Treehouse Talks now in the Beeton Auditorium

June 10, 2014 | Richard

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TreehouseThe Treehouse Talks are free public lectures that operate on the guiding principle that three people, times three talks, equals a thousand new ideas.  This formula is not just encapsulated by their motto - "3 People X 3 Topics = 1,000 Ideas"; it is also demonstrated by the list of speakers recruited by Nicolas Rouleau, the series curator.

Nicolas is well-connected and always manages to book a wide range of talent for discussions on mainstream and special interest topics, e.g. de-extinction, cyborg selves, living a happy and healthy life, Alexander and Mabel Graham Bell, microgravity, Islamic finance, and labyrinths - to name a few. His speakers are mostly specialists in their field and well-accomplished (see list below).

Every set of Talks includes time for audience participation to address the recurring question, "How are these three seemingly random Talks related?" It is amazing to note the connections that audience members are able to make.

The Treehouse Group established its relationship with TRL in 2012, where Talks have been delivered on the first floor Atrium stage ever since. Beginning this Friday June 13th, however, the Talks will take place in the Beeton Auditorium. The Library recently extended its hours to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays, and Nicolas is excited that hosting the Talks in this quieter and more intimate location will allow for closer interactions between the speakers and audience members.

The Talks are held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the second Friday of every month, except for July and August. (The May Talks coincides with TCAF and therefore take place off site.) They are all open to the public and free - no registration is required.

I recently asked Nicolas about his plans for the series over the next year. He said he wanted to address some more topical international themes, such as Russia and Ukraine or Syria. He also wants to continue hosting a wide range of interesting and accessible science speakers who can keep the audience appraised of all the latest developments.


Join us this Friday for the final Talks of this season, featuring:

  • Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience: What Does an Experience Feel Like?
  • Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws
  • Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

 See bottom of page for full descriptions.



Most Treehouse Talks are recorded and loaded to their website:


Previous Treehouse Talks

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Lorna MacDonald: Alec and Mabel: Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
Mel Cappe: InCome InEquality InCanada
Nora Young - Cyborg Selves: Bodies, Big Data, and Technology
Ralph Baker: Financial Literacy: If a 12 Year Old Can Master It, So Can You
Rene Harrison: Microgravity: Not just about bad hair
Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance

2013 Sessions

Bridget Stutchbury: The triage concept: should we let some species go extinct to save others?
Ian Clark: Can MOOCs help reform Ontario Universities?
Elizabeth Edwards on microbial diversity: Getting to the Root of the Tree of Life
Hendrik Poinar: De-Extinction: Reviving lost species of the Pleistocene- hype or hubris?
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker: The Ecology of Hunger: The Reach of the North American Dinner Fork 
Dr. James Maskalyk: Helping others without hurting yourself  
Jeffrey Rosenthal: Why Statisticians Don’t Believe in ESP
Jennifer Spear: Everything is an Offer
Leila Boujnane: Wild About Cheese
Matt Thompson: The Open Manifesto: how to work smarter, supercharge collaboration and redesign the world
Maydianne Andrade: Everything I need to know about evolution, I learned from a cannibalistic spider 
Michael Anton Dila: A Start-up is a Bomb
Michael Hartley: Time for an Aral Spring? Why the Arab Spring did not penetrate Central Asia
Oona Fraser: Ambiguity, conflict, nuance and paradox.
Rob Spekkens: If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does? 
Sandra Martin: The ten top myths about obituaries 
Stuart Candy: Confessions of a guerrilla futurist
Susan Kates: We & Them: Teaching GenY, GenX & Boomers
Tim Hurson:Why We All Go to the Same Different Meeting Together
Timothy Nash: Sustainable Investing 101
William Thorsell: Three Helpful Ideas for Toronto

