Upcoming Events: Science & Technology
Science & Technology Planning MeetingDate: Mon, September 15, 2014
Time: 6:15 PM
Join fellow Club members with similar interests and brainstorm upcoming Science & Technology Member-Led Forum programs. All Commonwealth Club members are welcome. We explore visions for the future through science and technology. Discuss current issues and share your insights with fellow Club members to shape and plan programs for the months ahead.
Ruth S. DeFries: The Big Ratchet - How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural CrisisDate: Thu, September 18, 2014
Time: 6:30 PM
Exploring the cycle of crisis and growth with Ruth DeFries.
Ruth S. DeFries, Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development and Chair, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University; Author, The Big Ratchet
The Big Ratchet is the story of how in the 20th century a range of technologies – from fossil fuels to scientific plant breeding to nitrogen fertilizers – combined to nearly quadruple our population in a century and to grow our food supply even faster. To some, these technologies are a sign of our greatness; to others, of our hubris. MacArthur fellow DeFries argues that the debate is the wrong one to have. Limits do exist, but every limit that has confronted us, we have surpassed. That cycle of crisis and growth is the story of our history; indeed, it is the essence of her book. Understanding it could reveal not just how we reached this point in our history, but how we might survive it.
Roberto Trotta: The Edge of the Sky – All You Need to Know About the All-There-IsDate: Tue, September 23, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
Trotta tells the story of the most important cosmology discoveries
Roberto Trotta, Theoretical Cosmologist, Astrophysics Group, Imperial College London; Author, The Edge of the Sky
From the big bang to black holes, from dark matter to dark energy, from the origins of the universe to its ultimate destiny, Trotta’s book The Edge of the Sky tells the story of the most important discoveries and mysteries in modern cosmology – with a twist. He uses a lexicon limited to the thousand most common words in the English language, excluding “physics,” “energy,” “galaxy,” or even “universe.” Through the eyes of a fictional scientist (Student-People) hunting for dark matter with one of the biggest telescopes (Big-Seers) on Earth (Home-World), Trotta explores the most important ideas about our universe (All-there-is) in language simple enough for anyone to understand.
Heather Burnett Gold: Empowering Communities with Gigabits to the HomeDate: Thu, September 25, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
President, Fiber to the Home Council North America
Heather Burnett Gold, President, Fiber to the Home Council North America
Certain communities around the United States have recently coalesced around an idea: America needs a critical mass of communities with exceptional bandwidth so we can foster human capital that knows how to design, build, operate and, above all, innovate using the best networks in the world. The movement is nascent, but early examples are proving successful, such as the bond rating increase Kansas City received thanks in part to Google Fiber, and Tom Friedman reporting how Chattanooga has changed from “a slowly declining and deflating urban balloon, to one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee.” Heather Burnett Gold will discuss the process of becoming a “gigabit city.” She claims it’s not a matter of economics or engineering; it’s about organization.
The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for MeaningDate: Mon, October 06, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM
Marcelo Gleiser, Author, The Island of Knowledge; Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Dartmouth College
To be human is to want to know, but what we are able to observe is only a tiny portion of what’s “out there.” Brazilian theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser traces our search for answers to the most fundamental questions of our existence and reaches a provocative conclusion: science, the main tool we use to find answers, is fundamentally limited. Our tools of exploration limit the precision of our perceptions, and the nature of physical reality (the speed of light, the uncertainty principle, the impossibility of seeing beyond the cosmic horizon, the incompleteness theorem) just adds to our own limitations as an intelligent species. These limitations, though, constitute neither a deterrent to progress nor a surrender to religion. Rather, they free us to question the meaning and nature of the universe while affirming the central role of life and ourselves in it.
Kevin Roe: The Ultimate Robot Challenge at FukushimaDate: Thu, October 09, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
Kevin Roe, Patent Attorney
The triple meltdowns at Fukushima could be the greatest industrial disaster in history. But the disaster is not over, it has only just begun. Without repair at the reactors, endless radionuclide contamination from Fukushima will poison the Pacific Ocean. Kevin is a patent attorney in Silicon Valley and was formerly an electrical engineer specializing in computers and integrated circuits at companies such as IBM and Xerox PARC. He has written several patent applications for robotics and artificial intelligence for all environments, including very high radiation environments. He explains the reasons why neither humans nor conventional robots can repair the reactors, the potential consequences if cleanup efforts fail, and a possible alternative approach to conventional robot technology.
