UT science lecture series celebrates its 100th episode

Catherine Marfin

With stunt men, tornado clouds and a 13–foot long T-Rex puppet named Manny, “Hot Science — Cool Talks,” lecture series held on campus six times a year, will be celebrating its 100th episode in style.

For its 100th episode, the series is partnering with the Austin Independent School District and will hold the lecture this Friday at 5:30 p.m. in AISD’s brand new Performing Arts Center. Within 60 hours all 1,200 seats were sold out, Banner said.

“It’s wonderful to have scientists engaging with the community in this way,” outreach program coordinator Melinda Chow said. “The fact that over a thousand seats were reserved in less than three days speaks to the value of this series in our community.”

The lecture, co-emceed by geology professor Jay Banner and music professor Bob Duke of the podcast “Two Guys on Your Head,” will feature geology associate professor Julia Clarke, a leading researcher in the field of dinosaur evolution. Clarke’s presentation, titled “The Secret Lives of Dinosaurs,” will explore what science has revealed about dinosaurs.

“This milestone is a huge indicator of how important and successful this program is,” Duke said. “What scientists do is cool, and this program allows even non-experts to get excited about scientific research.”

Prior to each lecture, the talk series holds a public community science fair with hands-on activities for students of all ages. For the 100th episode, the lecture’s science fair will feature Steve Wolf, ATX Dino’s mascot, “Manny the T-Rex,” and 25 other exhibits, presenters and interactive demonstrations of scientific concepts.

Since its founding in 1999, “Hot Science — Cool Talks” has gained national recognition for its efforts to engage the public in STEM topics. The series, which is held live and broadcast online, dedicates itself to engaging the public in science, specifically scientific research happening on UT’s campus.

“The things that are happening at UT would not as easily get publicized if it weren’t for our series,” Banner, who is also the series’ co-founder, said. “The research happening here would otherwise take years to get into textbooks, and we want people to get excited about it now.”

Since its first episode, the program has experienced immense growth. Over 17 years, the series has expanded from crowds of 400 to accommodating crowds of 1,200 people.

“Every event we do is special,” Banner said. “Seeing everyone doing the hands-on activities and discovering things for themselves is amazing. It’s a great way to get people involved in science.”