Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of August 2020

Online Edition: the L.A.S.T. Dialogs


Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking

Hosted from Stanford during August 2020
by Piero Scaruffi

A L.A.S.E.R. was planned for August 2020 and a L.A.S.T. Festival was planned for 2020. Since we cannot hold the physical events, we invited the speakers to switch to an online presentation, and, since we don't need to book a room in a building, we let the speakers pick the best date for their talk. In most cases it will be a "fireside chat" rather than the traditional lecture. The Life Art Science Tech (L.A.S.T.) dialogues

(Note: All times are California time)


  • August 6 @ 5pm:
    Dave Deamer and Bruce Damer on "How did life begin? The search for answers in the lab, in the field and in silico"
    NOTE: Hosted by UC Santa Cruz - see this page and Register here For the past five years, Bruce Damer and David Deamer have collaboratively searched for evidence of the origin of life. In this talk, they will discuss their shared research journey, taking them from the study of organic compounds over 5 billion years old, to Bumpass Hell, the largest hydrothermal area in Lassen National Park, the Pilbara of Western Australia, and, most recently, to Hell's Gate hot springs of New Zealand. They'll talk about what they discovered about protocells, fresh water hot springs, and early signs of life along the way.

    Bruce Damer is an Astrobiologist collaborating with David Deamer on the question of the origin of life. He has also contributed 20 years of mission simulation and design for NASA and other space agencies on the related question of how life might begin on other worlds and how to extend life and human civilization into our solar system. His training is in computer science and he has built an extensive archive of computing artifacts and history chronicling the rise of the digital world in the last 60 years. More can be found on his work and life at: http://www.damer.com

    David Deamer is a Research Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz. Over his scientific career, Deamer has maintained a central focus on biological and synthetic membranes. In 1989, Deamer proposed the idea that it may be possible to sequence a DNA molecule by passing it through a nanoscopic pore embedded in a lipid bilayer membrane. Feasibility of this concept was demonstrated in 1996, and collaborative work with Mark Akeson at UC Santa Cruz reported proof of principle in 1999 when they reported that a nanopore could distinguish between sequences of adenine and cytosine in RNA. In 2014, Oxford Nanopore Technology developed and distributed the MinION device which utilizes nanopore sequencing concepts and patents developed by the Akeson and Deamer research groups. Deamer is currently using nanopore biosensors to detect nucleic acid polymers synthesized in a robotic device that simulates prebiotic conditions. Deamer is the author or co-author of 200 research papers and review articles, and the author/editor of 12 books, including Assembling Life (2019), published by Oxford University Press. A cover article in the August 2017 Scientific American described a hypothetical scenario about how life can begin on a habitable planet like the early Earth. The hypothesis has a foundation in laboratory experiments and observations in volcanic hydrothermal conditions, and is a joint effort by Deamer and Bruce Damer.


  • August 24 @ 6pm:
    Historian Steve Harris (SFSU), art historian Dawna Schuld (Texas A&M Univ), physicist Saul Perlmutter (Lawrence Berkeley Lab) in discussion with cultural historian Piero Scaruffi on "Revolution (in politics, art and science)".
    Register here or here What is a revolution? When does it happen? When is it successful? Is there any revolution that is not just evolution? What is the meaning of the word in politics, art and science? We'll discuss these questions with a historian, a scientist and an art historian. Saul Perlmutter is a 2011 Nobel Laureate, sharing the prize in Physics for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. He is the director of BIDS, a professor of physics, where he holds the Franklin W. and Karen Weber Dabby Chair, and a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is the leader of the international Supernova Cosmology Project, and executive director of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics. His undergraduate degree was from Harvard and his PhD from UC Berkeley. In addition to other awards and honors, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Perlmutter has also written popular articles, and has appeared in numerous PBS, Discovery Channel, and BBC documentaries. His interest in teaching scientific-style critical thinking for scientists and non-scientists alike led to Berkeley courses on Sense and Sensibility and Science and Physics & Music.

