The Winter 2014 Lectures

FREE public one-hour lectures followed by a question period

TORONTO:Sundays at 3 pm (doors open at 2:15) Macleod Auditorium, Medical Sciences Building, University of Toronto 1 King’s College Circle (Nearest Subway is Queen’s Park Station) Parking on campus, pay/display; limited disabled parking available. MISSISSAUGA:Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at Noel Ryan Auditorium, Ground Floor, Mississauga Central Library, 301 Burnhamthorpe Road W. Parking under the library is free after 6 p.m. Enter via the ramp accessed from the southbound lane on Duke of York Boulevard between City Centre Drive and Burnhamthorpe Road.
We thank the University of Toronto and the Mississauga Central Library for their support.


January – April 2014

Jan 12 Sun 2014
The Origin of Life - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

SzostakJack 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,
Harvard University

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

Jan 19 Sun 2014
Plugging into the Sun: How Next-Generation Photovoltaics Will Light Up Your Life - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

KoivistoBryan Koivisto, PhD, Department of Chemistry & Biology, Ryerson University

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.

Jan 26 Sun 2014
The First 12,000 Years: Conserving the Archaeological Past of Toronto - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

williamsonR.F. Williamson, PhD, Chief Archaeologist and Managing Partner, Archaeological Services Inc.

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.

Feb 6 Thu 2014
Climate Change Heads to the Coast: Managing Ecosystems at the Water’s Edge - Mississauga
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

vasserLiette 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.


Feb 9 Sun 2014
The Half Megaton Chelyabinsk Airburst and the Impact Hazard From Small Asteroids - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

BrownPeter G. Brown, BSc, MSc, PhD, Department Physics and Astronomy, University of Western Ontario

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

Feb 16 Sun 2014
Survival of the Fittest in Honey Bees: Genes, Brains and Behaviour - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Zayed - Feb 16Amro Zayed, PhD, Department of Biology, York University

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.

Feb 23 Sun 2014
The State of the Arctic Sea - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

haas_smChristian Haas, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Arctic Sea Ice Geophysics, York University

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.

Mar 6 Thu 2014
Neutrino Hunters: A Thrilling Journey into a Shadowy World - Mississauga
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

jayawardhanaRay Jayawardhana, PhD,Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto

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.

Mar 11 Tue 2014
When Art Meets Science: Broadening Horizons through Interdisciplinary Practice-A Discussion - Toronto
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Panel Members:
*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).

Apr 3 Thu 2014
Excursion to the Nanoworld of Living Cells with Advanced Microscopy - Mississauga
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

barzdaVirginijus Barzda, PhD, Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences. Department of Physics and Institute for Optical Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga

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.