A Forum Favorite – Presenting the Presenters

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On March 11, in spite of fears of COVID-19, a good crowd of Academicians enjoyed an unusually stimulating session of the Academy tradition of showcasing our members’ presentations.

Trudy told us about this fascinating wealthy Italian woman who studied philosophy, became impoverished after marrying a conman who deserted her, and moved to the US where she decided to become a dress designer. With an effective use of PowerPoint, Trudy showed us wonderful pictures of Elsa’s development as a designer who wanted to make fashion fun. She established the fashion House of Schiaparelli in Paris, becoming beloved by artists and intellectuals. She used unusual materials in unusual ways for her clothes and created intriguing fashion accessories. Her collections included a circus series with acrobat buttons, dresses with large lobsters designs, and clothes with a Commedia dell’arte theme. The troubled relationship between Schiaparelli and the more conservative designer, Coco Chanel, was the source of gossip, and Trudy let us in on some of the more interesting stories.

Ivan Lorant, an environmental engineer, presented A Case for and Against Climate Engineering. His mastery of the issues and his clear and organized way of presenting them made this an unforgettable presentation on the possible ways we may be able to control climate change. Ivan’s use of PowerPoint animations was especially effective. Ivan discussed temperature models, past, present, and future as well as ways we may be able to modify the climate. Possible technologies for the future include
• Stratospheric aerosol injection (spraying sun reflecting particles into the stratosphere).
• Brightening clouds with salt to make them reflective.
• Extracting CO2 from the air, storing it, and converting it to fuel.
• Fertilizing the ocean with iron filings to stimulate phytoplankton growth.
Ivan finished his talk with good advice for the future: we must cut our carbon emissions drastically, but also continue research into climate engineering, with public participation in decision making and full disclosure of research findings.

Our final speaker for this wonderful afternoon was Margaret Prugovecki who did a superb job of bringing The Scopes Monkey Trial to life. The 1925 trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee, a small town whose leaders hoped that the notoriety of the case would bring them business. Showing how effective a presentation can be without PowerPoint, Margaret gave a dramatic reading of her research and made the trial against John T. Scopes come alive. Charged with violating state law by teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, Scopes was represented by the famous agnostic defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. The prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan, a famous politician and anti-evolution activist and the trial was broadcast on national radio – a first. The judge instructed the jury to indict Scopes and also ruled that the jury could not hear the defense witnesses, so not surprisingly, Scopes was found guilty. The interchange between the two attorneys was fascinating as Darrow gave examples to show that a literal interpretation of the Bible was ridiculous. Margaret finished her presentation by showing a clip of the film Inherit the Wind which dramatized the court case, with Spencer Tracy and Frederic March as the protagonists.

By Mary Doucette