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Vassar marks Charles Darwin’s birth anniversary with three lectures, a simulated coral reef exhibit, and a Victorian tea on February 11 and 13, 2011.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- The third annual Darwin Days events at Vassar College held on the birthday anniversary of evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, will include lectures on the evolution vs. creationism debate, biology, and mathematics, as well as an unusual exhibit simulating coral reef and a Victorian tea harkening back to Darwin’s era. These campus events are free and open to the public, and will be held on Friday, February 11 from 1:00-5:00pm at the Aula in Ely Hall, and on Sunday, February 13 at 3:00pm in the Villard Room of Main Building.

Visiting Speakers: Daina Taimina (2/11/11), Michael Zimmerman (2/13/11)

Daina Taimina, an adjunct associate professor of mathematics at Cornell University, will explore the intersection of mathematics, art, and nature when she discusses “Hyperbolic Nature” on Friday, February 11 at 3:00pm in the Aula of Ely Hall. Taimina is the author of Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (2009), and in 1997 first conceived of using crochet as an elegant way of visualizing hyperbolic (non-Euclidean) geometry. In 2005 Taimina’s ideas about crochet and hyperbolic geometry inspired the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project, a creation of The Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles (www.theiff.org). Vassar employees and students have now crocheted the “Vassar College Reef,” an homage to the Great Barrier Reef, which will be exhibited beginning February 11 in the A. Scott Warthin Museum of Geology & Natural History of Ely Hall (see more details below).  Daina Taimina taught mathematics at the University of Latvia from 1977 to 2000, and co-authored with David W. Henderson the book Experiencing Geometry: Euclidean and non-Euclidean with History (2005).

Butler University biology professor Michael Zimmerman will talk about “The Clergy Letter Project: Attempting to Civilize the Evolution/Creation Debate -- and Being Attacked by All Sides”, on Sunday, February 13, at 3:00pm in the Villard Room of Main Building. Zimmerman founded the web-based Clergy Letter Project in 2004 to demonstrate that religious faith and science can be compatible, especially with respect to the teaching of evolution in public schools (http://www.clergyletterproject.net/). Zimmerman will also lead a panel discussion about faith and science, and about attacks on evolution, and this event is co-sponsored by Poughkeepsie’s First Congregational Church - United Church of Christ.

The Vassar College Reef (Ongoing beginning 2/11/11)

Like the first Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project created by The Institute For Figuring (www.theiff.org) -- and like dozens of crocheted reefs that have been created since worldwide -- the Vassar College Reef has been crafted by college employees and students as an homage to the endangered Great Barrier Reef.  Atolls and clusters of crocheted corals, made of both yarn and found materials, weave their way into unique coral communities.  By using particular crocheting techniques that employ hyperbolic geometry, these reefs take shape into complex, natural-looking forms. In conjunction with Vassar’s Darwin Days activities, an ongoing exhibit of the Vassar College Reef will begin on Friday, February 11 at the college’s A. Scott Warthin Museum of Geology & Natural History in Ely Hall.

Further Events (2/11/11)

Vassar professors John McCleary (mathematics) and Jodi Schwarz (biology) will also present talks for Darwin Days, in the Aula of Ely Hall. McCleary will discuss “Geometry in Darwin's Time” at 1:00pm, and at 1:45 Schwarz will speak about “Lessons Learned from Coral Biology." Immediately following at 2:30pm, the Victorian Studies Department will serve a genuine Victorian high tea.

Overview of Darwin Days at Vassar

February 11, 2011, The Aula, Ely Hall
1:00pm/John McCleary, Professor of Mathematics, “Geometry in Darwin's Time”
1:45pm/Jodi Schwarz, Assistant Professor of Biology, “Big Things Come in Small Packages, Lessons Learned From Corals”
2:30pm/A Darwinian High Tea, served by the Victorian Studies Department
3:00pm/Daina Taimina, Department of Mathematics, Cornell University, “Hyperbolic Nature”
February 13, 2011, The Villard Room, Main Building
3:00pm/Michael Zimmerman, Butler University biology professor, "The Clergy Letter Project: Attempting to Civilize the Evolution/Creation Debate -- and Being Attacked by All Sides"
These events are co-sponsored by the Darwin Days Committee and the departments of Earth Science and Geography, Mathematics, Biology, and Religion, the Women’s Studies Program, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.
This is the third year that Vassar has observed Darwin Days on campus. According to the International Darwin Day Foundation, “Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin – the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor. More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.” (http://www.darwinday.org)
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, February 4, 2011