Lannutti Lecture Series

robert williams

Dr. Robert Williams

The 2016 Lannutti Lecture series will be held on November 2nd and 3rd. Mark your calendars and plan to attend one or both of the lectures.

This year’s presenter is Dr. Robert Williams, who is Astronomer Emeritus at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Williams’ research specialties are nebulae, novae, and emission–line spectroscopy and analysis. He is a strong advocate for science education and outreach. He has lectured around the world on recent discoveries from the Hubble Telescope and other forefront facilities on the ground and in space.

He was awarded the Beatrice Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society for his leadership of the Hubble Deep Field project, which revealed information about the early universe. For this project he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.

His public Lecture will be November 2nd at 7:00 pm in the College of Medicine auditorium and is entitled “Hubble Space Telescope: Piecing Together the Universe”.

The Physics Department Colloquium will be November 3rd at 3:45 PM (with free refreshments starting at 3:15 PM) in the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory, room 101 and is entitled “The Hubble Deep Field and its Legacy”. The public is invited to the Colloquium as well.

Gold Medal Awards & Membership Social 2016

DSCN6217Each fall, the Society invites members to attend a free get-together that features catered food and a cash bar social hour that serves as a prelude to the presentation by the Society’s Gold Medal Honoree.  This award, established in 2004, is annually bestowed by the Society on a scientist or scholar selected from the Tallahassee community whose career achievements in science or science education and outreach are deemed exemplary.

This year’s nominee honoree is Dr. Henry Neal Williams, professor in the School of the Environment at Florida A&M University. He is considered the leading authority on predatory bacteria. Currently, he is focusing on their use as an antibiotic agent to fight human bacteria pathogens. Dr. Edouard Jurkevitch at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has written that “you cannot discuss (these) organisms without mentioning the work of Henry Williams.” Dr. Williams has received many honors and has held prestigious positions in science, including serving on the advisory boards of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center, the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations at the University of Southern California; the Florida Center of Ocean Science Education Excellence, to name a few. Most recently, he has been appointed by the American Society for Microbiology as a Distinguished Lecturer to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

His presentation for the evening of the Award Ceremony is entitled “Hunting the World’s Smallest Hunters, the Bdellovibrionales: A 30-Year Odyssey.”

The Gold Medal Award Ceremony and Membership Social are for Tallahassee Scientific Society Members and their guests only and reservations to attend must be obtained.  Please click here to make your reservations on Eventbrite.

For a complete list of the Society’s Gold Medalists – “The Tallahassee Scientific Society’s Gold Medal Winners” click here.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT) – View Calendar


Challenger Learning Center – 200 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301 – View Map

Robots & The Wright Brothers


“Atlas”, a humanoid robot developed by researchers with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola as part of a national competition sponsored by the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Topic of May 25 Horizons Talk


Self-driving cars, death-dealing drones, robots performing surgery, computers writing their own codes–not even George Orwell imagined a world where Big Brother could be a super-smart machine instead of a faceless, mind-robbing bureaucrat.

But such is our world today as humans face a future where robots are predicted to eventually take over countless tasks that since the dawn of man have been done strictly by flesh and bone. Whether we like it or not, The Age of Artificial Intelligence is upon us, with consequences that may be liberating, terrifying or merely annoying but surely profound.

Are recent dire predictions by such luminaries as physicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire tech guru Elon Musk just part of the “loonscape” in modern culture? Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence within 100 years. Musk agrees and said that the rise of artificial intelligence could be more dangerous than the global proliferation of nuclear weapons. Noted Yale University ethicist Wendell Wallach has called on the U.S. government to outlaw development of military machines capable of killing people on their own volition, which some experts say is just around the corner.


Ken ford

Ken Ford is one expert on artificial intelligence who sees the rise of robots as the inevitable triumph of ingenuity in a wide range of scientific and technological fields. Instead of focusing on what some are describing as the “apocalyptic danger” of super-smart machines, Ford prefers to put the development of ultra-clever robots into the perspective of technology’s modern evolutionary history.

