Public Lecture - The Decline of Classic Maya Civilization: A Systems Perspective

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 • 7:30 PM • James A. Little Theater, New Mexico School for the Deaf

The decline and abandonment of many key cities in the Southern Maya Lowlands around A.D. 800 has long attracted scholarly and public attention. While archaeologists now understand – contrary to previous thought – that Maya civilization did not collapse at this time, as a number of Maya cities continued to thrive up until the 16th century Spanish Conquest, the causes of the relatively rapid demise of cities such as Tikal, Palenque, and Copan remain of great interest. New archaeological, epigraphic, and environmental information have enabled archaeologists to form better models that provide more systemic perspectives on this decline than ever before. Sabloff examines the new data and models and discusses their potential relevance to problems facing the world today.

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"Dialing for Answers Where Web Can’t Reach"

There is a new service helping people in Uganda, who don’t have access to computers, find answers to their questions. Question Box was started and has been successful. Workers use their cell phones to call the Question Box call center to ask a question for locals. The call center then gives them the answer. The worker is then given free minutes for their cell phone usage. SFI Omidyar Fellow Nathan Eagle has been doing research on cellphones and development in Africa. Eagle also runs a cellphone-based business in Kenya. Eagle states, “We can’t sit in our offices in America and decide what is useful to people and what is meaningful in their lives. The services only add value if they are open-ended.”

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"How to Measure What We Don't Know"

In their study, James Crutchfield, SFI External Professor and Physics Professor at the University of California at Davis, and graduate students Christopher Ellison and John Mahoney, developed the analogy of scientists as cryptologists who are trying to glean hidden information from Nature. As they explain, “Nature speaks for herself only through the data she willingly gives up.”

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"Nobel laureate honored in lecture series"

SFI, now celebrating its 25th year, will offer a series of three free lectures in tribute to Nobel Prize winner Murray Gell-Mann, starting Tuesday September 15 at the James A. Little Theater.

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"A Place Removed from the Pressure of Received Ideas"

Murray Gell-Mann, SFI Distinguished Professor and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics was one of the originators of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research center in New Mexico that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Gell-Mann recently addressed a group of about 150 high school students gathered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for Adventures of the Mind, a biennial summit for academically outstanding 15- to 18-year-olds. Gell-Mann described the origins of and philosophy behind the Santa Fe Institute’s approach to science.

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"Economic Networks: The New Challenges"

SFI External Professor Douglas White and colleagues present their research into finding an approach to facilitate the design of policies in the complexity of economic networks. The research into economic networks has been studied by two perspectives: sociology and physics or computer science. White and colleagues describe what is needed in order to be able to predict and propose economic policies. With computational models, large-scale network date can be processed quickly and can reflect agent interactions.

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Workshop: Engineering new vaccines

In August Thomas Kepler, a Duke University computational immunologist and former SFI Vice President, is leading a workshop at SFI on “Quantitative and Systems Biology” to introduce graduate students and postdocs to new techniques on how vaccines work and why they sometimes fail.

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Cyber phenom feels home with the ‘smart crazies’ — ‘Disruptive technologist’ drawn to Santa Fe Institute

Virgil Griffith, the creator of WikiScanner, has spent the past four summers as an undergraduate researcher at SFI. WikiScanner is a program that lets you see who is editing content in Wikipedia. Griffith began his work on WikiScanner while at SFI. This WikiScanner program has busted Wal-Mart and several other major corporations editing and removing content from the Wikipedia entry of their companies. Griffith has been drawn to SFI since he was in high school. He always wanted to be “where all the really smart crazies are.” And as SFI President Geoffrey West said, “He’s certainly one of our crazy smart people. He’s very interesting and he’s very SFI-ish.” Griffith will spend all of September at SFI continuing work on his plethora of projects.

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Public Lecture

The Computer, the Brain, and the Internet The quest to understand intelligence and consciousness remains one of the greatest scientific challenges of our age. In an effort to explain the brain, scientists have turned historically to computers, both as a tool for studying the brain and mind, and as a model for how the brain might work. We now live in the age of distributed data and computers, and the internet has emerged as a giant cobweb of communication among computers and their users. Some now suggest that the internet is our best current model for the brain, and thought is nothing but a form of search in the space of ideas. As we move towards more advanced technology, the brain, the computer, and the internet are progressively merging, and our identities and insights are assuming a radically new form. In this series of talks and discussions we shall explore this new hybrid world and its implications for the intellectual future of our species.

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