New GRIT Talks from UCSB

842Get an up-close look at ground-breaking research and innovative technology from UCSB. Geared towards the community, these talks present the best minds from UCSB covering a wide-range of topics in science, medicine, technology and more. Check out these recent programs:


The Challenges That Society Brings to Engineering Designs
Understand the unique challenges that surface when seeking to design and control physical infrastructure such as transportation networks, power grids and data centers.

Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates
The standard antibiotic test used worldwide is based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not in the body. Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by the “in vivo” test are very effective.

How Biology, Ecology, and Technology Balance Tradeoffs in an Uncertain World
Do complex systems exhibit fundamental properties? This talk looks at tradeoffs between robustness and fragility that occur in biological, ecological, and technological systems.

From Bitcoin to Central Bank Digital Currencies
Rod Garratt, UCSB Professor of Economics, describes his work on a project to build a proof of concept for a wholesale interbank payment system that facilitates payments of central bank digital currency using a distributed ledger.

Overcoming Climate Anxiety at a Time of Global Crisis
Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez discusses how humans can contribute to improving current ocean problems and eventually return the oceans to a more sustainable state.

The Remarkable Learning Abilities of the Human Brain
Greg Ashby studies how people learn new categories of objects. By mapping the neural networks, scientists have been able to identify many important and surprising differences in how we learn.

The Future of Computer Science: The Rock We Tricked Into Thinking
Explore the state of the art in computing and how the demands for energy efficient and intelligent systems is driving the creation of entirely new approaches to the problem.

The Math of Swarming Robots, Superconductors, and Slime Mold
Explore the mathematics underlying systems of interacting agents and how such systems can be analyzed using an age old scientific technique: what happens if we poke it?

Check out these programs and more on UCSB’s GRIT Talks.

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More Dirt for Kids!

32822Rob Knight, the academic superstar who is leading the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, says it’s important for kids to get dirty! He explains that exposing children to natural bacteria in the environment trains their immune systems how to respond to foreign threats. So, resist that urge to sterilize everything kids touch because you’re not helping. Instead, let them roll around in the grass, swim in rivers and the ocean, and cuddle with dogs. You might wince at the contact, but the germs they meet will make them stronger in the long run.

To learn more, check out Rob’s book, “Dirt is Good,” or watch him here:

Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs For Your Child’s Developing Immune System with Rob Knight

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Superbugs and Antibiotics

32822We’ve all heard about superbugs, bacterial infections that don’t respond to antibiotic treatment and wondered what’s going on.

When someone falls ill with one of these infections doctors determine which antibiotic to use based on a standard test. But UC Santa Barbara biologist Michael Moore says we may be relying on the wrong test when identifying the antibiotic to treat an infected patient.

The current test was developed in 1961 and is used throughout the world but it’s based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not how well they kill bacteria in the body. Moore’s lab has developed a new test that mimics conditions in the body, potentially transforming the way antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed.

His lab has identified antibiotics that effectively treat infections caused by diverse bacteria, including MRSA, the cause of deadly Staphylococcal infections. These antibiotics are often not prescribed because they failed the standard tests, despite being inexpensive, nontoxic, widely available and often effective.

He is working to modify the existing test so that it can be widely adapted to give doctors better tools and information when battling superbugs.

Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by Moore’s test have been effective.

Learn more and watch Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates

For more talks in this series, click here.

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Micro-Fiction

Contributed by John Menier

32822In modern English, the word “amateur” is often used in a condescending or pejorative sense, which is unfortunate. It is a borrowed French word that derives from the Latin “amator,” meaning “lover.” Hence, the term amateur was originally applied to someone who does something purely for the love of it rather than for compensation and was not a comment on competency.

It is in the spirit of “for the love of it” that Scott Paulson, Exhibits & Events Coordinator for UC San Diego Library, solicited fantasy and science fiction pieces of no more than 250 words for a live reading. The inaugural event in an intended micro-fiction project, “Short Tales from the Mothership” was inspired by magazine editor George Hay. In the 1970s Hay challenged such well-known authors as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov to submit stories for publication that could fit on a postcard. Following Hay’s example, Scott Paulson encouraged writers from the campus and San Diego communities to publicly showcase their short-short fiction. The stories presented that evening proved to be both diverse and diverting, encompassing a range of styles from comic and satirical to dystopian and experimental. All of the stories are evocative, and several of the works assumed the characteristics of poetry in their economy of language, their heightened descriptive imagery, and their attention to tone.

The result is a celebration of both micro-fiction as a distinct art form and the power of the spoken word – and yes, the joy of doing something for the love of it.

Watch Short Tales from the Mothership

See more programs from The Library Channel here.

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Simply Fun

Contributed by John Menier

32822In his remarks from the podium, La Jolla Symphony & Chorus Conductor Steven Schick notes that the 2017 edition of the “Young People’s Concert” features music by two composers with differing influences, temperaments, and styles: George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. While acknowledging the contrasts Schick also points out some surprising similarities shared by the two men: both were born to Russian-Jewish parents in Brooklyn, both studied in Paris, both had an interest in jazz and popular music, both experimented with different genres, and both came to prominence in the Jazz Age. First and foremost, Gershwin and Copland were American, with all that implies; as Gershwin put it, “True music must reflect the thought and aspirations of the people and time. My people are Americans. My time is today.”

Perhaps the best expression of what’s been called “the American touch” may be found in two of Gershwin’s most popular scores, “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris.” Both pieces reflect Gershwin’s abiding interest in jazz and blues, two indisputably American art forms, and both touch glancingly upon some of the conflicts and contradictions of American life (then and now). Ultimately, though, the most profound and appealing quality shared by the compositions is that, in the words of the Conductor, “they are simply fun.”

By comparison to the high-stepping confidence of the Gershwin tunes, Copland’s “Quiet City,” originally written for a failed play, reflects another, more contemplative aspect of the American character. One reading holds that the longing and unfulfilled aspirations evoked by this piece warn of the consequences of not being true to one’s self, an ever-present danger in a fast-moving, ambitious society. Perhaps. However one interprets “Quiet City” (if it needs any interpretation at all) there’s no denying the work’s beauty, the result of a perfect balance between string orchestra and two soloists on trumpet and oboe.

Throughout his remarks, Steven Schick notes the empathy and intricate interplay between the various sections of the orchestra, by turns tempestuous and serene as required by the score, and the absolute need to serve the music and the composers.

Watch Young People’s Concert 2017 – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

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