On Wednesday, May 25, Ford will give a talk at the IMAX Theater that compares the emergence of artificially intelligent machines to the sudden birth of aviation, an epochal innovation of the last century that–for better and for worse–transformed the entire world forever. His presentation “The Wright Brothers Revisited: Climbing Aloft on the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Wing” begins at 7 p.m. in the IMAX located within the Challenger Learning Center on Kleman Plaza.

Ford is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a nonprofit research group headquartered in Pensacola. The institute has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations aimed at amplifying and extending cognitive and perceptual capacities between humans and machines. A computer scientist by training, Ford is author of six books and hundreds of scientific articles on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to robotics in industry.

Ford has said that after decades of pundits and philosophers arguing that artificial intelligence is impossible, the argument now is that it’s not only possible but also dangerous.

“In only about a decade, the conversation has shifted from you can’t do it to we shouldn’t do it,” he said. “My purpose in this talk will not be to go into these arguments, but rather to draw attention to an interesting historical parallel between A.I. and another, older, technology which was also controversial, thought to be impossible, and then deemed to be a great danger to the human race–and that’s artificial flight.”

The talk is the final presentation in the four-month-long 2016 HORIZONS spring speaker series sponsored by the Tallahassee Scientific Society. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at Cost is $8 for members and $15 for non-members.

If you go

What: Wright Brothers Revisited: Climbing Aloft on the AI Wing with Ken Ford

When: 7 p.m. May 25th. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Challenger Center, Kleman Plaza

Cost: $8 for members and $15 for non-members. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at

Scientist’s Talk Examines Brainy Honeybees



Just how smart are honeybees? Scientists already know they are some of the cleverest insects on earth, capable of recognizing landmarks and different colors — and even smells — for navigation.

But it turns out that bee biologists are now discovering that the buzzing little critters are far brighter than scientists ever realized. The new findings are putting honeybees’ critical roles in nature and agriculture into an intriguing new perspective, scientists say.

One of the foremost honeybee ecologists in the country, Tom Seeley of Cornell University, says that while individual bees are astonishingly clever — given the fact that their brains may be the size of a few grains of sand — they really show their stuff when they organize into swarms.

Seeley has found that when they come together, honeybees generate a new, higher intelligence. This collective, advanced IQ — so to speak — gives the bees amazing power to select the right places to build their nests and raise their young, a constant life-or-death decision in the honeybee world.

Seeley will present his latest findings, along with signing copies of his just-released fourth book, on April 28 at the IMAX Theater inside the Challenger Learning Center downtown. The presentation is the third in the annual HORIZONS spring speaker series sponsored by the Tallahassee Scientific Society, a local nonprofit group.

Swarms as small as 300 individuals generate the ability to quickly assess the suitability of various options for home-building, Seeley said. In doing that literally on the fly, bees engage in collective fact-finding, open sharing of information, vigorous debate and even fair voting, he’s found.

“With the right organization, a group of bees can overcome the cognitive limitations of their individual members and achieve a high collective IQ,” he said. “By examining natural systems that have evolved this ability, we can begin to understand how to endow human groups with collective intelligence.”

For the country’s legion of bee lovers, Seeley is best known for his books, “The Wisdom of the Hive” (Princeton, 1996) and “Honeybee Democracy” (Princeton Press, 2010). His newest book released by Princeton this spring is “Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting.” Seeley’s major professor at Harvard, the preeminent naturalist and ant biologist E.O. Wilson, has described the book as “a delightful foray into the pastime of bee hunting…that vividly describes the history and science behind this lost pastime and how anyone can do it.”

Seeley’s talk begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, but doors to the Challenger Center will open at 6. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at Cost is $8 for members and $15 for non-members.

The 2016 HORIZONS series, which began in 2012, concludes May 25 with a presentation by Ken Ford, founder and chief executive officer for the Pensacola-based Institute for Human & Machine Cognition. A computer scientist, Ford will present “The Wright Brothers Revisited: Climbing Aloft on the AI (Artificial Intelligence) Wing.” The talk will address the rise of super-smart robots in all walks of life and what this phenomenon may mean for society.

If you go

What: Tom Seeley of Cornell University talk on IQ of honeybees

When: 7 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Challenger Center, Kleman Plaza

Cost: $8 for members and $15 for non-members. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at

Article via Tallahassee Democrat