Todd Lecture Series: Astronaut Col. Michael E. Fossum

Norwich University’s Todd Lecture Series is going to get a fantastic visitor in late February: Col Michael E. Fossum, a NASA Astronaut who commanded the International Space Station. The lecture will take place on February 26th at Norwich University’s Northfield campus, and will be hosted by the College of Science and Mathematics.

Fossum joined NASA in 1993 as an engineer, where his primary responsibility was to evaluate the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for use as an emergency escape vehicle for (at the time) planned International Space Station. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1998 and supported several space shuttle missions as capsule communicator (CapCom). In 2006, he was a member of the crew of STS-121 on Space Shuttle Discovery, and in 2008, he flew aboard Discovery once again for the STS-124 mission. In 2011, he was part of the Expedition 28 and 29 missions aboard the International Space Station. In total, he has spent 194 days in space, which include 48 hours over the course of 7 spacewalks.

This should be a really exciting lecture. They are free and open to the public. Every time I attend one of these, I have found that I’ve come away with my thoughts provoked.

Todd Lecture Series: National Security Implications of Climate Change


Norwich University will be hosting Gen (RET) Gordon R. Sullivan, former chief of staff of the US Army, for an installment of the Todd Lecture Series entitled National Security Implications of Climate Change.

The lecture will take place on February 5, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in Plumley Armory. The lecture will be hosted by the College of National Services.

I’m a big fan of this lecture series, and General Sullivan is an excellent speaker: this will be a really interesting talk.


Todd Lecture: Rachel Armstrong “Icological Cities”

Tonight, Norwich University will present Dr. Rachel Armstrong for the latest entry in the Todd Lecture Series. Her talk, titled “Icological Cities”, will take place in the school’s Plumley Armory at 7pm.

From the school’s press release:

Armstrong is a co-director of Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research (AVATAR) specializing in architecture and synthetic biology at the Department of Architecture and Landscape, University of Greenwich, London. Her TED lecture titled “Architecture that repairs itself?” has received more than 750,000 views.

Armstrong is investigating a new approach to building materials called “living architecture,” a movement that suggests buildings can share properties of living systems.

Frequently regarded as a pioneer, Armstrong is named among the 2014 Citizens of the Next Century. She also appeared in the “Wired” 2013 Smart List and among the 2013 “ICON” magazine 50. In 2012, “Director” magazine called her one of the ten people in the UK that may shape the UK’s recovery, and “Chick Chip” magazine recognized her as one of the year’s nine most inspiring women. In 2011, the BBC “Focus” magazine placed her in a list of “big ideas, ten original thinkers.”

The event will be livestreamed on the school’s website. Watch it here at 7pm EST.

You can also watch Armstrong’s TED Talk, which is pretty interesting.

The Todd series is a fantastic offering from the University, and just about every single one I’ve gone to is enlightening and interesting, opening my mind up to new things and new perspectives.

The Making of ‘The Rookie Plague’


Over the last year, Norwich University students went forward and filmed a short Zombie film. I’ve yet to see it online, but recently, Norwich University posted up a short ‘making of’ video about the filming process:

It takes a lot to bring the living dead to life.

Two communications students, with a small group of helpers, spent much of the spring 2012 semester and all of their free time shooting a 30-minute movie, “The Rookie Plague,” on Norwich University’s campus. While not a class project, the film required a big commitment by students and employees.

The project got off to a slow start in the previous semester, but after completing the necessary writing, permitting and planning, Director Paul Barnard and Assistant Director Ben Garmise turned to Norwich’s drama troupe, the Pegasus Players, and quickly had a healthy cast of actors, extras and technical assistants to make the movie work.

Norwich helped out by allowing them to shoot in the buildings and grounds on afternoons and weekends. After a marathon editing effort just before the spring 2012 exam week, “The Rookie Plague” debuted in front of an enthusiastic crowd of NU students.

Norwich In Miniature

Norwich University’s alumni magazine, the Record, has an interesting focus on one of their alumni who is a hobby toy-soldier creator, with some excellent images. Visitors to the Kreitzburg Library will come across a small table with a glass top: underneath is a formation of Norwich Cadets: the corps in miniature. I’ve always wondered what the story was behind it.

On the eve of Norwich’s 175th anniversary, Roger realized, “Nobody does miniatures of Norwich cadets.” As a proud alumnus, he felt it was imperative to remedy the situation.
“I went up there for Homecoming and took pictures of everything I could—individual cadets, the color guard, even the glockenspiel player in the band.” Roger plastered the walls of his workshop with the photos. “It became my studio,” he says.

Read the rest of the account here.

