Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jones Seminars and Energy

One of my favorite things back when I was at Dartmouth (particularly in my later, heavy-engineering years) was the Jones Seminars at the Thayer School. Friday afternoons, at the end of a long week (usually with a long weekend ahead, too), we'd gather in room 100 for coffee and cookies and a lecture. Yes, this is a geeky way of kicking back.

These were general interest lectures in science and technology given by distinguished guests or Dartmouth professors. Some of my more memorable ones were about the Columbia Accident investigation, bio-engineering a yeast to produce complex human hormones and proteins (now the focus of a successful Dartmouth spinoff), some interesting futures in robotics, the two-mile time machine, high-efficiency solar cells, and so on.

This fall, the subject of all the Jones Seminars are on energy, climate change and, most importantly, what can we do about it. Being a mostly-engineering audience, the focus of the interventions are things like cellulosic ethanol (another dartmouth spinoff) and carbon capture and sequestration. But, consistent with the Thayer School's mission, there were have also been speakers from non-profits and, just yesterday, from BP. There was a tie-in to an energy symposium put on the by the Thayer School as well.

Absolutely the best part about all this is that these lectures, which were always videotaped, are now available as video podcasts, too. I can remember a few years ago wanting to watch one of these lectures again, and having to wait four weeks for the videotape to be post-produced and available through the library (not on the shelves, even). Now, the post production is done in a day or two, and the video can be downloaded and watched by anyone, anywhere. They are available in large video format (640x480, approx 100 MB / lecture), small video format (QVGA, about 60 MB), or just straight audio. Unfortunately, they need to be transcoded (i.e., reformatted) to fit properly on my iPhone. The transcoding is kind of slow, so mostly I just watch on my computer.

Although these series are given to a mostly engineer audience, they are accessible to most folks. The focus this term on energy and what we can do about it is, I believe, particularly important. These are very informative and entertaining lectures given by very intelligent people, and I encourage all our readers to check them out.

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