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Wednesday
May 27th, 2015
7:00-8:30 PM

Schlafly Bottleworks, Maplewood, MO

What Beer Bottles & Violins Say About the Evolutionary Forces that Shape Us and Our Culture

Assistant Member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Honorary Adjunct Professor of Biology

Moderated by: Cynthia Wichelman, M.D.


Daniel A. Chitwood, Ph.D.

Why are organisms and man-made objects the shapes they are? From the beaks of Darwin's finches to magnificent pieces of engineering, the structure of an object can potentially inform us about its function or reveal the historical forces that influenced its form. Using beer and whiskey bottles as examples, I'll discuss methods to quantify complex shapes and how to compare them. I'll then discuss recent work quantifying the shapes of greater than 9,000 violins, violas, cellos and basses, over 400 years of history, and show how shapes contain information revealing the evolutionary forces that shape our culture. Antonio Stradivari, for example, innovated a shape that spread throughout history like a viral meme through imitation and influenced the shape of modern violins. Violin shape even has a genetic basis, tracking family lineages, passing from one generation of violin makers to the next. Embedded within the shapes around us — in nature and cultural objects — the influence of evolutionary forces is unmistakably present.

Science On Tap highlighted on St. Louis Public Radio and Voice of America!

Science On Tap is a place where, for the price of a beverage, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place outside a traditional academic context, in the Crown Room at Schlafly Bottleworks.


Meetings are held on the last Wednesday of the month during the academic year, usually from 7:00 - 8:30 PM. The standard format is as follows: about 45 minutes of presentation, followed by discussion until 8:30 PM. Seating is strictly limited to the first 120 people.  No reservations accepted.

Crown Room at the Schlafly Bottleworks
7260 Southwest Ave.
Maplewood, MO 63143
(314) 241-2337

Register to receive e-mail announcements of future Science On Tap events.

Interested in learning about medicine? Check out Washington University's Mini-Medical School!

For more information: e-mail scienceontap@wustl.edu
or call (314) 935-9495

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