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Disaster, biology, oil and art among topics of fall lectures at Illinois

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Disasters and biological issues will get special attention this fall among 13 lectures sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – along with topics as varied as Mexican politics, Caspian oil, Senegalese art, indigenous rights and the nature of thinking.

Most of the fall lectures are part of the CAS MillerComm series, begun in 1973 and supported with funds from the George A. Miller Endowment and several co-sponsoring campus units. The MillerComm lectures provide a forum for discourse on topics spanning the university’s many disciplines.

Also part of the fall program is the CAS Annual Lecture, to be given this year by Abigail Salyers, a CAS Professor of microbiology, on the subject of antibiotics. Other lectures are sponsored by CAS initiatives on globalization and mega-disasters.

All CAS talks are free and open to the public.

To receive notification on individual events, call 217-333-6729 or e-mail; indicate your preference for postal mail or e-mail.

The first lecture of the fall semester will come Sept. 6 and is titled “Culture and Politics in Mexico: The Symbolism Behind Political Campaigns.” The speaker will be Larissa Adler Lomnitz, a researcher emeritus of socio-cultural anthropology at the Universidad Autónoma de México, in Mexico City. Lomnitz will offer an analysis of the country’s current political culture, in the aftermath of recent presidential elections, focusing on the political parties and the nature of Mexican democracy. Her MillerComm talk begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

Subsequent lectures:
Sept. 11, “How Our Genes Shape the Way We Respond to Our Environment ,” by Avshalom Caspi, a professor of personality development at King’s College, London, and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Caspi will discuss the mystery of how an environmental factor such as pollution or life stress can get inside the nervous system and, depending on a person’s genotype, alter the elements of that system and generate the symptoms of a disordered mind. His MillerComm lecture begins at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Beckman Institute, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

• Sept. 14, “Analogy as the Core of Cognition,” by Douglas Hofstadter, director of the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at Indiana University and the author of the 1979 bestseller “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.” Hofstadter will argue that every concept in our minds arises from an accumulation of analogies, and that thinking – the pinpointing of the right concept at the right time – is the result of a relentless swarm of unconscious analogy-makers competing with each other. His MillerComm talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana.

• Sept. 25, “The 1994 Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Cultural Awareness in Managing Natural Disasters,” by Tom Casadavall, Central Region director for the U.S. Geological Survey. Casadavall will discuss the refugee crisis that resulted from the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the role earth scientists played in mitigating the volcano threat to 800,000 refugees who settled temporarily in Zaire. His lecture, part of the “CAS Initiative on
Mega-Disasters,” begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Sept. 26, “The December 26, 2004, Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami: Field Perspectives on the Impacts to the Peoples, Cultures, Politics and Economies of One of the World's Most Vibrant Regions,” also by Casadavall and part of the “CAS Initiative on Mega-Disasters.” In this lecture, Casadavall will discuss the role of earth scientists and the USGS in assessment and recovery planning efforts following the disaster. His talk begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana.

• Oct. 4, “Revenge of the Microbes: Are Antibiotics in Danger?” the CAS Annual Lecture, given by Salyers, who is the Arends Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Illinois. Salyers will talk about the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, the decline in research to discover new antibiotics, the implications of these developments in areas ranging from medicine to agriculture, and possible solutions to the problem. Her lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana.

• Oct. 5, “Bioethical Challenges in a 21st-Century World,” by Mark Siegler, director of the MacLean Ethics Center at the University of Chicago. Siegler will explore current bioethical issues and the future challenges facing modern medicine in societies around the world. His MillerComm talk begins at 4 p.m. in the ballroom of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center.

• Oct. 19, “The Globalization of Energy Resources: Tapping Caspian Oil and Gas,” by Jonathan Elkind, an independent consultant on energy, environmental and security concerns, and a former director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council. Elkind will examine the opportunities and challenges associated with Caspian reserves of oil and natural gas, analyzing the involvements and interests of oil companies and nations, and the economic and foreign policy impacts of the globalization of energy resources. His lecture, part of the “CAS Initiative on Globalization,” begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Oct. 26, “Was the Bronze Age Volcanic Eruption of Thira (Santorini) a Megacatastrophe? A Geological/Archeological Detective Story,” by Grant Heiken, an independent consultant, author and retired geologist for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Heiken will discuss the eruption that destroyed the town of Akrotiri, on the Greek island of Thira (Santorini) in the 17th century BCE, the evidence of the inhabitants’ lifestyle that it preserved, and the effect the eruption may have had on the island and across the Aegean Sea. His lecture, part of the “CAS Initiative on Mega-Disasters,” begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

• Oct. 30, “The Historical Origins of ‘Open Science,’ ” by Paul A. David, emeritus professor of economics and a senior fellow in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University. David will talk about the movement from secrecy to “cooperative rivalries” in the pursuit of scientific knowledge during the 16th and 17th centuries, and its importance for the scientific revolution and for the development of the modern world. His MillerComm talk begins at 4 p.m. in the auditorium (Room 1122) of the NCSA Building, 1205 W. Clark St., Urbana.

• Nov. 6, “Serene Shadows: Aura and Icon in Postcolonial Senegal,” by Allen F. Roberts, a George A. Miller Endowment Visiting Professor at Illinois and a professor in the department of French and Francophone studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. Roberts will present and discuss the vibrant arts of the Mourides, a contemporary mystical Islamic movement in Senegal, focusing on imagery associated with the Mourides' founding Sufi saint, Sheikh Amadou Bamba. His MillerComm lecture begins at 4 p.m. in the 20th Century Gallery of the Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign.

• Nov. 14, “Indigenous Rights in a Global Arena: Globalization From Below,” by Luis Macas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador and director of the Scientific Institute of Indigenous Cultures in Quito, Ecuador. Macas will discuss the emerging pan-global indigenous people’s movement and look at the challenges and successes of similar movements across the Americas and beyond. His MillerComm talk, given in Spanish with an English translation, begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Nov. 29, “Chairman Mao, the Great Leap Forward and the Deforestation Ecological Disaster in the South China Karst,” by Peter Huntoon, emeritus professor in the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Wyoming. Huntoon will discuss the massive deforestation of the south China karst belt since 1958 and the starvation, poverty and spread of desert that have resulted, along with the efforts to reforest the area in the face of massive population growth. His lecture, part of the “CAS Initiative on Mega-Disasters,” begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

Those interested in attending CAS lectures should note that occasionally a lecture must be canceled or rescheduled, and lectures may be added later in the semester. For additional information, or to confirm details prior to a lecture, check the events link on the CAS Web site.

Also, CAS now is making audio podcasts and streaming video of many of its presentations available on the Web site, generally one to two weeks after the event.