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Aspen Public Radio is proud to present select lectures and speakers from area events and conferences, including the Aspen Ideas Festival, Wilderness Workshop, Hurst Community Initiative, Aspen Words, Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen Center for Physics, Equity Speaker Series, and Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Aspen Center for Physics: Manu Prakash

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This event was recorded on January 4, 2023 at Aspen Center for Physics during the 2023 DeWolf Foundation Physics Talks, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.

Recreational mathematics is a century-old field which involves mathematical puzzles and games, often appealing to children and untrained adults, inspiring deep study of the subject. Can a similar analogy be drawn in biology? One place to explore these ideas is the role of geometry and topology (geometric properties invariant to continuous change in shape or size) in biological form and function.

Prakash explores a wide range of topological and geometrical puzzles in cellular physiology: Can single cells be toroidal in nature? Can cellular geometry (cytoskeleton) explain complex behavior in single cells? Can "Klein bottles" help us understand a fungal pathogen? Do cells get stuck forever in topological traps? Prakash ends by reflecting on the role of curiosity as an engine for discovery in life sciences.

About Manu Prakash

Manu Prakash is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and affiliate appointments in biology and the newly formed department of the ocean at Stanford University spanning the schools of engineering, medicine, and sustainability. He runs a curiosity-driven lab at Stanford combining his passion for basic science while also inventing ultra-affordable and accessible technologies (Frugal Science) that are used around the world for science education, research, and public health with the goal of democratizing access to scientific explorations. In an attempt to understand physical principles of living matter — his approach to biological problems often brings together ideas from soft-condensed matter, theory of computation, and geometry to new non-model biological systems at organismal, cellular and molecular scales. His numerous inventions include Foldscope (a one-dollar origami microscope), Paperfuge (a 20-cent centrifuge), Abuzz (a cellphone app for identifying mosquitoes) and Octopi (a malaria diagnostics tool). Manu grew up in India and got his PhD from MIT, was a Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

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