The Kavli Foundation
Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue 1, 2010
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:

Dr. John P. HoldrenThe Norwegian Academy of Science and Arts, in partnership with The Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, has announced the establishment of the Kavli Prize Science Forum - a new biennial international summit meeting to facilitate high-level, global discussion of major topics on science and science policy.

John P. Holdren, Science Advisor to President Barack Obama and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, will give the keynote speech at the inaugural summit, which will convene in Oslo, Norway this fall and focus on the topic: "International Cooperation in the Advancement of Science."

Also addressing the summit is Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the first Secretary General of the European Research Council and now the Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program. Holdren and Winnacker will also join a panel discussion that includes seven global leaders who are critical in shaping science policy in the US, Europe and China. Full story


Three Experts on the Nano-Neuro Intersection

Nano-Neuro Intersection

How does the brain compute? Can we emulate the brain to create supercomputers far beyond what currently exists? And will we one day have tools small enough to manipulate individual neurons -- and if so, what might be the impact of this new technology on neuroscience?

Recently, Nicholas Spitzer -- Professor of Neurobiology and Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego -- addressed these issues with two groundbreaking researchers in nanoscience: Kwabena Boahen, Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University, and Hongkun Park, Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Harvard University. In a roundtable dialogue, these acclaimed scientists discussed how their once diverging disciplines are now joining to understand how the brain works at its most basic cellular level, and the extraordinary advances this merger seems to promise for fields ranging from computer technology to health. Full story

Colorado Bound: The Auger North Project
Auger North tank

In 2008, the world's largest array for detecting ultra-high energy cosmic rays -- the most energetic particles in the universe -- was completed in Argentina by the Pierre Auger Observatory.

Now the Observatory is hoping to build a new array in the northern hemisphere that would cover seven times the area as its Argentinean brother. The project is a tremendous undertaking, and not only because of its size. The network of tanks will crisscross farms and ranches in Colorado, and to succeed, researchers need more than scientific ingenuity. Also integral is recruiting communities -- including farmers and ranchers more interested in agriculture than astrophysics -- to become partners in exploring the sky. Full story

Smart Moves: Daniel Wolpert on Motor Control and the Brain

Daniel WolpertWhile computers are capable of sometimes beating the world's best (human) chess masters, "when it comes to dexterity, a five-year-old child could beat any machine being made" -- a point made by Daniel Wolpert, a professor of engineering at the University of Cambridge and a leading researcher on human motor control.

As Wolpert notes, what gives the brain an edge over artificial computers is its skill at dealing with situations in which outcomes are uncertain and meaningful data is mixed with random noise. At great speed, it compares current sensory data to past experience and weighs probabilities to direct muscles -- hundreds of which can be acting at one time -- toward a desired action.

In fact, according to Wolpert, this is not only one reason the brain is remarkable; it gets to the root of why we have a brain at all. Full story


Massive Planet is Being Torn Apart by Its Own Tides, Providing Opportunity to Watch a Planetary "Death March"

Illustration of WASP-12b in orbit (Credit: ESA/C Carreau)An international group of astrophysicists has determined that a massive planet outside our Solar System is being distorted and destroyed by its host star - a finding that helps explain the unexpectedly large size of the planet, WASP-12b.

It's a discovery that also means scientists have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to observe how a planet enters this final stage of its life. "This is the first time that astronomers are witnessing the ongoing disruption and death march of a planet," says Douglas N.C. Lin, co-author of the new study and director of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, which was deeply involved with the research. Full story

More Astrophysics News
Simple Mathematical Rules May Be Responsible for Complicated Biological Adaptations

Applied mathematicians at Harvard have excavated the equations behind a variety of complex phenomena, and the latest numerical feat by Otger Campˆs and Michael Brenner -- a researcher affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University -- zeroes in on perhaps the most famous icon of evolution: the beaks of Darwin's finches.

In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers demonstrate that simple changes in beak length and depth can explain the important morphological diversity of all beak shapes within the famous genus Geospiza. Broadly, the work suggests that a few, simple mathematical rules may be responsible for complicated biological adaptations. Full story

More Nanoscience News

In This Issue
Feature: Three Experts on the Nano-Neuro Intersection
Feature: Colorado Bound -- The Auger North Project
Feature: Daniel Wolpert on Motor Control and the Brain
Astrophysics News
Nanoscience News
Neuroscience News

Neural Thermostat Keeps Brain Running Efficiently

Our energy-hungry brains operate reliably and efficiently while processing a flood of sensory information, thanks to a sort of neuronal thermostat that regulates activity in the visual cortex, researchers have found.

The actions of inhibitory neurons allow the brain to save energy by suppressing non-essential visual stimuli and processing only key information, according to research published in Neuron. "It's called the iceberg phenomenon, where only the tip is sharply defined yet we are aware that there is a much larger portion underwater that we can not see," said David McCormick of the Kavli Institute of Neuroscience at Yale University and co-senior author of the study. "These inhibitory neurons set the water level and control how much of the iceberg we see." Full story

More Neuroscience News

Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology at Harvard University. The Chemical Heritage Foundation has named KIBST co-director George M. Whitesides recipient of the 2010 Othmer Gold Medal. Established in 1997, the medal honors outstanding individuals who have made multifaceted contributions to chemistry and science in such areas as innovation, entrepreneurship, research, education, public understanding, legislation and philanthropy.

Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University.  The Yale School of Medicine has created a new research center to study the evolution of the human brain. Called the Yale Center for Human Brain Development and Evolution, researchers hope to shed light on the causes of and potential cures for many diseases and disorders unique to humans such as schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disease. The center will be part of the Institute.

Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University.  The Institute held
its third annual Kavli Lecture in Neural Science. Presented by Giacomo Rizzolatti from the University of Parma, Italy,  the title of the talk was "Mirror Neurons: Interpretations and
Misinterpretations." At the lecture, the second annual Kavli Award for Distinguished Research in Neuroscience was presented to J. Nicholas
Betley, from the laboratory of Thomas Jessell, for his thesis entitled "Stringent Specificity in the Construction of a Presynaptic Inhibitory

Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University of Technology. Cees Dekker was awarded ERC Advanced Grant of €2.5 million -- funding to investigate the evolution of bacteria in specially manufactured miniature 'nano landscapes', a type of very small Galapagos archipelago for bacteria. He will also be studying the transport of DNA molecules through tiny holes (nano pores). The ERC Advanced Grant is a prestigious subsidy granted by the European Research Council of the EU for exceptional scientists who submit ambitious and groundbreaking research proposals.

Bionanotechnologist Nynke Dekker has been awarded a €1.5 million Vici grant by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The Vici grants are intended for experienced researchers who have demonstrated successful development of their own line of innovative research and who can act as a coach for young researchers.

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago.  Evalyn Gates, assistant director of KICP, has been appointed the new executive director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History -- a post she will assume in May. Previously she has held leadership positions at Chicago's popular Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, including overseeing the creation of new exhibits and shows, developing new galleries, and heading the facility's public education efforts.