SDARI Event Archives
Event Archives 2004:
- November 28, 2004 Dr Giancarlo Borgonovi, on Einstein and the Miraculous Year
Time Magazine called Albert Einstein the man of the 20th century and for good reason. The last century abounded with scientists, philosophers, teachers, warriors, heroes, and villains. Some gave us new ways to look at our world. Others provided a peek in to the universe. Einstein made it possible for mankind to pry open the of time itself.
Dr Giancarlo Borgonovi, who started a drive for to place an exhibit honoring Einstein in Balboa Park on March 5th discussed the "miraculous year." In 1905 the genius presented three papers. The first applied the quantum idea to explain the photoelectric effect. The second offered an interpretation of Brownian motion to demonstrate the reality of atoms and molecules. The third paper introduced the theory of Special Relativity and modified our concepts of space, time, mass, and energy. Our speaker has experience in lattice dynamics, neutron spectroscopy, X-ray and neutron diffraction, fuel cycle management, industrial radiography, tomography and radiation imaging. He has a doctorate from the University of Milan and has been a senior scientist at Science Applications Int. Corp since 1977.
- October 24, 2004 - Eleanor Nadler RDH, MPH and Gail Gilman RDHAP, MS, spoke on Fluoridation, A Boon Or A Boondoggle?
A glance at some web sites could scare the bejabbers out of a person. We're warned that virtually all of us who have drunk water from sources outside of San Diego have been putting our very lives at risk. Yet fluorides in exceedingly small concentration is a natural component of many water sources and has proven instead to be a boon for healthy teeth. Adding a small amount of that to water deficient in fluoride has been shown by an overwhelming number of studies to prevent dental caries. A small number of flawed studies have claimed to cause all kinds of health problems, but these studies have been eventually discredited. Still the opposition succeeds in preventing San Diego from adding the fluoride which would deter tooth decay into our water systems. This gives San Diego the dubious distinction of being the largest American city without fluoride being added to our water. The history of how some dedicated people have had the persistence to fight for fluoridation in San Diego is a remarkable example of irrational thinking affecting the political process to its detriment. It is a fascinating story.
Ellie Nadler is a registered dental hygienist. Gail Gilman is a specialist in preventive oral health and nutrition education. Both have long been active in the county's Dental Hygienists' Society and the effort to add fluoride to the city's water supply.
- September 26, 2004 - DVD Videos of the Showtime program "Penn & Teller: B#llsh*t!"
Few TV programs are more to the heart of skeptics than Penn & Teller: B#llsh*t!, the Showtime program featuring those incorrigible magician/comics, Penn & Teller. Long a pain to other magicians for their exposure of how some tricks are performed, they have now devoted an entire series of programs to looking askance at a wide variety of commonly accepted "truths." A quick glance at the B#llsh*t! web site will provide an understanding of the intentions of this program. SDARI member Paul Wenger organized the showing of three 24-minute programs from first-year DVDs, each followed by discussion by the attendees.
Note: Name of program disguised here to try to prevent this page or site from being filtered/rejected by "indecency" software.
- August 22, 2004 - Dr. Teresa Larsen, on Talking Science
The language of science differs from everyday conversation in both obvious and subtle ways. On the obvious side, a scientist's vocabulary uses jargon and field specific words. On the subtle side, usage of some familiar words differs for scientists. For example, accuracy vs. precision and theory vs. hypothesis. Dr. Larsen discussed language in the context of science, played some word games, and addressed questions on "science-speak".
Dr. Larsen earned her doctoral degree in Biochemistry doing X-ray crystallography at UCLA. She has created a career for herself as an entrepreneur interfacing between scientists and the public. To satisfy her uncompromising passion for education she founded the educational non-profit organization, The Foundation for Scientific Literacy. Dr. Larsen holds a faculty position at SDSU, and conducts scientific visualization projects at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
- July 25, 2004 - Elie Shneour, Stem Cell Research Revisited
The continuing national imbroglio over stem-cell research actually conceals a great deal more than what appears in official pronouncements and media discussions on this subject. Perhaps the most likely conclusion that can be drawn from these debates is the unexpressed fear of what science could discover in the face of scientific illiteracy that is abroad in the land. In addition to explaining what stem cells are and what can presumably be done with them, Dr. Shneour examined the basis for the objections voiced to stem cell research.
Dr. Elie A. Shneour, is a biophysicist, the research director and head of the Biosystems Research Institute, the former chair and still member of the San Diego County Science Advisory Board, the author of numerous research and lay articles as well as several books. He serves in national level scientific capacities, is a member of a number of scientific societies, a founding chair of SDARI, and a CSICOP Fellow.
- June 27, 2004 -- Peter Voss on Rational Ethics
Scientists develop the tools which may allow us to control our destinies, but how far should those guys in white coats go? What are the rules, if any? Our June speaker examined some difficult questions: "Is there a way to develop ethics using a rational, scientific approach? Can we rescue morality from religious superstition, irrational subjective customs, and harmful evolutionary baggage?" He proposed that, "indeed, this is possible."
