Science Café

Explore science through Carleton University’s popular Science Cafés, held twice a month during the fall and winter terms at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 1049 Bank Street (at Aylmer Ave in Old Ottawa South). Each café begins at 6:30 p.m. with a 20-minute talk by a scientist followed by a 40-minute open question and answer period.

Come and join us for a lively discussion around a scientific issue of the day. Be prepared to be informed, engaged and even amused, as our professors share their scientific discoveries with you. All are welcome.

For more information, please contact the Faculty of Science by email at odscienceatcarleton [dot] ca or by telephone at 613-520-4388.

Science Café - 2016-17 Series

Cafés begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (1049 Bank Street in Old Ottawa South)
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Paul Johns, Department of Physics
X Rays: from Röntgen to digital radiography and beyond

X rays are the key technology of hospital imaging departments, and are also used in dentistry, industry, and for security scanning.  X-ray technology was the first to allow a doctor to look inside a patient without surgery.  Today, hospitals have many other technologies including ultrasound, mri, and nuclear medicine.  Yet x-ray technology, including the CT scanner, continues to be a major workhorse and continues to evolve to provide better and more convenient images with acceptable radiation dose.  Starting with the inception of x-ray imaging at the close of the 19th century, this talk will trace the development of x-ray technology through today’s computerized machines and on to the future in which we will exploit the wave nature of x rays as well as their particle nature.  We will look at where x-ray imaging is likely to go, and introduce some of the people behind the science.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Oliver van Kaick, School of Computer Science
Can computers generate creative designs for everyday objects?

Computer tools for modeling 3D shapes have become quite advanced. These tools are used for the development of computer games, special effects in movies, and even for the design of everyday objects such as chairs, tables and vases. However, in the context of design, much of the modeling work is still done manually by a user or artist, while the computer tool mainly ensures that the designed shapes can be appropriately drawn on the screen and fabricated in the real world. One interesting question is whether we can go one step further and let computers automatically model designs of everyday objects, especially designs that require a certain level of creative thinking. In this talk, I would like to explore this question and present a few research works that take a step in this direction. The main idea of these works is to provide inspiration to the artists by automatically creating interesting variations of shape designs with computers; the artists can then take the computer-generated designs and refine them into final products. In more detail, I will talk about how to generate shape variations by recombining existing shapes in novel ways, and how to ensure that the synthesized shapes still function appropriately, that is, verify that they serve their intended purpose.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Jason Gao, School of Mathematics and Statistics
Mathematics of gambling and some common gambling fallacies

Gambling, according to the dictionary, refers to an activity  which risks something of value in order to obtain a reward. Typical examples are casino gambling, sports betting, and buying lotteries. In this talk, we will first briefly discuss why people gamble and what are problem gambling. Then we will talk about some gambling fallacies and the crucial role of mathematics/statistics in the study of gambling. Simple examples such as roulette and lottery will be used to illustrate some fundamental concepts such as house edge, volatility, and law of large numbers.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Jean-Guy Godin, Department of Biology
Sexual selection and mate choice: how and why animals are choosy when seeking mates 

In nature, most animals do not mate randomly with members of the opposite sex, but rather are choosy when seeking mates.  Because females generally pay higher costs of reproduction and have a lower reproductive potential than males over their lifetime, they tend to be coy and more selective of prospective mates than males and males compete among themselves for access to females and invest more in traits (such as courtship displays and ornaments) that are sexually attractive to females. Charles Darwin was the first to propose in the mid-19th century an evolutionary process - ‘sexual selection’ - to explain the ubiquity in nature of female mate choice and elaborate, costly sexual traits in males (for example, the elaborate tail and courtship displays of peacocks) that function to attract females and enhance competitiveness for mates.  In this public talk, I will briefly summarize, using examples from the published literature and from my own research on fishes, how females choose mates and the reproductive benefits they may gain in doing so. Recent research on the use of social information by individuals in making mating decisions will be also briefly introduced.