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Sunday, March 12, 2017 - 5 pm - 6 pm

A Celebration of Pi!

With Alissa Crans, Loyola Marymount University

It used to be that π was just that pesky irrational number that showed up in Geometry class. But today, π is everywhere from websites that find your phone number amongst its digits to the Vons ads offering apple pies for $3.14 the second week of March each year. Join us as we celebrate this transcendental number with a variety of π-themed activities. We’ll explore unexpected places throughout mathematics where π appears and come full circle by performing our own approximation of π, using a technique from the 1860s!

Alissa Crans, Mathematics professor at Loyola Marymount University, has been recognized nationally for her enthusiastic ability to share and communicate mathematics. She is known for her active mentoring and support of women, underrepresented students and junior faculty, and is dedicated to helping people increase their appreciation and enthusiasm for her discipline.

Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 5 pm - 6 pm

Building Hollywood: A History of the Oscars

With Marc Wanamaker, Film Historian

For almost 90 years, the Academy Awards have epitomized Hollywood glamour. Since the origins of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their annual awards, the Academy and the Oscars have shaped the industry, public image and even the physical streetscape of Hollywood. This lecture will discuss the origins and influence of the Academy, just in time for the 89th Annual Academy Awards next week.

Marc Wanamaker is a world-class expert and consultant in film history who has worked in many facets of film production, exhibition, and research for several decades. He holds degrees in theater arts, music and history. He has worked extensively with the American Film Institute and is a published historian, lecturer, and teacher.



Sunday, January 29, 2017 - 5 pm - 6 pm

Talking about Art Today: Five Elements of Contemporary Art

With Susan Rotilie, Museum Educator

Have you ever found yourself in an art museum or gallery thinking "I just don’t get it”? Contemporary art can be challenging as artists today push the limits or break the rules of traditional or modern art. But don’t despair.  This talk will introduce and unpack just five art terms that will have you talking like a curator in no time. We will use these Elements of Contemporary Art as launching points for understanding art today and as a focus for discussing it with others.


Susan Rotilie has been a museum educator for over thirty years at the Walker Art Center and other museums in Minnesota. She has developed print and online materials for schools, trained tour guides and teachers, and has given hundreds of art gallery tours. She was named Museum Educator of the Year in Minnesota and for the Western Region of the National Art Education Association. Recently, she has hit the road as Director of Art Experience LLC, leading “all art – all the time” tours to Mexico, Cuba, Venice, and Barcelona. In 2017, she is planning trips to Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas and Documenta in Germany.

Monday, November 28, 2016 - 8 pm - 9 pm

Tanks, Tacos and Twitter: How Food Trucks Have Fed and Shaped Southern California

With Mark Vallianatos

Modern food trucks originated in the Los Angeles region as catering trucks that sold snacks and meals to factory workers. These catering trucks evolved into taco trucks and gourmet trucks that have influenced the food scene locally and nationally.  In this lecture, policy advisor Mark Vallianatos, who works on issues of urban planning, food, housing and transportation, shares the history of mobile food in Southern California with a focus on ways that food trucks have shaped eating, working and living in Los Angeles.


Monday, October 24, 2016 - 8 pm - 9 pm

Virtual Reality Video Games: Designing the Future of Entertainment

Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to reshape the entertainment landscape and VR games are on the leading edge of this change. In this talk, St.John Colón will share the process of VR game development and how it differs from the creation of games that have been dominant in the modern era of interactive entertainment. This exploration of what he has learned from 25 years of video game development will reveal how the emerging medium of VR games could change the future of entertainment.
St.John Colón has been making tabletop and interactive games for over two decades, shipping more than 15 interactive titles earning over half a billion dollars in 55 countries in cooperation with Dreamworks Animation, Square, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon and Disney/Pixar. St.John is currently leading project management and artistic development of VR initiatives as Principal Artist at SPACES, Inc. and as a game development lecturer at USC. He is focused on entertainment innovation, creating great stories through the exploration of emerging entertainment trends and developing technologies in the field of virtual reality, video games and mobile apps.

Sunday, September 18, 2016 - 6 pm - 7 pm

In Vino Veritas: An Intro to Wine and How to Taste It


Stumped by a wine list or stymied on the grocer's wine aisle? Join us to unlock the mysteries of the most popular beverage on Earth. From novice to aficionado, this lecture and tasting is for drinkers of all levels. The event will begin with an introduction to wine, including the history of viticulture, different styles of wine, the basics of making wine and simple food and wine pairings.


