Science! And lots of it!
October 18, 2008 1:08 PM   Subscribe

The Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics hosts a treasure-trove of online scientific talks from leading scientists in their fields.

The talks are scientific presentations pitched toward scientists who work in other fields, and so are intelligible to the layman without the excessive simplification that the subject matter would go through if filtered through a journalist or a TV documentary team. The talks are fairly informal, with interruptions from the audience to ask questions, and the videos include the full Q&A sessions afterwards. We get not only the presentation but also get to see how the talk is received by the audience and hear some of the politics and gossip from the field.
For me, the most awesome talks are the biology-oriented ones. Catch up on the latest thinking about the origins of live in the series on Evolution of Molecular Networks. Find out about how modern biology research now deals with complex networks of interactions in the Bio-Molecular Networks series.
posted by nowonmai (5 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I stumbled upon the site when I googled up this fascinating presentation, which includes updates on the whole Miller-Urey primordial soup thing; something that comes up frequently on Metafilter.
posted by nowonmai at 1:13 PM on October 18, 2008

There are also lots of other Kavli Institutes. Some of these also have talks available for viewing, although most of the ones I found appear to be geared towards experts.

On the list nowonmai posted are the journalist in residence talks. Each of the journalists has at least one talk on the difficulty of science journalism; useful insights inside for people doing science, writing about science, or reading/listening about science.

I should also comment that KITP also has a huge trove of talks by experts for experts; they'll be less interesting for general mefites, but if you are looking for more technical talks on a given suggestion they're available too.

Neat post nowonmai, thanks!
posted by nat at 2:38 PM on October 18, 2008

wow - treasure trove, indeed

posted by jammy at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2008

Wonderful find nowonmai. Just clicked the "more..." whoa. Treasure trove is right. Am looking forward to watching the ones on the brain. Oooh, cool, How Does the Brain Make Sense of Scents? Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 2:48 PM on October 18, 2008

I worked on the helpdesk at the KITP for just over a year in 2006-2007, while I was an aquatic biology undergrad at UCSB. I set up many of these recordings, there were several per day. When there wasn't much else to do I managed to sit in on a few of the talks. The experts-for-experts talks didn't get that much of my attention, but the general-audience talks were sometimes fascinating. It's good to note that lots of these talks also have webcam video or slides available. Some of them really benefit from following along visually. One of the major highlights of working there was chatting with the world's best physicists about their work. Most of it I didn't understand, but I did get to pose a few stumpers from undergrad physics to the right people.

It's a well-run place that's probably under-appreciated on the campus. They have an impressive roster of past visitors (generally, researchers come for a several-month-long program on a specific research focus, or a week-long conference of all presentations and yummy catering). Stephen Hawking recently gave a talk there; I wasn't around yet but the photos from the event include people I worked with. I also got to bump elbows a few times (including christmas parties) with David Gross, the institute's director, who won a nobel prize for research on interaction between quarks.

Adding to the KITP's charm is its computer network (nearly all Macs, one for every visitor and a server room with a rack of XServes), its skillful and generally cheerful coordination staff (particular shout-outs to the tech team of course, particularly Craig and Kevin the leads, who do a great job and really have their hands full), and the overall good cheer that comes from everyone being on a paid hiatus to research what they love. That last bit really makes it easier to do tech support when you aren't sure what you're doing and are apt to look like a fool. Theoretical physicists scared up more bizarre computer problems than I'd ever seen. The building is also made with impressive architecture by Michael Graves, with bright sunny hallways, two towers with upstairs meeting rooms overlooking the ocean, a cheery internal courtyard, high-tech meeting rooms, and giant chalk (actual chalk) boards in every office and in the hallways. I've heard that there are those who would visit after hours to tour their friends around the building and watch movies on the projectors in the empty amphitheater, but I could never substantiate that.

The architecture is complemented by works of art. They have a rotating art installation in the upstairs hallways with track lighting which features a succession of different science- or algorithm-inspired works by various artists. When a new installation is unveiled it's commemorated with a wine-and-cheese art show. This art gallery included the hallways between my helpdesk area and my boss's office and the library. Other algorithmic (and mind-blowing, and beautiful) artworks by the artist-in-residence, Jean-Pierre Hebert were in the hallways and lobbies on a more long-term basis, and there were sculptures where you wouldn't expect them.
posted by lostburner at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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