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Wine, Dinner, & Science: Inside the Language Instinct

Inside the Language Instinct: How the Brain Creates Language
With Dr. Gregory S. Hickok

Language is commonly viewed as a cultural creation that we learn simply from experience and training. But, in fact, language evolved via natural selection as a mechanism to efficiently transform thoughts from a mental representation to an externalized physical signal and back again. It is no less complicated a computational task and therefore no less biologically determined than vision or motor control, brain functions that are far from cultural inventions.” Dr. Hickok will summarize the case for language as a biological system and highlight recent advances in understanding its neural organization. He will also address possible evolutionary bases for language, including “mirror neurons” which have (incorrectly) been claimed to be at the heart of the evolution of language and indeed the human mind.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 20, 2014  from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 
(Meetings are always on the 3rd Tuesdays of the odd-numbered months)

WHERE: The beautiful lakefront Doubletree Club Hotel Orange County Airport
7 Hutton Centre Drive, Santa Ana, CA 92707
(Free parking for Sigma Xi meeting attendees. Identify yourself as such to the parking attendant.)

Social ½ Hour:6:30 p.m. (no host bar). Come and meet the speaker and the other attendees.

Dinner: 7:00 p.m. – Asian Stir Fry – vegetables, chicken, rice and crispy noodles. Served with tossed green salad with 2 types of dressing, assorted dinner rolls with creamery butter, chef’s choice dessert, freshly brewed regular and decaffeinated coffee, and tea. Full bar service is available.

Lecture: 8:00 PM – Speaker: Gregory S. Hickok, Ph.D., is Professor of Cognitive Sciences; and is Founder and Director of both the Center for Language Science and of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at UCI. From 1993 to 1996 he held appointments at both the Salk Institute for Biological Studies Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience (Staff Scientist, Sr. Research Assoc.)  and UCSD (Visiting Scholar and Lecturer). He was postdoctoral fellow at MIT ’91-’93 and received his BA from UCI in ’88 and Ph.D. from Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) in ’91, both in Psychology. He is author of literally hundreds of peer-reviewed publications in the field and four books.

Reservations: Send your check (made out to Sigma Xi, Orange County Chapter) by Friday, May 16th to:

Stan White
433 E. Ave Cordoba
San Clemente, CA 92672

Paid-up members and their guests, $25; $30 for all others. Miss the deadline? The tab is $5 more, pay at the door by cash or check, but the entrée is whatever is available. (Surprise attendees stress both the kitchen supplies and staff.) There is no charge if you attend the lecture only, but (1) you won’t be admitted to the meeting room until 7:45 and (2) you must RSVP to Stan so we can have a chair for you!

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society (est. 1886) has had a distinguished history of service to science (the “hard-core” physical and life sciences, mathematics and engineering communities) and society for over a century. Its primary publication, The American Scientist, is a premier international scientific journal for generalists/non-specialists. Sigma Xi was established at Cornell University as a university-based scientific-research honorary organization to recognize significant contributions to original scientific research. That remains the membership criterion. One does not request to join, but is invited based on recognized scientific-research accomplishments only. There are no educational-level requirements, but note that a doctoral dissertation/thesis alone is insufficient.

The Scientific Research Society of America (RESA), founded in 1947, was an industrial and government research-laboratory-based parallel organization. In 1974 the two organizations merged to form Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society of North America. The “of North America” was dropped from the name as the organization spread into Europe, Asia and Latin America. The combined organization today is composed of 268 active chapters found at the leading research laboratories worldwide comprising over 36,000 of the top scientists and engineers. Membership has included over 200 Nobel laureates, hundreds of members of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, the National Institute of Medicine, the National Research Council and National Science and Technology medalists.

The Orange County Sigma Xi Chapter was originally chartered as the Autonetics Branch of RESA by UCLA’s Founding Dean of Engineering, Dr. Llewellyn M. K. Boelter in one of his final acts, on April 2, 1965 at the Anaheim, CA, Research Center of the Autonetics Div. of North American Aviation, Inc. (NAA). Although the aviation/aerospace pioneering company, NAA/North American Rockwell/Rockwell International/Boeing North American, was long ago absorbed by the Boeing Company, many of the surviving research staff members and other like-minded engineers and scientists throughout Orange County, both members and nonmembers, gather bimonthly to continue the Sigma Xi tradition of scientific investigation, interdisciplinary education and fellowship among peers as well as extending science outreach to the public through Sigma Xi’s Orange County Chapter.

Coming Attractions:

No July meeting – almost everybody’s off enjoying summer vacations.

September 16, 2014, Greg Thomas, MD, Director of Memorial Care Heart & Vascular Institute, “Mummy Imaging Research.” We’re still dying of the same causes as the pharaohs!

November 18, 2014, Georg Striedter, Ph.D.; title TBA but subject is brain evolution.

January 20, 2015, Craig Stark, Ph.D., Director of Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, UCI, “Mind and Consciousness.” Why are you you?

Recent OC Chapter Presentations:

March 18, 2014, Virginia Trimble, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Astronomy, “Anybody but Hubble.” The expanding universe had been studied by many prior to Hubble.

January 21, 2014, C. Ronald Koons, MD, FACP, Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCI, “The Art and Science of Medical Care.” The importance of caring and communicating.

Join or login to comment.

  • Betsy P.

    Dinner was just ok. The lecture was very interesting, but the speaker went too long and had not timed himself well. Very interesting and informative topic.

    May 21, 2014

  • Anthony S.

    Gregory Hickok's presentation was brilliant.
    Did not take dinner, can't comment.
    Excessive noise from adjacent bar.
    Excellent valet parking.

    May 20, 2014

  • Jim T.

    I always enjoy these meetings. This was one of the best yet. Stan is doing a great job getting excellent speakers.

    May 20, 2014

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