Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

When you go to Mars, take a towel—and a handful of seeds

3 Nov 2013 -
1:45pm to 2:30pm
Space Agriculture
Mixture of seeds including common beans, lentils and split peas

For Anna-Lisa Paul, taking plants into a space is a way of understanding just what they’re made of. Challenged to survive outside their ancestral environment, plants leverage a unique genetic toolkit to adapt to new challenges; in the process, they reveal how they work. Usinc zero-g experiments, for example, Paul and her colleagues achieved a new understanding of how plants’ roots grow, upending a long-held theory that gravity holds the key. She is currently combining parabolic flight and orbital experiments with imaging and gene expression studies.

Anna-Lisa Paul

research associate professor of horticultural sciences
University of Florida

Simplicity, surprise, science

3 Nov 2013 -
10:45am to 11:45am
Inquiry and invention
Three slices of red onions showing the concentric rings

Sir William Bragg is said to have said: “The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” Having worked at the frontier of one of the most complex of the sciences, chemistry, George M. Whitesides has launched an effort Bragg would applaud: peeling back the layers of complexity in modern science to discern the scientific meaning of simplicity and thus to discover new scientific methods and approaches to invention.

Bursts of color on the tree of life: The turbulent evolution of flowers

4 Nov 2013 -
3:45pm to 4:30pm
Plant Evolution
Blocks of multicolored and multispecies flowers

Even if your name is Rose or Daisy, to an evolutionary geneticist you’re a pale imitation of a flower. Flowering plants frequently go through whole-genome doubling and other radical events rare in the animal kingdom. The fossil and phylogenetic record of plants is full of bursts of speciation and radiation and turbulent periods of rapid evolutionary experimentation. As a result, a number of today’s crops and flowering species have large and remarkable toolkits allowing surprising adaptations.

Doug Soltis

Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology
University of Florida

Pam Soltis

Distinguished Professor; curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics
University of Florida; Florida Museum of Natural History

Crashing markets, power blackouts and sudden death: The physics of a networked world

3 Nov 2013 -
9:30am to 10:30am
Network Science
yellow spheres and green lines showing a complex network

Massive power outages, global financial crashes and sudden death in the elderly are all startling and befuddling events. To Gene Stanley, they're unavoidable shocks in an interconnected world, where interdependencies between networks create dangerous vulnerabilities. Stanley and his colleagues have uncovered new laws that show why everyday fluctuations in one network can trigger abrupt failures across coupled networks. They've found that the rapid switching typical of financial networks produces features analogous to phase transitions in physics.

H. Eugene Stanley

William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor; professor of physics, chemistry, biomedical engineering and physiology; director, Center for Polymer Studies
Boston University


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