Science & Technology Organizational MeetingDate: Mon, October 20, 2014
Time: 6:15 PM
Opening for the new chair to lead the Forum in 2015.
The Club’s Science & Technology Member-Led Forum has an opening for the new chair to lead our Forum in 2015 and beyond. Both long-time and new Club members are welcome! If you are interested in being considered, please bring (1) your resume and (2) a one-page essay on why you would like to serve as the chair of the Science & Technology Member-Led Forum. Also, please attend as many Member-Led Forum events as possible prior to attending this organizational meeting.
Stanley B. Prusiner: Madness and MemoryDate: Tue, October 28, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
Nobel laureate's odyssey to cure the toughest diseases of the brain.
Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, Director, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases; Professor, Department of Neurology, UCSF; Winner, Nobel Prize for Medicine
In his book, Prusiner tells the remarkable story of his discovery of prions – infectious proteins that replicate and cause disease but surprisingly contain no genetic material – and reveals how superb and meticulous science is actually practiced with talented teams of researchers who persevere. He recounts the frustrations and rewards of years of research and offers fascinating portraits of his peers as they raced to discover the causes of fatal brain diseases. Prusiner's hypothesis, once considered heresy, now stands as accepted science and the basis for developing diagnoses and eventual cures. He closes with a meditation on the legacy of his discovery: What will it take to cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's and other devastating diseases of the brain?
Up the Ladder: Women Pursuing Careers in Science and TechnologyDate: Mon, November 17, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
A personal discussion about working in male-dominated fields.
Hilary K. Seligman, M.D., MAS, Associate Professor in Residence, Departments of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCSF
Diane Wara, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, UCSF
Eva Cole, Student, Holy Names High School, Oakland; Alumna, Girls Who Code
Sara Seims, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Population and Reproductive Health Program, Packard Foundation – Moderator
How and why do women decide to pursue careers in science and technology? What is the reaction of their family, friends, teachers and others? This panel of three women at three different points in their careers – early, middle and advanced – will discuss the experiences that have supported and challenged their career pursuits. Come learn from their stories and hear ideas about how to attract more women to areas of science where they are still greatly under-represented, such as engineering and mathematics.
Mark Schapiro: Carbon Shock – A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of the Disrupted Global EconomyDate: Tue, November 25, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
Climate change is profoundly shifting the economic ground.
Mark Schapiro, Author; Former Senior Correspondent, Center for Investigative Reporting; Adjunct Professor, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Schapiro will take us a journey to the financial frontlines of climate change, where the same chaotic forces reshaping our weather are disrupting our economy. From the agricultural fields of California to the Amazon rainforest, from the export powerhouses of China to the bizarre world of carbon traders, Schapiro tells the story of how profoundly climate change is shifting the economic ground beneath our feet. His tales have a global range to the places where climate change is altering the economic status quo. He explores how some new powers are rising and others are falling as the world struggles to contend with the fundamental economic fact of our time: the rising price of carbon.
John A. Amster: Patents in the Boardroom – The Truth Behind the HeadlinesDate: Thu, December 04, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM
John A. Amster, CEO and Co-founder, RPX Corporation
Patents have been big news in recent years. Large electronics rivals have made headlines by waging high-stakes legal battles over infringement of smartphone patents. Bankrupt companies have auctioned off their patent portfolios for hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars. The most significant development affecting patents, however, has been the rise of non-practicing entities (NPEs), also known as “patent trolls.” NPEs acquire patents and litigate them to extract license payments or legal settlements from an allegedly infringing company. Operating companies spent nearly $11 billion dealing with NPE litigation in 2012 alone.
RPX CEO and Co-founder Amster will describe how patents have been transformed from legal protection of a novel invention into a major source of operating risk. Today, owners of patents are monetizing their value through costly and inefficient legal processes. The discussion will focus on a different perspective: how patents can and should be transacted using market mechanisms instead, and in the process, save operating companies billions of dollars every year.