Wouk Lecture: Jörg Imberger: <I>Life in a Changing Climate</I>
This event was digitally recorded and is available for viewing on the Caltech Theater site. Genetic evidence suggests that humans evolved from primates starting around 150,000 years ago. Human DNA was fine-tuned during this period. Over the last 15,000 years, humans set up their icons, as well as family: the concept of God, various cultures, forms of government, and hierarchical ideas of respect for experience. In the last 100 years, we have devoted ourselves almost exclusively to "liberating" ourselves from these icons, in the process "trashing" nature and removing most of our reference points.
Technology provided the mechanism and the Gross Domestic Product the measure of success for this mission. In essence, humans, by expanding our reach to global scales through technology, have set up a 50-year global experiment in which we are both the observers and the subjects, and for which we have neither an hypothesis nor an objective; we have put the earth and ourselves into the hands of fate. Not a comfortable experiment for a scientist! What is to be done?
Dr. Imberger will examine some of the more popular ideas such as carbon trading and sequestration and show that these technologies are much less effective than improving food production efficiencies and returning the released land to reforestation. However, an even greater challenge for our universities is to develop technologies that allow people to participate in society in the face of wealth inequity, declining biodiversity, unbalanced population increases and genetic manipulation.
Jörg Imberger is director of the Centre for Water Research and professor of environmental engineering at the University of Western Australia. He received his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970 and became Professor of Environmental Engineering at UWA in 1979.
The Victor Wouk Lectureship, established by the Wouk family in December 2004 to bring to campus experts on the latest advances in science and technology, is named in honor of Caltech alumnus Victor Wouk, who received his master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Caltech in 1940 and 1942, respectively. He devoted himself largely to developing hybrid motor vehicles and using semiconductors in electric vehicles. More than three decades ago, he designed and built a high-performance electric vehicle and a high-performance, low-emission, improved-fuel-use hybrid. Throughout his career, he promoted the continuing development of hybrid automobiles powered by both electricity and gasoline, such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Ford Escape Hybrid. The range of Wouk's activities was wide, and he consulted for several institutions and the government on the problems of energy. A space-travel buff since childhood, he also worked with the team that developed fuel gauges for the "dune buggies" that roamed the surface of the moon during the Apollo program.