Then, comes the good stuff - tasting! Mikell will introduce the scientific aspects of how we taste, outline the importance of the 5 S's of wine tasting (See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, and Savor), and address the significance of "wine-speak" lingo. We will taste and discuss a total of 5 wines. The event will finish with a discussion of how we should buy wine at restaurants and stores, what to look for on labels, and a brief Q&A session.


Mikey Mikell has been the Beer and Wine Curator at Paper or Plastik Cafe for the last two years. He has worked in the wine and beer industry throughout California. Mikell loves traveling the world in search of new beers and wines. He recently completed a two month hiking and tasting trip in France, Spain, and Portugal, exploring regional wines and food while walking across the Iberian peninsula. One result of this trip was the Port Wine Sangria recipe he developed for the Cafe, which was recently featured in the LA Times.

Monday, August 29, 2016 - 8 pm - 9 pm

Keeping the Dodgers Healthy: Using Technology to Study Injuries in Pitchers

With Dr. James (Jimmy) Buffi, Senior Analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers

For major league baseball pitchers, a healthy arm is the difference between a successful career and dashed dreams. Over the past 20 years, ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries of the elbow, which typically lead to the dreaded Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, have become an epidemic among pitchers. Despite rapidly progressing technology and diligent preventative efforts, injury rates continue to climb. In July of 2015, the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Dr. James (Jimmy) Buffi to help curtail these increasing injury rates.

In his presentation, Buffi will talk about the causes of UCL injuries, the research he has done on reducing injury risk and what it’s like to work for our town’s beloved Dodgers. More broadly, he will talk about the different technologies available today for regulating physical fitness and the exciting directions this field may take over the next 10 years.

Buffi received his BS in mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and completed his PhD in biomedical engineering at Northwestern University in 2014. His doctoral research focused on developing a musculoskeletal modeling and dynamic simulation framework for baseball pitching. He is originally from Rhode Island and has always been a passionate sports fan.

Monday, July 25, 2016 8 pm - 9 pm

Night School Game Night

with Tournament Bridge Player Morris "Mojo" Jones

When billionaire buds Bill Gates and Warren Buffet hang out, there is a good chance they are participating in their shared passion - the card game bridge. Buffet has described bridge as “such a sensational game that I wouldn’t mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day.” A four-person trick-taking game, bridge was once so popular, it was played in 44% of American homes. While no longer part of the mainstream American social life, bridge still boasts rabid fans and an international tournament scene complete with millionaire team patrons and high profile cheating scandals.

At this month's Night School, tournament player and bridge instructor Morris "Mojo" Jones will lead a beginner bridge lesson and attendees will breakout into four-person games. 

Jones is a tournament player with the rank of Silver Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League. He has taught hundreds of students, earning three "Star Teacher" awards from ACBL. Jones is also a professional software engineer at DreamWorks Animation SKG.

Monday, June 27, 2016 8-9 pm

How L.A. Invented the Backyard Barbecue

with culinary historian and writer Charles Perry

“Barbecue” has meant five different ways of cooking over the centuries, and Los Angeles has been the capital of two of them. In this lecture, food historian and writer Charles Perry shares the history of this culinary tradition. Eighty years ago, we were famous for huge parties where “barbecue” baked overnight underground was served to thousands, even tens of thousands, of people at a time. Suddenly, in the 1930s, we totally switched to backyard grilling, something we had just invented. (Psst: Hollywood was involved.) After WWII, backyard barbecue spread to the rest of the country, then around the world.


Charles Perry is the president and co-founder of the Culinary Historians of America. For 18 years, he was a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times food section.


Monday, April 25, 2016 8-9 pm

Homelessness in Los Angeles: Benign Neglect, Political Will and Morality

With Civil Rights Attorney Carol Sobel

At this month's Night School, Civil Rights Attorney Carol Sobel will share her perspective on homelessness in Los Angeles. Sobel writes, "For nearly a century, Los Angeles has responded to homeless individuals with failed policies aimed first at isolation and containment and, more recently, costly criminalization. These policies are illegal, immoral, and ineffective.  Is Los Angeles ready to fund housing and services that will finally address root causes and solutions as more Angelenos become homeless as a result of an unprecedented affordable housing crisis?"

