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Biofuels, computer tech, stargazing among topics of U. of I. spring lectures

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — One laptop per child; biofuels and world food; the rapid loss of languages; the consequences of knowing your genes; Shakespeare as an astronomer, and Muslim reactions to a Danish cartoon – all will be among the topics this spring in lectures and discussions sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois.

Also included in the spring lineup: the fifth annual Chancellor’s CAS Special Lecture, this year given by Renee Baillargeon, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Infant Cognition Laboratory at Illinois, on psychological reasoning in infancy.

Most of the spring 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.

All CAS talks are free and open to the public.

The first event of the spring semester will be a forum on Jan. 22 titled “One Laptop Per Child: Technology and the Developing World.” The principal speaker will be Langdon Winner, a George A. Miller Endowment Professor at the U. of I. and Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Winner will discuss the One Laptop Per Child project, which developed low-cost computers for the developing world, and the questions it raises about information technology, computer design, global markets and other issues. A discussion will follow with U. of I. professors Bill Hammack, from chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Robert Markley, from English. The forum begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana.

Subsequent lectures:

Jan. 23, “Information Technology and the Dream of Democratic Renewal,” with Winner again as the speaker. He will discuss whether new technologies such as the Internet will revitalize democratic society, a recurring theme through two centuries of American technological developments, or whether that vision will be derailed by mechanisms of inequality and centralized control. His MillerComm talk begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

Feb. 6, “Mr. Death’s Ephemeral Pageant: The Work of Audrey Niffenegger,” presented by Audrey Niffenegger, author of “The Time Traveler's Wife” and a faculty member in the MFA Program in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College, Chicago. Niffenegger will discuss her work as both a writer and visual artist, which includes several narrative visual novels and an upcoming novel about identical twins. Her MillerComm lecture begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

Feb. 13, “Global Africa: Whence Its Past? Whither Its Future?” by Michael A. Gomez, a professor in the departments of history and of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Gomez will discuss the varied components and contexts of the dispersal of Africans throughout the world since the fifteenth century. His MillerComm lecture, which also serves as the annual W.E.B. DuBois Lecture, begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

Feb. 14, “Biofuels and the World Food Situation,” by Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. Braun will discuss opportunities and risks in the development of bioenergy, especially as it relates to food supplies for those most in need, and the changing role of the United States in assisting famine intervention worldwide. His MillerComm talk begins at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

March 4, “Totebags, Teeshirts, and Tableware: The Domestication of Hokusai's Great Wave,” by Christine Guth, a tutor in Asian design history at the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Guth will discuss some of the ways in which Hokusai's celebrated 1831 woodcut “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” popularly known as “The Great Wave,” has played a role in American popular culture during the past 25 years. Her MillerComm talk begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 62 of the Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign.

March 5, “Making Sense of Others’ Actions: Psychological Reasoning in Infancy,” the fifth annual Chancellor’s CAS Special Lecture, by Renee Baillargeon. Her lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

March 25, “Shakespeare as a Skywatcher: Joining Astronomy With English Literature,” by David H. Levy, science editor for Parade Magazine and president of the National Sharing the Sky Foundation. Levy will explore the prevalence of astronomical images in literature, and how they open a new door to the enjoyment and understanding of the night sky. His MillerComm lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Beckman Institute, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

March 28, “The New Me: What Knowing Your Own Genes Will Mean,” by Ian Hacking, University Professor and professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Toronto. His MillerComm talk, which is also the annual Philosophy Lecture, begins at 4 p.m. in the theater at Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana.

April 3, “Defiant Trespass: Lessons From the Black Arts Movement for ‘this place called America,’ ” by Sonia Sanchez, poet, scholar, social activist and author of “Homegirls and Handgrenades,” winner of the American Book Award. Sanchez will discuss the revolutionary currents of 1968, including the coming of the Black Power movement, and their meaning and significance for post-Katrina America. Her MillerComm lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

April 9, “Globalization and Language Endangerment: Africa vs. The Americas,” by Salikoko Mufwene, professor of linguistics at the University of Chicago. Mufwene will discuss the rapid extinction of languages around the world, making comparisons to what threatens the extinction of species.

His MillerComm talk begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

April 24, “Protecting the Prophet: Understanding Muslim Reactions to the Danish Cartoon Controversy,” by Lawrence Rosen, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. Rosen will discuss the reaction by Muslims worldwide following the publication in 2005 and 2006 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and why many Muslims feel so intensely about the issue. His MillerComm lecture begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

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.

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

Also check the Web site for audio podcasts and streaming video of many CAS presentations, which are generally posted one to two weeks after the event.