The National Academies' Distinguished Speaker Series runs Jan. 17-March 21, 2007

December 20, 2006

IRVINE, Calif. - The National Academies announce today the winter 2007 program for Distinctive Voices at the Beckman Center, held at the Academies' Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center, 100 Academy Drive, Irvine, Calif. The winter series of speakers will explore the far-reaching role of science, technology, and medicine in our lives and highlight innovations, discoveries, and emerging issues in an engaging forum.

The curious will enjoy this opportunity to expand their understanding of current scientific issues from experts, including members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Event topics include optimizing mental functioning in later life, new developments for enabling the blind to see, reducing health care cost without compromising quality, turning good science into good television, the ongoing debate over teaching evolution in schools, transforming the U.S. energy system by replacing gasoline with hydrogen, and the creation of false memories.

2007 Winter Events:

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m.
Growing Old or Living Long: Take Your Pick

Is mental decline inevitable as we age? Dr. Laura Carstensen describes gains that come with age. Explore recent scientific findings which challenge traditional models of the aging mind and understand the conditions that may optimize your own functioning in later life.

Laura Carstensen, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at Stanford University and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. Her research is supported by the National Institute on Aging. She received Stanford University's Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Richard Kalish Award for Innovative Research. In 2003 she was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow, and in 2006 she received the Distinguished Career Award from the Gerontological Society of America.

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
Helping the Blind to See

Dr. Mark Humayun is pioneering new ways of helping the blind. Learn about the high-tech materials and advanced surgical techniques being used to implant an intraocular retinal prosthesis, which assumes the role that disease-damaged cells in the retina can no longer perform. Humayun has made new discoveries about the effects of eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, and his work is restoring hope to those who previously had little chance of seeing again.

Mark Humayun, M.D., Ph.D., is professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering, University of Southern California; associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute; director, NSF Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems Engineering Research Center at the University of Southern California; and is the sole or co-holder of 19 patents.

Monday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
Building a 60 mpg Health Care System

If health care spending could be likened to "fuel," then some physicians are the equivalent of high-mileage vehicles, while others, often unknowingly and unintentionally, function as the medical equivalent of a gas-guzzling SUV. Dr. Arnold Milstein will discuss the cost factors that physicians influence, the psychology of making change, and how costs can be reduced without a loss in quality of care.

Arnold Milstein, M.D., M.P.H, is the medical director of the Pacific Business Group on Health and the U.S. Health Care Thought Leader at Mercer Health & Benefits. The New England Journal of Medicine described him as a "pioneer" in efforts to advance quality of health care. Dr. Milstein is a member of the Institute of Medicine and received the highest award of the National Business Group on Health for his achievement in health care cost reduction and quality gains.

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m.
Good Science and Good Television: A Natural Fit?

What do chocolate, Albert Einstein, and the U.S. Capitol have in common? They have all been subjects of documentaries created by award-winning producer and science writer, Tom Levenson, who will discuss turning good science into good television. He will also illustrate the challenges of science reporting using clips from his work.

Tom Levenson has produced such notable television documentaries as "Einstein Revealed" and "Origins: Back to the Beginning," for which he received a National Academies Communication Award in 2005. He is also a recipient of the Peabody Award, New York Chapter Emmy, and the AAAS/Westinghouse award. An associate professor of science writing at MIT, his most recent book is Einstein in Berlin.

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m.
The Evolution of Creationism

John T. Scopes is remembered as the teacher whose trial became a lasting symbol of the creationism/evolution controversy in America. More than 80 years later, the debate continues. Dr. Eugenie Scott offers an exciting, thought-provoking explanation of the issues. Understand the history of the debate, the scientific evidence, the legal and educational basis for teaching evolution, various religious points of view, and predictions for the future.

Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., is a physical anthropologist and executive director of the National Center for Science Education. She has been a researcher and activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for more than 20 years, receiving numerous national awards. She is the author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, and co-author of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools.

Wednesday, March 14, 7 p.m.
The Hydrogen Economy: Possibilities and Hurdles

Michael Ramage explores how using hydrogen as a major fuel could transform the U.S. energy system. Using only domestic resources, the potential exists for replacing gasoline with hydrogen over the next half century. This shift could increase energy security and eliminate almost all CO2 from vehicular emissions.

Michael P. Ramage, Ph.D., chaired the National Research Council's Committee on Alternatives and Strategies for Future Hydrogen Production and Use, and currently chairs the Committee on Assessment of Resource Needs for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies. He is also a current member of the Research Council's Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and retired executive vice president, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.

Wednesday, March 21, 7 p.m.
The Creation of False Memories

Elizabeth Loftus has proved that eyewitness testimony is sometimes unreliable and false memories can be triggered by suggestion. Dr. Loftus will explain how this happens and the legal implications when it does. Dr. Loftus was named one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century by the Review of General Psychology, and she was the top-ranked woman on the list.

Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., is distinguished professor at the University of California, Irvine, holding positions in the departments of psychology & social behavior, criminology, law & society, and cognitive sciences. Dr. Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases, including the McMartin Preschool Molestation case, the Oklahoma City Bombing case, and the trials of the Hillside Strangler, Oliver North, the Menendez brothers, Michael Jackson, and Martha Stewart. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, she is the author of 20 books and more than 400 scientific articles. Her book Eyewitness Testimony won a National Media Award from the American Psychological Foundation.

All events are on weeknights at 7 p.m. at the Beckman Center, 100 Academy Way, Irvine, CA 92617. The audience is invited to continue the conversation with the speaker at a complimentary dessert and coffee reception following each program.

To register online for any of these events or obtain a map and directions, visit For more information, e-mail or call 949-387-6622.
The National Academies comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. Distinctive Voices at the Beckman Center is supported by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Fund of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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