Norwich to offer Gaming & Algorithms Course

This in from the Norwich Guidon:

The dining hall may serve the same food each semester, the same professors may teach year after year, and some traditions are forever, but there is one change for Norwich students to look forward to next fall: Brand-new classes.
Instead of assigning a textbook, Professor Jeremy Hansen, an assistant professor of computer science, is asking his students to choose one of their favorite games and purchase that for class.
Hansen is offering a new course titled Gaming and Algorithms.
“Although the class is a 400 level course, the material is not that advanced,” Hansen said, “It’s more for non-computer science and non-computer security folks to be introduced to the things people really shy away from in computer science like algorithms, probability and gaming theory.”
This elective course is explained nearly entirely through games, according to Hansen. “Most people know how to play chess or checkers, but we are going to find out the purpose and strategies of the games,” Hansen said.
Meeting once a week, Hansen plans to divide the three hours into sections.
“(The students) will not be simply sitting at the computer and playing Bejeweled for an hour and a half, but the students will document things like rules and analyzing the state of the game,” Hansen said.
The course itself does not get into computer programming but, “if there are students with any programming backgrounds in the class, I may have them build the stuff because they have the resources,” Hansen said.
“It really boils down to games and problem solving,” Hansen said, but outside of the problem solving, he plans to look in the role of theme in a game.

Full article.

Geek Things for March 31st

  • Vermont Organics Recycling Summit, 8:30AM–4PM, Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center. $35-45. (Organic)
  • American Red Cross Blood Drive, 8AM–1PM, Fair Haven Union High School, Fair Haven. Free. (Blood Drive)
  • Grand Opening, 3–7:30PM, Readers & Writers at LACE, Barre. Free. (Community)
  • ‘How to Make the Best Use of Your Digital Camera’, 6–8PM, Fairfax Community Library, Fairfax. Free. (Photography)
  • ‘Preserving Electronic Records’, 9AM–12PM, Angell College Center, SUNY Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh. Free. (Technology)
  • Chess Club, 7PM, Faith United Methodist Church, South Burlington. $2-3. (Chess)
  • ‘Journey From Sap to Syrup’. 10-11am, Preregister. Sugarhouse parking area. Green Mountain Audubon Center, Huntington. $8-10 per adult/child pair; $4 per each additional child. (Nature, Kids)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Computers)
  • Poetry-Writing Group, 4:30–5:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Writing)
  • John Cohn – “Smarter Computing: How 100 Years of Innovation Got Us on ‘Jeopardy!'” 4PM, John Dewey Lounge, Old Mill Building, UVM, Burlington. Free. (Robots)
  • Colby Military Writers’ Symposium – “An Uncertain Future in Afghanistan: Assessing the Conflict 10 Years On.” 8AM–7PM, Norwich University, Northfield. $150 for all events. (Military)
  • Dr. Robert J. Nash & Dr. DeMethra LaSha Bradley – “Continuing to Liberate Scholarly Writing: How Scholarly Personal-Narrative Writing Integrates Me-Search and Re-Search.” 3PM, McCarthy Arts Center, St. Michael’s College, Colchester. Free. (Talk)
  • Warmachine / Hordes, 5pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games Gamespace, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • Author Appearance: Ethan Gilsdorf, Presenting “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks”, 4pm – 6pm, Beverly, MA (Author)
  • “Carcinogenesis as Development Gone Awry,” 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Given Carpenter Auditorium E131, UVM, Burlington. (Talk
  • Toad the Wet Sproket, 7:00, Higher Ground, South Burlington. (Music)

NU Student Returns from Antarctica

Norwich engineering student Stephen Emmons...

This in from Norwich University in Northfield:

It took three hours for Stephen Emmons to climb up the slope of Pearse Valley, near Antarctica’s Lake Joyce, and reach a point of rock buffeted by near gale-force winds. Upon arrival, he was treated to a view few humans ever experience.

“I could see farther into the continent, the ice sheets, Taylor Glacier, and down into the Pearse Valley,” said Emmons, a Norwich University electrical and computer engineering major. “But I kept being knocked off balance by the wind. I wanted to stay up there, but it was painfully windy.”

Extreme conditions were very much a part of this personal journey of exploration. Emmons, ’12, joined a scientific team exploring the McMurdo Dry Valleys of the world’s fifth-largest and southernmost continent. Led by Dale Andersen, principal investigator at the SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, the team investigated Lake Joyce and Lake Vanda, two ice-covered lakes in the Dry Valleys, from late October to December 2010.

Read the full article here.

Very, very cool. Color me jealous.

Todd Lecture Series: Dr. David Carpenter

Last night, Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany spoke at Norwich University’s Plumley Armory with a talk titled “The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health: What We Must Do To Save Our World”. As the title suggests, the focus of the night was on the changing global climate and what the impact of such changes would be on human civilization. We’re in for a number of problems, should the problem continue unmitigated. The issue, however, comes in a number of forms, and helps to resist to any needed changes.

