In April, the first International Cystinosis Research Symposium drew 40 researchers of the childhood disease to this facility owned and operated by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and located on seven acres of the UC Irvine campus. The 48,000-square-foot center has also rocked out to spacey music—as in the time an egghead related the algorithmic approaches to composition during a conference that included presentations on Mars, carbon nanotubes and the evolution of the universe. Far out, man. Should those gatherings sound too intimidating to anyone without a Ph.D. or Deadhead sticker on their Prius, fear not. Beckman also hosts the Distinctive Voices speakers series, in which scientific knowledge is, ahem, dumbed down for the rest of us. The fall program, which kicked off in September, has included such easy-to-follow topics as “The Physics of Superheroes” with astrophysicist James Kakalios; “The Science Behind the Shakeout” starring Lucy Jones, the Caltech seismologist who comes on the teevee any time an earthquake stirs up Southern California enough to put ripples in your latte; and “The Final Frontier: An Evening of Science Humor” featuring standup comedian Brian Malow. Coming up on Oct. 15: Michael Coe, the curator emeritus of Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, shedding “New Light on the Ancient Maya.” Wonder if he'll be as funny as the comic?