The Fall 2010 Lectures


Thursday, October 7 at 7:30 pm        MISSISSAUGA

Space Exploration and Technology Transfer: A Role for Canada
Mike Dixon, Ph.D., Director, Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, School of Environmental Sciences, U of Guelph

Controlled environments are a necessary technical requirement to facilitate human exploration initiatives in space. For long-term exploration missions on the moon and Mars, it is also clear that green plants as a source of food, oxygen, fresh water and carbon dioxide uptake are equally necessary. The technology needed to grow food crops on the Moon or Mars reliably and indefinitely is virtually the same as that now used in technologically sophisticated greenhouses on Earth. Likewise, advances required for the more demanding environments in space yield a wealth of technology transfer for terrestrial applications, including recycling protocols for hydroponic nutrient solutions, recyclable growth media, advanced sensor technology for feedback control of environmental variables, disinfection protocols that leave no toxic residues, and biological filtration applications for atmospheric pollutants.  Canadian initiatives in advanced life support (ALS) requirements for space exploration are the technology “pull” for spin-offs in terrestrial sectors.

Sunday, October 17 at 3 pm                     TORONTO

Charles Darwin: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Transmutation
Seth Feldman, Ph.D., Professor, University Professor (Honorific), York University; Director, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies
Charles Darwin’s research was a turning point in the investigation into how nature works.  But Darwin was far from the first person to have ideas about what we now call evolution.  Nor did he give us the last word.  This lecture looks at the evolution of evolution before Darwin, describes Darwin’s contribution to that evolution, and then takes the story forward – through several ups and downs – to our own time.  Along the way, we meet an eclectic collection of homo sapiens and related primates as well as other flora and fauna.

Sunday, October 24 at 3 pm                      TORONTO

Observing the Birthplaces of the Universe

Michel Fich, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D., Department of Physics and Astronomy, U of Waterloo

Planets, stars, and galaxies are born in dense clouds where interstellar dust hides the birth process from our view.  This year new far infrared telescopes and instruments, including the recently launched Herschel Space Observatory (the largest telescope in space), allow us to peer inside these clouds and see details of the formation of these objects at the earliest stages in the process.  This talk will present recent results from these new instruments and the plans to construct, within the next decade, other instruments working in the far infrared.

Co-sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 

Sunday, October 31 at 3 pm                     TORONTO

Nuisance and Indispensable Ally:  The Dual Role of Bacteria
Gideon Wolfaardt, Ph.D., Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biology, Ryerson University.  Adjunct Professor, Department of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, U of T
Estimates of the number of bacterial species on earth vary greatly -- from a few million to a billion. Only a relatively small number of these bacteria have been characterized – typically those that cause disease or food spoilage, followed by those used in biotechnological applications.  The “unsung heroes” are the diverse group of microorganisms that play crucial roles in ecosystem services: the provision of clean air, water, soil, and energy.  The combination of modern-day microscopy and molecular tools enables an exciting journey into the micro and sub-micro world unseen by the naked eye, yet with tremendous impact on humans and their planet.  Examples relevant to health care, industry and environmental processes will be discussed.

Thursday, November 4 at 7:30 pm     MISSISSAUGA

Tales from a Bering Sea Research Cruise: A Quest for Archives of Past Climates
Jochen Halfar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Geology, Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, U of T at Mississauga
In order to reconstruct climate of the Bering Sea, gigantic algae that have lived continuously for hundreds of years were collected as novel archives of climate.  After an introduction to marine field work, results from the algal reconstructions will be discussed in the framework of large-scale patterns of the global climate system.

Sunday, November 7 at 3 pm                   TORONTO

Does Autoimmunity Drive Obesity?
Hans-Michael Dosch, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Immunology, U of T; The Hospital for Sick Children NMH Program

Obesity is a globally growing challenge to the continued extension of human lifespans.  We have discovered that cellular immunity drives the progression of obesity through frank, tissue-specific autoimmunity in visceral adipose tissue. Immunotherapy can correct the problem.