Carol Sobel runs her own legal practice in Santa Monica, California. Prior to going into private practice, she spent 20 years working in various positions for the ACLU, including as Senior Staff Attorney for the last seven years she was there. She has been involved in numerous significant cases in federal and state courts. Sobel serves as local counsel for the Center for Constitutional Rights in Humanitarian Law Project v. Ashcroft and served on the Rampart Blue Ribbon Panel. Since 2002, she was named as one of Los Angeles' Super Lawyers for Civil Rights. Sobel is a graduate of the Peoples College of Law.

Monday, March 28, 2016 8-9 pm

Map as Literature, Literature as Map

With Nick Greer, MFA Creative Writing & an editor of Territory

Though cartography is a science, maps are anything but objective. They explain the world, often beautifully, but because maps are representations, they present reduced, distorted, invented, or otherwise altered versions of the world. Think of how the Mercator projection, which expands as it moves towards the poles, makes Greenland appear as large as Africa. A map must choose which information it includes and which it leaves out. Maps privilege particular perspectives and narratives, and therefore can be thought of as a kind of literature or storytelling.

The inverse is also true. Literature is a kind of map in that writers use symbolic objects—letters, words, etc.—to represent an underlying territory, the story and its world. For a story world to be believable, writers must consider how they represent physical space. Should a character walk around, about, or through the room? Is the tennis ball yellow or green? Chartreuse? Its neon fading to white?

This lecture will consider the relationship between maps and literature by surveying a range of maps, literature, and hybrid texts that blur the distinctions between the two. Below are some topics and questions we’ll cover:


  • The aesthetics of maps

  • How do maps represent particular subjectivities (and suppress others)?

  • How does language represent physical space?

  • Maps as literature

  • Literature as maps

  • Hybridizations of the two forms

Attendees will walk away from this lecture with a reading and writing list.

Nick Greer holds an MFA Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is an editor of Territory, a literary journal about maps and other strange objects. Recent writing has appeared in the Pacifica Literary Review, Phantom, and Witch Craft Magazine, and his chapbook Glass City is forthcoming in Salt Hill. He has received awards, fellowships, and scholarships from the Academy of American Poets, the University of Arizona, Tin House, and the University of Louisville. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Monday, February 29, 2016 8-9 pm

Night School Leap Day Event: The History of the Modern Calendar

with Dr. Steve Sohmer

In honor of Leap Day, this month's Night School lecture will examine the history of our current calendar, with scholar and calendar enthusiast Steve Sohmer. 

We have Julius Caesar to thank for inventing the Leap Year and adding an extra day to February every fourth year. But the calendar he gave the world in 46 B.C. was 12 minutes and 14 second too long. It took mathematicians 1,618 years to figure out how to fix it and almost 200 more years for the corrected calendar to be adopted by England and the American colonies. How this calendar confusion arose – and how it was eventually, painfully corrected – is a strange and funny tale of ignorance, religious intolerance, and just plain human vanity.


About the Speaker: 

Dr. Sohmer served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia Pictures and as Executive Vice President for NBC before going back to school for a Master of Arts degree from Boston University and both a Master of Studies and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University. He teaches courses at UCLA Extension on Shakespeare, Novel Writing and the Holocaust.

Monday, January 25, 2016 8-9 pm

Citizenship in the USA: A Short (Historical) Introduction

with Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, USC Assistant Professor of History

Who is an American?  This question has become a hot-button issue in the burgeoning presidential election, crucial to debates as different as the fight over undocumented immigration and the response to global jihad.  In this month's lecture, USC assistant professor Nathan Perl-Rosenthal will give a brief historical overview of American citizenship from the nation's earliest days to the present.  Offering a history animated by pirates, runaways and rebels as much as by politicians and judges, it will aim both to uncover the roots of the current political debate and offer some insight into how we might resolve the knotty question of recreating American citizenship in a global age.


Nathan Perl-Rosenthal is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California.  His first book, Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution, a history of early American citizenship, was just published in October, 2015, and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal.


Monday, November 30, 2015 8-9 pm

Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression

with UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb

Despite the fact that over 15 million Americans suffer from depression at any given time, and tens of millions more just want to understand and support them, most people have a very poor understanding of the disease. Fortunately, new advances in neuroscience have uncovered dozens of small life changes that individuals can make on their own, which can modify the brain circuits and neurotransmitter systems involved in depression.

In this month's talk, UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb discusses his book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. Korb has studied the brain for over fifteen years. He received his Ph.D. in neuroscience form UCLA and is currently a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at UCLA’s department of psychiatry.