2012 Sessions

Andrea Hamilton: Social Networking Meets Crowdsourcing Offline
Andrew Westoll: Releasing Your Inner Ape
Assaf Weisz: Changing the Future
Camilla Gryski: The Labyrinth: Path, symbol, and metaphor
Darryl Gwynne: Why Are Males Masculine, Females Feminine and Occasionally Vice Versa? (Darwinian Sexual Selection as an Exercise in Critical Thinking)
Denise Balkissoon: Why Can’t I Quit Facebook?
Erin Bury: Tapping into Interest Graphs to Curate Online News
George Elliott Clarke: Harper’s Tea-Party Government
Ilana Ben-Ari: Toys as Tools for Change
Jeff Warren: The Elements of Experience
Dr. Jody Culham: How many brains do you have?
Dr. John Godfrey: Is Global Citizenship possible?
John Sobol: Know Your Media, Know Your Self
Jon Duschinsky: The (New) Power of People
Jorge Ulloa: The Global Water Cooler — Multiculturalism in the Workplace
Karl Schroeder: Tomorrow’s Toronto: A Foresight Exercise on the Future of our City
Katerina Cizek & Graeme Stewart: Re-imagining our Vertical City
Laurence Packer: Bees
Marcius Extavour: Science and politics don’t mix… or do they?
Mariella Bertelli: “Happily ever after?” An exploration of the fairy tale, its past, its future and its place in today’s culture
Mandy Wintink: The Sweet Smell of Failure
Stan Chu Ilo: Do We Still Need Religion Today? A new look at Islam, Christianity, and the Secular West
Stephen Morris: A physicist in the sandbox
Tom Heintzman: The Role of the Individual in Transforming Energy Systems

2011 Sessions

Andrea Dana Eisen: Being a Teacher to the Stars
Aruna Handa: Eating Our Words: Making good on the promise of a better life
Craig D. Adams: Input Output Cinema & Other Nonsense Buzzwords
Eric Boyd: DYI Transhumanism
Gabrielle McLaughlin: The Boulevard of Baroquen Dreams
Harvey Weingarten: The Future of Canada’s Public University System
Dr. James Robert Brown: Thought Experiments, Or How to Learn Cool Stuff Just by Thinking
Jessa Gamble: Daily Rhythms Around the World
John Beebe: More than diverse: Faces Of Complexity: A Photographic Exploration
John Paul Morgan: Invention Is As Often About Decision As It Is About Discovery
Dr. Jordan Peterson: Planning the Ideal Future, Rationale, & Strategy
Father Joseph Ogbonnaya: The Challenges of Integral Development
Lee Smolin: Is Time Real or an Illusion?
Miroslav Lovric: What if we could touch infinity?
Dr. Monika Havelka: How to Build a Whale: Mechanisms of Macroevolutionary Change
Nathalie Desrosiers: Liberty and Twitter: Civil Liberties in the XXIst Century
Justice Robert Sharpe: The Canadian Constitution as a Living Tree
Ryan North: A Brief History of Comics, And How Comics On The Internet Will Save The World (Or At Least Save Comics, But That’s Still Pretty Good)
Salima Syera Virani: “The Personal Brand” and its Importance for Entrepreneurs
Sheila McCook: Newspapers: A Physical Check-Up
Simon Cole: Collecting Contemporary in Toronto

2010 Sessions

Abigale Miller: Mealworms: Food or Not Food?
Amie Sergas: The Social Value of Roller Derby
Ana Serrano: No, Interactive Storytelling is Not an Oxymoron
Bob McDonald: What if everything you know is wrong?
Dan Falk: The Enigma of Time
Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians: You, Too, Can Be 14
Donna Francis: Knitting Science and Art Together
Jeff Woodrow: Thinking of Someone Else for a Change
Leehe Lev: The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Loreen Barbour: Life in Northern Russia
Micah Toub: The Jungian Shadow: How to turn your enemy into a role model
Mike Paduada: Careers from Math to the Moon
Mirella Amato: The Challenges of Beerology
Nadja Sayej: Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Nicolas Rouleau: Law and International Development
Nogah Kornberg: Teaching the G-Word to 9-Year-Olds
Russell Zeid: Nexialism
Sasha Grujicic: Technology and Change: How it’s happened, how it’s accelerating, and how we need to deal with it
Sasha Van Bon Bon: Decriminalizing the Sex Trade in Canada and Beyond
Shawn Micallef: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Shirley Khalil: Empowerment and healing using music
Steve Ferrara: Street Art in Toronto
Susan G. Cole: The Age of Queer: Does the word ‘lesbian’ still mean anything?
Zahra Ebrahim: Design and Social Change


