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November 2021

Michael Alexander

First, I hope everyone had a ghostly (rather than ghastly) Halloween. I have wonderful memories of the many characters I became every October 31! One year comes to mind when I decorated a box to look like a television set, wore it over my head, and with puppets as the "stars" of my show, went off to "trick or treat."

Now for our treats! We have several intriguing virtual activities planned for you this month. What follows are highlights, and I invite you to read through this newsletter to find out more about each event.

Our second Watson Lecture of the season streams on Wednesday, November 10, at 5 p.m. (PST). "Quantum Matter: Why it Matters" covers a topic that has only in recent decades attracted the attention of non-physicists. Professor Xie Chen will discuss how quantum effects fundamentally change the way materials behave, helping us understanding this exciting scientific arena. JPL's Theodore von Kármán Lecture "Rising Tides: First Year in Space for NASA's Earth Flagship" streams the following day, Thursday, November 11, at 7 p.m. (PST). The week concludes with "Conversations on Sustainability: Monitoring Water Resources from Space" on Friday, November 12, at 11 a.m. (PST).

On Thursday, November 18, at 5 p.m. (PST), we present a new twist on our Behind the Book series, which features authors whose themes connect to the sciences. Writer and photographer Carolyn Campbell's "City of Immortals" highlights and explores renowned artists buried in one of the most famous resting places in the world, Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. After more than three decades of sketching charts and diagrams, and locating hard-to-find plots with the help of cemetery staff and fellow cemetery lovers, Campbell has created her own highly detailed, three-tour map of Père-Lachaise. During our stream, Campbell will talk with Professor Jed Buchwald, who has written extensively about many of the scientists buried there. Buchwald will channel the ghosts of three of these figures as we learn more about this Napoleonic-era venue that was the first non-Church affiliated resting place for the deceased.

I also have the following special notice. If you missed our paid stream of Diana Wyenn's Blood/Sugar in November 2020, her breathtaking virtual experience that cuts through the commonly held myths, misconceptions, and stigma surrounding diabetes will stream for FREE during November to mark National Diabetes Month as part of The Met and the World Health Organization's Arts and Health Program's global virtual event, "Healing Arts New York." Look for details on how to watch Blood/Sugar in this newsletter.

As previously noted in our October newsletter, we had to postpone the opening of our live performance series at Beckman Auditorium. The Institute's current COVID-19 safety protocols prevent any unmasking in the auditoriums and require further interventions and additional planning for the in-person presentation of performers on campus. My hope is to have news about our public events in our December newsletter.

Our Science Journeys virtual presentations will resume in 2022. Primarily presented by Caltech graduate students, these presentations are designed to stimulate middle- and high-school students to pursue their own interests in the sciences. In an effort to align the presentation of these programs and position them most effectively for use in classroom settings, we are starting our series in January.

Like all the virtual programs produced by Caltech, they will be archived for on-demand viewing. I find these talks extremely informative and quite entertaining. I invite everyone to watch Caltech's Science Journeys.

During this shutdown, we could not have proceeded without the loyal support of the Friends of Beckman Auditorium. All our Signature Lectures, Behind the Book series events, and other arts-related presentations were offered for free, which made your support even more important. Along with the support of the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union, your generosity has made our ongoing programming during this pandemic possible--thank you! I encourage all non-members to consider joining the Friends as we move into a more active phase of events in the new year.

I encourage all of you to stay in contact with our programs through our various social media platforms. We will not burden you with endless messaging, but we will send out notices about our events and other cultural news every few weeks.

Lastly, have a great Thanksgiving. I hope you can return to the style of gathering you were used to before COVID-19 hit us all. Stay safe, and I look forward to welcoming you once our live presentations begin again. More news on that next month!


Michael Alexander
Director, Public Programming