Scholars Notebook January 2016


Of Lasers and Art
The fascinating application of Lasers and other scientific technologies to the analysis and restoration of Art

A Talk by
Dr. John F. Asmus

January 2016 Speaker

Dr. John F. Asmus
(Photo permission from Dr. Asmus)

Dr. John Asmus will describe some of the fascinating experiences he has had over the years in applying technology to Art conservation. Those include work on the Ice Age paintings of Lascaux; the discovery of the hidden Mona Lisa “pendant”; the restoration of the Whitney museum’s DeFeo masterpiece, The Rose; the laser restoration of the surface of marble edifices in Venice; as well as reconstituting the color of Qin–Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors by reversing chemical decomposition.

The speaker.  Dr. Asmus is a Professor of Physics at UCSD and a co-founder of the Center for Art/Science Studies at UCSD.  In 1990 he was awarded the Rolex Laureate for Enterprise (Polychrome Recovery Of The Qin-Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors) and became a Fellow of the Explorers Club. Over the past 40 years, Dr. Asmus has led the art conservation field in the use 3d Holography, lasers, ultrasonics, and digital image processing.  In addition, he has been instrumental in the founding of international professional societies such as Lasers for the Conservation of Artworks (LACONA) and Associazone Italiana Prove Non Distruttive (Italian Association for Non-Destructive Testing).



Kudos to SDIS Board Member-at-Large Barbara George and to Theresa Latosh and the Vi for a fabulous Holiday Party.  Great food, a lovely setting, and a harpist made the afternoon memorable.  Vi held a drawing for two lucky non-resident attendees, awarding two certificates for four Vi dinners with wine to Edwina Curtis and to Tom Samaras.  Edwina and Tom are both long time SDIS volunteers, so it’s a pleasure to know that they were winners.

I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions since I was a teenager.  It didn’t take much of a learning curve for me to realize that I wasn’t very good at keeping resolutions. (Current research tells us that about 50% of adults make one or more, but more than half give up within six months.)  This year I plan to implement a resolution based on a practice my daughter has been following for many years. At the beginning of each month, she puts cash (the same amount each month) in an envelope in her purse – this is her “budget” for paying it forward. She tries to find creative ways to make sure her budget is spent by the end of each month.  The plumber who made a bathroom repair got an unexpectedly large tip.  When buying a book from the author at a recent signing, she bought an extra one for the author to give away.  When the author expressed surprise, she talked the author into giving a second one away himself.

 Pay it forward is not a recent concept – historians first trace it back to a Greek play in 317 B.C.  Later, Ben Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about the concept. In 1784 Franklin wrote to a petitioner that he would give him money, but it was not to be paid back; it should be paid forward to another person.

The concept gained popularity in the mid-Twentieth Century through books, plays and movies.  Each year the media tells of incidences of pay it forward.  This year it was a customer at McDonald’s who started a chain of 250 Florida customers who paid it forward by paying for the customer behind.  The chain was broken only when the 251st customer was unfamiliar with the concept and didn’t continue it. Pay it forward can take several forms – sometimes it is something as simple as giving a compliment, or offering other non-monetary acts of kindness.

I’m excited about initiating a process to regularly and thoughtfully find ways to pay it forward. I hope that my abysmal batting average with resolutions takes a positive turn this year.

To Each  and  Every  One  of You , I Send  My  Best  Wishes  For  the  Coming  Year.




In 1991, the Board of San Diego Independent Scholars created the Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Fund, in memory of a founding member, Helen Hawkins, who died in 1989. This Research Fund succeeded the earlier Kolar Fund whose monies had been depleted. Hawkins’ family contributed $2,000 after learning that the new fund was named in Helen’s honor. Current SDIS members can and often do make tax-deductible contributions to help sustain the fund.

Helen Hawkins was instrumental in filing the paperwork for incorporating SDIS as a not-for-profit organization. Hawkins earned a PhD in History from UCSD. She also studied choral music at Tanglewood and international economics at Oxford as an undergraduate. Her professional associations included the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, KPBS-TV, and the History Departments at UCSD, SDSU, and Mesa College. She was also a co-founder and first president of the local chapter of NOW.


Current SDIS members are invited to apply for research grants. Applications are now available from President Barbara Heckler ( and must be submitted by February 29. Awards are announced in April.  Grant approval is based on the quality of the applicant’s idea, its originality, merit, credibility, feasibility, and potential for solving or giving a new perspective on a significant problem or illuminating a social, literary or scientific phenomenon. At the May SDIS general meeting, winning applicants will briefly describe their work and how the Hawkins Award is to be used. Upon completion of their work, awardees will give a talk about it to a future SDIS general meeting. Applicants must have been members for at least one year.



Meeting Details are in Column 2

Colloquy Café
Report of the December 16th meeting:

Today's topic was "discuss, argue, rant."  In Colloquy Café, we discuss but we don't argue and we never rant.  Discussion is a way of promoting an idea or proposal and listening to comments and opinions from others.  Arguing involves an attempt to convince your listener(s) to agree with you, whether it be about municipal development, who should be president, or the value of taking daily naps.  A rant is to speak bombastically, pretentiously inflating one's comments.  The presidential election came up several times during today's discussion, understandable given the current political environment.  

Next month, we'll have other ideas to consider.  We will meet at 1:30 on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, to discuss "mood."



Culture One

Our first meeting of Culture One, 2016, is on Thursday, January 7, 2:30 - 4:30 PM, in the Signature Room, Vi. We have access to the room from 2:00 to 4:30 PM so we can leisurely set up the room with references and refreshments if we wish to do so.

