Science and Society | Winter and Spring 2023

Join us online each month for the library’s “Science and Society – Making Sense of the World Around Us” lecture series. These talks are co-organized and moderated by Fred Dylla, Executive Director Emeritus of the American Institute of Physics and author of Scientific Journeys, Linda Dylla, former public information officer at the Jefferson Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, and Colin Norman, the former News Editor at Science.


All lectures start at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. You MUST REGISTER to receive instructions for joining the program.

Online sessions are conducted through Zoom. If you have problems registering for an event or don’t receive the meeting instructions, please email us. Here are basic written instructions for using Zoom as well as a brief video tutorial. Closed captioning is available for all our sessions. Information on enabling closed captioning in Zoom may be found here.


Each year Science magazine selects a scientific advance as the Breakthrough of the Year, along with nine other advances the magazine’s editors and writers considered especially important. Join us for a conversation with Science’s News Editor, Tim Appenzeller, who will discuss the magazine’s picks for 2022. It will be a tour through some of the hottest areas of research.
As Science’s News Editor, Tim Appenzeller directs a global team of writers and editors covering scientific research and the international community of scientists. His previous positions included Chief Magazine Editor at Nature, Executive Editor at National Geographic, and editorial posts at U.S. News and World Report and Scientific American.
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The natural world is filled with an endless variety of communication. A surprising array of species—including many insects, turtles, fish, corals, and plants—communicate by sound; even the planet itself is part of the chorus. Because most of these conversations take place outside humans’ narrow range of hearing, we have been unaware of the extent of this vast soundscape until recently. Now, scientists are using new digital technologies to eavesdrop on the natural world, and they are applying artificial intelligence to decode some of the auditory signals–perhaps paving the way for limited interspecies dialogues.
Join us for a Science and Society presentation by Karen Bakker, whose fascinating new book, The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Plants and Animals, explores these developments and discusses their potential not only to extend humanity’s relationship with nature but also to underscore the urgency of preserving biodiversity.
Karen Bakker is a Professor at the University of British Columbia, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She has a Ph.D. in global environmental change from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She has published more than 100 academic publications, which have been cited more than 17,000 times by other researchers, and she has been an advisor to numerous national and international organizations. She is currently writing a book on how digital technologies can help address issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and water insecurity.
We invite you to support the author by purchasing a copy of their book from Browseabout Books by clicking HERE. Call-in orders are accepted at (302) 226-2665 or you can stop by the store to purchase a copy. For store hours, please visit their website. Each copy purchased comes with a signed archival bookplate.
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The discovery of gravitational waves came a century after they were predicted by Albert Einstein as a component of his General Theory of Relativity. Einstein predicted the motion of any body in space would generate waves that can be thought of as the wrinkling of space that travel at the speed of light. The feature that caused the century-long delay in detecting gravitational waves and the confirmation of Einstein’s prediction is the extraordinarily weak nature of these waves as they pervade the universe-unless an observer happens to be near a catastrophic event such as two colliding black holes. Two paired and specialized observatories made the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015. These observatories, called LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatories were first described in the early 1970’s, designed in the 1980’s and became operational in early 2000’s. A sustained effort was required to incrementally improve the sensitivity to enable the first detection which emanated from the collision of two black holes. Since 2015, many other cataclysmic events have been observed with LIGO. These observations have opened a whole new window on observing the universe’s evolution of the universe especially when combined with traditional telescopes that monitor the cosmos across the globe and with satellites that detect short and long wavelengths of light.
Rainer Weiss is an MIT Professor Emeritus and is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation from the “big bang”, and the development laser interferometer gravitational wave (LIGO) detector. He is a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE (microwave background) Project and the LIGO Project. He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT excellence in teaching award to name a few. He is the co-winner of the 2017 Physics Nobel Prize with his collaborators at LIGO. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT.
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Deep in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, three times farther from the Sun than the Earth is, orbits a massive asteroid called (16) Psyche. Our upcoming exploration of this metal-rich asteroid marks an important first for humankind: We have sent people or robots to explore rocks bodies, like the Moon and Mars, and icy ones, like Europa and Enceladus, and gas-rich bodies like Jupiter, but never a body made mostly of metal. If Psyche turns out to be what we think, we’ll be visiting a new kind of world. In this Science and Society talk Lindy Elkins-Tanton will explain how a NASA mission comes to be, who is working on our team, and how far we’ve come in building this spacecraft.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton is a planetary scientist, the Principal Investigator of the NASA Psyche mission, and Arizona State University Vice President of the Interplanetary Initiative. Her research concerns the formation and subsequent evolution of rocky planets, and processes of education for the future of society. She has led four field expeditions in Siberia. Asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton is named for her, as is the mineral elkinstantonite. In 2018 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and in 2021 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Elkins-Tanton received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from MIT.
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The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and spans 64,000 square miles, includes over 100,000 rivers, streams, and tributaries, and is home to over 2700 unique species of aquatic and land animals. Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd will present on the nearly 40 year partnership and efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay through science-driven data and collaborative decision-making capabilities.
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd is the Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program Office, a unique regional partnership that has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. As the first African-American female to receive an undergraduate degree in meteorology from Iowa State University, Dr. Boyd entered NOAA as an operational meteorologist at the Des Moines Weather Forecast Office. Her career highlights include spearheading the Turn Around Don’t Drown (TADD) program, delivering around-the-clock on-site meteorological forecasts during the 2005 landfall of Hurricane Katrina, serving as the designated federal officer for the third National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee. She also had a distinguished career at the National Science Foundation in leadership positions before moving to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office. Dr. Boyd is highly recognized and has published over 50 articles, hosted 30 podcasts, provided over 100 presentations, and authored three books. She has been recognized by NOAA and the National Science Foundation for her achievements. She is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society.
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