Tag Archives: science

Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality

Central Oregon–As described in The Great Courses, the lectures in this DVD series implores when are we responsible for our own actions, and when are we in the grip of biological forces beyond our control? This intriguing question is the scientific province of behavioral biology, a field that explores interactions among the brain, mind, body, and environment that have a surprising influence on how we behave—from the people we fall in love with, to the intensity of our spiritual lives, to the degree of our aggressive impulses. In short, it is the study of how our brains make us the individuals that we are.

Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality is an interdisciplinary approach to this fascinating subject. In 24 lectures, we investigate how the human brain is sculpted by evolution, constrained or freed by genes, shaped by early experience, modulated by hormones, and otherwise influenced to produce a wide range of behaviors, some of them abnormal. You will see that little can be explained by thinking about any one of these factors alone because some combination of influences is almost always at work.

A prominent neurobiologist, zoologist, and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, professor Sapolsky is a spellbinding lecturer who is also very entertaining. In a feature story in The New York Times, he was compared to a cross between renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and a borscht belt comedian. An article in the alumni magazine at Stanford University, where he teaches, called him “a man who exudes adrenaline and has a reservoir of intensity deep enough to spin the turbines at Hoover Dam.”

Our sessions will be facilitated by Russ Hopper and fellow OLLI-UO members.

Misbehaving: How Our Brains Lead Us Astray

Central Oregon–We humans seem to have a powerful need to believe that we are essentially rational beings. There is strong support for this natural inclination. Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Max Weber, Ayn Rand, as well as economists such as Milton Friedman have promoted it. Despite all this, in the last four decades, several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for persuasive bodies of quantitative research proving just the opposite [Herbert Simon 1978, Daniel Kahneman, 2002].

Join John Rhetts, OLLI-UO member, for this five-session short course. Enrollment is limited to facilitate the seminar format. We will examine frequent and predictable patterns of thinking and behaving that can, in real-life situations, be significantly counterproductive and substantially irrational. We will explore some of the frequent ways in which humans have a tendency to “shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Over five weeks, we will examine how individuals devise and apply “rules of thumb” to quickly solve problems and make decisions facing us in everyday life. The newly named field of behavioral economics has named these rules or patterns “heuristics.” Financial decisions—specifically those related to investing—are used as a source of many of our examples. Finance has great societal importance, and it provides us the opportunity to readily quantify the effects of anomalous thinking—the extent to which we accomplish suboptimal results. Participants are expected to explore and share how such maladaptive applications play out in other areas of life, such as politics, public policy, marketing and advertising, sex and attraction, religion, and others. We will also explore ways to moderate or correct some misbehaviors.

While there is no “required” reading, a syllabus of highly recommended readings is available at the bottom of this page. Participants should consider reading some of these to enhance their experience and contributions to the seminar.

Rhetts’ earned bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Cornell universities, respectively. For nearly 30 years, he practiced psychology as a professor, a clinician, and as a consultant to organizations ranging from schools, to family businesses, to Fortune 500 and 100 companies.

Per the instructor’s request, this seminar will be limited to 12 participants to facilitate extensive discussion. Preregistration is required and will be announced via e-mail.

The Science of Extreme Weather

OLLI UO Central Oregon Science of Extreme WeatherCentral Oregon–According to a description provided by The Great Courses, The Science of Extreme Weather serves as our field guide to the worst that Earth’s atmosphere can inflict. In 24 exciting, informative, and potentially life-saving half-hour lectures aimed at weather novices and amateur forecasters alike, viewers gain a surprisingly powerful tool in the face of such overwhelming forces: knowledge.

Escorted by meteorologist, storm chaser, and award-winning teacher Eric R. Snodgrass of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, attendees learn the fundamental science that underlies blizzards, flash floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and more.

Illustrated with beautifully rendered graphics, stunning storm images, and entertaining demonstrations of meteorological principles, The Science of Extreme Weather teaches students to think like meteorologists. In search of potentially life-threatening conditions, viewers learn to interpret clues in the sky and the significance of temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind direction and speed. Simple and practical forecasting rules—such as that falling air pressure signals stormy weather and rising air pressure herald clear skies—will suddenly make perfect sense.

