Thursday, April 1, 2010

Famous Scientists in Five Minutes

In what ways do our friends influence us? How do our minds think about other people's minds? Where is the universe from - did it just come from nothing?

They're big questions, certainly. They can't exactly be figured out in an afternoon. But the Cambridge Science Festival is holding an event called "Big Ideas for Busy People" where these questions, and more, will start being answered.

In Big Ideas for Busy People, top scientists will talk about these ideas in the context of their own research at an evening event preceding the start of the Festival. Ten leading researchers from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will present their work in precisely five minutes each, with five minutes available for questions from the audience.

Ever wanted to know what will power cars in the next ten years? To get an idea of the event, one of the speakers is Angela Belcher, Professor of Biological Engineering and Material Science and Material Engineering at MIT. She studies how to turn viruses into tiny nanowires, and how these nanostructures can be put together to produce powerful batteries, and so for it she'll talk about how DNA can be used to create energy-storing devices.

I'm studying biology, so I'm especially excited for Rebecca Saxe's talk about how the brain thinks about abstract ideas and Ed Boyden's presentation on how brain circuits are connected. But the ten speakers will talk about a range of topics such as biology, sociology, physics and astronomy. Plenty of topics floating around!

The event is completely new and experimental, and since their task is to boil down years of research into five minutes, presenting it clearly and quickly enough for us all to understand, it'll be interesting to see how well these scientists can do it.

The world around us is fascinating - come learn about it! Hear straight from prominent scientists about life and the universe at "Big Ideas for Busy People" on Friday April 23. It is a two hour event for adult audiences beginning at 7:30 PM in The Laboratory, Northwest Science Building 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

To learn more about who's speaking at the event, read next week's post introducing another speaker, Nicholas Christakis, whose research focuses on social networks.

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