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Buddhist Inquiries into Love and Friendship

Maria HeimMaria Heim
Associate Professor of Religion

November 17, 2010

Buddhist theories of emotions and mental experience treat love and friendship with great psychological subtlety. We’ll look closely at the 5th century Indian scholar Buddhaghosa, and his treatment of four kinds of love:  lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. These are called the four “immeasurables” because one can cultivate and expand them to embrace larger and larger circles of concern. The talk sketches out an important part of human life, that is, how we are connected emotionally to others’ experience, which is of interest for both psychology and ethics.

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Perspectives Behind the Sports Headlines


Phil de Picciotto '77
President, Octagon, Inc.

January 26, 2012

Listen to Phil discuss some of the topics that have made recent headlines in the world of sports, including the new NFL and NBA labor agreements, drug testing and anti-doping efforts, the NCAA and its role in collegiate athletics, and the evolution of our in-arena and home viewing experiences.

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New Thoughts on Old Favorites: Thomas Cole’s Past and Present

Randall GriffeyRandall Griffey
Curator of American Art at Amherst’s Mead Art Museum

January 13, 2011

This presentation reveals new research on two of the Mead’s most popular and well-known works, Past and Present (1838) by Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole.  Curator of American Art Randy Griffey discusses these memorable paintings in context of historical events of the day that may have shaped the artist’s vision, including the great New York fire of 1835 and the financial crash of 1837.

View Randall Griffey's Powerpoint Presentation and Supplemental Reading Materials.
(Unfortunately, there was a problem with the recording and are not able to use the audio.)

Searching for Balance: Ecology and Environmentalism in a Changing World

Jan Dizzard

Jan E. Dizard
Charles Hamilton Houston Professor in American Culture (Sociology) and Pick Reader

March 15, 2011

Many of our most cherished environmental achievements—the National Parks, the protection of designated Wilderness Areas, and the recovery of many wildlife species—are fast becoming threadbare.  Changes in the science of ecology increasingly call into question the continuing relevance of the policies that led to the Parks, Wilderness Areas, and wildlife management.  These changes in the underlying science began before awareness of climate change came to the fore.  Taken together, these two changes are leading to a fundamental rethinking of our relationship to the natural world.

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The Arab Spring: Lessons from Iran

Monica Ringer

Monica M. Ringer
Associate Professor of History and Asian Languages and Civilizations

October 21, 2011

One of the most notable aspects of the Arab revolts that spread throughout the Middle East in the spring of 2011 was the innovative use of the internet and social networking. Almost exactly two years previously, the Iranian Green Movement was the first to deploy these new technologies against the government. What can we learn from the Iranian experience? Do these 'facebook' revolutions portend radical change for the future of democracy movements in the Middle East? This lecture examines the Arab revolts and the Iranian Green Movement in comparative perspective with particular reference to social networking, visual art, and the youth.

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Same Sex marriage on trial

Martha Umphrey, Associate Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social ThoughtMartha Merrill Umphrey
Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

May 4, 2011

Recent debates over same-sex marriage have made the issue a political football in election after election, a cultural touchstone for anxieties about the status of the American family, and a signal moment in the history of civil rights litigation in the United States.  In this lecture, Professor Umphrey will review debates – particularly those internal to the gay rights community – about the value and meaning of pursuing the right to same-sex marriage, and will discuss the pros and cons of trials as a forum for public deliberation on the subject.

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9/11 in History and Memory


Frank Couvares
E. Dwight Salmon Professor of History and American Studies

September 13, 2011

The talk combines my memories of 9/11, especially of my 20th-Century American History class on the day after the attack, and a consideration of the ways in which historians have interpreted the events of that day and the years immediately thereafter. As the readings show, they generally extend the time frame to more than a half-century of U.S. engagement in the Middle East.

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"The U.S. Space Program - What Lies Ahead?"


Jeff Hoffman '66
MIT professor and former astronaut
Larry Young '56
MIT professor

November 29, 2011

After 30 years of operations, culminating with the completion of the construction of the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle fleet has been retired from service. The program officially came to an end on July 21, 2011, when the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stop on the runway at its home port, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. What does this mean for the future of human space flight, both in the US and worldwide? For at least the next few years, human space flight will be concentrated on the Space Station, with crew transportation provided by Russian Soyuz rockets. However, several private companies are currently developing capabilities to send people into space and to conduct operations both in sub-orbital space and in orbit. Commercial access to space may be a game-changing development in human space flight.

MIT Professors Jeff Hoffman '66 and Larry Young '56 shared their insights into what the future may hold with respect to human space flight in the coming decade and beyond. Hoffman was a NASA astronaut for 19 years, making 5 space flights including the 1993 rescue/repair of the Hubble Space Telescope. Young has been the principal investigator on numerous space experiments as well as having been trained as an alternate payload specialist for NASA spacelab missions.

Watch a video of the online event, listen to audio, or download the Podcast.

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Global Health for All – You CAN Make a Difference


Jon Rohde, M.D. '63

March 2, 2012

Life expectancy has advanced more in the past half century than in all of previous human history. This amazing revolution in health, largely unrecognized, has been achieved by attacking the most pressing problems of the largest numbers and using appropriate technologies, modern communications and social activation. Water, diet, and education enhanced by targeted interventions with vaccines, contraceptives and simple treatments have decreased deaths and extended average life expectancy by over 25 years. Living through this revolution and working for over 40 years in developing countries, Dr. Rohde will review some of these remarkable achievements and discuss the emerging careers that promise to carry these advances into the most remote corners of the earth.

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Catastrophic Volcanism at Shoshone Falls, Idaho: Existential Issues through the Lens of Geology


Tekla Harms
Professor of Geology

April 24, 2012

The earth is dynamic: mountains are built and eroded away, life evolves, and oceans rise and recede. Nineteenth-century geologists hotly debated the fundamental nature of such earth processes, asking if spatially and temporally immense transformations were built of innumerable small steps accumulating over the expanse of geologic time, or if they had been virtually instantaneous and cataclysmic, unlike anything humans have witnessed. While most adhered to the former “uniformitarian” paradigm, Clarence King, geologist and leading intellect of his day, concluded a “catastrophist’s” model of the earth—and the very nature of creation—through his observations of the geology of Shoshone Falls in the 1860s.

Often called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls provides the best vantage point of the Columbia Flood Basalts, a 3.5-kilometer-thick layer of volcanic rock that covers about half the state of Washington and adjacent parts of Oregon and Idaho. This volume of lava would cover the US to a depth of 12 meters—and most of it accumulated in only 1.5 million years, about 15 million years ago.

Listen to the audio or view the audio slideshow as Professor Harms explores the following questions:
•    What do we know today about the origin of the Shoshone Falls and the Columbia Flood Basalts?  
•    What does that knowledge tell us about the way our earth works?  
•    How can we best understand the human context on such an earth?

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