In addition, members will be enlightened about widespread extreme weather myths, such as that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, or that a ditch or an underpass are safe refuges if you are caught in the open near a tornado. Spectators will be alerted to some truly ominous warning signs, including lightning, flooding and heat, and humidity.

Raised in the heart of Tornado Alley, the region of the U.S. with the most tornadoes of anyplace on the planet, professor Snodgrass has long been fascinated with the supercell thunderstorms that sweep across the plains, spawning tornadoes when a precise combination of meteorological factors coincides. This interest led him to become a scientist and storm chaser—a cautious stalker of extreme weather, using the tools of his discipline to decipher what makes dangerous storms form. Each year, he leads more than 1,500 University of Illinois students through a course focused on severe and hazardous weather.

In The Science of Extreme Weather, this exuberant meteorologist and gifted educator takes observers on a virtual expedition into the heart of the world’s wildest weather, investigating the mechanisms behind storms such as tornadoes, tropical cyclones, and lake-effect snow falls.

All of these extremes may make it seem that our planet is barely survivable. But as professor Snodgrass points out, we thrive on Earth. Even as the population of the globe continues to increase, fewer and fewer people are dying from extreme weather. The credit goes to improved forecasting tools along with more accurate computer models that weigh the countless data points that represent the ever-changing atmosphere. As a result, it is rare for a severe weather event to catch meteorologists by surprise.

After watching The Science of Extreme Weather, members will come away with newfound appreciation and respect for the atmosphere’s most awe-inspiring phenomena.

This study group will be held each Thursday—except for holidays— through February.

Science Roundtable

olli-uo-science-roundtable-4Central Oregon–Join the science cohort for a special, one-time “science roundtable,” during which participants bring a science topic to discuss with others. Members can bring an article, a book, or just something they have been curious about. This is an opportunity to see if others in the group can shed any light on the topic in question. This is not structured but will have a facilitator to help ensure all who wish can participate. Attendees do not need to have a science background to join in or to just listen. As always, all are welcome no matter your background.

A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian 

A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian

Central Oregon–Our new science series will be based on an 18-lecture course developed by The Great Courses and the Smithsonian. They describe it, in part, as follows:

“For the first time in human history, we can see the full splendor and mystery of the universe, thanks to instruments on scores of planetary probes and observatories that have been launched into space since the 1990s.

From Saturn’s rings to the heart of the Milky Way, and from colliding galaxies to cataclysmic gamma-ray bursts at the edges of visible space, some of the most spectacular sights in the cosmos are now as easy to see as the stars above. Many of these cosmic phenomena occur at wavelengths of light that are beyond the range of human vision and can only be detected by special instruments in space.”

“The dazzling new images are not just a data bonanza for scientists; they have entered popular culture, appearing in art galleries and coffee-table books, as well as on posters, T-shirts, and even postage stamps. Above all, this stunning archive is providing a new perspective on our dynamic universe.” (The Great Courses)

Tune in on Thursday afternoons to unlock the keys to understanding the large-scale structure of the universe. OLLI member Jim Hammond facilitates our session discussions.


Understanding Science

Understanding Science

Eugene/Springfield–This study group presents outstanding introductory college-level DVD science courses, and discusses related ideas and information among group members. No specialized knowledge is required to appreciate these excellent lectures.

The lectures are only mildly cumulative in nature, and if you are occasionally unable to attend, this fact should not impede your enjoyment of the course. Decisions concerning specific course subjects are made by a majority vote of the group on a quarterly basis. Emphasis is placed on the natural and the formal sciences, but consideration is also given to a broader perspective that includes the philosophy of science, and the social, behavioral, and applied sciences.

Meets first, third and fifth Tuesdays.

Understanding Science

Eugene/Springfield–Presents outstanding introductory college-level DVD science courses, followed by discussion of related ideas and information among group members.  No specialized knowledge is required.

The lectures are only mildly cumulative in nature, and if you are occasionally unable to attend, this fact should not impede your enjoyment of the course.  Decisions concerning specific course subjects are made by a majority vote of the group on a quarterly basis. Emphasis is placed on the natural and the formal sciences, but consideration is also given to a broader perspective that includes the philosophy of science, and the social, behavioral, and applied sciences.

Want to know more about OLLI membership? Click here.