"I hope everyone at some point has had a course that mentioned beta decay," Texas A &M professor John Hardy says to a mostly male audience wearing the latest in scientist style: Button-down, short-sleeved plaid shirts without pocket protectors.
I sink deeper into my chair, strategically located right next to the door for a quick exit. I was a history major, and beta decay sounds like a dental problem to me.
But Donna Sund, a 76-year-old retiree sporting a hot pink visor, gets it. She nods knowingly between mouthfuls of vegetables and Hydrox cookies. A former chemistry student, this Tempe resident is a familiar face at Arizona State University’s science lectures.
"I add to my knowledge," Sund says. "It beats sitting in front of a TV all day."
Whatever your interest, ASU’s lectures have something to offer. It’s an eclectic mix offered by various departments and colleges — topics include everything from women in 19th-century France to the deaths of dinosaurs. The lectures are free and open to the public. And the lecturers are top notch, including visiting professors such as Hardy and the former president of Venezuela.
To find out about upcoming lectures, visit http://events.asu.edu and choose the lecture calendar. Or pick up a copy of ASU Insight, the university’s faculty and staff publication.
And if feeding your brain isn’t reason enough to deal with parking and academic angst, there’s always the free-food table. That’s something anyone can understand.
Main Campus lectures Today: "The Current Volatile Situation in Venezuela Under the Hugo Chavez Administration," Carlos Andres Perez, president of Venezuela from 1974-78 and 1989-1993 — 3 p.m., Memorial Union Pima Room. (480) 965-5127. Wednesday: "Chemistry and Dynamics of the Earth’s Upper Mantle from Seismology" — 3:40 p.m., Bateman Physical Sciences Center. (480) 965-3971.
• "War and Peace" — 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., Durham Language and Literature Building, LL 316. (480) 965-3535. Oct. 23: Actress Kathleen Turner, "Reel Women and Real Women," 7:30 p.m. Gammage Auditorium. Pick up a free ticket at any Border’s Books & Music or at the ASU bookstore. (480) 965-1441.
Nov. 6: "Content of our Character," a look at seeking justice in Arizona — 4 to 6 p.m., University Club. (480) 965-0161. Nov. 10: "Watching Single Molecules Do Their Thing (And Learning About Them)" — 4:40 p.m., Life Sciences Center. (480) 965-2705.
Nov. 12: "Death of the Dinosaurs: Bad Luck or Bad Genes?" by James Powell, University of Southern California — 3:40 p.m., Bateman Physical Sciences Center. (480) 965-3971. Nov. 20: "Black Humor and Political Objectives," 5:30 p.m., Agriculture Building. (480) 965-0161. Dec. 4: "Immigration — Where Justice Takes a Holiday," by Valley journalist O. Ricardo Pimentel — 4 to 6 p.m., University Club.