The Prehistory of Europe: New Findings from Genetics and Archeology

Date:  November 23, 2014
Speaker:  Henry Harpending, University of Utah, Anthropology

Henry Harpending obtained a doctorate in Anthropology from Harvard in 1972 and has taught at Yale, New Mexico, Penn State, and the University of Utah. His research career has had two themes: one with focus on family organization and demography, especially of foragers and pastoralists of the Kalahari Desert, the other with focus on human population genetics, molecular evolution, and modern human origins.

“The Human Genome project has brought dramatic progress to unraveling the history and movements of ancient human populations. The peoples of Europe are descended from three ancestral populations. The earliest, the hunter-gatherers, appeared in Europe about 45,000 years ago and brought art, sculpture, personal adornment, and projectile weapons. About 12,000 years ago farming entered Europe from the Middle East via Anatolia, gradually displacing many of the hunter-gatherers. Finally about 5,000 years ago with much violence and disruption a new group of farmers and herders with origins in northern Eurasia and with genome features shared with American Indians, speaking Indo-European languages, created the third component of European Ancestry.”

Speaker Suggested Resources:
The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the EurasianSteppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony.
The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC by D. W. Anthony and J. Chi.


Growing Smart Networks

Date:  November 9, 2014
Speaker:  Dr. Peter R. Conwell

Dr. Peter R. Conwell has been teaching for the last 14 years at Westminster College. Previously he was a consultant for Fonix—a local company located in Draper doing automated speech recognition, a research professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah, and a computational physicist at Unisys. He graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Utah in 1986 and has been studying the physics of complex networks since 1985. Until now, he has focused on the dynamics of totally connected recurrent networks—what kind of computations can they perform? Lately, he has been examining the computational properties that arise from their topology, or connectivity.

“This talk is a meander through graph theory, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, theoretical computer science, and physics exploring certain attributes of neural networks, artificial and real, that promote intelligence. It will focus on a special type of symmetry called scale invariance. Scale invariance is an extremely important property of smart complex systems. We will discuss the possibility that certain types of mathematical models of complex networks have computational abilities that exceed the Turing limit, a computational limit imposed on all known digital computers.”

Speaker Suggested Resources:
Kenneth G. Wilson received the Nobel Prize in 1982 for his, “New Theory of Phase Transitions.” For a very readable presentation of this work see, Problems in Physics with Many Scales of Length, Scientific American, August 1979.
Self-Organized Criticality, Per Bak and Kan Chen, Scientific American, January 1991.
Emergence of Scaling in Random Networks, Albert-Lánszló Barabási and Réka Albert, Science, October 15, 1999.
Scale-Free Networks, Scientific American, Barabasi and Bonabeau, May 2003.
Turing’s oracle: The computer that goes beyond logic, New Scientists, Michael Brooks, July 16, 2014, Issue 2978.