Harvard Thinks Big 4 Offers TED-Style Talks on Stats, Milk, and Traffic-Directing Mimes

Despite hav­ing no expe­ri­ence with schools of its stature beyond what I’ve gleaned from Take Ivy, I do know that Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty cul­ti­vates minds to dis­cuss the next big ideas. That, in fact, has pro­vid­ed the premise for Har­vard Thinks Big, a series that takes a hand­ful of Har­vard edu­ca­tors and the Har­vard-edu­cat­ed and has them talk about what’s next for human­i­ty. The fourth and most recent annu­al iter­a­tion of Har­vard Thinks Big brought sev­en speak­ers on stage, allow­ing each of them twelve min­utes to break down a top­ic of great impor­tance. Seem­ing­ly with an eye toward the widest intel­lec­tu­al vari­ety, Har­vard Thinks Big 4 fea­tures infor­ma­tion-dense mini-lec­tures from experts on sta­tis­tics, lit­er­a­ture, evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy, law, clas­sics, Chi­nese his­to­ry, and jack­fruit. (That last one comes from Annemarie Ryu, cur­rent Har­vard junior and founder of Glob­al Vil­lage Fruits.) You can watch a col­lec­tion of Har­vard Thinks Big talks on Youtube or on iTunes. At either loca­tion, you’ll also find talks from past years includ­ing Jill Lep­ore on the mean­ing of life and, just below, Edward Glaeser on the ever-increas­ing impor­tance of cities.

There you can watch select­ed talks from Har­vard Thinks Big 4, to which the Crim­son offers a “tl;dr guide” here. “Accord­ing to Kant, art can com­mu­ni­cate that which does­n’t have a name yet,” writes the paper’s Lynn Miao, describ­ing pro­fes­sor Dor­ris Som­mer’s lec­ture, view­able at the top of this post. “That some­how involves the may­or of Bogo­ta replac­ing cops with pan­tomimes to direct traf­fic, which actu­al­ly cor­re­lat­ed with a decline in traf­fic acci­dents and homi­cide rates. Appar­ent­ly, the shock val­ue of clowns, and pub­lic art, reach­es across nations.” Or per­haps you’d pre­fer to hear why milk “can pre­vent obe­si­ty, save up to 1.5 mil­lion deaths from diar­rhea by con­tribut­ing healthy gut bac­te­ria, save pre­ma­ture babies — essen­tial­ly every­thing short of cur­dling when in con­tact with lemon,” for which check out pro­fes­sor Kather­ine J. Hin­de’s pre­sen­ta­tion below. It’s called “Why Mam­mals Suck.” We think of Har­vard as one of the most seri­ous places in Amer­i­ca, but clear­ly, at events like Har­vard Thinks Big, they know how to have a good time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Har­vard Thinks Big 2012: 8 All-Star Pro­fes­sors. 8 Big Ideas

Har­vard Thinks Green: Big Ideas from 6 All-Star Envi­ron­ment Profs

Har­vard and MIT Cre­ate EDX to Offer Free Online Cours­es World­wide

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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