Monday, October 26, 2015 8-9 pm

Solar-Powered Homes for a Sustainable Future

with Team Orange County of the Solar Decathlon

This month, 14 sustainably designed houses were built and showcased to the public in Irvine's Orange County Great Park as part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The bi-annual competition founded in 2002 challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. 


Team Orange County, a collaboration among University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College, participated in this year's Decathlon. Their home, called "Casa del Sol", is an innovative, net-zero energy home that draws inspiration from the California poppy. Like the flower, Casa del Sol is drought-resistant and architecturally adapted to Southern California. The team members will walk us through the design of their home and what it is like to participate in this demanding competition.

Monday, September 28, 2015 8-9 pm

NPR Listening Party

This month, Night School is taking inspiration from NPR Generation Listen and hosting a "Listening Party." The goal of Listening Parties are to deepen our understanding of the world around us and each other by making listening to radio stories, usually a solitary experience, a social experience that includes a thoughtful conversation. 


The night’s program will be curated by writer and podcaster Juliet Litman of, who will also be moderating the post-listening discussions. Come, listen and join the conversation! 

Sunday, August 30, 2015 10:30 am -12:30 pm

Night School Field Trip: Metro Art Tour


Join Night School for a special guided tour of the engaging and thought-provoking public art of the Metro Red Line subway.


Led by trained Metro Art Docent Council volunteers, this free tour will provide insights into the artworks, artists and art-making processes of LA’s Metro.


Established in 1989, the Metro Art program has commissioned over 250 artists for a wide variety of both temporary and permanent projects. Metro commissions artists to create artworks that make journeys more inviting and pleasurable. The artworks weave a multi-layered cultural tapestry that mirrors Los Angeles County’s rich contemporary and popular cultures.




We will meet our docents inside the front doors of Union Station and the tour will cover various stops along Metro’s Red Line. The tour is approximately 2 hours long and 90% walking; there are elevators and escalators in all the stations. Wear comfortable shoes.


Our docent will provide each attendee with a TAP card that is pre-loaded with an all-day pass (an $8 value). The TAP cards are yours to keep and can be reloaded for future trips.

Monday, June 29, 2015 8-9 pm

An Early History of Los Angeles: 1781-1900

with Los Angeles Historian Greg Fischer

Los Angeles - to most people, it makes no sense. This big blob of a city is located 20 miles from the Pacific and spreads out like a tablecloth across the landscape. In this month's lecture, Los Angeles historian Greg Fischer will cover the how and why of Los Angeles, exploring the origins and early development of one of America’s most unique spaces. Learn about how Los Angeles, against all odds, was positioned to become a major metropolitan center and the second largest city in the country.

Greg Fischer is a native of Santa Monica and a graduate of Loyola University of Los Angeles (now LMU). He has studied the history of Los Angeles for decades and writes historic pieces for the Downtown News. During the 2000s, Fischer worked for the Los Angeles City Council as the Planning Deputy for Council District 9, which represented most of downtown at the time. Currently, he owns a private real estate consulting business.

Monday, May 25, 2015 8-9 pm

Living with Earthquakes:

The Development of Early Earthquake Warning Systems

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with several partners, has been working to develop an early earthquake warning system for the United States. ShakeAlert, a system currently under development, is designed to cover the West Coast States of California, Oregon, and Washington. The seconds to minutes of advance warning provided by this system could allow people and systems to take actions to protect life and property from destructive shaking. In this talk, geologist Debbie Weiser will explain how early earthquake warning systems work, as well as the science of earthquakes and how we can live with them.


Debbie Weiser serves as a USGS Geologist with the Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Project, working to facilitate the implementation and understanding of natural hazards science by partners and stakeholders in the community. She received a B.S. in Geology from Occidental College in 2004 and is finishing a Ph.D. in Geology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Weiser's Ph.D. research focuses on induced, or man-made, earthquakes.

Monday, April 27, 2015 8-9 pm


Manipulative design in apps and websites

Do you remember those "Punch the Monkey" ads on MySpace? Have you ever finished an article on your favorite blog, clicked on some "recommended content" and ended up reading about Viagra or some magical weight-loss pill? Have you ever accidentally bought travel insurance when booking a flight home for the holidays online because you missed a checkbox?


