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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
8:00 pm
Beckman Auditorium – Beckman Auditorium

Robert M. May - Lauritsen Memorial Lecture: "Best of Times, Worst of Times: Hard Choices for Tomorrow's World"

Presented By: Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

In both developed and developing worlds, humans on average live longer and healthier lives, with more energy subsidies and food per person than in earlier times. All this results from our ever-increasing understanding of how the natural world works. But increasingly we are finding that our well-intentioned applications of that understanding are having unintended adverse effects. This talk will briefly survey some of the consequent challenges that confront us. These include: still increasing human numbers, mainly in dense urban eggregates (whose slums differ in many important ways from those of the West's 19th century industrialization); the emergence of new diseases (witness HIV/AIDS); how to manage increasing demands for energy, when today's input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are already changing the global climate in serious ways; and, looking beyond our own species, the sixth great wave of mass extinctions, which seems likely to unfold over the next few centuries.

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