Thanksgiving, Rock and Roll, and the SciSchmooze

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SciSchmooze Weekly Events Newsletter

Hello again Science fans!

There's quite a variety of things to talk about today. Let's start with Rock and Roll!

Well, not exactly, but indirectly. Climate change is having an effect on guitars. You probably never think about the wood that's used in making musical instruments, but climate change is causing a shortage of swamp ash, the type of wood used in Fender guitars. Rock and Roll will never sound quite the same, all because of more historic flooding along the Mississippi River.

You should not take anything for granted these days. Take north. Yes, the direction north. The magnetic north pole is moving quickly, and has left Canada, headed for Siberia!

In the continuing story of OSIRIS-REX, the spacecraft managed to close the door on the sample container and is now preparing to return to Earth. Scientists have confirmed that at least one pound of material from the asteroid is inside the container. The spacecraft will leave asteroid Bennu next spring and should land in Utah in late September, 2023.

SpaceX launched the Dragon spacecraft "Resilience" containing four astronauts en route to the Space Station, the first time in nine years that the US has been able to initiate manned flight to the station. Resilience will remain docked at the Space Station until next spring, when it will return to earth with the four astronauts. Here's a summary of the mission from NASA.

There's another comet visible in the pre-dawn sky, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime visitor known as Erasmus!

The election is over. Now what? Over the past four years, scientific integrity in government has taken a huge hit. Here's a series of things Scientific American says can be done to restore that integrity.

There is also good news on the coronavirus front. Not one, but two vaccines have finished trials and reported effectiveness rates around 95%, with no serious side effects. They have submitted plans to the FDA for approval and say they can begin distribution within hours of that approval. This crisis won't end overnight, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I'm seeing fairly widespread effects of the changes we've all had to live through since March. Several friends around the world have told me how different they feel due to the isolation they have had to endure to remain safe. For those who already live somewhat isolated lives, no matter the reason, the stresses and strains brought on by the virus have made the situation worse for many. If you know of anyone who is having trouble dealing with all this, even a little bit, please reach out to them and let them know they are not alone. The holiday season will make this worse as, for most of us, Thanksgiving will be a smaller celebration than usual. I'm hopeful that people will heed the warnings and we won't see a big spike in infections following the holiday, but I'm not optimistic. Time will tell. California in general, and northern California specifically has done a better job of following recommendations than most other areas. According to statistics in the Mercury News today, only Hawaii and New Hampshire have lower infection rates per 10,000 people than California over the past 14 days. Yet our rates are rising too.

So please, have a Happy Thanksgiving, but be safe!

Bob Siederer

Upcoming Events:

Click to see the next two weeks of events in your browser.

Monday, 11/23/2020

Moiré superlattices: a new Hubbard model simulator - Livestream - 11/23/2020 02:30 PM
UC Berkeley,

The Hubbard model, first formulated by physicist John Hubbard in the 1960s, is a simple theoretical model of interacting quantum particles in a lattice. The model is thought to capture the essential physics of high-temperature superconductors, magnetic insulators, and other complex emergent quantum many-body ground states. Although the Hubbard model is greatly simplified as a representation of most real materials, it has nevertheless proved difficult to solve accurately except in the one-dimensional case. Physical realization of the Hubbard model in two or three dimensions, which can act as quantum simulators, therefore have a vital role to play in solving the strong-correlation puzzle. In this talk, I will discuss a recent experimental realization of the two-dimensional triangular lattice Hubbard model in angle-aligned WSe2/WS2 bilayers, which form moiré superlattices because of the difference in lattice constant between the two semiconductors.

Speaker: Jie Shan, Cornell University

See weblink for Zoom information

CIRTIS People and Robots Seminar - Livestream - 11/23/2020 04:00 PM
UC Berkeley,

Speaker: Lydia Kavraki, Rice University

See weblink for webcast information

Broken symmetries in living matter - Livestream - 11/23/2020 04:15 PM
UC Berkeley,

Active processes in living systems create a novel class of non-equilibrium material composed of many interacting parts that individually consume energy and collectively generate motion or mechanical stress. In this talk, I will discuss experimental tools and conceptual frameworks we develop to uncover laws governing order, phase transitions and fluctuations in systems in which individual components break time reversal symmetry.