The user experience designers that build the apps and sites you use every day have a bag of tricks called Design Patterns. We use them to craft digital products that are innately usable and understandable. Much of digital product design is behavioral design, and design patterns generally produce expected behaviors.


There's a shady side to this, however, and it rears its head every time you unwittingly sign up for another email newsletter. In this talk, we'll learn about design patterns gone bad, coined "dark patterns" by user experience designer Harry Brignull. We'll start with some user experience and interface design principles, we'll touch on behavioral and persuasive design, and we'll uncover some of the devious design tricks that have been frustrating us from the days of dial-up to our iPhones.


Jay Stakelon is a software product designer who codes with over 10 years of experience in product management, user experience design and software development. He was a founding employee, the one-time head of product, and most recently VP of Product Design at Fullscreen, a youth-focused digital media company. Before that, he worked for agencies and created digital marketing and software for Disney, Lionsgate, Live Nation, Fox and more. He is generally a nice guy and wouldn't ever design something that would trick you. Really.

Monday, March 30, 2015 8-9 pm

An Introduction to Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is increasingly showing up in mass media as the antidote to contemporary stress. Why all the fuss? Over the past 15 years, hundreds of scientific research studies, and their published results, illustrate just how positively powerful this simple practice is for the human body and mind. Individuals and organizations are now embracing mindfulness practices in record numbers to counterbalance the non-stop demand and distraction of a world that is wildly connected via technology.

Mindfulness meditation instructor Daisy Swan will discuss some of the important research that has recently surfaced in this area and provide resources for practice, as well as lead us in several mindfulness exercises that can be incorporated into daily life.

Daisy Swan is founder of 21st Century Attention Meditation Services, as well as a busy career coach and founder of Daisy Swan & Associates. Swan takes an interdisciplinary approach to life and work, helping people find and develop lives of calm, clarity and purpose. With a MA in Social Sciences from University of Chicago, and BA in English and Education from Loyola University, Chicago, Swan has lived in LA for nearly 25 years, coaching, training and learning. She is a certified mindfulness instructor from UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, currently training to be a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher through UMass, and a certified somatic coach.


Monday, January 26, 2015 8-9 pm

LA Day Laborers & Domestic Workers

Narrating Local Struggles through Digital Humanities

Day laborers and domestic workers are ubiquitous in Los Angeles, seen daily maintaining the landscapes of our neighborhoods and homes. Yet, they are one of the most exploited, even criminalized, classes of workers in the nation. This talk will examine digitally based efforts that bring together scholars, activists, and local communities to preserve forgotten histories and narrate the misunderstood lives of these workers.


Anne Cong-Huyen has a PhD in English and is the Digital Scholar and Co-Coordinator of the Digital Liberal Arts Program at Whittier College. She's a co-founder of the #transformDH (Transformative Digital Humanities) collective, steering committee member of HASTAC (Humanities Arts Science Alliance and Collaboratory), and a member of the FemBot Collective. She will be joined by members of the VozMob collective, active in archiving media about the lives of day laborers in LA.




Monday, November 24, 2014 8-9 pm

Post-Mortem: Death and Decomposition from Medieval Art to the Modern Funeral Home


Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and founded The Order of the Good Death in 2011 with the goal of bringing the realistic discussion of death back into popular culture. She will discuss decomposition, both practically and scientifically, in the human body, and how it's evolved to be removed from culture.


Caitlin’s webseries “Ask a Mortician” and her work with the Order have led to features on National Public Radio, BBC, the Huffington Post, Vice, the LA Times,, Forbes, Bust Magazine, and Salon. Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, is a New York Times bestseller.

Monday, October 27, 2014 8-9 pm

LA's Water Struggle

Water Supply and Demand In Los Angeles

The old saying goes, “Whiskey is for drinkin’, water is for fightin’.” That's never been more true here in California. Dr. Shelley Luce will talk about water in Los Angeles in particular: the history and present context of our water for drinking, for growing food, for watering lawns, and certainly, for fighting over. She will give information and opinions about why we’re in trouble with our water supply and water quality, and discuss what we as individuals and as a society can and should do about it.


As Executive Director of Environment Now, Shelley Luce is responsible for the strategic direction, development, and day to day operations of the foundation. She oversees philanthropic programs in groundwater & water supply, coastal water quality, and forest protection in California and Mexico. Prior to coming to Environment Now, Dr. Luce served as Executive Director for both the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and The Bay Foundation. Before that she was the Science and Policy Director at Heal the Bay.


