Friday, October 19, 2012
Beckman Institute Auditorium

Last Will. & Testament on Tour

Columbus to D'Ailly: Are We There Yet?

Christopher Columbus made a few mistakes in researching the route to Japan, his first intended destination on his famous 1492 voyage to the Indies. Among the worst: he ignored sound contemporary scholarship on the size of Earth, its continents, and its oceans in favor of estimates made by medieval theologian and cosmographer Pierre D'Ailly, who was born 101 years before Columbus. Why did Columbus put so much faith in D'Ailly? Perhaps because he stood to gain so much by it, claims Columbus expert and Caltech history professor Nicolás Wey-Gómez.

Caltech Again Named World's Top University in <i>Times Higher Education</i> Global Ranking

PASADENA, Calif.—The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has been rated the world's number one university in the 2012–2013 Times Higher Education global ranking of the top 200 universities.

Oxford University, Stanford University, Harvard University, and MIT round out the top five.

Matthew Elliott: Modeling Networks

Matthew Elliott is Caltech's newest assistant professor of economics. Born in England, he earned his BA and MPhil from Oxford in 2002 and 2004. After receiving his PhD from Stanford in 2011, he spent a year at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before arriving in Pasadena this fall.

Ready for Your Close-Up?

As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." For people in certain professions—acting, modeling, and even politics—this phrase rings particularly true. Previous studies have examined how our social judgments of pictures of people are influenced by factors such as whether the person is smiling or frowning, but until now one factor has never been investigated: the distance between the photographer and the subject. According to a new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), this turns out to make a difference—close-up photo subjects, the study found, are judged to look less trustworthy, less competent, and less attractive.

Making the Healthy Choice

Almost everyone knows the feeling: you see a delicious piece of chocolate cake on the table, but as you grab your fork, you think twice. The cake is too fattening and unhealthy, you tell yourself. Maybe you should skip dessert. But the cake still beckons.

Caltech and Princeton University Press Release Thirteenth Volume of Einstein Papers

A new volume in the Einstein Papers Project is scheduled to be released on September 25. This volume covers a turbulent 15 months in the physicist's life and includes several hundred previously unpublished and unknown articles and letters, some of which express his desire for "a normal life."

NIMH Awards $9 Million Grant to Caltech Researchers

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded a five-year, $9 million grant to a research group Caltech to study the neurobiology of social decision making.

The grant establishes a Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research, where researchers will use electrophysiology and functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how humans make social decisions. 

Thinking and Choosing in the Brain

The frontal lobes are the largest part of the human brain, and damage to this area can result in profound impairments in reasoning and decision making. To find out more about what different parts of the frontal lobes do, neuroscientists at Caltech teamed up with researchers at the world's largest registry of brain-lesion patients. By mapping the brain lesions of these patients, the team was able to show that reasoning and behavioral control are dependent on different regions of the lobes than the areas called upon when making a decision.

Forging Ahead

Tom Harris came to Caltech with an undeclared major, thinking he would study computer science. But, having been an avid Lego builder as a kid, he was drawn to mechanical engineering. He also has an interest in medieval history, which similarly dates back to his childhood—he loved pirates and knights, and both his parents were history majors—and after he took Brown's medieval history class, his impression of the study of history changed.

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