Join us for our Science Under the Dome monthly live talk series. Talks in this series are presented by graduate student and postdoc researchers at CU Boulder.
All of our talks for Fall 2020 will be Virtual. Please join us on our YouTube channel.
(Normally, these events are a part of our regular talks and normal ticket prices apply. Groupons can be used.CU Boulder students are admitted FREE with valid Buff card. Tickets must be picked up in person and only one ticket per student.)
Many of us have dreamed of what alien life may be like. We've created extraterrestrial beings in our science fiction stories, and we've imagined what a visit to an alien biosphere might be like. With upcoming missions to other worlds in our solar system and continued discoveries about planets that orbit other stars far away, it begins to feel like we are continually approaching a time when we might have an answer to the age-old question, "Are we alone in the universe?" What might alien life be like if it exists? Astrobiologists have a lot of ideas, mostly based on what we know about life here on Earth. In the Craziest Creatures on Earth, we'll learn about some of the weird creatures that dwell on this planet and what the extremes of life on Earth can teach us about life in general. What are the limits of life? Should we expect aliens to fly, or walk, or swim? Will aliens have senses of sight and hearing that are similar to ours?
Dr. Graham Lau is an astrobiologist and communicator of science. With an academic background spanning biology, chemistry, astrophysics, and geology, Dr. Lau is an expert on how living things affect the environment around them and how we search for alien life beyond the Earth. Since earning his doctorate from CU Boulder, Dr. Lau has gone on to serve as the Director of Communications and Marketing for Blue Marble Space and as a Research Investigator through the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science (BMSIS). He's also a member of the Center for Life Detection through NASA Ames Research Center, the Director of Logistics for the University Rover Challenge, and he's the Host of the NASA Astrobiology Program show Ask an Astrobiologist.
DNA is the blueprint of life that makes us what we are, but how much do we really know about it? If you were to look at science fiction, you would think we could make all sorts of monsters and superhumans. The reality is that these feats are definitely possible, but we still need to learn more about our blueprint and how to manipulate it! In this talk, we will explore the topic of genetic engineering with Zack as we talk about the science behind gene modifications, what we're able to do right now, and how our current understanding of genetics compares with what we see in science fiction movies like Jurassic Park and Gattaca. Could we ever bring back the dinosaurs, or at least make animals that look like them? We'll also talk about the ethics of genetically modifying humans and how things like socioeconomics play a crucial role in that decision. Join us as we make science fact out of science fiction!
Zachary Root is a PhD candidate at CU Boulder in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and he studies evolution and development in lamprey, sharks, and other fish. Zack currently has a BS / BA degree from the University of Idaho, where he graduated with a double-major in Biology and Spanish in 2016. Outside of the lab, Zack is a huge nerd for cooking, cheese-making, linguistics, and video games.
In this talk, we shall explore the consequences of modern day social media and socio-technical platforms in shaping our sense of what it means to be an autonomous agent. We consider our changing norms around the idea of living an Authentic life, in the midst of social-oppression and techno-political change. We first explore some of the theoretical ideas of Personal Autonomy from fields of Philosophy, Cognitive Neuroscience and Computer Science. Additionally, we explore ways in which Social Oppression impacts an individual's sense of Autonomy to finally determine the responsibility of social-media platforms in protecting the ideals of a secular democratic nation.
Prasanth Prahladan is currently pursuing his PhD within the Networks Systems Group at the Department of Computer Science, CU Boulder. His research explores the use of formal methods and AI to improve the performance of existing communication and computing system architectures. His primary research interest focuses on the verification and testing of communication protocols. In addition to these, he has worked on problems in Data-center resource allocation, caching strategies in routers and measurement analysis of the Tor-network. Prasanth holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering from CU Boulder and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. He aspires to contribute to the work of building smart infrastructure-systems while trying to limit the possible harms that the technologies pose to social justice. Apart from the research in computer systems, Prasanth is interested in advocating for science and technology, advocating for ethics in computing, and building diverse and inclusive workspaces. He enjoys reading non-fiction that helps him understand people, society and the impacts of technology on society. His research proposal in this domain titled "Future of the Autonomous Self", was selected as one of the top-100 ideas in the NSF 2026 Idea Challenge.
Many people think of space as empty. But in this month's show, we are going to bust this myth along with some other commonly believed myths about the nature of space and time. In doing so, I also want to explore with you the way that myths wind their way through cultures, and what effect that can have on a society. What is the difference between a myth (like "space is empty"), and pure fiction (like "there are space wizards"), especially in the post-truth era? When is it harmful? What is the difference between "true" and "useful"? And how are people supposed to know what's true anyways? It's a tough problem, and I don't claim to have all the answers. But maybe we can learn something by looking back at the story of how we learned about our place within the cosmos. Because that colors the way you see everything. And as it turns out, space isn't empty after all. Space is Full.
Chris Gilly is an upper year graduate student in the Astronomy department at CU. From designing outreach and afterschool programs for middle schoolers to teaching undergraduate courses, Gilly has spent his time at CU actively engaged in outreach and education. He works at both the planetarium and the observatory on campus, as well as serving as the student representative for two large international conferences, AGU and SHINE. Gilly hopes to graduate in the next two years, and is looking to find a job that allows him to continue his outreach work in addition to his solar physics research.
Join us to explore the link between extreme weather and climate change. Wildfires in the west have broken records and affected air quality across much of the country. There have been so many storms that the National Hurricane Center has run out of names for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Has climate change actually contributed to these events? Are they becoming more frequent? Heat waves, droughts, floods, and even cold snaps. We'll talk about the mechanisms through which these events can be influenced by climate change and what we can expect to see in the future.
Erika Schreiber received her bachelor's degree in Science of Earth Systems from Cornell University in 2012, her Master's in Geography from the University of Delaware in 2015, and recently defended her Ph.D. in Geography at CU Boulder. Her Ph.D. research focused on how storms in the Arctic impact sea ice, and how climate change is affecting that relationship. She is now working at UNAVCO as a Polar Engineer, facilitating studies of Antarctic glaciers.