HAPPY BIRTHDAY, O UNIVERSE

December 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Our expanding universe is accelerating! The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was just awarded to the discoverers of the speedup. This evening will enact the origin of the expanding universe – yes, the Big Bang — through the work of a leading astrophysicist, and a new play.
Accelerator physicist and playwright Hasan Padamsee of Cornell will present a staged reading of the final scenes from his new play, Creation’s Birthday, directed by Ben Lasser, a freelance director recently transplanted from Chicago. Come see how Edwin Hubble gangs up with a moon-shine peddling janitor and a Jesuit priest to get Einstein to woefully admit his greatest blunder, and… figures out the birthday of our Universe.

But perhaps Einstein’s greatest blunder was not so far off after all. Elena Aprile at Columbia heads the world’s hunt for dark matter. The leading candidates for this mysterious part of the universe are relics of the Big Bang, the Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). Elena and her coworkers (it’s a major international effort) look for these underground, of course, using a ton of ultra-pure liquid xenon. We’ll join the chase!

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THE DRONE AND THE UNIVERSE

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Primal sounds are never boring. They are often the foundation, both of musics and of the universe. In tonight’s program two superlative musicians, masters of dozens of instruments both familiar and strange, Katie Down and Matt Darriau, will demonstrate the importance of drones in world music. And reflect on the centrality of this harmonic effect. They will be joined by Solomon Endlich, who works on the ripples through the fabric of the universe – gravitational waves. Just like we can close our eyes, listen to the sound that fills the room and try to figure out what those sounds tell us about the instruments that made them, so too can astronomers/physicists “listen” to gravitational waves and try to learn about some of the most cataclysmic (and not easily visited!) events in the universe — black hole collisions, the big bang. Those waves may just be the drones of cosmic music. You will be there to feel them.

ANGULAR MOMENTUM OF THE HUMAN BODY

October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Athletes and performers conduct mind boggling feats of speed and control, but as natural phenomena, there must be natural explanations. Physicist John Di Bartolo of NYU will discuss how spinning dancers and baseball pitchers take advantage of a physical quantity called angular momentum. The principles of angular momentum govern the movement of systems ranging from those spinning dancers to falling cats to collapsing stars and often yields surprising, counterintuitive results.

The foremost flamenco guitarist in America, Pedro Cortes, will perform a concert with the extraordinary Madrid Gypsy flamenco singer Saray Muñoz, who fortunately for us, is returning for a visit to America the day before our show. Saray is a star in Spain and presently singer for Sara Baras, and previously Joaquin Cortes, the best known contemporary flamenco dancers. Pedro is a master athlete of the ?small muscles? and musician who performs mind boggling feats on the guitar, and is extending the gypsy flamenco tradition in novel ways. They will perform some of the deep ?jondo? tradition, which is rarely heard in New York.

MOVEMENT OF THE PEOPLE (AND MONKEYS)

September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Striking out, leaving family and home for somewhere new — why do we (and our friends) do this?

Primatologist Anthony Di Fiore will speak on border patrols, raids, and warfare between groups of spider monkeys– and how he and his colleagues discovered that this is often perpetrated by groups of related males in the wild. The relationships in the group are traced by noninvasive genotyping of feces, helped by some dung beetles.

Bill Schimmel, the foremost classical accordion virtuoso and member of Tom Wait’s classic group, and The Tango Project, will present a piece on a mythological migration: “Holbein in New York” – a collaboration with the late great comic writer George W.S. Trow on Holbein’s migration to New York to pursue a career in painting. Bill and performer Micki Goodman also perform a new commeration musical work for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/01.

Anthony Di Fiore’s blog on monkeys in the New York Times http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/author/anthony-di-fiore/

Bill Schimmel’swebsite, the ultimate source for accordion enthusiasts http://www.billschimmel.com/

NEW FRONTIERS: UNDRUGGABLE PROTEINS AND IMPOSSIBLE PIANO MUSIC

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Taka Kigawa, an outstanding virtuoso of the contemporary piano literature, will perform near impossible-to-play music on the piano, as part of his effort to expand the range of the human musical experience.

Brent Stockwell, Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, will discuss the challenge of discovering new medicines, and how all known drugs interact with just 2% of the proteins found in humans–most of the remaining proteins have been considered “undruggable”, or impossible to affect with drugs. He will discuss the efforts of a number of researchers, including his own laboratory, to address this fundamental challenge of creating new molecular architectures that can tame these untapped proteins, and what the dramatic impact on medicine and disease would be if such proteins could be harnessed for drug discovery.

a recent article on Taka Kigawa in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/arts/music/26taka.html

an article on Brent Stockwell’s new book, The Quest for the Cure: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/news-events-data/news/brent-stockwell-11/index.html

SINGING IN THE BRAIN

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Birds! The creatures of romance and fidelity—and of “feather-brained” giddy impracticality. This Entertaining Science will present both fact and fiction—songs of nightingales, canaries, bobwhites and pigeons, mixed with observations and discoveries on birds’ capacity for learning and memory, and on the changes in the brain that make the learning possible. A sad crow (in song) will segue into thoughts on brain capacities and constraints… and how beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Finally we will think (and sing) about human memory.

Robin Beckhard (vocalist) has one life as a consultant for a firm involved in leadership development, a second as a cabaret singer, and a third as a frequent migrant between New York and Ithaca.

Paul Greenwood(pianist) has appeared as pianist, musical director and singer in NewYork’s premiere cabaret venues, including The Oak Room at the Algonquin,The Improv and The Metropolitan Room.

Tim DeVoogd (the one not singing or playing the piano) does research on bird brain neurobiology at Cornell, with particular interests in mechanisms of learning and in evolution of capacities for learning.

BRAIN TRAUMA & ONE MAN’S MUSIC

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

In 1982, Texas troubador Vince Bell, who has been compared to Bruce Cockburn, Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, was broadsided by a drunk driver after leaving the studio where he and Stevie Ray Vaughan had just recorded. He received a traumatic brain injury and spent a month in a coma. Vince will perform “One Man’s Music” on how he relearned to walk, talk, and play the guitar.

Dr. John Krakauer, Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is a clinician / scientist expert on recovery from stroke and brain injury. He’ll illustrate the changes within the brains of such patients, the wide range of outcomes, and results from his research on the treatment following these injuries.

Entertaining Science has since 2002 paired public lectures by prominent scientists with performances by artists who address the lecture’s theme, as a monthly series at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village. The series runs at 6 pm on the second Sunday of each month, and is coordinated by founder, poet, and chemist Roald Hoffmann of Cornell University with composer and neuroscientist Dave Soldier of Columbia University. Past Shows include scientists from a broad range of fields, including Oliver Sacks, Benoit Mandelbrot, Joseph Le Doux, Carl Djerassi, Paul Greengard, Roger Payne and Mark Moffet, paired with the likes of downtown musicians, actors, filmmakers, playwrights, choreographers and flamenco dancers, bluegrass bands, and photographers including Vitaly Komar, Elliott Sharp, Phoebe Legere, Mark Mitton and Nelida Tirado.

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