Archive for January, 2013
Selected videos at the cutting edge of science. Genetic diversity reflects evolutionary pressures from environmental changes, principally climate and diet. These drivers explain why populations and individuals vary and why one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines and public health nutrition approaches derive from out-of-date reductionist science. Nutritional therapy is person-centred, recognising individuality and the complex network of environmental factors which influence health status.
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1) Quantum Life – Prof. Seth Lloyd
Seth Lloyd is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.
Prof. Lloyd is interested in information and the role it plays in physical systems, particularly systems in the quantum regime. Specific questions are: How do physical systems register information and move it about? How is information transformed and processed? And, most importantly, how do the ways in which a system transfers and transforms information determine its behavior?
He has worked on the definition of complexity using insights gained from the work of Rolf Landauer on physics of information processing and of Charles Bennett on computational measures of complexity. The definition of complexity he developed is related to the amount of thermodynamic resources required to perform a given task. Subsequently, he became a collector of measures of complexity: despite the proliferation of apparently disparate methods for quantifying the complex, he has been able to show that most such measures are closely related to each other. The definitions measure either information — the difficulty of describing a thing; or effort — the difficulty of accomplishing a task; or both.
The realization that information processing and physics are intimately related lie at the heart of Prof. Lloyd’s current work on quantum computation. Quantum computers are in essence complex quantum systems. In collaboration with Murray Gell-Mann he is working on a theory of quantum complexity. He hopes to use quantum mechanical computers to test methods by which the highly detailed, complex world that we see around us arose out of a highly symmetric, simple quantum world in the early universe.
As part of learning his current job as a professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, he has discovered the importance of work on complex systems for society as a whole. When the operation of a new car relies on the proper functioning of twenty microprocessors, when fear of a computer glitch inspires a global apocalyptic movement, when electronic devices from VCRs to toasters act as if they had minds of their own, it’s clear that our future welfare depends crucially on understanding how complex systems get information, and what they do with it.
1) The Nature of the Sense of Smell – Dr Luca Turin
Turin earned his Ph.D. in physiology at University College London. From 1982 until 1988, he worked in France as a researcher for the CNRS at the Villefranche Marine Station near Nice. He was then employed at the Pasteur Institute from 1988 until 1990.
After leaving the CNRS, Turin first held a visiting research position at the National Institutes of Health in North Carolina before moving back to London, where he became a lecturer in biophysics at University College London.
As of 2010, Turin is currently at MIT, working on a project to develop an electronic nose based in part on his theories, financed by DARPA. From April 2011 on, he will be working at the Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Centre in Vari, Greece.
Turin is the author of the book The Secret of Scent (2006), which details the history and science of his theory of olfaction, and an acclaimed critical guide to perfume, Parfums: Le Guide, with two editions published in French in 1992 and 1994. He is also the subject of the 2002 book The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr, as well as of the 1995 BBC Horizon documentary “A Code in the Nose.”