Ariel Fenster teaches at McGill University, where he is a founding member of the Office for Science and Society, an organization dedicated to disseminating up-to-date information in the areas of food, food issues, medications, and the environment and health topics in general. Dr. Fenster is well known as an outstanding communicator and an exceptional promoter of science with an extensive program, developed over three decades. In that period he has given well over 800 public presentations in English and in French across North America and Overseas.
He appears regularly on TV and radio to discuss health, environmental and technology issues and has presented numerous science segments for children’s television.
His contributions to teaching, and to the popularization of science, have been recognized by numerous awards. Among them: the "McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science" from the Royal Society of Canada (1992, inaugural award) and the Michael Smith Award for the Promotion of science in Canada from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2005).
Ariel Fenster, who is a native of the wine-growing region of Bergerac, France, holds a Master's degree from the University of Paris and a Ph.D. from McGill University.
Science and Art: Facts and Fakes
Science has become an essential tool to the analysis of works of art. Modern techniques, from macro-photography to X rays can be used to reveal not only the condition and the history of masterpieces but also their authenticity. This lecture shows the application of these techniques to a variety of works from Vermeer to Van Gogh. Famous cases of forgery ranging from the Shroud of Turin to the notorious Van Meegeren affair are also examined.
The Colors of Art: History and Properties of Artists' Pigments
This lecture explores the history and the science of the various pigments used by the great masters, Titian, Rembrandt, Monet and others. Discover the unusual origins of Indian yellow and learn the secret of ultramarine. Understand the reasons for the widespread popularity of lead white and of the versatility of cadmium paints. A presentation that highlights the complementary relationship that exists between science and art.
The Human Side of Scientists
Many people see scientists as completely different from the rest of the population; they are too involved with their research to experience normal feelings or emotions. This lecture put this myth to rest by examining the unknown side of famous scientists. It looks, for example, at the amorous escapades of Dimitri Mendeleev and at the tragic love life of Marie Curie. It also exposes the vicious infighting that accompanied the discovery of insulin by Banting and Best and reveals tales of deception as in the recent story of "Cold Fusion". A most lively and entertaining lecture.
Crime and Detection: The Story of Forensic Science
Sherlock Holmes solved criminal cases only with the help of his magnifying glass and his sense of observation. Today the police can make use of a vast array of scientific techniques from computer fingerprints analysis to DNA profiling. This lecture presents the history of forensic science together with some famous cases ranging from the story of the Poison Umbrella to that of O.J. Simpson. The lecture concludes with an analysis of several well-known literature and movie thrillers from the chemist's perspective. The lecture is well-suited to a wide-ranging audience with or without a science background.
Cheers! The Chemistry of Wine
It is said that a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine. This lecture will provide the audience with all the necessary information to fully appreciate this best companion of good food. It presents the history of wine as well as the chemical aspects of fermentation and of aging. Recent studies suggesting that moderate wine consumption is beneficial to health are also examined in a critical fashion. This lecture, which is both informative and humorous, concludes with an introduction to the "science" of wine appreciation with particular reference to the understanding of wine labels and the proper technique of wine tasting. A pleasure for all, from the experienced oenophile, to the wine lover "in waiting."
The Chemistry of Love
This presentation features a lighthearted but scientific look at a topic of interest to all. The presence of sex attractants in insects constitute the background to a discussion of analogues to these compounds in humans; "love molecules" that control our emotions from the initial attraction, to infatuation, and finally long term attachment. The lecture includes a description of aphrodisiacs in history and of the more modern, and effective, analogues such as Viagra. This talk is of interest to anyone that ever has been, is at present or ever plans to be "in love".
Antibiotics and Superbugs: The End of Miracle Drugs?
Since the introduction of antibiotics, over 50 years ago, infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which were the leading causes of death in North America, have been brought under control. Unfortunately, the effectiveness and ensuing popularity of antibiotics have also led to unforeseen problems. Today, there are serious concerns associated with the emergence of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." This lecture examines the many causes, from over-prescription to the use of antibiotics in animal feed, which have led to this situation and describes the various avenues open to solving the problem.
