2010 Rostrum videos

ROSTRUM: The Language and Thinking Lecture Series at Bard College, August 2010


“Darwin and 21st Century Biology: Variation, Selection, and Diversity”

—Michèle Dominy, Dean of the College and Professor of Anthropology, and Felicia Keesing, Associate Professor of Biology,
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
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“Evolution, Lyme Disease, and Biodiversity”
—Felicia Keesing, Associate Professor of Biology, Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The world is in the midst of two global environmental crises — biodiversity loss and the rise of emerging infectious diseases. Surprisingly, recent evidence suggests that these two crises may in fact be linked by ecological and evolutionary processes. Beginning from the simplest biology, Professor Keesing will describe her work showing that the loss of biodiversity can lead to an increase in the transmission of Lyme disease. She will describe how the pattern seen in Lyme disease has now been found in numerous other human diseases, including schistosomiasis and West Nile virus encephalitis, as well as diseases of plants and wildlife. Finally, she will explain how knowledge of these processes can help us manage diseases to reduce risk.


“Music, Modernism, Humanism: Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite”

—A performance by the Daedalus Quartet and a talk by Leon Botstein, President of the College and Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Thursday, August 12, 2010



“RECESS”
— Jonah Bokaer and Daniel Arsham, in collaboration with the performers, Friday, August 13, 2010
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RECESS is a collaboration between visual artist Daniel Arsham and choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer.  RECESS is a site-specific work that challenges architectural space through the in situ implementation of choreography, objects, to challenge perceptual assumptions between these forces.    In their work together, the artists create a score around the following words: Collapse- Expansion- Explosion- Single/Multiple- Rational form versus natural form- Time- Broken time-  Rules / Broken Rules


“Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google”

—Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director, The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities, Associate Professor of Political Studies and Human Rights, Monday, August 16, 2010
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In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt distinguishes humans from animals by their ability to create artificial worlds. Without the power of artifice, humans would be at the mercy of nature, thus no different from animals. The problem that confronts man in the 20th and now 21st centuries, Arendt explains, is that we face the danger that we might so fully create and make our artificial world that we endanger that quality of human life which is subject to fate, nature, and chance. She names this danger earth alienation, which she argues has its beginnings with Gallileo’s discovery of the telescope. In this talk, I explore the origin and meaning of earth alienation from Gallileo to Google.


“On Computing and Simulation”

—Keith O’Hara, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Monday, August 16, 2010
Simulation, and computation in general, play important roles in the science, engineering and art that shape our daily lives. Policy makers use computer models to support legislative decisions about climate change. Roommates foster long forgotten friendships, relay relationship statuses and tend virtual farms on Facebook. Is computer simulation fundamentally different than other methods of modeling and abstraction? Or is the digital computer “just another tool” to ask (and answer) “What if?” questions? In this lecture, we will discuss the many meanings of simulation, where, when and why it is used, and the role of computing transparency and literacy in a democratic, digital era.


“Liberal Education and Freedom”

—Max Kenner, Executive Director, Bard Prison Initiative, and Daniel Berthold, Professor of Philosophy, Tuesday, August 17, 2010


“Antigone’s Autonomy”

—David McNeill, Department of Philosophy, University of Essex, England, Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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Shortly before she is led away to be buried alive for transgressing the edict forbidding the burial of her brother, Antigone, for the first time, apparently laments her fate.  No one will sing a marriage hymn for her, she says, because her marriage is to Acheron.  The chorus attempts to console her with the following words: “But, will you not have fame and praise when you depart into the depths of the bodies of the dead? You were not struck
down by wasting diseases, nor did you pay the price of the sword, but autonomous, you are the only mortal who will go down alive into Hades.”

The chorus’ words contain the very first recorded instance of the word “autonomous” (
autonomos), a law of the self. This is also the only early use of autonomos to refer not to either a self-governing political community or an individual as a member of such a community, but to something like what we think of autonomous agency, i.e. free, independent or self-legislating action.  Strikingly, in the Antigone, ‘autonomy’ is explicitly related to Antigone’s uncanny relation to life and death.  This paper will center on what we can learn about the Antigone by focusing on her transgressive action as an example of the virtue of autonomy, and what we can learn about the virtue of autonomy by reflecting on the Antigone.


“The Time of Cholera: History of an Infectious Disease”

—Brooke Jude, Assistant Professor of Biology, Thursday, August 19, 2010

Microbiology and microbial infectious diseases have played a significant role in shaping the fields of public health, epidemiology and microbiology. Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, was responsible for the formation of the first boards of health and was the first reportable disease to these boards. We’ll examine the illness of cholera and the organism causing it, the historical discoveries of Snow and Koch concerning V. cholerae, and how 21st century cholera outbreaks in many areas of the world drive the research for more effective treatment and prevention.


“Climate Change Avatars”

Eban Goodstein, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Friday, August 20, 2010
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Tired of hearing 50+ year old white guys tell you that we screwed up the planet, that we’re sorry, but now you have to fix it?  This talk will focus on the science, economics, and politics of global warming, and show how– if my 50+ generation will first deliver– then you really do face a brilliant opportunity to vastly enrich the future.


“Modeling Sustainability: The Human Unknown”

—Gidon Eshel, Bard Center Fellow in Physics, Math and Environmental Science, Monday, August 23, 2010
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One of the biggest challenges humanity now confronts is anthropogenic (= brought about by human actions) climate change. Yet the enormity and urgency of the task at hand is only surpassed by the manifest unwillingness/inability of governments throughout the world to act. Can individuals change that? Do we even know what to do in case we decide to commit ourselves to change? In my talk, I will introduce the general idea of model building in the physical sciences, and quickly narrow the discussion to numerical models. I will then highlight some climate change related issues that can or are modeled, and what they tell us about the scope of game changing personal decisions open to us.


“Hudson Valley Foodshed: Who’s Doing the Work?”

—A discussion with local farmers, including Kaycee Wimbish, of Awesome Farm, Ben Shute, of Hearty Roots Farm, Derrick Mead, of Mead Orchards, and Ken Kleinpeter, of Glynwood Farm, Tuesday August 17th, 2010
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Young farmers face a particularly fierce confluence of obstacles as they work to start and sustain their farm operation here in the Hudson Valley, the headwaters of the capital of capital.  Despite unprecedented demand for fresh, local, organic and gloriously colorful produce down in the city, in agriculture it is never a simple story of supply and demand. The complex set of relationships, processes and practices that play into the production of food are often overlooked in the glistening and glossy interface of “supermarket.” This panel will help clue you in to the backstory of the food grown by people who live nearby, and daily work land visible from a highway you may drive on everyday. It aims to enhance food literacy and introduce young people who have chosen to ‘be the change’ astride a tractor, instead of in a cubicle at the UN.


Bug Safari

—Philip Johns, Assistant Professor of Biology

Arguably, the initial stage of any scientific exploration is observation.  In this exercise, we will explore the local insect fauna on Bard’s campus, catch, handle, and identify a variety of insects, ask questions about their biology based on our observations, and design ways to answer our questions.