Following are short descriptions of the presentations planned for the April 12 event (with speakers in parentheses), listed alphabetically by title. See the program on the AGENDA + WEBCAST page for the expected time of each presenter’s remarks.

  • Bliss Buzzers (Ramesh Rao): The development of technology ecosystems such as Android has made it possible to hack into previously impenetrable systems, for example automobiles, centrifuges and heart pace makers. So the question arises: Can we reclaim these approaches to better understand psychosomatic phenomena? In an age when attention deficit has become a lifestyle, can we build wearable systems -- such as the 'bliss buzzers' of the title -- that rechannel somatic signals so we might rediscover how to eat, breathe, exercise or meditate. Prof. Ramesh Rao, director of Calit2's Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego, will share a few vignettes from personal and group experiments with quantifying oneself with newly emergent wearable sensors. The focus is on extracting insights from the gathered data to characterize wellness. He will also describe a Calit2-developed Android app designed to provide real-time feedback on the effect of various activities on individuals and groups.
  • Beautiful Brains (Jacopo Annese): Dr. Annese will talk about his Brain Library Project: an ambitious effort to preserve a vast archive of human brains together with their medical and life histories and the results of a variety of tests, ranging from IQ, to cognitive functioning, and personality. The Digital Brain Library Project was featured as the world’s most innovative brain bank by the Financial Times (December 2011). Included in the brain bank are renowned scientists, artists and one of the most famous cases in medicine: the amnesic patient H.M. In the short term, the archive is answering crucial questions about the mechanisms of major neurological diseases like Parkinson and Alzheimer's; in the long term the brain library will match future patients living with neurological disease to images and data that Annese and his team are collecting now. The extraordinary outcome of this unorthodox brain banking project is that documenting the stories of individual donors have created a paradigm shift in the way we look at brains; from objects of study to the morphological expression of unique life histories that make each case, ordinary or extraordinary, truly personal.
  • Bioinspiration in Engineering (Michael M. Porter): Bioinspiration in engineering begins with the study of biological phenomena. By mimicking one or more aspects of the design, function, or properties of natural materials and devices, scientist and engineers are able to create new bio-inspired technologies that are lighter, tougher, and stronger. This presentation will discuss two ongoing projects on bioinspiration in engineering at UCSD. The first project involves the development of magnetic field aligned freeze casting inspired by the narwhal. Freeze casting is a popular method to fabricate porous ceramic materials, using ice as a template to generate intricate microstructural features with unidirectional alignment. Applications of freeze cast ceramics include lightweight structural composites and potential bone replacements. By adding a rotating magnetic field to conventional freeze casting, porous ceramics were fabricated with spiraling architectures that closely resemble the spiraling nature of the narwhal tusk. The resulting materials showed enhanced mechanical performance and multidirectional alignment due to the applied magnetic fields. The second project involves the development of flexible robotics inspired by the seahorse. The seahorse tail is composed of highly deformable bones arranged in articulating ring-like structures that overlap for controlled bending and twisting. Studying the biomechanics of the seahorse tail revealed unusual deformation mechanisms that protect the tail from crushing. By mimicking the structural arrangement of the bones in the tail, our group plans to develop a bioinspired synthetic gripping device with artificial muscles and bones fabricated from air-actuated polymers and 3-D printing.
  • Butterflies without Borders (Institute Papilio Oscula): The presentation will introduce a design for a Monarch butterfly habitat restoration scheme along the Tijuana-San Diego border.
  • Out of the Wor(l)d and Into a Fox: A New Experiment in Hypnotic Navigation (Hermione Spriggs): Hermione Spriggs is working on a series of conversation starters or ‘énoncés’ as attempts to utilize the practical capacity of language to act in material ways. They are gateways into hypnotic engagement; extra-personal sketches for unfathomable modes of conceptual understanding, yet to be created. The resulting choreography of speech and space amounts to a new box of tools with which to construct a corporeal direction for Material Culture Studies. It suggests what we might begin to do with our bodies, in order to absorb the world breaking up into multiple raptures of things. She is particularly interested in communicating through a non-linear and non-human language. This language is an organ language of the body of a fox.