Dr. Luce has a Doctorate of Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA (2003) and a B.S. in Biology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She develops innovative policies and projects for clean water, water conservation, marine protected areas, wetlands restoration and forest protection. She has been a key spokesperson for major campaigns supporting open space preservation and alternative energy in California. Dr. Luce advises numerous scientific panels and groups in California and provides presentations and expert testimony on environmental issues to expert and lay audiences alike.

Monday, September 29, 2014 8-9 pm

Life after Death in Ancient Egypt

With Emily Cole and Rose Campbell, University of California, Los Angeles


Ancient Egyptians’ elaborate beliefs about the lives of the dead have fascinated scholars and curious lay people for centuries. In this talk, Emily Cole and Rose Campbell, both PhD candidates and lecturers at UCLA, will share the latest research on these captivating ancient practices.


Cole will focus on funerary texts, the intricate hieroglyphics painted on the walls of tombs and coffins. What role did these texts play in Egyptian funerary beliefs and how did ancient scribes manipulate these materials? Cole’s research focuses on the linguistic and social history of ancient Egypt, particularly the practice of translation in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. She received her BA in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford and is completing her PhD work at UCLA. She has worked at URU Fayum Archaeological Project for five years in Karanis, Egypt; has also completed field work in Turkey, Sudan and Greece; and taught a variety of classes at UCLA on Egyptian history, religion, and archaeology. 


Campbell will focus on the well-preserved human remains in Egyptian tombs and what they tell us about life and death for ancient Egyptians. Campbell is a graduate student in the Archaeology Program at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. She has a Master of Arts degree in archaeology from the University of Montana, where her thesis topic was the uninscribed tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Campbell has excavated at sites in Spain, Egypt, Peru, and across the western United States.  In 2012, Campbell and three colleagues founded the Paleo-oncology Research Organization, which is dedicated to the study of cancer in antiquity.  Her doctoral research focuses on evidence for violence and trauma in the past.



Monday, August 25, 2014 8-9 pm

Recycling: What Happens After You Throw That Can In the Bin


Recycling, or natural resources conservation, is near the top of any list of activities individuals can do to protect the environment. When former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson was asked what the biggest thing people could do to positively impact the environment and health, her response was:


 "If we would insist on a recycling rate in our country at 80, 85, 90 percent, we would do a bunch of things. Certainly, we would have a cleaner environment. We would save a tremendous amount of water and energy. We would create millions of jobs because recycling, in and of itself, would become a supply chain in our country — a very domestic one. So, although it sounds simple — when you see those recycling bins, when people start to talk about recycling — think of it as a homegrown jobs program, an environmental program and an energy program and a water program all in one." 


This lecture will cover the basics of “why” we recycle, and then move on to “what” and “how” to recycle, providing a glimpse into what happens after you throw that can in the bin and the impacts of that simple action.  


Andrew Basmajian has over twenty years of experience working in environmental and sustainability programming and policy for the City of Santa Monica.  He focuses on communications and oversees outreach efforts in the areas of resource conservation, urban runoff, hazardous materials, green building, business greening, sustainable procurement and environmental education. He is a third generation Los Angelino, born and raised in Pasadena. He has a B.A., in political science from UCLA; and a Business Studies Certification in Marketing and Advertising from UCLA Extension. He currently serves as the president of the board of the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market and enjoys mountain biking, beach volleyball and spending time with his wife Lise and daughters Alana and Nora. 

Monday, June 30, 2014 8-9 pm

Accounting for Foreignness: Refugees, International Law, and Xenophobia

What is xenophobia and how should it be regulated? Public officials and private citizens regularly draw distinctions in their treatment of people they consider native to their nation, and those they consider foreign. Sometimes these distinctions are innocuous, other times they can be fatal—particularly for vulnerable groups such as refugees. In contexts as varied as South Africa, Libya, Greece, Germany and even the United States, xenophobic or foreignness discrimination is among the primary threats to refugee livelihood.


Using her research on South Africa, UCLA Law School's Tendayi Achiume will discuss the key challenges to international efforts to fight xenophobic discrimination, drawing important parallels with the fight against racial discrimination in the United States. As the world’s refugee population continues to increase—with over 2 million refugees having been displaced from the Syrian crisis alone—the problem posed by xenophobic discrimination is ever more pressing.

