Jack W. Szostak, PhD, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology,
The amazing diversity of life is the result of billions of years of evolution. But how did evolution itself begin? I will describe how efforts to design and build very simple living cells are testing our assumptions about the nature of life, generating ideas about how life emerged from the chemistry of the early Earth, and even offering clues as to how modern life evolved from its earliest ancestors.
Co-sponsored by the Gairdner Foundation
Global energy consumption is conservatively projected to expand two-fold by 2050. A survey of our renewable options reveals the Sun as the only viable non-carbon based energy source. Currently, silicon-based photovoltaics (PV) dominate the market. They are a practical and mature technology, but expanding the solar energy market to meet our needs will require a substantial change in technology. This presentation will survey recent advances in PV technology and ‘shed some light’ on the current research directed at making materials that can supplement our current use of silicon cells.
The first European settlement of Toronto was simply a continuation of patterns that had been in place for thousands of years. The Aboriginal occupants of the encampments and semi-permanent villages that lined the former water courses in the City left no written record of their lives. Their legacy consists of the oral histories and traditions passed on to descendants and the surviving traces of those settlements. This talk will summarize this rich archaeological record and discuss how the City of Toronto is ensuring its conservation.
Liette Vasseur, BSc, MSc, PhD, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University; Thematic Group Leader of Climate Change Adaptation of the Commission for Ecosystem Management of IUCN; Minjian Scholar at Fujian Agricultural and Forestry University, China
Climate change affects different parts of Canada in different ways. Predictions indicate that Southern Ontario will experience more droughts and heavy rainfalls that can greatly affect ecosystems and especially plants. In Atlantic Canada, sea level rise, continuous coastal erosion and more frequent storm surges threaten the fragile coastal ecosystem. I will describe some of the projects that I am involved with to examine the potential impacts of climate change on the human condition in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and the actions taken to try to adapt and improve resilience of communities and ecosystems.
The impact hazard from small asteroids is uncertain because of many poorly understood factors. These include how asteroids vapourize in the atmosphere together with the associated impact effects at the ground. The Chelyabinsk event gave scientists their first detailed instrumental data on a well observed, damage-producing airburst. I will describe what we have learned about the Chelyabinsk airburst in the year since it occurred and what it may tell us about future impacts at the Earth.
Co-sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada–Toronto Centre
Social insects like ants, bees and some wasps live in large colonies composed of many sterile workers and a few reproductive individuals. The division of labour between workers and queens is believed to be at the heart of the dominance of social insects. But how do social insects evolve and adapt when most members of their societies are sterile workers? I will present our laboratory’s recent progress on understanding the relationship between genes, worker behaviour, and evolution in the honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The shrinking Arctic sea ice cover is often taken as one of the most prominent indicators of recent climate change, andThe shrinking Arctic sea ice cover is often taken as one of the most prominent indicators of recent climate change, and its early, complete disappearance seems almost inevitable in the public debate, spawning speculations about the opening of northern shipping routes and resource exploration, as well as about the extinction of polar bears and the collapse of Arctic food-webs. However, little is actually understood about the recent rapid sea ice changes in the
Arctic, and climate models continue to predict sea ice changes with little skill. The presentation will provide a status of observed sea ice changes in the Arctic and Antarctic, and will discuss some of the uncertainties related to changes of the sea ice mass balance. I will then focus on results of our own field and remote sensing research with regard to Arctic sea ice, particularly results from airborne and snowmobile-based ice thickness surveying. Results show large regional sea ice variability in the Canadian Arctic which represent different environmental conditions and prevents easy, general predictions of future ice conditions.
The incredibly small bits of matter we call neutrinos may hold the secret to why antimatter is so rare, how mighty stars explode as supernovae, what the universe was like just seconds after the big bang, and even the inner workings of our own planet. In Neutrino Hunters, I will take you on a thrilling journey into the shadowy world of neutrinos and the colorful lives of scientists chasing these elusive particles, recounting a captivating saga of scientific discovery and celebrating a glorious human quest. Hear what the next decade of neutrino hunting may hold in store.
*Robin Kingsburgh, PhD Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences/ School of Interdisciplinary Studies OCAD University; Natural Science, York University
*Stephen Morris, PhD, Department of Physics, University of Toronto
Lisa Carrie Goldberg, Multidisciplinary Artist, and founder of Action Potential Lab, dedicated to merging science and art.
Moderator: Ian Clarke, BSc, PhD, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences/ School of Interdisciplinary Studies, OCAD University
Science and art often have a perceived divide in contemporary culture, yet historically their roots stem from similar manifestations of creativity and aesthetics, in exploring, responding to and explaining Nature. This panel presentation brings together scientists, artists and those with a foot in each of the ‘two cultures’ to discuss their interdisciplinary practices, and encourage novel ways to understand the world around us.
*Curatorial team members for “Occam’s Razor: Art, Science & Aesthetics”, a juried exhibition of works of art inspired by science, examining similarities in practice amongst scientists and artists, at Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts (April 2-20, 2014), and the !dea Gallery, Ontario Science Centre (May 3- June 1, 2014).
