Darwin's Devices


Public Presentations by John Long about Darwin’s Devices

The future:

• 4:30 p.m., Sunday, 26 October 2014.  “Il tempo delle specie e il tempo dei robot: Quando le macchine giocano al gioco della vita.”  Join us at the Festival della Scienza in Genoa, Italy.  Palazzo Ducale, Sala del Minor Consiglio, P.zza Matteotti 9.

The past:

• 3:30 p.m., Friday, 10 January 2014.  “Darwin’s Devices: Biorobots Reconstruct the Evolution of Ancient Animals.”  Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science will launch its Frontiers in Science 2014 public lecture series with a presentation by John Long, Ph.D., titled “Darwin’s Devices: Biorobots Reconstruct the Evolution of Ancient Animals.” The lecture will take place in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Room 126, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus.

• 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, 18 June 2013.  “Robot (R)Evolution.”  Public presentation, The Secret Science Club, Bell House, 149 7th St., Brooklyn, NY.

• 10:00 p.m., Wednesday, 31 July 2013.  “Through the Wormhole:  Did God Create Evolution?”  Science Channel. Broadcast debut.

* Monday, 18 March 2013.  “Darwin’s Devices: Evolving Robots Reanimate Ancient Animal Evolution.” Science Communication Series, Brown University.

• Monday, 18 March 2013. “Writing Science: When Robots Evolve, People Listen.”  Science Cafe, Brown University.

• Wednesday, 9 January 2013. “Why is a Biologist Evolving Robots to Study Biology?”  Vassar Club at the Columbia Tower Club, Seattle, Washington.

• Monday, 7 January 2013. “Why is a Biologist Evolving Robots to Study Biology?”  Vassar Club at the Arlington Club, Portland, Oregon.

• Monday and Tuesday, 17 and 18 December 2012.  “Animals and Robots Behave and Evolve.”  Presentation at Vassar College for the seventh-grade science students from Pierre Van Cortland Middle School, under the auspices of their teacher, Dr. Geral Ardito.

• Friday, 15 December 2012.  “Are Robots Good Models of Animals?”  Theory Lunch program at the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School.

• November, 2012.  Discovery Channel, Latin America, season two of “2111,” episode on the future of robotics.

• Saturday, 29 September 2012. “Evolving Robots to Study Animal Evolution.”  Maker Faire NY 2012.

• Friday, 28 September 2012.  Speaker for the Engaging Science book club, organized by the Center for Collaborative Approaches to Science, Vassar College.

• Wednesday, 12 September 2013. “Chasing Our Tale: Remembrance of (Evolutionary) Things Past.” Convocation address, Vassar College.

• Friday, 18 May 2012.  Radio interview with Shelley Irwin, host of “The Morning Show” on WGVU, Grand Rapids, MI.

• Tuesday, 8 May 2012.  Live radio interview and call-in program with Krys Boyd, host of “Think” on  KERA, Dallas-Ft. Worth.

• Wednesday, 9 May 2012.  The Empiricist League. Theme:  “Darwin v. Robot!”   266 Broome St., New York, NY.

• Thursday, 3 May 2012. Vassar College Bookstore.  A presentation designed for high school and middle school students from New Paltz.  We talked about evolving robots and the serious fun of doing science.

• Thursday, 3 May 2012. Todd Middle School, Spackenkill Union Free School District.  A presentation designed for seventh grad students .  We talked about building robots to test our ideas about the evolution of vertebrates and building robots.

• Saturday, 28 April 2012.  Interview with Bob McDonald, host of “Quirks & Quarks.”  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

• Thursday, 26 April 2012.  Live interview with Diego Mulligan, host of “The Journey Home with Diego Mulligan.”  KSFR-FM radio, Santa Fe, NM.

• Thursday, 19 April 2012.  Orations & Libations.  Vassar Alumnae Club, New York City.  Time-Life Building.

• Monday, 16 April 2012.   Live interview with Brian Lehrer with Brian Lehrer, host of The Brian Lehrer Show.  WNYC radio, New York, NY.

• Thursday, 12 April 2012.   Live interview with Dylan Ratigan, host of The Dylan Ratigan Show.  MSNBC.

• Wednesday, 4 April 2012.  Live presentation.  Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA.

• Wednesday, 4 April 2012.  Interview with Libby Denkman, producer of the Ron and Don show.  KIRO radio, Seattle, WA.

• Wednesday, 4 April 2012.  Live VideoCast, hosted by CoroWare, Inc.  A conversation about robots and Darwin’s Devices.  The discussion was led by public radio reporter Keith Seinfeld, and featured Dan Kara, robotic industry analyst, James Tangorra, robotics engineer, and John Long, author of Darwin’s Device.

• Wednesday, 4 April 2012, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, WA.  Public presentation about the book, Q&A, and then a book signing.

• Tuesday, 3 April 2012.  Interview with  John Moe, host of “The Marketplace Tech Report,” on Marketplace.  The podcast is here at Marketplace:  the lead story in the weekly ReMarket Podcast.  Hear the interview about the interview!  American Public Media.

• Wednesday, 8 February 2012.  Live presentation.  Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.  Professor Jodi Schwarz, of the Biology Department at Vassar, had prepared some kind remarks for my introduction.  She ended up NOT introducing me — professor Ken Livingston was crazy enough to do so instead.  Here’s what Dr. Schwarz would’ve said:

It is a pleasure to introduce John Long as our Darwin Days speaker today. John is a Professor in the Biology and Cognitive Science programs here at Vassar College and serves as Director of Vassar’s Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, which he co-founded.

John and his collaborators live in a futuristic world populated by fish robots and their offspring. I inhabit an office directly across the hall from the space where their research takes place, and to say the least, it is not the standard research environment. Rather than being brightly lit and filled with lab benches and centrifuges, it is a vast and cavernously dark space filled with cameras, strobe lights, and housing an enormous round aquatic tank inside of which the robots live their lives. John and his collaborators build robots that compete against each other to overcome challenges. By selecting robots with the highest performing characteristics, and virtually breeding multiple generations of robo-offspring, they are able to test hypotheses about the evolution of biological traits.

John has now written a book entitled Darwin’s Devices, which would make a wonderful birthday present to Darwin on his 203rd birthday. In his book, John explains how biologists have taken Darwin’s core ideas about “descent with modification” and “natural selection” and are testing these ideas using robots to model and simulate biological processes. His book hits the shelves (if Amazon has shelves) in April. John is an immensely entertaining and thought provoking writer, and I am looking forward to hearing him tell us in person about his work and his book.


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