Frontiers of Science


Frontiers of Science Lecture Series

The Frontiers of Science lecture series brings eminent scientists from around the world to the University of Utah and the Salt Lake City community. Lectures start at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Aline Wilmot Skaggs Building, Room 220 (map)

Check this page often for updates on speakers, lectures, and more information!

All Frontiers of Science Lectures are recorded. View them on the College of Science's YouTube Channel.

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Tickets are not required for this event. Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis. Please arrive early.

Next Lecture:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Title: Pluto Revealed: Tales from the Frontier of Solar System Exploration

Featuring: Dr. John Spencer (Southwest Research Institute)

The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14th this year, revolutionizing our understanding of this remarkable distant dwarf planet and its moons.  The flyby was the culmination of over two decades of effort, including a journey from Earth that lasted more than nine years.  Pluto has emerged as a world of spectacular variety.  It has some of the brightest and darkest surfaces in the solar system, including exotic ices such as frozen nitrogen and carbon monoxide; landscapes that are ancient and landscapes that are still being renewed; and a flowing icecap that sits, bizarrely, astride its equator.  Its tenuous hazy atmosphere extends so high above Pluto's surface that it leaks constantly into space.  Pluto's family of moons have surprises of their own, including world-encircling fractures and a dark red polar cap on the giant moon Charon, and four small moons with strange shapes and mysterious orbits and rotations.  Though the New Horizons spacecraft has now left Pluto far behind, its mission continues deeper into the Kuiper Belt, the vast region beyond Neptune occupied by hundreds of thousands of small worlds left over from the formation of the solar system.  If an extended mission is approved by NASA, the spacecraft plans to visit one of these worlds in 2018 or 2019, carrying the tradition of human exploration even further into the unknown.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Title: TBD

Featuring: Dr. John Grotzinger - Professor of Geology, Divison of Geological and Planetary Science, Caltech


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Title: TBD

Featuring: Dr. Daniel G. Nocera, Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy, Harvard University


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Title: Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases: Emission Processes, Trends and the Historical Transition to the Dominance of Human-Related Sources

Featuring: Steven C. Wofsy - Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Chemistry at Harvard University

Concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have increased drematically, starting in the 18th century, representing powerful drivers of global change and climate warming. In order assess future changes and design mitigation strategies, the emissions of these gases must be quantified, and the underlying biological, chemical, physical, and human processes must be understood. The relevant spatial scales span ecosystems, landscapes, regions, and continents, with temporal scales from seasonal to decadal, all very difficult to measure directly.  This talk traces historical changes in atmospheric composition, showing the dramatic trends starting in the 1950s and continuing today.  We then focus on the Arctic, a region with strong sensitivity to warming climate and vast stores of frozen or waterlogged organic carbon.  We show recent results from the Carbon in the Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) and other regional measurements that challenge conventional ideas about climate-carbon feedbacks in this region, emphasizing the key roles of processes that occur out of sight--under the surface, after the growing season. We conclude with a comparison between emissions of CH4 and CO2 due to human activities versus the natural world, showing the astonishing transition of the human component from modest perturbation to overwhelming dominance, in recent human memory.