On Wednesday, September 10 from 2pm to 4:30pm the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies will host the Honorable Kathryn Sullivan for a Bold Ideas Seminar.  Dr Sullivan is a distinguished scientist, renewed astronaut, and intrepid explorer, and is currently serving as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. The Center for Revolutionary Scientific Thought hosts seminars and conferences designed to find and foster big, bold science and technology ideas that address the most trying challenges facing our society.  RSVP is required.  For registration, please contact Patrick Cheetham at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=RSVP" target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 703-525-0770.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 20 the Center for Revolutionary Scientific Thought (CReST) hosted a Bold Ideas Seminar featuring the Honorable Zachary J. Lemnios.  Potomac Institute CEO and Chairman, Michael Swetnam, introduced and gave a brief overview of the 2014 thrust areas for CReST. In the Hon. Lemnios' presentation he discussed how his career in government, especially at DARPA and as Director of Defense Research and Engineering, shaped his current career in the private sector.  Specifically, he addressed the future of Information Technology and the different areas of computing that IBM is placing bets on. 

Industries are moving to a new data economy that will be characterized by predictive analytics, all-source understanding, seamless global connectivity, speed, and agility.  As head of IBM's network of global research laboratories the Hon. Lemnios mentioned launching major initiatives to develop systems of insight, cognitive computing, secure micro cloud, and managed data services. He highlighted recent investments with the New York Genome Center and in the Watson program. Lastly, he proffered a challenge to the audience to come up with Watson's next demonstration of intelligence.

Studying infectious diseases and their causes, sources and spread can help build models to predict their spread, especially when factoring in ongoing climate change challenges.

Potomac Institute Board of Regents member Dr. Rita Colwell spoke about “Climate Change and Human Health: Prospects for the Future.” Using cholera as an exemplar infectious disease, she considers the impact on human health in a world undergoing climate change. Cholera, which is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera, is found in many environments throughout the world, which leads to epidemics in areas with poverty, poor sanitation, and unsafe drinking water.

In an effort to understand these epidemics, Dr. Colwell’s research group has made use of satellite imagery and modeling to predict the spread of infectious disease, finding correlations between outbreaks of cholera and chlorophyll on the sea surface, air temperature, and rainfall. In analyzing the evolution of Vibrio cholera, Dr. Collwell notes that the bacteria and other Vibrio human pathogens are extremely similar to bacteria isolated from thermal vents 2500 meters below sea level.

With these novel findings, Dr. Colwell evaluated the recent cholera epidemic in Haiti in January 2010. Even before the earthquake, the record high rainfall and the hot summer were perfect preliminary conditions for the spread of cholera. The earthquake, however, led to a change in river pH, which, in combination with the other conditions, resulted in explosive growth of the bacteria. The case study of cholera in Haiti is an example of the link between climate change and infectious disease. The rise of heavily populated areas coupled with increased flooding and hotter temperatures will result in refugee migration, which can escalate the spread of disease worldwide.

The modeling can also be used to project the spread of other infectious diseases, as seen with Dr. Colwell’s research into Yersinia pestis in Tbilsi, Georgia. Moreover, satellite imagery and modeling can enhance the surveillance and response mechanisms of global health organizations. These advancements, along with further investment in safe drinking water and sanitation, could greatly reduce the spread of disease worldwide.

Studying infectious diseases and their causes, sources and spread can help build models to predict their spread, especially when factoring in ongoing climate change challenges.

Potomac Institute Board of Regents member Dr. Rita Colwell spoke about “Climate Change and Human Health: Prospects for the Future.” Using cholera as an exemplar infectious disease, she considers the impact on human health in a world undergoing climate change. Cholera, which is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera, is found in many environments throughout the world, which leads to epidemics in areas with poverty, poor sanitation, and unsafe drinking water.

In an effort to understand these epidemics, Dr. Colwell’s research group has made use of satellite imagery and modeling to predict the spread of infectious disease, finding correlations between outbreaks of cholera and chlorophyll on the sea surface, air temperature, and rainfall. In analyzing the evolution of Vibrio cholera, Dr. Collwell notes that the bacteria and other Vibrio human pathogens are extremely similar to bacteria isolated from thermal vents 2500 meters below sea level.

With these novel findings, Dr. Colwell evaluated the recent cholera epidemic in Haiti in January 2010. Even before the earthquake, the record high rainfall and the hot summer were perfect preliminary conditions for the spread of cholera. The earthquake, however, led to a change in river pH, which, in combination with the other conditions, resulted in explosive growth of the bacteria. The case study of cholera in Haiti is an example of the link between climate change and infectious disease. The rise of heavily populated areas coupled with increased flooding and hotter temperatures will result in refugee migration, which can escalate the spread of disease worldwide.

The modeling can also be used to project the spread of other infectious diseases, as seen with Dr. Colwell’s research into Yersinia pestis in Tbilsi, Georgia. Moreover, satellite imagery and modeling can enhance the surveillance and response mechanisms of global health organizations. These advancements, along with further investment in safe drinking water and sanitation, could greatly reduce the spread of disease worldwide.

The Future Golden Age

Washington, DC- April 8, 2013- David Brin, a world–renowned science fiction author and the first speaker for Bold Ideas speaker series at the Potomac Institute, brings a different prospective when looking at the future, or as he refers to “the golden age”. Brin firmly believes that technology and science will help solve a majority of life’s hard problems, but humans are holding back because of a “crisis of confidence”.

Brin reminded the audience that today humans have powers that many believed centuries ago only gods possessed, such as light with a flick of a finger and flying in the sky. Humans have changed the structure of society from a pyramid arrangement, where a few ruled, to a more leveled field, from clans and tribes to multi-organization networks. Technology is the “game changer” for the future. Achievements, such as led lights and medical advancements, show how technology has enhanced the way of living. According to Brin, this is the “age of amateurs”. Humans educate themselves using technology, making it where they do not need professionals or experts for every problem that is faced.

Brin stated there are endless possibilities for the future. The future could consist of world destruction by environmental carelessness and nuclear war, or humans could be become more technically advanced than could ever be imagined. Societies will always have foes, it is only a matter of time till one breaks in, but that is why humans need to anticipate what can happen in the future. An example would be 9/11, where an enemy did the unimaginable. Everyday American citizens were the heroes saving each other’s lives.

Brin addressed that humans should not be afraid to take risks. Humans set laws that limit them, thinking they are protecting themselves, but in reality it is banding technology for the future. Laws should be used to monitor competition, to level the playing field so new players can emerge. Brin expresses that, instead of humans being afraid of what the government sees they should be more interested in adding light: most information age dilemmas are solved by more light, not less, Brin said.

As we continue in the 21st century, problem solving will require four elements. The first two are already happening: art (visualization, simulation, games, openness) and anticipation (analytics, modeling, data gathering and accountability). The other two are what is needed: resilience (agile communication, self-organization, transparency, dispersed expertise) and discourse (analytic tools, dispute resolution, better interface).

Humans have a hard time adapting, but in the long run they always adapt, Brin concluded.

The CReST Bold Ideas Seminar series kicked off April 8, 2013, with David Brin - Scientist, Futurist, Author - speaking on "The Future Golden Age."

A seminar report, with executive summary and transcript, is now available. 

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The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful science and technology policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.

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