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The promise of tissue engineering and wound closure technology

Note: this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.
In this Faculty Insight interview, Sujata Bhatia, a lecturer on biomedical engineering at Harvard, and the assistant director for undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, talks with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast about the science behind tissue engineering.

(This video features only part of the interview — to hear it in its entirety, click on the mike symbol below.)

Dr. Bhatia is also the thesis adviser to Suneil Seetharam, an Extension School biotechnology graduate student, who is working on an artificial tissue glue, which, down the line, could be used by doctors to close wounds.
He does much of his research at the Wyss Institute at Harvard. And this is where he and Dr. Bhatia meet, to take a look at a sample, and assess its strength.

Click here: (7:30 minutes).

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Cosmic Evolution’s Predilection for Constant Change

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The theory of cosmic evolution is a relatively new addition to the field of cosmology, and attempts to answer the questions of who we are, where we are, and how we came to exist, among others, by taking the long view — from the big bang, to the present day.
Here’s another definition for you: “Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of energy, matter and life in the thinning and cooling Universe.”

This explanation comes from Eric Chaisson, a vigorous champion of the cosmic evolutionary theory. He’s an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a lecturer at Harvard Extension School, who is also the subject of this Faculty Insight interview, conducted by ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh.
And while it might leave more questions asked than answered, we hope it will give you the chance to stick your toe into deep astrophysic waters, and feel the tug of the cosmic tide…

Note:  Images of galaxies and other cosmic phenomena courtesy of Eric Chaisson. Thank you very much for their use!

Posted on November 7, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Online Education at Harvard – a new advance for democracy?

Distance education. Online learning. We’ve been hearing a lot these days about this new tool for teaching, this new way of leveraging technology to spread access to education as widely as possible, with as little effort – it must be said – as possible.
Harvard Extension School has been one of the pioneers in using the Internet to reach its ideal audience – adult learners who might not have been able to attend an Ivy League college, but who have the intelligence and curiosity to benefit from top-notch instruction, albeit virtually.

This Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, is with Henry Leitner, the associate dean for Information Technology and Chief Technology Officer at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, and a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard. Leitner also oversees the Distance Education initiative at the Extension School, and we spoke in a control room there, where many of these online courses are recorded.
What’s more, Leitner’s played a role in launching edX, a Harvard-MIT venture in online learning that’s gathering steam. It represents the MOOC  or massive open online course model, which can reach even greater numbers across the globe. These free online classes have the potential to penetrate closed societies and break down barriers, be they physical, psychological, cultural or – yes, educational.

Posted on August 9, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Internet, Public Media
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EdX President Anant Agarwal’s Plan to Change the World

Note: this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

You’ve heard the news. Online education is the next big, disruptive thing. It’s taking on the establishment, and the hidebound, bricks and mortar institutions of higher learning must change – or shrink.

EdX, Coursera, Udacity and the like are the future – promising us a better educated and better employed nation of newly empowered citizens.

Or —  they’re the tool that leads to the firing of second rate, redundant professors across the land, to the retreat of non-virtual classrooms, those sacrosanct spaces where real students interact with real professors.

Or perhaps they’re both? These cultural and marketplace issues will work themselves out over time. But if we look farther ahead, what will be the political impact of “free education for all,” across the globe? (Albeit for those with a high speed internet connection!)

Anant Agarwal

ThoughtCast spoke with Anant Agarwal, formerly the Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and currently the very first President of edX, in their spanking new offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An entrepreneur and an intellectual, Anant is perhaps also a visionary.

Will his visions for edX come true? Take a listen, and judge for yourself!

Click here:   (12 minutes).

Also, for extra credit —
What does the “X” in edX stand for?
Click here: (1 minute).

Posted on July 8, 2013 in Ideas, Internet, MIT, Public Media
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Islam and its Coat of Many Colors – with Ali Asani

Can a multi-faceted Islam be whatever you want it to be?
All things to all people?

To listen to the renowned Harvard Professor Ali Asani tell it, Islam is a religion of multiple dimensions, interpretations, and perspectives. It’s almost like an all-encompassing religion, whose core beliefs can serve to unite widely diverse cultural groups, which eventually combine to form a dazzling coat of many colors.
But with such a cornucopia of rules and rituals, might the basic tenets of Islam get lost? Could they become confused with ancient tribal codes, which existed prior to Islam, and are difficult to puzzle out, to separate from the Muslim doctrines of today?
This Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, asks — but perhaps does not always answer — many of these questions. So take a look, see for yourself, and join Ali Asani, Harvard’s Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures,  in the debate!

Posted on January 30, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Ideas, Politics, Religion
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“Why Does the World Exist?” with Jim Holt

Note: this interview was broadcast on the WGBH public radio affiliate WCAI, on the Cape and Islands!

Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)
Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)

In this ThoughtCast interview, science writer Jim Holt takes us on a jaunty tour of being and nothingness, existence and emptiness, quantum tunneling and the uncertainty principle. The author of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes, Holt lends his wit to a dissection of the puzzle of existence, which happens to be the topic of his just-published book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story!  A frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications, Holt approaches his subject with a personal, philosophical and scientific point of view. But does he solve the puzzle?… You tell me!

Click here to listen (28 minutes.)

Posted on January 9, 2012 in Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, Science
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