TalkBack 360 Program Archives

Spring 2014 | Spring 2013 | Spring 2012 | Fall 2011

Spring 2014: Human Connections

Thurs. 4/17
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

What Happened in Ukraine?


Recent events in Ukraine and Crimea have stunned the world as we witness the greatest conflict in Eastern Europe since the Cold War. Discuss what led to the current situation with MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail, and Boston College political scientist Gerald Easter, author of Capital, Coercion, and Post-Communist States. What factors contributed to the civil unrest in Ukraine, and how did its proximity to, and relationship with, Russia influence the uprising in Ukraine's capital?


Daron Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT.

Gerald Easter is Professor of Political Science at Boston College.

View video

Thurs. 4/10
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Social Physics: Beyond Economics and Org Charts

When big data meets social science: social physics, collective intelligence, and more!


Join Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute in discussion with Sandy Pentland of the MIT Media Lab about the convergence of big data with social science. From Google to the NSA, personal information has become the currency of our era. When big data meets social science, a new understanding of human society emerges which radically changes how we make decisions and respond to global challenges. Big data-driven research such as social physics and “crowdsourcing” collective intelligence offer the promise of better policy decisions. But is the cost too high? How can we leverage the enormous opportunities available through big data, while still protecting individual privacy?
View video

Thurs. 3/27
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Creating Culture in Virtual Worlds

Join a conversation with MIT Professor D. Fox Harrell and MIT Researcher Todd Harper as they discuss the ways in which cultural values are both created and represented in digital media. Explore how online communities and computer code both give rise to shared values - through the interactions between people online, as well as the underlying computational structure of video games, websites, and other online communities.

View video

Spring 2013: Science on Trial

This program was a co-production of the MIT Museum and the MIT School of Architecture & Planning. Funding has been provided by the School of Architecture and Planning, the Consulate of Italy in Boston, and the MIT Museum.

Wed. 3/20
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Rebuilding Credibility in the Face of Natural Disaster

When natural disaster strikes, who is held responsible? After the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake struck the Italian region of Abruzzo, killing more than 300 people, six seismologists were convicted of manslaughter. Nearly three years later, the city is still rebuilding. Join representatives from the city's reconstruction team in discussion with MIT experts on geology, architecture, and dispute resolution. Share your thoughts on the limitations of scientific data, and the obligation of scientists, city planners, and policy makers alike to predict and plan for the impact of natural disasters on local communities.
View video

Spring 2012: Visualizing Science

Celebrate the power of the visual experience as you explore the role of imagery in science, from your mind's eye, across the globe, and through the ages.

Tue. 3/20
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Visualizing Science: All In Your Head

How do humans recognize and remember images? Can these processes be artificially created? Join MIT professors Aude Oliva, James Di Carlo, and Antonio Torralba in a dynamic conversation about the intersection of vision and cognition in humans and machines.
View video

Tue. 4/17
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Visualizing Science: The Changing Arctic Ice

Explore the Arctic ice cap with photographer Chris Linder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist John Toole, and MIT oceanographer Patrick Heimbach. See stunning images from the pole, explore the latest data from deep beneath the cap’s surface, and find out how such information can be used to forecast global environmental change.

View video

Tue. 5/22
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Visualizing Science: Through the Lens

How do images influence the way you think about science? With a camera, an artist’s eye, and a bit of input from MIT scientists, photographer Berenice Abbott brought the world of physics into a new light. Join science photographer Felice Frankel, art historian Caroline Jones, and molecular biologist Christopher Turner for a lively discussion about the role of modern day photography in the scientific landscape.

View video


Fall 2011: Life in the Universe: Are We Alone?

Are We Alone? That question has perplexed humanity for centuries. Perhaps scientists are getting closer to the answer; come find out during four evenings of discussion as biologists, astronomers, geologists, chemists and anthropologists talk and share their insights with you as they explain some of their latest research about life on other planets, as well as on our own.

Life in the Universe
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Think big. Dimitar Sasselov, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and director of Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative provides a cosmic perspective on the conditions for life in the universe, while Sara Seager, MIT’s Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Planetary Science and Professor of Physics, presents the latest research on the search for exoplanets. How many places capable of supporting life may there be in the universe?
View video

In the Beginning
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
In the beginning, life was different. Join Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and Roger Summons, Professor of Geobiology at MIT, for an interdisciplinary conversation about the origins and evolution of complex life on Earth. What does it take for life to appear, and how does it develop over time?
View video

Why Mars Matters
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
From Viking to the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Red Planet has long held our fascination as a platform for life. Klaus Biemann, Professor Emeritus in MIT’s Department of Chemistry, Samuel Kounaves, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Tufts University, and Zara Mirmalek, postdoctoral associate in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, share their experiences working on various Mars exploration missions. What are we really searching for on Mars, and what might we conceivably find?
View video

Finding Intelligence
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Mind matters. Harvard researchers Paul Horowitz, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, and Richard Wrangham, Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology, lead the final conversation of the series, discussing the nature of intelligence and how we go about detecting it – on Earth, and elsewhere in the universe. What does it take for animals to evolve intelligence, and how common is this event in the universe?
View video