    Dawna Schuld is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History in the Department of Visualization, Texas A&M University. Her research concentrates on points of intersection between art, technology, and biology, with an emphasis on how the perceptual phenomena of human experience are implemented in art and art systems. In her writings, she has focused especially on the ways that light and space manifested as sculpture in 1960s and 1970s American art. She is the author of "Minimal Conditions: Light, Space, and Subjectivity" (The University of California Press, 2018), and co-editor, with Cristina Albu (University of Missouri, Kansas City), of Perception and Agency in Shared Spaces of Contemporary Art (Routledge, 2018). Dr. Schuld is the 2019-20 Dana and David Dornsife Research Fellow at the Huntington Library Pasadena, California and was previously a Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

    Steve Harris lectures at the Department of History of San Francisco State Univ and has researched revolutions in history. His focus is modern European history considering ideas, institutions and practices in a global context. He co-leads with Professor Trevor Getz the "History of the 21st Century" project to re-conceive introductory college history courses. His interests focus on legal and political activities and ideas as expressed in the system of states and empires and their shared culture. This encompasses such issues and topics as international law, sovereignty, revolution and how states and their economies/societies interact. His dissertation "Between Law and Diplomacy: International Dispute Resolution in the Long 19th Century" addressed the development and implications of public international arbitration as a tool of the states' system from the end of the 18th century to World War I. He is currently working on the use of pre-printed, fill in the blank treaties by the British during the "Scramble for Africa" in the late 19th century.


  • August 26 @ 6pm:
    Stanford epidemiologist Julie Parsonnet on "Covid-19: Where we stand".
    Register here or here
    After the event, the video will be posted here. Julie Parsonnet is the George DeForest Barnett Professor in Medicine and Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University. She specializes in adult infectious diseases. She also has an active research enterprise in which she studies the way infections contribute to the development of chronic diseases including cancer, allergy and obesity.

    We will discuss the state of the science on the current pandemic: an update on what we learned about the disease in the last few weeks and on the treatments and vaccines under development.

    A more detailed description will be posted later.


  • August 27 @ 6pm:
    Codame founders Bruno Fonzi and Jordan Gray, visual designer Don Hanson and computational artist Char Stiles on "New Paradigms and Spaces for Artistic Expression"
    Register here or here
    After the event, the video will be posted here. Computational forms of art have become widespread, especially among the younger generation of artists/inventors, and at the same time the pandemic is forcing us to rethink art forms for an online world. This evening will focus on three examples of how the process and format of making and exhibiting art is changing.
    Codame is an art and tech platform and organization founded in 2010 in San Francisco by Bruno Fonzi and Jordan Gray. Codame has staged public events such as festivals and exhibitions that have cemented a community of more than 200 artists and inventors. It has recently opened its own online exhibition gallery on newart.city.
    Bruno Fonzi has been in the software industry since he was a teenager, selling his first software product when he was 15. Born in Italy, he studied in London and Sydney before landing in Silicon Valley where he founded his first start-up, Lanica, a mobile gaming solution. He is currently a Director of Engineering at Salesforce.
    Jordan Gray has pioneered digital distribution of music and manga. Under the staRpauSe alias Jordan performs audiovisual sets. He licenses his output under the Creative Commons to encourage remix culture. staRpauSe sause has been reused in movies, games, VR, and multimedia installations. Jordan's work has featured in New York Times, Vice, Engadget, and more. Jordan has also led technology, prototyping, and innovation projects for Fortune 500 companies including Walmart, AT&T, Wells Fargo, Intel, Tesla, and Google.
    Donald Hanson is an Internet artist, electronic musician, hardware hacker, graphic designer, visual jockey, gif maker, and new media art researcher based in Oakland. In 2020 Hanson created the online exhibition space newart.city that has been used for major exhibitions of online art by Gray Area and SJSU CADRE.
    Char Stiles is a digital artist, educator and programmer. Using computational systems and algorithms she is producing pieces that span disciplines such as video, dance, interactive installation, performance and online works. She has given talks and lead workshops at Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, MIT and NYU. She was recently granted an NEA-funded artist residency at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University to develop an open-source toolkit for artists. She is currently giving a series donation based creative coding workshops at CODAME.



The Stanford LASERs are sponsored by the Stanford Deans of: Engineering; Humanities & Sciences; and Medicine; by Continuing Studies.