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Soap Box Archives

This salon-style evening of a short talk with MIT scientists includes thoughtful queries from audience members – from those at the Museum and from those watching the live webcast. Watch archives below of the webcast, or view edited versions of the programs on MIT TechTV.

Fall 2014: How to Make Life and Influence Planets

Soap Box: Origins of Life on Earth with Greg Fournier and Francis Macdonald (October 7)
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Discover what we can we infer about the origin of life from the genomes of living organisms and what the geological record tell us about the Earth's environments during life’s beginnings. What does this mean for the search for life beyond Earth?

Soap Box: The Invisible Majority with Ann Pearson and Giulio Mariotti (October 14)
View video: Part One | Part Two

Most fossils are too small to see since most of life’s history is microbial. However it is possible to identify signatures of microbial life in rocks. Find out what they tell us, and how might we use them to recognize life elsewhere.

Soap Box: Why Life Got Big with David Johnston and David Gold (October 21)
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For much of the earth's history, microbes were the only living organisms on the planet. What spurred the evolution of larger-sized and more diverse animals?

Soap Box: Life Beyond Earth with Christopher Carr and Vlada Stamenkovic (October 28)
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Discover what we know about the possibility of life in the rest of our solar system and beyond, and join a discussion about what that means for humanity in the future.


Fall 2013: The Science of Remembering (and Forgetting)

Soap Box: Sleep, Dreams, and Animal Memories
Wednesday, October 30, 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Join Matthew Wilson, MIT Professor of Neuroscience in the Picower Institute for Memory and Learning, in a discussion about dreaming and memory. What is the role of dreaming? Do animals dream? Discuss these questions and others in an interactive format that puts you in conversation with the speaker. View video.

Soap Box: How Our Brains Learn and Remember with John Gabrieli
Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

What does a memory look like in the brain? How is it that we are able to take in so much information from the world around us? Discuss these questions and others with John Gabrieli, MIT Professor Cognitive Neuroscience in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, one of the foremost experts on memory, thought, and emotion in the human brain. View video.

Soap Box: How Does Stress Drive PTSD? with Ki Goosens
Thursday, November 14, 2013, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Memories formed while anxious have been shown to influence occurences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How does fear and anxiety affect our perception of the world, and subsequent memories? Join in a discussion with Ki Goosens, MIT Assistant Professor of Neuroscience in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, about her recent research on these topics and more in our evening discussion series. View video.

Spring 2013: The Political Life of Cheese

Soap Box: The Political Life of Cheese
Wednesday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Learn about artisanal cheesemaking in America. Heather Paxson, MIT anthropology professor and author of The Life of Cheese, will lead a discussion about the practical and legal challenges of artisanal cheese production -- especially when working with raw (unpasteurized) milk -- from farm to market. Share your thoughts on consumer choice, public health, and government regulation as they relate to this unique, tasty, and living food.
MIT Museum, first floor
. Free with Museum admission. View video

Artisanal cheeses generously provided by Central Bottle Wine + Provisions.

Fall 2012: Climate & Conflict

Inspired by the response to our popular Rivers of Ice exhibition and ongoing public concerns about the role of science in current political campaigns and policies, the MIT Museum invites you to join us in October for three dynamic discussions about climate and conflict. Download PDF

Soap Box: Risky Politics
Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Why is climate change a taboo topic? Join John Sterman, MIT Professor of Management and Director of the System Dynamics Group, on the eve of the first presidential debate to discuss what happens when we elect policymakers who won’t talk about science. Share your ideas about the topics that OUGHT to be talked about in the debates and find out how decisions about climate really get made. View video.

Soap Box: Is America Profiting from Climate Change?
Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Here in the Northeast we enjoy warm summers and (relatively) low fuel prices, but what is the REAL impact of climate change on Americans? Join John Reilly, MIT economist and co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, to discuss the short-term, long-lived, local, and global effects of our everyday environmental and economic decisions. View video.

Soap Box: Heat and Violence
Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Can global temperature change cause conflicts to heat up? Nathan Black, French Environmental Fellow at Harvard University Center for the Environment, will discuss the link between climate change and civil unrest. Explore how governmental response to climate change can incite or defuse violent conflict around the globe. View video.

Spring 2011: The Internet and Political Change in the Middle East
Wednesday, May 4, 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Join MIT Museum Director John Durant and international guests for timely discussion about the role – and control – of the Internet during periods of social and political change. This special breakfast-time Soap Box will feature informal café-style conversation with experts in Cambridge and (by live link) in Cairo Egypt, with whom we will discuss the (ab)uses of electronic social networks during the recent "January 25 Revolution". View video.
Presented as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.

