The Wouk Lecture

October 21, 2008 8:00 p.m. Beckman Auditorium Free and Open to the Public

Jörg Imberger Life in a Changing Climate

Genetic evidence suggests that the human race evolved from the primate 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 and in the process trashing nature and removing most of our reference points. Technology provided the mechanism and the GDP the measure of success for this mission. Technology is pursued to liberate us from the constraints of our reach, and in that it has been singularly successful, but it has resulted in unintended effects unleashing some very disturbing new feedback mechanisms that are having alarming consequences. In essence, humans, by expanding our reach to global scales through technology, have set up a 50-year global experiment where we are both the observers and the subjects and for which we have neither a 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? I shall 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.

Extended Abstract
Slides (click on title of each slide to advance)

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The Wouk Lecture is presented by the Division of Engineering & Applied Science.

ImbergerJörg Imberger is the Director at the Centre for Water Research and Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Imberger received his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970 and became Professor of Environmental Engineering at UWA in 1979. His main research interest is in motion and mixing in lakes, estuaries, and coastal seas in response to both natural forces such as tides, meterological surface fluxes, river inflows and outflows, as well as anthropogenic forcings such as effluent buoyant jets, bubble plumes, and mechanical mixers and the effect of such motions and mixing on ecological systems residing in the water bodies. Imberger is an internationally recognized and respected environmental engineer. Having recently been elected a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), Imberger was also inducted to the US National Academy of Engineering and the American Geophysical Union. The 2007 ASLO A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Imberger for his work on physical limnology. In 1996 he was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize and in 1995 the Onassis Prize for the Environment for his contribution to environmental issues.

Past Lectures

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.


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