THE SCIENCE OF FEAR IN WORDS AND MUSIC

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

June6

Joseph LeDoux and Daniela Schiller study fear at NYU. They will be joined by fellow Amygdaloid, Gerald McCollom, in an experiment in the multimedia communication of neuroscience. A lecture on fear will be interspersed amongst The Amygdaloids’ original tunes about mind and brain and mental disorders performed “unplugged” by three quarters of the local science rock band.
LeDoux says, “Music is the most powerful form of communication, and we’ll be using it to shoot scientific information straight into the sweet spots of emotion and memory in the brain. We’ll definitely have fun trying to do this, and maybe we’ll even succeed.”

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ADVENTURES AMONG THE ANTS

May 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

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The intrepid international explorer, biologist, and photographer MARK W. MOFFETT, “the Indiana Jones of entomology,” takes us around the globe on a strange and wonderful journey in search of the hidden worlds of ants based on his just-released book, Adventures Among Ants. In tales from Nigeria, Indonesia, the Amazon, Australia, California, and elsewhere, Moffett recounts his exploits and provides fascinating details on how ants live and how they dominate their ecosystems, displaying behaviors strikingly like those of humans-yet on a different scale and at a faster tempo. Moffett’s spectacular close-up photographs show us ants acting in familiar roles: as warriors, builders, big-game hunters, and slave owners. We find them engaged in market economies and production lines and dealing with issues we think of as uniquely human-including hygiene, recycling, and warfare. Adventures among Ants introduces some of the world’s most awe-inspiring species and offers a startling perspective, including new ideas and discoveries on the workings of both ant and human societies.

Moffett has received the Explorers Club’s Lowell Thomas Award, the Distinguished Explorer Award from the Roy Chapman Andrews Society, Yale University’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, Harvard’s Bowdoin Prize for writing, and many international photography awards.

One of America’s most respected landscape painters, APRIL GORNIK has work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, and many others. April will show a selection of her paintings and describe how they reflect her fascination with science, and her response to conservation issues and humankind’s relationship to the environment in general.

PROGNOSTICATING THE WORLD’S WHEAT AND BLUEGRASS

April 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

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In 1999, a terrifying new form of wheat stem rust disease – spotted in Uganda and dubbed “UG99” – began to destroy the world’s harvest of wheat, the staff of life, 22% of humanity’s calories. It moved from Africa up the Arabian Peninsula; now it’s threatening India and Pakistan. Next stop, China, Ukraine, France, Kansas. Breeders everywhere began searching wheat seed collections for sources of resistance. The largest collection was at the International Center for Improvement of Maize and Wheat in Mexico, developed by the brilliant Danish scientist Bent Skovmand. For three decades, Skovmand (1945-2007) collected, preserved and shared thousands of wheat varieties, becoming the central librarian for all the world’s grain breeders. In an era when corporations and governments often jealously guarded breeding information, Skovmand fought to keep his seed bank a center for free, open scientific exchange. Can scientists like Bent Skovmand stop Ug99? Who’s protecting the world’s vital seed collections? What’s being done to guarantee food security against new plagues and global warming?
Hear the answers when agricultural science visits Cornelia Street Cafe in the person of Susie Dworkin, author of the recent The Viking in the Wheat Field. Susie will discuss how a few scientists persist in trying to save the world despite mutating pathogens, terrifying new weather and the Byzantine politics of the battle for control of world agriculture.

For our arts section, what better than the future of bluegrass, a style originally devoted to Kentucky’s grass and horses, as represented by long time friend of Cornelia Street, Frank Oteri, who in another life curates 21st Century Schizoid Music here on the 4th Monday of every month?

Frank’s group The String Messengers features Frank York on fiddle and lead vocals; Mandola Joe York on bass vocals, mandolin, mandola; Jeff York on atomic guitar; Jon York on middle fiddle, that’s a vie-oh-lah to the sophisticated folks of New York City; Uncle Murphy on additional vocals and rhythm guitar; Ratzo York (known to the outside world as Ratzo B. Harris) on the larger-than-life bass fiddle, with extra strings for good measure.

