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Like every other academic, I am frequently asked to give presentations at various departmental seminars, scientific meetings and public groups. Until now, only the people in the room had to listen to them. Now, you can too!

Below, you can access Flash movies that have been compiled from these presentations. Please note that you will need the free Flash media player to view them. You probably already have it on your computer but in case you don't. you can go here to get it. The original narrated Power Point presentations are also available on request.

I've also included various short videos on various topics. These will play on Windows Media Player or any other video player that supports DivX compression.

If you find them interesting, you're welcome to share them with friends, colleagues, students, etc. If you wish to show them to a class, or a group, that's fine too, but I'd be grateful for an e-mail letting me know.The presentations are copyrighted, though, so please don't claim them as your own, or try to make money from them.


Beyond Biomimicry. What termites can teach us about realizing the living building. This presentation was given originally at the First International Conference on Industrialized, Integrated and Intelligent Construction (I3CON) at Loughborough University, 14-16 May 2008. There is an accompanying publication available here. This presentation strikes three themes. First, that "termite-inspired" building designs like Harare's Eastgate Centre are based on an erroneous model of how termite mounds work. Second, that how termite mounds actually work points to a wide new range of possibilities for termite-inspired passive control systems. And third, that termites also point to architectural models that go "beyond biomimicry", the next step from buildings that draw inspiration from life, but actually are themselves alive. (about 30 min, 23 MB).

Agents of biological design. Why are living things well-crafted for the things they do? This presentation was given at Binghamton University's EvoS speaker's series on 7 December 2007. It outlines the argument for biological design that is developed more fully in my book The Tinkerer's Accomplice. to wit: design is a real phenomenon that has a rational scientific explanation. Furthermore, I argue that modern evolutionary biology has donned a suite of philosophical blinders that has allowed the resurgent Platonism of Intelligent Design Theory to establish a populist beachhead that is undermining public acceptance of evolution. (about 42 min, 31 MB).

Macrotermes as models of swarm cognition. This presentation was given at the Workshop on Research Efforts and Future Directions in Neuroergonomics and Neuromorphics sponsored by the US Army Research Office on 23-25 October 2007 in College Park Maryland. The presentation outlines the developing theme of our research of the termite-mound system as a cognitive system that has knowledge of its world and can map that knowledge onto functional structure. I concentrate on the "Collective Structural Defense" (CSD), which is the process of mound regeneration, repair and structural regulation (about 28 min, 65 MB).

The air conditioned termite mound revisited. Is there a common mechanism for ventilation of all termite mounds? This presentation was delivered at a symposium on termite architecture at the International Congress of Entomology at Durban, South Africa from 6-12 July 2008. The presentation outlines our current thinking on the mechanism of wind-driven respiratory gas exchange in colonies of Macrotermes michaelseni. Our evidence points to the the need for a radical rethinking of the relationhsip between structure and function in termite mounds. (about 17 min, 14 MB).

More to come ...

Short Videos

Water imbibing and transfer by Macrotermes michaelseni workers. This video shows the use of non-toxic fluorescein dye as a tool for following water movements between soil and worker termites. Lots of neat pictures of glowing termites!  (about 5 min, 32 MB).

Emergence of a cognitive trap in swarms of Macrotermes michaelseni. This video shows how swarms of termites can fall into a "cognitive trap", a cognitive state that renders them unresponsive to environmental stimuli. (about 6 min, 72 MB).

A simulated cognitive trap. This video shows the results of a NetLogo simulation exploring how cognitive traps arise in an agent-based simulation.
(About 3 min, 24 MB).

Measuring volume and surface area of the fungus comb. This video shows a new method for estimating the volume and surface area of the colony's fungus combs, with some surprising conclusions for fungus comb topology and how they act as gas exchange surfaces. (about 6 min, 72 MB).

More to come ...