Sunday, November 14 at 3 pm                 TORONTO

Adventures in Animal Behaviour
Suzanne E. MacDonald, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Psychology, York University 

This talk takes you on a journey inside the secret lives of animals, from elephants in Kenya, to tigers and polar bears in the zoo, to computer-loving orangutans. Nonhuman animals ‘speak’ through their behaviour, and through careful observation we can get a glimpse of how they view the world.  My research is designed to learn how different species think, and I will discuss how we can use that knowledge to enrich their lives, both in captivity and in the wild.

Sunday, November 21 at 3 pm                  TORONTO

The Importance of Sleep:  A Wake-up Call
Michael J. Sole, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), F.A.C.C., F.A.H.A., F.C.A.H.S., Professor of Medicine and Physiology, U of T; Peter Munk Cardiology Centre, University Health Network 

There is a relationship between the day/night cycle and the occurrence of various medical conditions.  For example, heart attacks tend to occur between 6am and 10 am.  However, there are no actual cause-and-effect data for any specific disease.  I will show that many genes are controlled by internal cellular clocks and that gene expression varies according to the day/night cycle.  My laboratory was the first to demonstrate that harmony between internal and external day/night rhythms is essential for healthy organ growth and repair and that discord (e.g. shift work, chronic sleep disruption) may cause diseases such as heart attack, heart failure, and kidney damage. 

Thursday, November 25 at 7:30 pm        TORONTO

NOTE: This lecture will be given in Room 3154 of the Medical Sciences Building, 1 Kings College Circle (not in the MacLeod Auditorium)


Quantum Magic for Everyone
Gilles Brassard, Ph.D., Professor, University of Montreal, Recipient of the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

Quantum mechanics has the potential to spark an unprecedented revolution in information processing.  Whereas quantum computers could trigger a complete meltdown of the schemes currently used over the Internet to protect the security of electronic commerce, quantum cryptography allows us to fight back, making it possible to communicate with unconditional confidentiality.

RCI joined forces with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada’s major funder of science and engineering in universities, to establish the Foundation Lecture, celebrating the foundation of the RCI in 1849.  The Lecture is delivered by the winner of the NSERC Herzberg Award, presented for a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment in research in science or engineering.
(For information on previous Foundation Lectures, go HERE)

Sunday, November 28 at 3 pm               TORONTO


Why Do Things Spin and Fly?
Russell Zeid, RCI Council Member

Demonstration and explanations of some of the forces that bind our universe together from gravity to electro-magnetism and things that spin and fly.  Physical physics!

Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm    MISSISSAUGA

Biomaterials from Bacteria: Nature’s Nanotechnology
John R. Dutcher, Ph.D., P.Phys., Department of Physics; Canada Research Chair in Soft Matter Physics, U of Guelph Polymer Surface and Interface Group

Bacteria are microorganisms that have evolved over 3.5 billion years and are responsible for a wide range of phenomena in the world around us, from causing diseases to helping digest food to shaping the surface and sub-surface of the earth.  In response to their environment, they have evolved an amazing set of specialized materials and mechanisms to ensure their survival.  I will discuss our multidisciplinary approach to the study of bacteria and bacterial colonies, while focusing on bacteria as a source of unique biomaterials and emphasizing the underlying science.

We thank the University of Toronto and 
the Mississauga Central Library for their support


FREE public one-hour lectures followed by a question period

TORONTO:  Sundays at 3 pm (doors open at 2:15)

MacLeod Auditorium, Medical Sciences Building, University of Toronto

1 King’s College Circle (Nearest Subway is Queen’s Park Station)

Parking on campus, pay/display; limited disabled parking available

MISSISSAUGA: Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm at Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga Central Library, 301 Burnhamthorpe Road W.  Free parking is available under the library.  The entrance is an unmarked ramp that can only be accessed southbound on Duke of York Boulevard between City Centre Drive and Burnhamthorpe Road.