SFI: The Origins of Human Cognition and Cell Biology

SFI News:

Alison Gopnik

Learn about the origins of human cognition and why children are better learners than adults at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 in the Noyce Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road in Santa Fe.

The talk is by Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley and author of several books on child learning, including The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby. The event is free and open to the public.

In the abstract of her talk, Gopnik writes, “I argue for a theoretical link between the development of an extended period of immaturity in human evolution and the emergence of powerful and wide-ranging causal learning mechanisms, particularly the use of causal models and Bayesian learning.” 

Mimi Koehl

At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 Mimi Koehl from UC Berkeley and a member of the SFI Science Board will speak on “Evolution of Multicellularity: Performance Consequences of Being Unicellular vs. Colonial in Protozoan Ancestors of Animals.” This talk is also free and open to the pubic

“The evolution of multicellular animals from a unicellular ancestor represents a pivotal transition in life’s history, and one of its greatest unsolved mysteries,” Koehl writes in her abstract. “Choanoflagellates (bacteria-eating protozoa that swim by undulating a flagellum) are the closest living relatives of animals. We have been using Salpingoeca rosetta, a unicellular choanoflagellate that can be induced to form multicellular colonies, as a model organism to study the evolution of multicellularity.” 

“For multicellularity to evolve, there must have been a selective advantage to being colonial, but since both unicellular and colonial choanoflagellates still exist today, there may be different environmental conditions under which single-celled or multicellular forms perform better.” 




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