Tag Archives | harvard extension school

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, and by KPIP in Missouri.

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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The history and future of the New England Forest

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

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.
And finally, for an audio version of this story, click here: to listen (9:47 mins).

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
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How to minimize disasters and manage crises – if possible!

This Faculty Insight interview with Arnold Howitt, the executive director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and an instructor at Harvard Extension School, highlights the challenges of disaster management and emergency response.

Howitt teaches Crisis Management and Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief and Recovery at the Extension School, and is also an author and editor of several books, including Managing Crises: Responses to Large-Scale Emergencies. He speaks with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast about what we’ve learned from large-scale disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and how we can do  better next time!

Posted on July 15, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Politics
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The Mau Mau rebellion — a revisionist history

How does history get rewritten? How do victimizers become victims, and the valiant turn into villains? As Harvard history professor Caroline Elkins has learned, this process can be a hazardous one. The Pulitzer prize-winning author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya devoted many years to the study of the Mau Mau uprising in the early 1950s, and the British response,  a model of counter-insurgency technique — or so she thought.

The Mau Mau were a group of native Kenyans who turned to violence and terror to drive out their colonial British masters, but as Elkins discovered, they weren’t the only ones to use such tactics.  Now a court case will decide where the truth actually lies, as you will hear in this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and  Harvard Extension School.

For an audio version of this story, click here: to listen. (6:50 mins).

Posted on November 1, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History
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Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a hero, or a villain?

In this sixth installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with Allan Ryan, the director of intellectual property at Harvard Business School Publishing, a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on the First Amendment and Media Litigation, and an instructor at Harvard Extension School.

The subject is a sensitive one for journalists: Is Julian Assange one of us? Does WikiLeaks serve a legitimate news-gathering purpose, or is it a dangerous, possibly illegal website that spreads official secrets without due diligence or consideration of the consequences?
Let us know what you think!

Posted on August 14, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Politics, Public Media
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Honor and Fair Play in Homer’s Iliad

Note: the audio version of this interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, and also on KUT in Austin, Texas!

In this fifth installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with the esteemed Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy about one of the earliest and greatest legends of all time: Homer’s epic story of the siege of Troy, called The Iliad. It’s a story of god-like heroes and blood-soaked battles; honor, pride, shame and defeat.
In this interview, we dissect a key scene in The Iliad, where Hector and Achilles are about to meet in battle. Athena is also on hand, and she plays a crucial if underhanded role, with the grudging approval of her father, Zeus.
And Nagy is of course the perfect guide to this classic tale. He’s the director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC, as well as the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard.

We spoke in his office at Widener Library.

Click here: to listen to a longer audio version of this interview! (9 minutes)

Posted on July 12, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Literature, Poetry
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