  • Robot Hat Day (Saura Naderi): In the summer of 2011, Calit2’s myLab Program initiated the first Girls’ Hat Day, which had girls building robotic hats for the opening day hat competition of the Del Mar racing season. Now transformed into Robot Hat Day, the annual program showcases the girls’ electromechanical hats in a runway fashion show. The primary objective is to engage and excite girls in learning, designing, and building fabulous hats while sneaking in core engineering concepts. These hats must have moving parts controlled by an arduino (a platform that lets the student quickly program onto a microcontroller), and the girls learn the necessary circuitry to power the hats. Ultimately, the girls aged 7 to 15 are exposed to a full range of engineering: Computer Science (the basics of programming); Computer Engineering (how software and hardware are connected); Mechanical Engineering (understanding what motors can and cannot do); and Electrical Engineering (how to make sure the system is properly powered). The secondary objective is to engage young girls in a university environment to get them thinking about college early on. The mentorship and interaction with industry professionals allow the girls to connect with women in STEM careers over the course of six weeks leading up to the “fashion show.” Ultimately, the girls learn core science concepts through art and design.
  • Primate Cinema: Apes as Family (Rachel Mayeri): The artist has been making video experiments by, for, and about primates for nearly ten years. The series is called “Primate Cinema,” and includes “Baboons As Friends,” a soap opera of baboon social life centered around a film noir bar scene; and “Apes as Family,” an original drama made expressly for chimpanzees premiered in front of an actual chimpanzee audience at the Edinburgh Zoo. The drama-for-chimps follows an urban female chimp, played by an actor in an animatronic costume, who meets a group of wild foreigners. The actual chimps responded to the drama as individuals - some touch the screen, and some just sit and watch. This cross-species primate drama creates a prism for humans to learn about our primate cousins, who are, like us, fascinated by cinema.
  • Silhouettes for the 21st Century: Refashioning Ourselves (Heidi Kayser): The word fashion can mean many different things: "the prevailing style or custom, as in dress or behavior; to train or influence into a particular state or character; or to adapt, as to a specific purpose." We use fashion to adapt our bodies into particular forms through which we find our respective identities. If we look at the silhouette, we see how fashion extends and changes the bounding lines of the body. When the silhouette is used to create signage, it is easy to forget that our own bodies do not necessarily fit these universal symbols. In her current work, Kayser is devising new silhouettes to create new symbols and signage, in the process re-thinking the relationships among identities, bodies and bounding lines.
  • Smart Underwear and Biotattoos (Joshua Windmiller): This talk will focus on the development of wearable printed biosensors for the fitness, athletics, performance monitoring, and combat domains. Dr. Windmiller will also discuss the development of textile-based printed bioelectronics for situational awareness, as well as temporary transfer tattoo printed biosensors and biofuel cells for epidermal integration. The technologies are under development in the Laboratory for NanoBioElectronics of Prof. Joseph Wang in the UCSD Department of NanoEngineering.
  • Embodying the Universe: A Physical Language for Physics (Adam Burgasser): The language of the universe is physics, and the language of physics is mathematics. The traditional framework of this language is a written form, developed over centuries to symbolically represent physical quantities, interaction, motion and the underlying symmetries of nature. This language allows scientists from many cultures to communicate qualitative ideas and quantitative information. But is this the most effective means of communicating, learning or interpreting physics? Like poetry, could physics be expressed in alternative forms – vocal, physical, gestural – that could capitalize on the benefits of embodied cognition? Prof. Burgasser is investigating methods of embodying physics through motion, gesture and interaction, with the goal of merging conceptual and quantitative learning. His goal is to produce a functional physical language, in which equations can be expressed through dance, manipulated through the interaction of multiple actors, be utilized for physical calculation, and form the basis for aesthetic work.
  • Transborder Trash Tracking (Oscar Romo): Waste flows are not contained by international boundaries; therefore, the subject of solid waste disposal is of interest to the entire San Diego/Tijuana border region. Uncontrolled informal dump sites that litter the Tijuana River Valley are a product of the disconnect between federal environmental regulations and local policy enforcement. The purpose of this study is to produce a scientific record of dump sites and solid waste flows that can be used as a tool to affect policy change toward the eradication of illegal dumping practices. Although open dump sites exist throughout the river valley, the geographic unit of analysis covered by this study is confined to the Los Laureles Canyon in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. The research strategy for this study includes direct observation in the field and GIS spatial analysis of site locations and canyon topography and hydrology. Our findings constitute first-time scientific evidence of informal dump sites in the Tijuana River Watershed and point to economic practices that discriminate against canyon residents and threaten ecosystem viability in sub-basins such as Los Laureles Canyon. The presenter partnered with planner Jennifer Hazard to locate, map and classify unmanaged open dump sites in the Canyon, with funding from the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Storms Program.