Tendayi Achiume is the Binder Clinical Teaching Fellow at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Law School, where she will be an assistant professor of law beginning in the fall.  Her academic research focuses on the use of international human rights law for refugee protection; and on African participation in the emerging international justice framework. Prior to joining the law faculty at UCLA she practiced as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, and then as a corporate litigator in New York. She holds a J.D. from the Yale Law School.

Monday, May 26, 2014 8-9 pm

Mars: Exploring the Next Frontier

with Ted Sweetser & Bobak Ferdowsi, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Since humans’ first forays into space, Mars has captivated our collective imagination. With NASA’s Curiosity rover sending back new data every day, another rover mission set for 2020 and planning for a manned mission to Mars underway, we now know more than ever about our neighboring planet. In this Night School session, Ted Sweetser and Bobak Ferdowsi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will discuss what has been learned about Mars, its potential for once sustaining life, and NASA’s continued plans for Mars exploration, including a manned mission.

Ted Sweetser is a mathematician who has worked as a mission designer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1979. His particular expertise is trajectory design.

Bobak Ferdowsi is a systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He served on the Cassini–Huygens and Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity missions, gaining fame in August 2012, when he wore a mohawk during the Curiosity landing and earned the moniker “NASA Mohawk Guy.”


Monday, April 28, 2014 8-9 pm

Looking at a Constructed Language

with Paul Frommer, creator of Na’vi, Avatar’s Native Voice


Paul Frommer, professor emeritus at USC and linguist who developed the Na’vi language for James Cameron’s Avatar, talks about how he created the language and illustrates some of its key features—sounds, grammar, vocabulary, and relation to culture. Along the way, he touches on basic aspects of language structure shared by all human and human-like languages. He also explains how he worked with the actors to help them master their Na’vi lines. Included is a brief language lesson along with a look at the make-up and motivation of the Na’vi enthusiast community.


Frommer is professor emeritus of Clinical Management Communication and former director of the Center for Management Communication at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Prior to joining Marshall, he lived and taught in Malaysia and Iran, and spent ten years in the business world as vice president and strategic planner for a Los Angeles corporation. His teaching at USC included courses in Advanced Writing for Business and Cross-cultural Business Communication for Non-native Speakers. Since Avatar, Frommer has been working with a worldwide community of Na’vi enthusiasts to expand the language into a flexible medium of communication here on earth. He also developed Barsoomian, the Martian language for the Disney film John Carter.

Monday, March 31, 2014 8-9 pm

Bitcoins Move into the Mainstream


Talk of Bitcoin, the virtual online currency, has become de rigueur in financial news and Congressional hearings alike. Every day more and more people are flocking to and using the currency despite the interest of regulators and law enforcement that undercuts its semi-anonymous and non-regulated nature. Former federal prosecutor and USC Gould School of Law lecturer Brian Klein will explain the origins of bitcoin and the future of this online phenomenon.


Brian Klein is a partner at the boutique litigation firm Baker Marquart LLP. He is the chair of the Bitcoin Foundation’s legal advocacy committee and teaches a federal criminal practice seminar at USC Gould School of Law. Brian is an accomplished trial attorney who represents individuals and corporate clients in criminal, regulatory and civil matters.


Before joining Baker Marquart, Brian was a federal prosecutor at the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles for five years. As a federal prosecutor, he handled significant white-collar criminal cases, including cases involving money laundering, corporate fraud and tax violations. Brian is admitted to practice in California and New York and before various federal courts. He graduated from NYU School of Law and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington.

Monday, February 24, 2014 - 8:00 pm

The Particle at the End of the Universe

The Hunt for the Higgs Boson and the Future of Physics

with Caltech Physicist Sean Carroll


For decades, particle physicists have searched for the elusive Higgs boson, the missing piece to the "Standard Model" that explains the world we see. In July 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva announced that they found it. Dr. Carroll will explain why the Higgs boson is so important, talk about the enormous challenge physicists overcame to build the LHC and get it running, and consider what the future of particle physics will look like.


For a sneak peek of his lecture, check out Dr. Carroll's appearance on The Colbert Report here.


Sean Carroll is a physicist and author. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993, and is now on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on fundamental physics and cosmology, especially issues of dark matter, dark energy, and the origin of the universe. Carroll is the author of The Particle at the End of the Universe; From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time; and Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity. He has written for Scientific American, New Scientist, and The Wall Street Journal. He frequently consults for film and television, and has been featured on television shows such as The Colbert Report, PBS’s Nova, and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.


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