Speaker, Nikta Fakhir, MIT

The Alignment Problem - Livestream - 11/23/2020 07:00 PM
SF Bay Association of Computing Machinery,

The real risk with AI is not that it will "turn on us," but rather, the danger has always been about being careful what we wish for. The real risk is the Midas Curse: that we build a powerful system able to learn by example but are somehow imprecise or inexact in what we ask it to do. The AI community is rife with cautionary tales of this kind, and as these systems get more powerful and more omnipresent, the stakes are only going up. They have a term for it: the alignment problem. Up until fairly recently, concerns about “the alignment problem” were considered fringe. What brought the fear of it to the fore?

If you could get across one main idea about AI to politicians and policymakers, what would it be? AI will affect every single one of us, whether we are judges, doctors, teachers, lawmakers, activists, artists, etc. Part of what I set out to do was offer a nontechnical curriculum of contemporary machine-learning, its open problems and active areas of research. In short order it will become increasingly, if uncannily, normal to make a verbal requests, and a new genre of computer bug will emerge that is less like an error and more like a misunderstanding. It will be, of course, the alignment problem. And, for better or worse, we will soon be accustomed to encountering it first-hand.

Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America and former deputy CTO of the United States says: “The Alignment Problem should be required reading for anyone influencing policy where algorithms are in play - which is everywhere. But unlike much required reading, the book is a delight to read, a playful romp through personalities and relatable snippets of science history that put the choices of our present moment into context.”

In this AI engineers meetup, I will discuss:

• Nature of Expertise- Why an eighty-year history of comparing statistical models to human experts suggests we have no choice but to use the models, and what it teaches us about the true nature of human expertise.

• Machine learning models - Why the bleeding ed ge of machine learning is not about making models more complex than ever before, but rather about making models simpler than ever before, and how this might make AI's "black box" problem a moot point.

•Inference- Why an opening front in AI (and, some believe, the crux of making AI safe) is in systems that can infer the things we want even when those things are difficult or impossible for us to state directly. In fact, they can even figure out what we want when we have no idea how to even demonstrate it. All we need is to be able to know it when we see it.

• Decision making with uncertainty- One of the most safety-critical capacities for any decision maker - human or machine - is uncertainty: the ability to know when you don't know. Early AI systems had a well-deserved reputation for brittleness, confident in their outputs even when they were essentially random. And, tragically, real people have lost their lives from self-driving cars that, in the face of wild uncertainty in what they were seeing, failed to slow down as a result. The next generation of AI systems, from medical diagnosis to robotics to cars, involves systems that know when they don't know - and that won't take an irrevocable action unless they're sure.

Speaker: Brian Christian, UC Berkeley

Register at weblink to obtain connection information

Astronomy on Tap Los Angeles - Livestream - 11/23/2020 07:30 PM
Astronomy on Tap,

We’ll hear from Casey Honniball: “Water on the Sunlit Moon” and from Kishalay De: “How Merging Stellar Corpses are Connected to the Calcium in Your Bones”. In addition, we will host interactive astronomically-themed pub trivia.

Tuesday, 11/24/2020

Whole Earth Seminars - Livestream - 11/24/2020 03:30 PM
UC Santa Cruz,

Speaker: Hansi Singh, UVIC

See weblink for connection/location information

Wednesday, 11/25/2020

Data Science for Managers Workshop - Livestream - 11/25/2020 11:00 AM
Magnimind Academy,

The AI Era: Opportunities and Challenges A Brief Introduction to Machine Learning Models:

Decision Tree, Neighbours Classifier, RandomForest Model, Gradient Boosting Regressor, SVM, Neural Networks


10:50 am - 11:00 am Arrival and socializing
11:00 am - 11:10 am Opening
11:10 am - 12:50 pm Abdullah Karasan, " Data Science for Managers Workshop"
12:50 pm - 1:00 pm Q&A

Speaker: Abdullah Karasan, Data Science consultant at Datajarlabs

Zoom link.

Webinar ID: 826 4382 2942

Saturday, 11/28/2020

Science Saturday: Magnificent Monarchs - 11/28/2020 10:00 AM
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Pacific Grove

Let’s celebrate the return of Pacific Grove's monarch butterfly population during Science Saturday Magnificent Monarchs. Get an up close view of live butterflies, follow their migration, and learn how to garden with butterflies in mind.

See weblink for Zoom button.

