September 8, 2014
Dr. Eric Smith
In most of 20th century Biology, the individual has been the locus of description, whether with regard to selection, development, or ecology. Efforts to understand the origin of life require that we adopt a wider perspective in which life is a planetary process. In this view individuality is only one form of organization, the existence and importance of which must be accounted for along with many other forms. Much as the physical Earth is organized into three geospheres — the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere — the whole Earth includes a fourth geosphere which is the biosphere. The origin of life is best understood as the emergence of this fourth geosphere. In this talk I will show how life is embedded in a larger arc of energy flows that spans stellar and planetary history, and connects the sun, solid earth, oceans, and atmosphere. The focal point for chemical stresses in this great arc of disequilibrium, and the foundation of the biosphere, is metabolism, and its deep history and ramifications are found in the world of microbes. I will make the case that the biosphere emerged through metabolism, which at its beginning, and even to a considerable extent today, is as much a continuation of geochemistry as a departure from it.
September 15, 2014
Mr. Jim Manzi, Founder and Chairman of Applied Predictive Technologies
Non-experimental social science is not capable of making useful, reliable, and non-obvious predictions for the effects of most social interventions. Social science very likely can improve its practical utility by conducting many more experiments, and should do so. Even with such improvements, however, it will not be able to adjudicate most important policy debates. Recognition of this uncertainty calls for a heavy reliance on unstructured trial-and-error progress. The limits to the use of trial-and-error are established primarily by the need for strategy and long-term vision.
September 22, 2014
Dr. Wayne Zandbergen
The Panic of 1893 was the worst economic crisis encountered by the century-old United States. Like the Great Depression, the 1890’s presented a double dip recession with associated bank panics. Unlike the Depression, in 1893 there was little regulatory infrastructure in place to deal with the ensuing economic problems. Unique about 1893 is the existence, in Helena, Montana, of very detailed banking records that provide insights into actions taken by individuals during the Panic. This presentation will focus on findings resulting from my investigations of these records, illustrating the characteristics of the Panic. Econometric analysis demonstrates the spread of panic, and an agent based model recreates some of the features of the panic by using agents whose behavior is driven completely by emotional contagion.
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