Science on Tap, Dec. 6th: Swarming Insects & Artificial Intelligence

In a couple of weeks, after you’ve recovered from your Thanksgiving food coma but before the big Christmas binge begins, you should come on out and join us for a big ol’ slice of science. On Wednesday, December 6th, we’ve got a double helping of Science on Tap! So whether you’re down near the Yahara Lakes or up in the Northwoods, you can come hear a fun discussion of a cool scientific topic, grab a drink and join the conversation.

Science on Tap – Madison: Much, Much More Than a ‘Smidge’ of Midge

Claudio Gratton and a swarm of Myvatn midges. UW Communications

Here in Madison, we’ll meet at Nomad World Pub at 7pm for a topic ready-made for this season of plenty – midges. We’re talking millions upon millions of these tiny flying bugs that begin their life as larvae in a lake, only to emerge in numbers so vast that, well, the picture to the left pretty much sums it all up!
For the last several years, a team of UW-Madison researchers has spent their field season on Iceland’s Lake Myvatn (literally “midge lake” in Icelandic), where swarms darken the sky and make breathing difficult. They’re studying what ends up being a gigantic input of nutrients from the lake to the land.
UW-Madison professor of entomology, Claudio Gratton, will join us to talk about why these large swarms of midges are like scattering a half-million Big Macs along the shore of Myvatn and what scientists are learning about how it impacts the ecosystem.
You can read about his work here and, yes, he’ll bring along some amazing video of these swarms in action! Here’s a little teaser – a video of a student “calling” midges by humming.

Science on Tap – Minocqua: Human-Centered Principles of Working With Robots

The future, as they say, is now. And, next Wednesday, December 6th at 6:30 pm, the Minocqua Brewing Company, we’ll get a glimpse of the cutting edge of what was once seen as strictly the stuff of science fiction.
Bilge Mutlu, a UW-Madison associate professor of computer science, psychology and industrial engineering will talk about his work helping shape our relationship to robots. From his research on “cobots,” or robots that work side-by-side with human counterparts, to better understanding the possibilities and limits of artificial intelligence, Mutlu is helping shape how thinks like modern manufacturing get done.
If you’ve ever longed for a future of robotic service like the Jetson’s enjoyed or secretly fear what will happen when the robots take over, it’s your chance to come on out (or tune in online) and have your questions answered. For now, that will still be by a human – there are still some things robots can’t do. And a free-ranging conversation about their own existence is one of them!