Subsequent Culture One meetings, February - May, 2016, will be held on the first Thursday of each month, not the fourth Thursday, as we did in 2015. Why? Some of our members have conflicts in attending meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month which are avoided by shifting to the first Thursday of each month. Besides, by moving our first meeting up to January 7th, we can reduce the length of time between meetings.  

As for our reading assignment for this meeting, that does remain the same: the third and fourth chapters of our reference book: Sapiens, namely "A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve", pps. 40 - 62; and "The Flood", pps. 63 - 74. We'll start off by identifying the main themes of each chapter as we discuss each in turn.  Questions regarding Chapters One and Two are also welcome. This is fascinating material with many components, perspectives, and interpretations. Please feel free to bring related references to the meeting: articles, books, and announcements of videos, TV programs, whatever. Enjoy!! 

For further information, please contact Sue R. Rosner, e-mail:



Culture Two

So – you thought those serious folk in Culture Two were busy studying all about India, politics, education, religion, etc.? It looks like  what they were “studying,” the required reading, apparently were cookbooks!

Photos below are from the November meeting at the home of Ina Rosenthal-Urey and John Urey—who also cooked the Indian feast:

Culture Two Dinner (1 of 2)

Sag Paneer – Spinach with paneer cheese
Daal with pumpkin – Lentils with pumpkin puree
Batatat Ki Nariyal – Potato and egg in coconut milk curry
Phalon Ka Raita – Grapes, raisins and pomegranate in yogurt
Gajjat aur Matarki – Dry-spiced carrots and peas
Naan – Indian flatbread
Sweet Lassi – a mango and yogurt drink
Darjeeling Tea

Culture Two Dinner (2 of 2)

On Friday, January 22, the Culture Two study group will continue its discussion of issues related to What Went Wrong?:The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East by Bernard Lewis. Please contact Sam Gusman ( for further information or inquiries about attending meetings of this study group.



Film Group

TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, January 6 at 10 a.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view Coriolanus, a 2011 British drama adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy and starring Ralph Fiennes. It’s set in a contemporary version of Rome.  Contact for more information.



Literature Group

The Literature Group will meet Monday, January 11. Cathy Blecki will lead the discussion of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. The meeting will take place at the home of Marla Jensen at 10:30 a.m., with those attending bringing brown bag lunches as usual an enjoying a post-discussion social hour and dessert. Guests are welcome after notifying the hostess of their intended participation.



Neuroscience Study Group

The Neuroscience Study Group will meet the third Tuesday of the month, at 2:30 p.m. in the home of Bea Rose. Discussions will focus on significant contemporary writings, including essays in the book This Idea Must Die, edited by John Brockman. 

On Tuesday, January 19, the group will discuss these essays:

  • Robot Companions by Sherry Turkle, p. 264
  • Don’t Discard Wrong Theories, Just Don’t Treat Them as True, by Richard H. Thaler, p. 325
  • Scientific Morality by Edward Slingerland, p. 365
  • Science is Self-Correcting, by Alex Holcombe, p. 369



Saturday, January 16, 2016
1:30 –3:30 PM

Room 111A, 
Chancellor’s Complex
UCSD Campus

Free and Open to the Public
Free Parking in the 
Gilman Parking Structure

Click here for maps and
directions telling how
to park on campus
and walk to the meeting room

All monthly meetings of SDIS are  free and open to the public. A question/discussion period follows the talk.



SDIS Holiday Party (1 of 3)

SDIS Holiday Party (2 of 3)

SDIS Holiday Party (1 of 3)



We’ll gather at SOLARE RISTORANTE in Liberty Station, Point Loma, on Friday, January 8 at 12 noon.  There is plenty of easy parking right across the street.  SOLARE RISTORANTE is one of San Diego Magazine’s 2015 award winners.  Contact for reservations by January 5.

Save the date: tentative plans are to celebrate Chinese New Year at China Max on Convoy, at noon on Friday, February 5.



Meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 6 pm at Humphreys La Jolla Restaurant, 3299 Holiday Court, La Jolla. Meals from the menu (see are Dutch Treat. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to, stating whether you are coming alone or bringing friend(s).

The next meeting is January 14.

Group discussion is based on suggested topics that have particularly interested the attendees in the last month. If possible, we select a question that can be addressed from the viewpoints of the various areas of expertise of the participants, which are ordinarily quite diverse, ranging from the humanities to natural sciences to social sciences to various professions. If some subject has particularly interested you during the past month, please suggest it.




Colloquy Café
January 20, 2016

At the Vi
Contact: M.E. Stratthaus 

Culture One
January 7, 2016
2:30 – 4:30
Signature Room at the Vi
Contact: Sue Rosner 

Culture Two
January 22, 2016
Contact: Sam Gusman

Film Group
January 6, 2016
10 a.m.
At Barbara’s home
Contact: Barbara Heckler

Literature Group
January 11, 2016
Host: Marla Jensen 

Science Group
January 19, 2016
At Bea’s home at the Vi
Contact: Bea Rose

Contact Numbers:
President: Barbara Heckler
Editor: Arlene Gilbert


Highlights of our November 21 talk by Kimberly Cooper

How can evolution in rodents teach us about musculoskeletal disease? What can we learn about limb development?

Dr. Cooper heads an independent research laboratory at UCSD, focused on the jerboa—“a bipedal rodent with normal arms and unique legs that allow it bound through the deserts of Africa and Asia.”

The limbs of the three-toed jerboa, a close relative of the mouse, are subject to random mutations and disease. Degeneration of the jerboa’s muscles is similar to a wide variety of myopathies in humans. Dr. Cooper’s laboratory capitalizes on this and the strength of mouse genetic engineering to understand the mechanisms that shape limb form and function. The lab’s research can provide insights leading to an understanding of the fundamental causes of musculoskeletal disease and human birth defects.