Simply put, the planet is slowly warming up, with average temperatures rising by a degree over the last decade. However, as Dr. Carpenter noted, the term Global Warming, while accurate in some places, is more of a misnomer that doesn’t describe the phenomenon properly: this isn’t a gradual, steady change that’s consistent: in some places around the world, it’s gotten colder. In the United States, other changes have been seen, with the Northeast and south seeing more precipitation, while the South West has seen far more dry weather than on record. Such changes happen all around the world.

The changes can be attributed to human behavior and carbon dioxide emissions. We primarily get our energy by burning and consuming fossil fuels, with significant amounts coming from energy production to agriculture to transportation, with very little of that offset by renewable energies, and with further offsets by the destruction of forests and other resources.

The warming has other affects on the planet’s ecosystems. Habitats change, and plant and animal life struggles to catch up and adapt. Carpenter cited estimates up upwards of 30% of known species going extinct as a result in the relatively near future. The story is a very familiar one, and most of the well known points were covered in a fair amount of detail.

I was disappointed by the presentation for a couple of reasons. While the information was good, it was a lot of stuff that has largely been seen before and discussed widely in the media, science publications and elsewhere, essentially acting as a primer for what the state of the planet is and where we might be going.

One of the main issues that I’ve often found with climate change science is how the results come up against the general public. The problems are far-reaching and cover many parts of the world and people’s lives, and as a result, there is a lot of complexity to how the problems can be approached. Furthermore, I’ve yet to see a convincing examination of climate change that links the science to practical human impact.

Personally, I don’t care all that much for the plight of the Polar Bears, or the ice caps: there’s very little direct impact to my day, and without ice caps melting in the first place, I wouldn’t be able to live in Vermont. However, the impact that global climate change has and will have on human lives is immense, and I think that there were some major opportunities here to plug that gap.

In 2003, Carpenter noted that a massive heat wave in Europe killed thousands of Parisians, something I didn’t believe at first, and looked up on the spot. It’s true: 40,000 people in Europe were killed as a direct result of the heat wave during that year, a major impact if I ever saw one. Further elements that he talked about was the impact of disease carried by mosquitoes migrating as a result of warmer temperatures in areas unaccustomed to them, and how plant life might shift as a result. The impact will be greater in third world countries, where there are closer links to the land (as opposed to first world countries which have more extensive infrastructure and resources available).

The talk was interesting, and through provoking, but it’s a message that’s been heard many times before, and one that’s not as convincing as it once was. Still, he presents a scary future, one that suggests radical changes, and notes a message that shouldn’t be too far from one’s mind: how will we solve the problem?

Geek Things for February 10th

  • American Red Cross Blood Drive, 2–7PM, Charlotte Senior Center, Charlotte. Free. (Vampires)
  • Chess Club, 7PM, Faith United Methodist Church, South Burlington. $2-3. (Chess)
  • ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’, 5:30–7:30PM, City Market, Burlington. Free, preregister. (Food)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Poetry-Writing Group, 4:30–5:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Colman McCarthy, “Building a more peaceful world”, 7PM, Casella Theater, Castleton State College, Castleton. Free; tickets required. (Peace)
  • Dr. Elliott Fisher, “Achieving a Sustainable Health Care System.”, 4pm, Farrell Room, St. Edmund’s Hall, St. Michael’s College, Colchester. Free. (Health Care)
  • Walter Kulash – “Transportation and Community Character,” 7PM, Dana Auditorium, Sunderland Language Center, Middlebury College, Middlebury. Free. (Transportation)
  • Todd Lecture Series – Lieutenant General John F. Kelley, 7pm, Plumley Armory, Norwich University, Northfield. Free. (Military)
  • ‘Dracula’, 7:30PM, Hartman Theatre, Myers Fine Arts Building, SUNY Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh. $2-10. (Vampires, Theater)
  • ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, 7PM, Dibden Center for the Arts, Johnson State College, Johnson. $5. (Shakespeare, Theater)
  • Book Discussion Series: ‘World War II: The Loss of the Age of Innocence’ in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, 6:30PM, Fairfax Community Library, Fairfax. Free. (Reading)
  • Sigma Xi lecture: “DNA at the Dinnertable: The Global Politics of Genetically Modified Food”, 5:30pm, Norwich University, Northfield. (Genetics)
  • Exhibit: Raise the Roof, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, ECHO, Burlington. Free with admission (Kids)
  • Teacher Workshop: Growing Things: an Introduction to the Insights Curriculum, 9am to 3pm, Monshire Museum, Norwich. $55, pre-registration required. Register online. (Teaching)
  • Open Miniatures Tables!, 5pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)