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Nancy Segal book cover

a New Season
of Lectures at Caltech

Mark your calendar! The Skeptics Society is pleased to announce the new season of the Skeptics Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech, kicking off with Dr. Nancy Segal this weekend! This continues the twelve-year-long series, presenting over 140 lectures by some of the most distinguished experts in the world.

Unless otherwise noted, each lecture is on a Sunday at 2:00pm at Caltech, Pasadena, California. Admission is at the door: free for Caltech faculty, staff, and students; free for JPL staff; $5 for Skeptics Society members; $8 for non-members; $5 for other students.

Nancy Segal photo

Indivisible by Two: Lives of Extraordinary Twins
(and what they teach us about human nature)

Dr. Nancy Segal

Sunday, September 25th, 2pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

In this lecture based on her new book, Dr. Nancy Segal, a leading expert on twins, goes deep into the stories behind her research to reveal the real-life dilemmas and joys of twelve remarkable sets of twins, triplets, and quadruplets. She introduces us to memorable people, from the “Fireman Twins” — brothers reared apart but astonishingly alike in personality and even minor habits, and the twin sisters who overcome one’s infertility by having the other serve as her surrogate mother. We meet twin sisters who became one of the few identical brother-sister pairs in the world after one was surgically transformed into a man, and identical triplet brothers, one of whom is gay while the other two are straight.

Dr. Segal, Distinguished Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences and Director of the Twin Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton, tells these stories and others with an eye for the challenges that life as a twin (or triplet or quadruplet) can bring to parents, friends, and spouses, as well as to twins themselves. These real-life stories remind us how incompletely any theory explains the variety of individual, or dual, or triple, or quadruple, lives.

book cover

Plows, Plagues & Petroleum
Global Warming, Climate Change
& the Future of the Environment

Dr. William Ruddiman

Sunday, October 9th, 2pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

The impact on climate from 200 years of industrial development is an everyday fact of life, but did humankind’s active involvement in climate change really begin with the industrial revolution, as commonly believed? Dr. William Ruddiman, a climate scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of the controversial new book, Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum, argues that humans have actually been changing the climate for some 8,000 years — as a result of the earlier discovery of agriculture. The “Ruddiman Hypothesis” has been controversial ever since it was featured as a cover story in Scientific American. It states that the impact of farming on greenhouse-gas levels, thousands of years before the industrial revolution, kept our planet notably warmer than if natural climate cycles had prevailed — quite possibly forestalling a new ice age.

Ruddiman takes us through three broad stages of human history: when nature was in control; when humans began to take control, discovering agriculture and affecting climate through carbon dioxide and methane emissions; and, finally, the more recent human impact on climate change. Along the way he raises the fascinating possibility that plagues, by depleting human populations, also affected reforestation and thus climate — as suggested by dips in greenhouse gases when major pandemics have occurred. The book concludes by looking to the future and critiquing the impact of special interest money on the global warming debate.

followed by…

Luck, ESP & Magic
How a Scientist Tests the Unusual

Dr. Richard Wiseman

Wednesday, November 9th, 7pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

Dr. Susan Clancy

Sunday, November 20th, 2pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

Sex, Jealousy & Violence
A Skeptical Look at Evolutionary Psychology

Dr. David Buller

Sunday, December 11th, 2pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

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