Speakers offer insightful Q and A

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Great Conversations is an afternoon of appetizers and desserts and an in-depth conversation with a subject area expert. This is the 4th Annual Great Conversations hosted by the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation. It will take place 2-5 p.m. Sunday at Los Alamos High School in the new building. This is the fifth in a series about the conversations that will take place.

Citing past natural disasters

Terry Wallace is the principal associate director for global security at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Did you know that nearly 80 percent of the world’s economic output comes from urban centers — so developing countries need to urbanize to improve their economic status. More than half of the emerging urban centers are also the sites of past natural disasters. Natural disasters are a hot news topic; a meteorite explodes over the Urals, Hurricane Sandy causes losses of $75 billion in the northeast, and 250,000 people die on “Boxing Day” 2004 in an earthquake and resulting tsunami in south Asia. At this table you’ll discuss the dramatic shift in the world’s populations to urban centers. Wallace is a seismologist with a specialization in forensic seismology, which is the detection and quantification of non-earthquake seismic events.

Mapping auroras with media

Elizabeth MacDonald is a LANL team leader and New Mexico Consortium affiliated researcher. MacDonald works on instruments that measure plasma in the near Earth space environment. While taking part in this conversation, you will learn about the spectacular Northern Lights and discuss how Los Alamos researchers study space plasma, build satellite instruments and use social media to predict auroras. Have you ever considered retiring to a celestial place — alive? Would you like to shock your friends? MacDonald is the founder of the first citizen science website to use social media to predict the Northern Lights during the current solar maximum, aurorasaurus.org.

Satisfy “Curiosity” about Mars
Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument on board the Curiosity Mars rover. This is his second NASA mission, following on Genesis, which in 2004 was the first spacecraft to return to Earth from beyond the Moon. He will share a first-hand perspective on his team’s exploration of Mars since August. While enjoying these conversations, participants will learn about the three months spent at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on Mars time (24 hour 40 minute days) while the instruments were checked out. There have been more than 35,000 laser pulses shot and Wiens’ team has taken more than 800 photos of the red planet. Discuss the recent discovery of the first large-grained igneous rocks seen on Mars’ surface, and the discovered calcium sulfate veins in rocks at the current site of exploration.

Grappling for tough answers
Many explanations of why shootings occur have been offered some based on research; some are the sound bites of newscasters and journalists in the wake of shootings. Mike Wismer is the Security Integration Group Leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He leads the effort to strengthen LANL’s capacity to prepare for and respond to an active shooter incident. Rampage attacks on schools are too complex to be attributed to any single cause. Participants at the table will go beyond the obvious, to a more nuanced look at the factors often cited as contributing to school shootings. What does research and analysis of the mind of shooters reveal about how to identify early signs of possible violence and examine preventive measures?
Anyone interested in attending Great Conversations can pick up a registration form or drop off a completed form with payment to The Finishing Touch locating at 174 Central Park Square. For more information, call 470-3734 or email j.gillespie@laschools.net.