Stretch Your Mind

It’s time for the 2013 Pregame Showcase, featuring interesting and lively presentations by some of the best professors on campus.

It’s that time of year again. Time to talk about streets named for Martin Luther King Jr. Time to learn more about our bodies’ internal clocks and sleep patterns. Time to watch out for the angry spirits in Bangkok. (But not all at once.)

Pregame ShowcaseIt’s time for Pregame Showcase, where you can stretch your mind with the College of Arts and Sciences’ award-winning professors. Initiated in 1989, the Pregame Showcase is a public lecture series scheduled two hours before each home football game. The program features thirty-minute presentations by all-star faculty on topics related to their field of expertise, followed by a ten- to fifteen-minute question-and-answer period. The carefully timed programs allow football fans to have plenty of time to enjoy the lecture and still get to the stadium by kickoff.

The lectures are free to attend and begin two hours before kickoff in the University Center Ballroom (Room 213). The dean will host a reception for guests following each lecture. The reception gives attendees an opportunity to interact with Dean Theresa M. Lee and the Pregame Showcase speaker.

August 31
“What’s in a Name? The ‘Place Politics’ of Streets Named for Martin Luther King Jr.”
Derek Alderman
Professor and Head, Department of Geography

Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr. led the march on Washington, Alderman will discuss the public commemoration of King, specifically the naming of streets for the slain civil rights leader. These streets serve as important cultural arenas—public spaces for interpreting and debating King’s legacies, grappling with questions of race and racism, and struggling to determine not only how, but also where he is best remembered. Street-naming proponents face “place politics” in their struggle to honor Martin Luther King on major roads that transcend long-standing racial and economic boundaries. In many instances, public opposition has led King’s namesakes to be minor side roads or portions of streets confined to African American neighborhoods. These geographic struggles over naming and remembering tell us a great deal about racial equality and social justice both yesterday and today.

September 7
“Star Dust and Atom Smashers”
Kate Jones
Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy

How can the properties of the tiny nucleus at the heart of every atom, together with the largest explosions in the universe, come together to explain where the iron in our blood was formed? The atomic nucleus is less than a thousandth of the size of an atom, yet it leaves its fingerprints on the chemical composition of the solar system. It is nuclear fusion that powers stars and keeps them from imploding under the gravitational forces of their colossal mass. The end of this fusion process leads to the death of a massive star in a cataclysmic explosion. Jones will cover these cosmic connections, relating measurements that can be made in the laboratory on nuclei that live fleetingly with supernova explosions and the inner workings of stars.

September 28
“Anthropology as a Tool for Improving the Human Condition”
Tricia Redeker Hepner
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

UT anthropologists are on the cutting edge of innovative research with humanitarian dimensions. Through the new Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights (DDHR) program, faculty and students are developing collaborative methods to analyze the causes, contexts, and consequences of contemporary crises, from oil spills and refugee flows to mass grave excavations and post-war reconstruction. DDHR co-founder Hepner will present some examples of this exciting work that she and her colleagues and students have undertaken.

October 5
“Tick Tock: Sleep Across the Lifespan and the Role of the Internal Clock”
Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor, Department of Psychology

Anyone who has lived with a baby, a teenager, or the very elderly will recognize that sleep patterns differ across the lifespan and will recognize the variation among different individuals in their preferred sleep times, often described as “larks and owls.” What controls the timing and amount of sleep? Why is there such variation across the lifespan? What does normal sleep look like at different ages and in different individuals at the same age? Lee will provide background on the biology of sleep control and will describe research of humans and other species that helps explain the great variation throughout a lifetime of sleep—and what is “normal.”

October 19
“Haunted Bangkok: Angry Spirits, Buddhist Power, and Popular Media in Thailand”
Rachelle Scott
Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Stories of ghosts and other supernatural beings abound in the oral and written traditions of Theravada Buddhism. For centuries, Buddhists have linked particular forms of rebirth (as a god, human, animal, ghost, or hell-being) to the karmic laws of cause and effect—that is, one’s mode of existence and quality of life is directly related to one’s actions in former lives. Stories of angry and restless spirits, in particular, have captured the attention and imagination of Buddhists over the past two millennia, as the stories offer poignant commentaries on the perils of greed, hatred, and delusion. Today, these stories continue to impart ethical lessons to Buddhists across Asia and around the world. Scott will discuss the popularity of these stories in contemporary Bangkok, where stories of angry and restless spirits inhabit the streets, the temples, and the cinemas.

November 9
“Making the Cuts: Austerity Policies and Their Social Implications”
Jon Shefner
Professor and Head, Department of Sociology

We have heard a great deal about austerity policies in the Eurozone and the United States since 2008. Many of those same policies have been implemented across the developing world since the 1970s. What can we now understand from this forty-year history of austerity policies? How have these policies affected governments and people across the globe? What does the prominence of these policies tell us about likely political futures? Shefner has been studying these issues for more than thirty years and will discuss his assessment of the impact of austerity policies in both the Global North and South.

November 23
“Simulations for Solutions: Solving Problems Through Scientific Computing”
Steven Wise
Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Computer simulation is used in almost every aspect of our lives, from the design of the antenna on our smartphones, to the weather forecast that we rely on before we leave for work in the mornings. But, what are computer simulations really? Are they reliable? Are there problems that we cannot solve with computers? There are some amazing success stories in the history of computer simulation, and, in fact, there are certainly things that human beings simply could not do without relying upon computers to crunch the numbers. However, with any subject that has a history, there are also great failures and cautionary tales we all should heed. Wise will discuss the advent of scientific computing, from the early days at Princeton and Los Alamos and the building of the first atomic weapons, to the present day and the great triumphs of modern computing. Wise’s lecture is also speculative about the future, as he will speak about what challenges lie ahead and how we might—and might not—be able to solve some of our biggest problems with the help of computers.