Coming this Friday . . .

1) Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience

We must work for art for art to work on us.
-Jeanette Winterson

Music and art are often seen as consumables and entertainment. As an audience member our only responsibility is to buy our ticket and show up. But is this leading to the quality of experience we desire? And does this reduce art and music to objects that must please us, rather than as opportunities for us to move into deeper experiences of each other and ourselves. With growing distractions and lessening attention spans, our abilities to be attentive and affected are threatened.

At the same time, in the realm of fine art and classical and new music composition, as work gets more complex and specialized, it runs the risk of alienating its audience. 

What then is experience? What is listening, what is seeing, what is feeling? How do we pay attention and what does it mean to be present? Can art galleries, concert halls, and even a lecture series be training grounds of how to be more fully awake to the rest of our lives? 

After a discussion on the mechanics of presence and how they work in different venues, Meaghan will lead the Treehouse audience through a series of exercises in order to explore what the experience of being at the talk feels like. Meaghan Johnson, a yoga and meditation teacher, and a lover of art and sound, runs workshops in art galleries and collaborates with musicians and whole symphonies in order to explore what happens when we take time to prepare ourselves as an audience. Through learning to experience and rest into the sensations of the body in response to sound and sight, participants of these workshops experience astounding results in the quality of affect. Not only this, but the musicians also report having a much more enriched experience of playing, without even practicing the exercises! She has also collaborated with organizations such as Tamarack and the Women’s Network of PEI to bring embodied presence to their conferences and workplaces.

2) Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws

The rules of inheritance are typically pretty straightforward. The 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel showed that genes are inherited as discrete units and that the mother and the father each contribute one copy each to their offspring. A given gene copy therefore has a 50% chance of being passed on to an offspring. In general genes follow these rules pretty well, which means that the only way for a gene to improve its chances of being passed on the next generation is by helping the individual organism that carries it survive and reproduce. However, not all genes obey these rules. Some genes, sometimes called Mendelian outlaws by biologists, have evolved various ways of improving the chances of their own transmission, even if it comes at a cost to the individual organism. Jumping genes, which are pieces of genetic material that can make copies of themselves and insert into new locations in the genome, is a particularly successful example. In this talk, I will discuss jumping genes and other Mendelian outlaws, what prevents them from taking over, and how they may help stop the spread of malaria.

Arvid is a PhD candidate at the Department of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto and a Junior Fellow at Massey College. In his research he uses a combination of theory and whole genome sequencing to understand the evolutionary dynamics of jumping genes.

Arvid Recommends:

  • The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by  Oren Harman. The story of the extraordinary life of the man who provided much of the theoretical framework for the evolutionary study of conflict and cooperation. 
  • The Bridge, A Scandinavian crime drama TV series that follows one Danish and one Swedish police investigator after the discovery of a dead body on the Öresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark.

3) Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

This talk explores the role that climate plays in creating a sense of belonging and looks at how this feeling is being undermined by climate change. With special attention to the impending loss of winter, the talk examines how we are starting to feel homeless in our own homes as a result of the climate crisis. 

Willy Blomme is completing her PhD in Political Theory and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University. Before returning to graduate school she worked in Ottawa as Jack Layton's speechwriter.

Originally from Toronto, she now lives and writes in Montreal.