Stanford Announces 2009 Summer Science Lecture Series

by Eric on May 31, 2009

Hot off the presses! For more information contact the Stanford Office of Science Outreach at If you can’t make it to the talks, they will be posted to iTunes shortly afterwards.


Please join us for Stanford’s acclaimed Summer Science Lecture Series on the lawn adjacent to Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center on four Thursday evenings. You are invited to come early and wander through the art museum, buy dinner in the Art Center’s Cool Café, or bring your own picnic, and then settle on the lawn outside to hear informal lectures about cutting-edge research from four of Stanford’s most esteemed professors. 

We promise that all of the talks will be delivered in terms understandable to the lay public. So bring your entire family (high school age and up) and enjoy! All lectures begin at 7:00 p.m.

David C. Magnus

David C. Magnus

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Who Owns Life?
David C. Magnus, Associate Professor (Teaching) of Pediatrics (Medical Genetics) and, by courtesy, of Medicine

The “ownership of life” has become one of the most central and vehemently debated issues facing scientists working on isolating human stem cells and engineering new forms of life. What is life? What is natural? Do we want to promote the commercial development of these technologies (and when)? Are we somehow turning life into a commodity in the marketplace? This lecture will bring together many thought-provoking voices and perspectives on the issues of “owning life” including legal, scientific, ethical, and economic. From the patenting of genes and organisms like the Chakrabarty oil-eating bacteria, to the ownership of our bodies and bodily tissues, these are among the most compelling moral and social issues facing our society today and will form the critical foundation of future discussions for years to come.

Robert D. Siegel

Robert D. Siegel

Thursday, July 9, 2009
The Secret Life of Viruses
Robert D. Siegel, Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, with joint appointments in Human Biology and the Center for African Studies

Viruses exist in the hazy zone between the living and the nonliving. Though too small to see, they profoundly affect our lives from annoying colds to deadly Ebola. They spread invisibly from person to person and then attack humans from within. In this talk Professor Siegel will address the basic question of “What is a virus?” and look at the special properties that distinguish virus from more conventional life forms as well as those features which viruses and humans have in common. We will walk though the typical strategies that viruses use to expand their numbers and to thwart the immune system and look at some of the tools at our disposal for combating these devious predators.

Margot G. Gerritsen

Margot G. Gerritsen

Thursday, July 23, 2009
State of Energy Address—Are We on the Right Track?
Margot G. Gerritsen, Assistant Professor of Energy Resources Engineering and, by courtesy, of Civil and Environmental Engineering

At the time of this talk, it will have been six months since a new administration came into power in Washington. Throughout the election campaign, Obama strongly emphasized the need for change in energy and environmental policies. During the senate hearings of Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy, some of the new policy ideas became clearer. Dr. Chu talked about a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, incentives for development of solar and wind energy, even construction of new nuclear power plants. Has the new administration walked the talk? What policies have been changed or initiated and how effective are they likely to be? What new programs can we expect in the next year(s)?  Come join us for a “state of energy and the environment address” and a critical analysis of the new plans and policies coming out of Washington, D.C.

Laura L. Carstensen

Laura L. Carstensen

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Long Life in the 21st Century
Laura L. Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity

We are approaching a watershed moment in human history. By 2030, the number of people over 65 will surpass the number of children under 15. By the time today’s children reach old age, living to 100 will be commonplace. Rather than perceiving this as good news, most people respond to extended longevity with discussions about coping with or halting the aging process. Yet, to the extent that people arrive at old age mentally sharp, physically fit, and financially secure, long-lived societies will thrive. Professor Carstensen believes that among the most pressing needs of the modern world is the development of “longevity science.” Her talk will focus on the ways science and technology offer alternatives to catastrophic predictions about societies that are overburdened by frail elders. She will discuss advances in science that can form the basis of a culture in which we improve quality of life at all ages.

Photos: Stanford University

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