Frank and compadres will consider how Bill Monroe’s and the Stanley Brother’s legacies offer another world heritage that can be crossed to produce hybrids with the vigor to withstand the stressful artistic environments of the future.

A discussion between Susie and Frank will be mc’d by ex-blueberry breeder and current biologist / musician Dave Soldier.

CAN CULTURE EMERGE FROM SCRATCH?

March 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

March7

The forbidden experiment: Can culture emerge from scratch?”

Ofer Tchernichovski, Professor of Biology at CUNY, has been performing multi-generational experiments with songbirds. He writes:

“What would happen if human infants were raised in an isolated environment without any exposure to human culture? What would happen if we let such a naive colony evolve over generations? We performed the analog experiment with songbirds. Songbirds learn to sing by imitating their parents and neighbors, and different colonies vary in their song culture. Without exposure to parents and neighbors, birds develop abnormal songs. We performed a multi-generational experiment, and discovered that abnormal isolate songs evolve into normal songs within 3 to 4 generations. How does this happen, and what are the implications for human culture?”

Deborah Latz is one of Cornelia Street’s favorite songbirds. She sings in English, French and German, and these different languages and musical cultures inform her art. She has just returned from a European tour, where she played in Paris with legendary pianist Alain Jean-Marie, and in Livorno at Jazz Club Il Paradosso. Critics have called her “one of the finest balladeers of our time” (Jazz Society Of Oregon) and “undeniably unique” (jazzimprov.com). AllAboutJazz-NewYork says, “Her free vocal line is clear and perfectly centered. Her technical facility is most evident, however, when she sustains a pitch at a pianissimo for several measures”. She exemplifies the handing down of various musical and linguistic traditions, through iconic figures such as Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf to the legendary composers who contributed to the great American Songbook.

THE CAMERA NEVER LIES

February 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

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The camera never lies – or does it? Or does it tell a greater truth than our eyes alone? Photography has changed the way we see the world. For this evening we have we have one of the world’s leaders in the science of photography in the computational age joining with a photographer whose images have become part of the culture.

Professor Shree K. Nayar, the T. C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, will present his latest work on “Computational Cameras: Redefining the Image”. The computational camera embodies the convergence of the camera and the computer. It uses new optics to select rays from the scene in unusual ways, and an appropriate algorithm to process the selected rays. This ability to manipulate images before they are recorded and process the recorded images before they are presented is a powerful one. It enables us to experience our visual world in rich and compelling ways.

In the second half of the evening noted photographer Jim Moore, who has been photographing the eccentric performing arts for over 30 years will present a sampling of his work and will include photographs from the Oscar winning documentary “Man on Wire” of which Moore was an integral part. A performer himself, his photography was honed when performers he met asked for ‘publicity photos’ for their career moves out of the streets and into theaters. He will also present and discuss his extensive portfolio of clowns. jugglers, ventriloquists, sword swallowers, and other assorted performers.

In a new twist, the scientist and the artist will sit together for 15 minutes of moderated discussion regarding the intersection of their work, with questions from the audience

EXTREMES

January 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

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Life explores every condition — imagine organisms flourishing in water near boiling and acid enough to hurt you and me. And microorganisms are not the only extremophiles — scientists love to subject matter to extreme conditions. Roald Hoffmann will talk about extremophiles and the strange things that happen to molecules squeezed to pressure like those at the center of earth. And why scientists would be interested.

Both Lukas Ligeti and Elliott Sharp traffic in extremes: purest acoustic sounds to electronics and heavy computer processing, molto pianissimo to triple forte, amorphous clouds of sound to deep grooving, hypercomplex notated composition to totally free improvising. Any of these elements may turn up in their playing together and as a result, their concerts – they will join Roald — are reliably unpredictable and filled with surprise.

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