Sunday, February 11, 2018 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Catherine Sanderson / Amherst College
What role do money, IQ, marriage, friends, children, weather, and religion play in making us feel happier? Is happiness stable over time? How can happiness be increased? Professor Sanderson will describe cutting-edge research from the field of positive psychology on the factors that do (and do not) predict happiness, and provide practical (and relatively easy!) ways to increase your own psychological well-being.
At the close of her lecture, Professor Sanderson will spend some time on horrific events that we all know of – child abuse, mass killing, ignoring the suffering of others. What drives (some) human beings to (sometimes) act cruel and callous to one another?
Catherine Sanderson is the James E. Ostendarp Professor of Psychology at Amherst College, and is often cited as the school’s most popular professor. Her research has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. She has published over 25 journal articles in addition to three college textbooks. In 2012, she was named one of the country’s top 300 professors by the Princeton Review.
Wendy Schiller / Brown University
In the past decade, the United States has endured a stark economic crisis, fierce partisan political battles, and historic changes in the global political environment. The president, Congress, and the Supreme Court have taken actions that profoundly affect the scope of federal power and individual rights in our political and economic system. During this time there has been a great deal of debate as to whether these actions are in line with the U.S. Constitution and the intent of those who founded our nation. In this class, we will address these debates with a specific focus on the writings of key founders such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and our first president, George Washington.
What would these men say about the federal auto and bank bailouts, Obamacare, the Federal Reserve, illegal immigration, the size of the national debt, same-sex marriage, gun violence, and U.S. involvement in conflicts on foreign soil? We will discuss the nature of federal power in the economic and social lives of citizens at home and abroad; the role of political parties, ideology, and diversity in a democracy; and the expected versus actual power of each of the branches of government vis-a-vis each other. We will also examine the nature of the federal-state relationship, with a focus on what founders believed should be the appropriate boundaries between national and state governments, and whether the reality of 21st century American life makes those boundaries obsolete.
Wendy Schiller is the Chair of the Political Science Department at Brown University. She is an expert in the field of the U.S. Congress and political representation, and the recent recipient of a National Science Foundation grant to study party conflict and factionalism in the U.S. Senate. Professor Schiller has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a six-time recipient of the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award at Brown.
David Helfand / Columbia University
Twenty years ago, our solar system was the only one we knew existed — eight planets circling a rather ordinary star. Today we know there are billions of solar systems in our Galaxy alone, and the planetary zoo is full of denizens too weird to have imagined. Twenty years ago, life on Earth is the only kind we knew existed; that’s still true today.
Yet a few of the new planets we have discovered appear to be similar in size and temperature to Earth. Do they harbor life? How can we tell? What is the likelihood that we are not alone? Professor Helfand will describe how our knowledge of other worlds has expanded so rapidly and how we can calculate the odds of finding intelligence beyond Earth.
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for 42 years where he served as chair of the Department for nearly half that time. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada, and currently serves as Chair of the American Institute of Physics. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of the new book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”