Earth Science Lecture 3: The Extinction of the Dinosaurs and the Importance of Rare Events

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Cretaceous Earth impact drawing.

In this last of three lectures in the Frontiers of Science unit on climate change, Columbia University Professor Peter deMenocal discusses the scientific exploration of the nature of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. He explores the alternative hypotheses for the event that have been put forward over the years and provides examples of current supporting evidence. The lecture also emphasizes how dogma can be the enemy of scientific progress when it causes scientists to see what they expect to see instead of what the data actually shows. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Earth Science Lecture 2: African Climate Change and Human Evolution

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Elephants grazing in Amboseli swamps, north of Kilimanjaro.

In this second of three lectures in the Frontiers of Science unit on climate change, Columbia University Professor Peter deMenocal discusses the evolution of the human brain and what makes humans, as a species, unique. He then explores the relationship between African climate change and turning points in human and other faunal evolution. The lecture emphasizes how scientists have used different types of evidence collection to support various hypotheses about the relationship between climate change and evolution and includes a discussion on the difference between correlation and causation. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Earth Science Lecture 1: Understanding the Global Warming Forecast: Our Past and Future Climate

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“Earthrise” photo.

In this first of three lectures in the Frontiers of Science unit on climate change, Columbia University Professor Peter deMenocal discusses the scientific basis of our current understanding of climate change. He explores current and historical data sources about changes in the Earth’s temperature and greenhouse gas levels, and explains how they can be used to put together a picture of global warming. The lecture further emphasizes how the science of climate change has evolved over time and investigates possible solutions for dealing with global warming in the future. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Neuroscience Lecture 1: The Human Brain at Work

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Image of human brain.

In this first of three lectures in the Frontiers of Science unit on neuroscience, Columbia University professor Darcy Kelley discusses how the human brain works. Using an exploration of how the ear receives, and the brain processes, sound, Professor Kelley provides an overview of how the nervous system takes in and interprets different types of signals from the outside world. The lecture further emphasizes the importance of Scientific Habits of Mind by exploring the use of analogous systems in the study of how the brain processes audio signals. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Neuroscience Lecture 3: The Evolution of Language

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A comparative review of sound production and a descended larynx.

In this final lecture of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on neuroscience, Columbia University professor Darcy B. Kelley discusses the difficulty of researching the evolution of language—a characteristic that leaves nothing in the fossil record. The lecture further emphasizes contemporary issues in linguistics, evolution, and neurobiology, as well as focusing on how different experimental techniques can address this problematic research question. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Neuroscience Lecture 2: Sex and Songs

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Xenopus laevis.

In this second of three lectures in the Frontiers of Science unit on neuroscience, Columbia University professor Darcy B. Kelley discusses the neural networks involved in vocal communication. Using the model organism, Xenopus laevis, professor Kelley discusses sexually dimorphic brain development and how hormones relate to sex differences in vocal biology and behavior. The lecture further emphasizes the importance of Scientific Habits of Mind, by focusing on research technique and interpretation. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Biodiversity Lecture 3: How Do We Fix It? or “A Reversal of Fortune”

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 Reforesting in Brazil.

In this presentation, the third of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on biodiversity, Columbia University professor Don Melnick provides examples of ecological restoration at the scale of genes, species, and ecosystems and discusses the important role that experiments and large-scale studies play in understanding complex systems. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Biodiversity Lecture 2: Why Should We Care? or “Size Matters”

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Decline of rural landscapes.

In this presentation, the second of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on biodiversity, Columbia University professor Don Melnick introduces the theory and models that help us understand the current and future consequences of biodiversity loss. The lecture further emphasizes the fact that ecosystems provide services to humans – termed “Ecosystem Services”. These services are rapidly being depleted by global biodiversity loss. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Biodiversity Lecture 1: What is the Problem? or “The Great Unraveling”

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Deforestation and burning in Madagascar.

In this presentation, the first of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on biodiversity, Columbia University professor Don Melnick identifies ecological problems on a global scale, such as degradation of land and aquatic ecosystems, accumulation of greenhouse gases, decline of species and emerging infectious diseases. The basic science behind investigating the problems facing humans in the twenty-first century is discussed at 3 different scales: gene, species and ecosystem. A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.

Astronomy Lecture 3: Planets Everywhere

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Star wobble due to unseen planet.

In this PowerPoint presentation, the third of three in the Frontiers of Science unit on astronomy, Columbia University professor David Helfand presents methods of detecting other solar systems and planets and their properties in the interest of answering the question: Is our solar system unique, or are there others like it in the Universe? A lecture video and transcript are also available on FoSO.