Soap Box at MIT Museum
In Cairo there will be speakers from the Jan. 25th Revolution Youth Union (RYU)

Mr. Abdullah Helmey - Member of RYU Executive office bureau and representative of the Reform and Development Party
Dr. Rana Farouk, Media Officer & Member of the RYU Executive office bureau
Mohamed Salem, Blogger http://www.sandmonkey.org/

In Cambridge, MA the speakers will be:
Dr. Ethan Zuckerman, Senior Researcher, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
Dr. Marlyn Tadros, Executive Director, Virtual Activism/ Visiting Scholar, Northeastern University

Fall 2010 Series: The Gulf Oil Spill and Its Long Term Consequences

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Soap Box: Probing the Plume
What has happened to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico? Do we really know? What are we doing to find out? Rich Camilli, an environmental engineer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was the Chief Scientist on the June 2010 Endeavor research cruise to investigate the 1.2-mile-wide, 650-foot-high plume that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Join this interactive discussion session for an up-to-date account of the latest field research in the Gulf.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Soap Box: Mixing Oil and Ecosystems
While few would praise the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig as being a boon to environmental research, there is still much to be learned from this extreme tragedy. Chris Reddy, marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studies how oil spills affect ocean ecosystems, and what role humans have in changing the way nature deals with such events. Come share your opinions about the long-term environmental impacts of the Gulf oil spill and the risk factors currently at work.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Soap Box: Negotiating the Gulf Disaster
Larry Susskind, MIT’s Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, and Vice Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, is asking the tough questions. Should those affected by the Gulf oil spill receive compensatory payments? What’s the best way to guarantee the future safety of offshore oil and gas facilities? Add your voice to this important discussion about how public policy can help us prevent or navigate these situations in the future.
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2009-2010 Soap Box Season 5

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Soap Box: How Can Engineers Contribute to the Fight Against Malaria?
MIT Dean of Engineering Subra Suresh has made understanding malaria – its effect on red blood cells, its diagnosis, and future methods of treatment – a top priority of his research group. Professor Suresh and members of his research group will talk about how engineers and biologists have come together to examine the biomechanical properties of living materials, especially malaria-infected red blood cells. Join the conversation and explore how interdisciplinary research allows for the rapid development of technologies that were science fiction only a few years ago. The Suresh Research Group's malaria research is featured in the Sampling MIT exhibit.

December 8, 2009
Soap Box
: Humans in Space
It’s been 40 years since humans rose above low Earth orbit. Has space exploration stalled out? Should it be abandoned? What new technologies or geopolitical realities could shift the equation? The future of human space exploration is getting started, and not just at NASA. Hear from Professor Dava Newman about new technologies, companies, and policies that are leading people back into space. Tied up in issues of national pride, scientific discovery, income disparity, and the meaning of being human, space flight is a topic on which everyone has an opinion. Share yours at Soap Box
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November 17, 2009
Soap Box: Global Pandemics
From SARS to H1N1, diseases are traveling faster and farther that ever before in our increasingly interconnected world. New disease analysis tools and vaccine and antiviral technologies could tip the balance, or one bad bug might wipe us all out. Which way will it go? Professor Hidde Ploegh talks about the weapons we have now to fight pandemics and new tools in the pipeline, and invites you to discuss challenges for privacy, biodefense, and public health that arise in the aggressive response to a pandemic. Join the conversation and help figure out the appropriate response to a threat to civilization itself.
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2008 - 2009 Soap Box Speakers

Spring 2009 Series: What's the Latest in Solar Energy?

May 19, 2009
Soap Box: Luminescent Solar Concentrators Explained

Learn from Marc Baldo (Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) about the latest research being done with luminescent solar concentrators - inexpensive plates of glass or transparent plastic that concentrate sunlight without the need to track the sun across the sky.
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May 12, 2009
Soap Box: Nanoscale Engineering for High Performance Solar Cells

Nanotech opens up new possibilities for those working to more effectively exploit or manipulate light. Listen to Vladimir Bulovic (KDD Associate Professor of Communications and Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) as he discusses quantum dots -- nanoparticles of semiconductor material that give off different colors of light depending on size -- and how these hardy, brightly colored nano dots could be used to reinvent the light bulb.
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May 5, 2009
Soap Box: Next Generation Solar Cells – Lowering Costs, Improving Performance and Scale

Hear from Tonio Buonassisi (Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering) about the search for the best kinds of materials for making cheaper and more efficient solar cells in the future, either by incorporating materials that are so abundant that they could support a major boom in the industry or by cutting production costs for conventional solar cells.
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IAP 2008 Soap Box

January 14, 2009
Soap Box: Do-It-Yourself Biology

MIT biology professor, Natalie Kuldell and Reshma Shetty PhD '08 explain the meaning of the term Do-It-Yourself Biology, engage the audience by stimulating their imagination, and lead a discussion about the ethics and standards involved in teaching people how to take science into their own hands.
Watch Archived Webcast