Virtual Telescope Viewing - Livestream - 11/28/2020 09:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center,

Join our resident astronomers on Facebook Live every Saturday evening live from Chabot’s Observation deck!

Each week, our astronomers will guide us through spectacular night sky viewing through Nellie, Chabot‘s most powerful telescope. Weather permitting we will be able to view objects live through the telescopes and our astronomers will be available for an open forum for all of your most pressing astronomy questions.

We will go live the Chabot Space & Science Center Facebook page 10-15 minutes before the event. You can find the live video stream on our Facebook page and in the Facebook event discussion. To receive a notification when we go live, “like” Chabot Space & Science Center on Facebook and RSVP that you’re going to this event.

RSVP on Facebook.

Monday, 11/30/2020

Coherent AC spin current transmission through antiferromagnetic CoO probed by X-ray detected ferromagnetic resonance - Livestream - 11/30/2020 02:30 PM
UC Berkeley,

Maxwell’s Demon, Schrodinger’s Cat, and Broca’s Brain: Gate keepers to the Future of Computing - Livestream - 11/30/2020 03:30 PM
SLAC Colloquium,

CIRTIS People and Robots Seminar - Livestream - 11/30/2020 04:00 PM
UC Berkeley,

Studying Hot QCD with Jets - Livestream - 11/30/2020 04:15 PM
UC Berkeley,

Phasing Out Fossil Fuels in Bay Area Buildings - Livestream - 11/30/2020 05:00 PM
SF Planning + Urban Research Assoc. (SPUR),

'I Am Gretta' - Screening and online discussion - 11/30/2020 05:00 PM
Citizens Climate Lobby,

Tuesday, 12/01/2020

7-1/2 Lessons About the Brain - Livestream - 12/01/2020 10:00 AM
Commonwealth Club - Online Event,

The persistent sediment delivery problem in rivers - Livestream - 12/01/2020 03:30 PM
UC Santa Cruz,

Wednesday, 12/02/2020

Free Wednesday at the UC Botanical Garden - CANCELED - 12/02/2020 09:00 AM
UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Decoding Innovation - The Innovation Delusion and the Maintenance Mindset - Livestream - 12/02/2020 11:00 AM
Computer History Museum,

Integrating Planning with Nature - Livestream - 12/02/2020 12:30 PM
SF Planning + Urban Research Assoc. (SPUR),

Thursday, 12/03/2020

Climate & Clean Air Zoomposium #2 - 12/03/2020 10:00 AM
SF Plann ing + Urban Research Assoc. (SPUR),

Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium - Livestream - 12/03/2020 12:00 PM
San Jose State University,

Winter Conifers Virtual Tour - 12/03/2020 03:00 PM
UC Botanical Garden,

Challenges & Opportunities in Plastic Recycling & Disposal - Livestream - 12/03/2020 04:00 PM
Stanford University,

December LASER Event - Livestre am - 12/03/2020 06:00 PM
LASER Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous,

Global Habitat Restoration documentaries and Panel Discussion - Livestream - 12/03/2020 06:30 PM
Estuary & Ocean Science Center,

NightSchool: Wild Cats on the West Coast - Livestream - 12/03/2020 07:00 PM
California Academy of Sciences,

After Dark Online: Celestial - Rising Tides - Livestream - 12/03/2020 07:00 PM

Wonderfest: The Cultural Intelligence Hypothesis - Livestream - 12/03/2020 08:00 PM

Friday, 12/04/2020

Unraveling the history of the San Andreas fault system in central California - Livestream - 12/04/2020 12:00 PM
institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics,

New Year’s Resolutions for the Land - Livestream - 12/04/2020 12:00 PM
Peninsula Open Space Trust,

Deep Ocean to Outer Space: Plast ic Pollution Solutions - Livestream - 12/04/2020 03:00 PM
Plastic Polution Coalition,

Saturday, 12/05/2020

Virtual Telescope Viewing - Livestream - 12/05/2020 09:00 PM
Chabot Space and Science Center,

Monday, 12/07/2020

Energy Futures: Smart Grids - Livestream - 12/07/2020 09:00 AM

From Wearables to Cordless Kitchen, NFC delivers wireless power and data - Livestream - 12/07/2020 12:00 PM

CIRTIS People and Robots Seminar - Livestream - 12/07/2020 04:00 PM
Stanford University,