professor and Head of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

The ability of the human brain to think and communicate one’s thoughts is fundamental to our experience. For centuries, our ability to understand how human thought is represented and communicated had to be inferred from observing behavior following brain damage. The recent advent of new tools for noninvasive study of the normal brain has revolutionized our understanding of brain function, allowing us for the first time to visualize human thought. And we are only just beginning.

Next: Really Intelligent Computers

Lecture Series: Science that Transforms

Paul Cohen, Professor and Head of Computer Science

Halfway through its first century, artificial intelligence has delivered some astonishing successes on narrowly defined tasks: cars that drive themselves, airline reservation systems you can talk to, search engines for the Web. Yet these accomplishments have failed to match the general, flexible, adaptive mind of a two-year-old child. By understanding the differences between childlike and computer intelligence, we set the stage for the development of really intelligent computers.

Life's Extreme Edge: The Limits of Organic Life on Earth and Other Planets

Lecture Series: The Edges of Life

Jonathan Lunine, Professor, Planetary Sciences and Physics

Although all life on the Earth is biochemically the same, it can assume exotic forms and occupy extreme ecological niches. What does this knowledge teach us about the potential of life on exotic worlds? To detect and recognize life beyond Earth will require an understanding of the full range of possibilities of what might truly be called life.

Life's Final Edge? The Origin and Extinction of Species in a Human-Dominated Earth

Lecture Series: The Edges of Life

Michael Rosenzweig, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Today, Earth’s treasury of species, its biodiversity, faces an existential challenge and its outcome depends on man. Science now knows we’ve taken away enough land from nature to precipitate a mass extinction like the one that exterminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Using reconciliation ecology, we can prevent this — and preserve life.

Life's Cognitive Edge: The Role of The Mind and What It Means To Be Human

Lecture Series: The Edges of Life

Anna Dornhaus, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Our human mind distinguishes us from other animal life—or does it? Recent research has revealed culture and social learning, tool use, complex communication, self-recognition, and planning for the future are not unique to the human experience. With these new findings, science is finally getting closer to understanding exactly what makes us human.

Life's Human Edge: Changing Perspectives on the End of Life

Lecture Series: The Edges of Life

Michael Gill, Associate Professor, Philosophy

Nothing looms with more certainty than the final edge of one’s own life. But in fact, the edge between life and death is anything but clear. This lecture will address the attempts that have been made to define the line between life and death and will explore the biological, legal, ethical, and spiritual debates that have raged around that line.