Fall 2008 Series: Grassroots and Global: Technologies & Social Change

November 18, 2008

Ellen Hume, Research Director of MIT's Center for Future Civic Media speaks about the future of the news in a digital age.
Watch the archived webcast (Windows Media)

November 5, 2008

Dayna Cunningham, Executive Director of the Community Innovators lab at MIT's Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning explores how putting different media - cameras, recorders, and other data gathering tools - into the hands of people who traditionally have been excluded from political power, can achieve positive political and social change.
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October 22, 2008
The Role of Civic Media in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities encourges people to better understand the concept of "civic media." Will new media platforms that encourage bonding over long distances help move Americans toward more personal and immediate civic engagement?
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October 8, 2008
Technologies and Emerging Democracies: Building a Better Gatekeeper

Ethan Zuckerman, Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University Law School was the first in a series about Technologies and Emerging Democracies.
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2007 - 2008 Soap Box Speakers

April 29, 2008
Sherry Turkle and Cynthia Breazeal

Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and Media Lab professor Cynthia Breazeal discuss sociable robots and their impact on human-technology relations.
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April 9, 2008
John Hockenberry and Hugh Herr

Award winning journalist, author and editor, now a Distinguished Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, John Hockenberry joins with Associate Professor Hugh Herr, director of the MIT Media Lab Biomechtronics Group to talk about human augmentation.
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April 2, 2008
David Berry

Dr. David Berry, bioengineer and venture capitalist, discusses genetic engineering of microbes for biofuel production, focusing on developing an inexpensive way to harness hydrogen from bacteria.
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March 19, 2008
William Mitchell

Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences, William Mitchell talks about the City Car project, a new transportation ecosystem - prototypes of which are on display at the MIT Museum.
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November 14, 2007
James Morash

Advancements in Underwater Vehicles: Responding to Current Environmental Issues
Research Engineer James Morash talks about how technology advances aid research in areas such as the health of coral reefs and post storm event water quality.
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November 6, 2007
Jon Gruber

Making Health Policy in Massachusetts: An Insider's Perspective
Economics Professor and member of the Health Insurance Connector Board Jon Gruber discusses Massachusetts' groundbreaking health reform law and gives an inside view into the ongoing process of shaping health care in Massachusetts.

October 24, 2007
Jacqueline Lees

New Lessons in Cancer Research
Biology Professor Jacqueline Lees explains how gene marking will help scientists and doctors better understand tumor growth.
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October 10, 2007
Amy Smith

A Genius for Change, and the Passion To Do It
Senior lecturer Amy Smith co-hosts with students discussing their latest work on new technologies for the developing world. Cosponsored with The Technology and Culture Forum at MIT.
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2006 - 2007 Soap Box Speakers

April 25, 2007
Richard Primack and Abraham Miller-Rushing

Global Warming: Up Close and Local, part 2
Boston University Biology Professor Richard Primack and graduate student Abraham Miller-Rushing return to the MIT Museum during the Cambridge Science Festival to discuss observations contributed by citizens and their contribution to our growing understanding of the local effects of climate change in New England.
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March 21, 2007
Laura Schulz

Laura Schulz, Assistant Professor in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, discusses how children think and learn about cause and effect, and the role of play.

February 21, 2007
Richard Primack and Abraham Miller-Rushing

Global Warming: Up Close and Local, part 1
Boston University Biology Professor Richard Primack and graduate student Abraham Miller-Rushing launch a citizen science initiative to support work in better understanding the effects of climate change in the Boston area.
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February 7, 2007:
Jefferson Tester

Geothermal - An Undervalued Primary U.S. Energy Source
Tester led a panel that concluded that a substantial portion of the country's energy needs could be met by mining geothermal resources.
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January 17, 2007
Walter Bender

One Laptop per Child: Revolutionizing How the World's Children Engage in Learning
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November 1, 2006

Growing Pains: Transitioning to a Sustainable Energy Economy
Part 3 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy
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October 25, 2006

The Role of New Technologies in a Sustainable Energy Economy
Part 2 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy
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October 18, 2006

The Challenge: Meeting Global Energy Demand Sustainably
Part 1 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy
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September 19, 2006
Nancy Hopkins

Zebrafish and Cancer: What's the Connection?
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2005 - 2006 Soap Box Speakers

May 22, 2006
Mitchel Resnick

Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society
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April 26, 2006
Nancy Kanwisher

The Neurology of Vision
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March 21, 2006
Andrew (Drew) Endy

The Implications of Synthetic Biology
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February 21, 2006
Donald R. Sadoway

Fuel Cells and Portable Power Solutions
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January 10, 2006
Rodney A. Brooks

Robotics in Space Exploration
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November 15, 2005
David Altshuler

Human Genetics: Our Past and Our Future
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