Microscopes have been serving scientists for more than four hundred years and provided a possibility to glimpse into the lives of cells and minute living organisms. Modern microscopes utilize lasers with very short pulses to help visualize cells without labeling and in their natural environment. We use advance microscopy to study the structural dynamics of cells in plant and animal tissue, and how their behaviour is affected by diseases including cancer. I will guide you into the inner parts of a moving cell and discuss how cells contract and react to changes in the environment.
Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Distinguished University Professor at Western University
Rather than being a single disease entity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is now considered to be a syndrome in which the death of motor neurons occurs through a wide range of pathological processes. However, there is now emerging a consensus view that alterations in RNA metabolism play a critical role and perhaps the final common pathway uniting these pathological processes. In this lecture, we will review the evidence that, for the majority of cases, that ALS is a disorder of RNA metabolism.
In partnership with the Gairdner Foundation
Prof Bryan Gaensler, Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, and Canadian Science Director for the Square Kilometre Array
Some of the biggest questions about our Universe are as yet unsolved. How did the first stars form? What is the mysterious “dark energy” that is pushing the Universe apart? And are there other planets out there like our own, perhaps harbouring life? To answer these and other key questions, astronomers are about to build the biggest telescope ever conceived, the Square Kilometre Array. Prof Gaensler will describe this enormous international project, the results it promises to deliver, and the major role being played by Canadian scientists and engineers in this exciting endeavour.
In partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre
Photo credit – Daniel Boud, University of Sydney
For more information on this topic:
Square Kilometer Array – Canadian website
Jane Heffernan, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University
Mathematical models can be used to describe the spread of infectious diseases and how infections affect your immune system. We will discuss diseases such as influenza, measles, pertussis, and HIV.
Professional Engineer with the Province of Ontario, Assistant Professor in the Biological Engineering program of the University of Guelph, Director of the BioNano Laboratory
The risk of a major biological incident in farmed animals, such as the emergence of a novel infectious agent and/or a global pandemic, is on the rise due to globalization and ecological pressures. Anticipating when and where an incident may occur can enable a timely and well-informed response. The 4th revolution in agriculture has begun, bringing novel technologies such as Internet of Things, SMART and Precision Agriculture and mobile ‘apps’ for disease surveillance. I will discuss nanosensor biotechnologies for innovative detection and advanced diagnostics for farmed animal health management.
Chris Fletcher, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo
Human activities are changing Earth’s climate, making it imperative to determine the impact on climate if we continue to use fossil fuels. I will explore computer models of the climate system which allow us to gaze into the future by making projections of how Earth’s climate could evolve over the coming century.
Hosted by Ryerson University.
Large-scale brain models have become a mainstay of “big science”. Currently, Canada has the largest functional brain model known as “Spaun”. This brain model produces behaviour comparable to people and animals. Researchers use Spaun to understand normal brain function, disorders, the effects of drugs and how to build smarter artificial agents.
Catherine Scott, PhD Student, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto Scarborough
Darwin wrote, “who indeed could suspect that [spiders] should be susceptible of the finer feelings? Yet such is the fact.” The private lives of spiders are filled with fine scents, sounds, and silk. This discussion of the sophisticated sexual communication system of the black widow spiders is the perfect way to celebrate both Valentine’s day and Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.
Catherine’s blog: spiderbytes.org, @Cataranea on twitter
Cesar Hidalgo, Associate Professor at MIT, Director of Macro Connections at MIT Media Lab
Making sense of data requires the development of tools that can transform data into narratives. In this presentation I show various examples of tools that we have created at The MIT Media Lab that facilitate the ability of people to construct visual narratives from large datasets. These data visualization engines include (i) the Observatory of Economic Complexity (atlas.media.mit.edu), a comprehensive effort to visualize international trade data; (ii) DataViva (dataviva.info), a tool visualizing data for the entire formal sector economy of Brazil; (iii) Pantheon (pantheon.media.mit.edu), a tool focused on human collective memory centered on data from globally famous biographies; (iv) Immersion (immersion.media.mit.edu), a tool that focuses the interface of email on people to reveal your personal story of professional and personal interactions; (v) Place Pulse and StreetScore (pulse.media.mit.edu & streetscore.media.mit.edu), which are tools exploring the physical evolution of cities, and (vi) DataUSA, a tool that visualizes public data for the entire United States. I conclude by demoing a prototype of (vii) DIVE, a data visualization and integration tool that helps automate the creation of data driven narratives.
In partnership with the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
Mr. Ken Knox,
Chair of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), CEO of Knox-Vannest Inc
The Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) is an independent body that advises the Government of Canada on science, technology and innovation. With STIC’s latest “State of the Nation” report, I will explore how Canada’s performance compares to the rest of the world in science & technology innovation.
For further reading, visit the STIC website and download the “2014 State of the Nation” report.
Premysl Bercik, Associate Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and member of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster University
The evidence is growing that intestinal microbiota influences the brain chemistry and behaviour of the host. I will discuss the data obtained in animal experiments, as well as recent evidence from a clinical trial, which suggest that probiotic bacteria may be beneficial in treatment of depression.