Our speaker was Peter Voss, an entrepreneur with a background in electronics, computer systems, software, and management. He has a keen interest in cognitive science and the inter-relationship between philosophy, psychology, ethics, and computer science. For the past few years he has been researching artificial general intelligence and recently started Adaptive A.I. Inc.with the goal of developing a highly adaptive, general-purpose A.I. engine. He considers himself an Extropian, and is actively involved in futurism, free-market ideas, and extreme life extension.
- May 23, 2004 -- Gordon Babst on Same Sex Marriages
The majority of SDARI members are married. Perhaps some of us wonder how we got that way. Indeed what's behind this marriage business anyhow. How did it get started? Is it necessary? Is it a religious construct? Indeed marriage is a big question of the day what with the volatile question of same-sex marriages. Marriage and its social and political ramifications were the subject of the May 23rd SDARI meeting.
Our speaker was Gordon Babst, assistant professor of political philosophy and theory at Chapman College in Orange County. He spoke to the issue of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and referred to his research in this area.
- April 25, 2004 -- Awarding of SDARI prizes to Science Fair winners, and pizza party.
Our guests for the April 25th meeting rank high among the most important of the year. They were the teenagers who are winners of first and second prizes from SDARI this year's San Diego and Imperial County Science and Engineering Fair. If America, indeed the world, needs anything, it needs people who can think and solve problems.
We honored six young folks from local junior and senior high schools. Elie Shneour, head of Biosystems Research Institute, hosted a program where each of these youngsters demonstrate his/her project. All have demonstrated the ability to disdain the easy answers and use rational thought to solve problems. They are scientists all and we have no greater challenge than to encourage folks like them to embrace and continue using science their entire lives.
We also treated the young scientists, their parents, and well-wishers to a pizza party before the regular meeting.
- March 28, 2004 -- Mark Perakh, PhD Unintelligent Design
Again SDARI had a timely lecture, creationism disguised as intelligent design vs. evolution. Activists in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Texas have challenged evolution in the curriculum and in the textbooks. Does this matter? Can science survive if we allow our schools to teach that proven science isn't valid? A new book, Unintelligent Design, looks at this subject.
The author, SDARI member Professor Mark Perakh was our speaker March 28th. Perakh is a professor of physics (emeritus) and has taught physics and related subjects for half a century. He has taught in Russia, Israel, England and the United states. He was awarded a prize from the Royal Society of London in 1978. SDARI members will remember him as a scintillating speaker on other occasions, including lectures on the so-called Biblical Codes and Behe's Mousetrap.
- February 22, 2004 -- Darlene Lieblich, on Heart of the Beholder, a True Story
The country is all agog over the movie, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Churches bought out entire theaters and let their parishioners in without charge. The movie is breaking box office records everywhere. That's to be expected in a country where about nine of ten Americans believe in God, most of them Christians.
In fact, one would think that any movie about Jesus would be welcomed. After all there is little agreement on just who he Jesus was or what he meant to mankind. Surely yet another look would be appropriate. Not so! A movie showing him to have very human desires was greeted with cries of outrage. Outlets were boycotted. Violence occurred. One owner of four video stores in St. Louis was run out of business, harassed, even arrested on bogus charges, all because he refused to pull a movie, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, off the shelves.
Dr. Darlene Lieblich, a vice president and censor for Cox Cable news and other TV outlets was our speaker in February. She told of how even a movie about the outrage has been thwarted by zealots. Still she and other producers persist and a movie called HEART OF THE BEHOLDER is underway.
The movie tells of one of America's most outrageous examples of bigotry. Ken Tipton, the video store owner, was not only the subject of a boycott and picketing, he was railroaded on bogus charges. Even though it happened about 20 years ago the zealotry remains to this day. Perhaps it's increasing.
We ignore it at our own peril. Such outrages ought to be the subject of rational thinking everywhere.
- January 25, 2004 -- Bill Cooke, PhD on The Changing Faces of Jesus
Sometimes we get lucky. After a three month period with one meeting canceled because of the huge fire that threatened our homes, another with low attendance because a computer glitch prevented our sending out a notice, and our annual hiatus for the holidays we finally had a real meeting. Lucky indeed were the attendees.
Dr. Bill Cooke from Buffalo by way of Kenya, England, and New Zealand kept an audience of more than forty riveted to their seats as he put on his slide show "The Changing Faces of Jesus."
And who was Jesus anyhow? Cooke said he was a rabbi named Joshua. The stories about him were mostly the reflection of the authors' various beliefs. Just as important were the many depictions of him in paintings and sculptures. Paintings often held to be sacred variously showed him as warlike, peaceful, clean shaven, bearded, Jewish, German, and as an All American young man. He was even depicted as a starving prisoner in a concentration camp. Each portrait made a point, usually a political point, and the point reflected the artist's own bias.
Although Cooke described himself as an atheist he was conciliatory, ending his remarks with "I feel deeply sorry for what happened to poor Rabbi Joshua." Perhaps the program was summed up by one attendee, himself a Christian. He acknowledged the brilliance of the speaker and commented that it could have been given to any group, Christian or not.
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