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Friday, July 11, 2014

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Two to probe questions in sciences, May 4 and 10

Talks on sustainable development and on the role of genes will be presented in the coming weeks as part of the University's Public Lectures Series.

On Wednesday, May 4, Lord Robert May, professor of zoology at Oxford University, will discuss "Hard Questions About Tomorrow's World." On Tuesday, May 10, journalist and author Matt Ridley will discuss "How Nature Turns on Nurture." Both talks will begin at 8 p.m. in McCosh 50.

May served as chief scientific adviser to the government of the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2000 and currently is president of the Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the U.K. dedicated to promoting excellence in science. He is a former faculty member and chair of the University Research Board at Princeton. In his lecture, he is expected to discuss the challenges facing humans in a time when their ecological "footprints" may already exceed levels the planet can sustain. He will address topics such as increasing human numbers, the emergence of new diseases, increasing demands for energy, and the sustainable and equitable production and delivery of food.

Ridley did research in zoology at Oxford before becoming a journalist. He has written for The Economist and the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph and is the author of "Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human" (HarperCollins, 2003). In the book, he takes on the debate about whether people's qualities are determined by their genes (nature) or by their environment (nurture) and concludes that genes not only predetermine the broad structure of the brain, but they also absorb formative experiences, react to social cues and even run memory.

Both talks are designated as the Louis Clark Vanuxem Lectures and will be available for online viewing a week afterward.

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