Miracle Materials: The World of Plastics
Our life would be unimaginable without the modern synthetic materials that chemical research has produced. We sleep on polyester sheets, we walk on nylon carpeting, we wear acrylic clothes and we pay with "plastic" money. This presentation traces the development of these miracle products from the early wood derivatives to the materials used in the space program. Accounts of the discovery of rubber, the story of nylon are mingled with the description of super-absorbent materials and bulletproof vests and are accompanied with numerous fascinating demonstrations.
Food of the Gods-The Science and Lore of Chocolate
"Theobroma Cacao" is the South American coca tree from which chocolate is derived and Theobroma in Greek means "Food of the Gods." An appropriate name for what is a source of unequaled pleasure. This lecture examines the many fascinating facets of chocolate; its delicious history as well as the many steps that are required to yield its inimitable flavor and texture. Many interesting facts are revealed throughout this presentation. How M&M's helped the Allies win W.W.II, how the cherry gets into Cherry Blossom and why there is a chemical connection between chocolate and falling in love. The lecture concludes with the scientific explanation as to why some cannot resist their craving and become "chocoholics."
The History and Science of Money-Real and Counterfeit
A most fascinating topic, which covers the history of money from the early coins, introduced by Croesus nearly 3,000 years ago to the new bills, supposedly counterfeit-proof, being developed around the world. This is the story of the never ending battle between the central banks, which must protect the integrity of their national currency, and the ever more sophisticated forgers who have at their disposal the latest advances in printing technology. Following this lecture you will look at the money in your wallet with the eyes of an expert.
Genetically Modified Food-Boon or Bane?
To supporters, the genetic engineering of food is a scientific triumph that should benefit both farmers and consumers by improving nutrition with the introduction of super foods and protecting the environment by reducing pesticide use. To critics, these "frankenfoods" represent a frightening foray into the unknown with potential for major health problems and irreparable damage to nature. In this heated debate, the truth is hard to find. This lecture examines critically the various conflicting claims, and aims at providing the latest scientific facts on one of the most controversial issues of recent times.
Fats and Flab: The Science of Weight Control
Whereas it estimated that about 30% of the population of North America is obese over 90% "think" that they need to lose weight. Thus, it is not surprising that the "Diet Industry" represents a $35 billion business in North America. It promises to "shrink away pounds" and "melt away fat" by a variety of nutritional programs and techniques. The truth behind these claims is explored with particular reference to popular "Scarsdale," "Atkins," "Pritikin," and "Fit for Life" diets. The inherent dangers of some of these regimens are pointed out and sensible diets are discussed. The chemistry of weight gain and weight loss is examined with incorporation of the latest research dealing with "brown fat," enzymes and hormones. Understanding of the scientific principles behind weight gain easily leads to the difference between dietary nonsense and established fact.
"Aging: Who Needs It!"
Everybody wants to live long but nobody wants to get old. Can science solve this conundrum? What are we to make of claims that suggest that the secret of longevity lies in human growth hormone injections, or in sheep cell therapy or in popping anti-aging pills? Can we live longer just by eating less? Are antioxidants such as beta carotene or vitamin E the key to happy golden years? A look at the science behind these issues can be a real eye opener!
Science and Beauty: The World of Cosmetics
About $30 billion are spent every year on cosmetics in North America. Unfortunately, our choices of products are usually more influenced by advertising than by consideration of effectiveness. Just what do moisturizers and wrinkle creams do? Are exotic and expensive products worth the extra cost? What is the best way to protect our appearance from the ravage of aging? This lecture, presents the principles behind the mode of action of creams, lotions and other cosmetics so as to provide the audience with the tools to make informed decisions.
Life is a Risky Business
We are constantly bombarded with information about the risks we face in life. As a result we worry. We worry about the safety of our food supply, toxins in the environment and the dangers of climate change. Life is indeed a risky business and we will not come out of it alive. But to be able to enjoy every moment it is important to know what is worth worrying about. This lecture sorts out the facts from the myths to show that the real dangers are not always where they are thought to be
Homeopathy-Dilution or Delusion?
The theory of homeopathy introduced by Samuel Hahnemann in the 18th century states that toxic substances, diluted to an extent that there essentially nothing left in solution can be used to treat a variety of medical problems. Even though there is no scientific basis for such principles, homeopathic preparations are widely used around the world. This lecture examines critically the history and the principles of homeopathy as well as possible reasons for its popularity.
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