Cambridge Nights: Late Night TV-Style Show Takes Deep Look at Scientific Thinking

Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts is one of the world’s great intel­lec­tu­al cross­roads. With Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty at one end of town and the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy at the oth­er, many of the most influ­en­tial thinkers of our time either work there or vis­it. That gave César Hidal­go an idea.

Hidal­go is a pro­fes­sor at M.I.T., where he stud­ies the rela­tion­ship between physics, net­work sci­ence and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. Build­ing on his own inter­dis­ci­pli­nary curios­i­ty, Hidal­go thought it would be inter­est­ing to share a lit­tle of Cam­bridge’s intel­lec­tu­al wealth with the out­side world, so in Octo­ber he and the M.I.T. Media Lab launched a series of infor­mal Web inter­views called Cam­bridge Nights: Con­ver­sa­tions About a Life in Sci­ence.

Cam­bridge Nights is a lit­tle like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, if Leno talked about things like frac­tal geom­e­try in the meta­bol­ic the­o­ry of ecol­o­gy. That’s the sub­ject of the dis­cus­sion above fea­tur­ing the renowned physi­cist Geof­frey West, pro­fes­sor and past pres­i­dent of the San­ta Fe Insti­tute, who gives a fas­ci­nat­ing account of the uni­ver­sal scal­ing laws that per­vade all life, from sin­gle-celled organ­isms and com­plex species to whole ecosys­tems.

What sets Cam­bridge Nights apart from oth­er Web forums, like Big­Think, is that guests are under no pres­sure to com­press or “pop­u­lar­ize” their ideas. “We invite them because we want to hear what they have to say, and we want to give them the time to say it com­fort­ably,” writes Hidal­go. “There are many high-speed for­mats out there. Cam­bridge Nights is an alter­na­tive where thoughts can be devel­oped and reflect­ed upon with­out the need to rush.”

In the first sea­son, Hidal­go talks with six schol­ars from fields span­ning the nat­ur­al and social sci­ences, includ­ing physi­cist and net­work sci­en­tist Albert-Lás­zló Barabási, biol­o­gist Marc Vidal and inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment expert Lant Pritch­ett. A num­ber of guests are already lined up for Sea­son Two, includ­ing exper­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Steven Pinker.

To view all six videos from Sea­son One, and to learn more about the project, vis­it the Cam­bridge Nights web­site.

Cours­es from MIT can be found in our col­lec­tion of 400 Free Cours­es Online.

via The New York Times

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