Soap Box Series Archives

This salon-style evening of a short talk with scientists and researchers includes thoughtful queries from audience members. Watch video archives below.

Soap Box Series Preview

Spring 2017: Quantum Quandaries and other Heavy Matters

This three-part series looked at some of the stranger and more mysterious aspects of the physical universe.  

Quantum Computers and Philosophy of Science, February 28
Paola Cappellaro, Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT
Brad Skow, Associate Professor of Philosophy, MIT

Higgs Boson and Neutrinos, March 7
Markus Klute, Associate Professor of Physics, MIT
Janet Conrad, Professor of Physics, MIT

Gravity Waves and Dark Matter, March 15 (Rescheduled from March 14)
Lisa Barsotti, Principle Research Scientist, LIGO Laboratory, MIT
Tracy Slatyer, Assistant Professor of Physics, MIT


Fall 2016: INFECTioUS

 A three-part, salon-style series on infectious diseases. 

Transmission, September 28
Caroline Buckee, Associate Director, Center for Communicable Diseases Dynamics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angela Early, Postdoctoral Fellow, Genomic Center for Infectious Diseases, Broad Institute

Communication, October 5 
Adam Hume, Researcher, Boston Medical Center
Rod McCullom, Journalist, Knight Journalism Fellow

Treatment, October 12 
Lee Gehkre, Professor, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, MIT
Omar Khan, Research Scientist, Koch Institute

Please contact us for information on the following videos:

Fall 2015: Re: Making Life

In this four-part series about synthetic biology, participants explored what "synbio" is, how scientists are using innovative techniques to modify organisms, and for what purposes.

From DNA to Designer Genomes, September 30, 2015
Christopher Voigt, Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT
John Doench, Associate Director of the Genetic Perturbation Platform, Broad Institute

Breaking the "SynBio" Barrier, October 7, 2015
Pamela Silver, Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
Peter Carr, Senior Scientist, MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Customizing Nature, October 14, 2015
Kristala Jones Prather, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Ron Weiss, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, MIT

Who Needs Rules?, October 21, 2015
George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Kenneth Oye, Associate Professor of Political Science and Engineering Systems Design, MIT


Fall 2014: How to Make Life and Influence Planets

Origins of Life on Earth with Greg Fournier and Francis Macdonald, October 7, 2014 
Discover what we can we infer about the origin of life from the genomes of living organisms and what the geological record tell us about the Earth's environments during life’s beginnings. What does this mean for the search for life beyond Earth?

The Invisible Majority with Ann Pearson and Giulio Mariotti, October 14, 2014 
Most fossils are too small to see since most of life’s history is microbial. However it is possible to identify signatures of microbial life in rocks. Find out what they tell us, and how might we use them to recognize life elsewhere.

Why Life Got Big with David Johnston and David Gold, October 21, 2014 
For much of the earth's history, microbes were the only living organisms on the planet. What spurred the evolution of larger-sized and more diverse animals?

Life Beyond Earth with Christopher Carr and Vlada Stamenkovic, October 28, 2014 
Discover what we know about the possibility of life in the rest of our solar system and beyond, and join a discussion about what that means for humanity in the future.

Fall 2013: The Science of Remembering (and Forgetting)

Sleep, Dreams, and Animal Memories, October 30, 2013  
Join Matthew Wilson, MIT Professor of Neuroscience in the Picower Institute for Memory and Learning, in a discussion about dreaming and memory. What is the role of dreaming? Do animals dream? Discuss these questions and others in an interactive format that puts you in conversation with the speaker.

How Our Brains Learn and Remember with John Gabrieli, October 30, 2013 
What does a memory look like in the brain? How is it that we are able to take in so much information from the world around us? Discuss these questions and others with John Gabrieli, MIT Professor Cognitive Neuroscience in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, one of the foremost experts on memory, thought, and emotion in the human brain.

How Does Stress Drive PTSD? with Ki Goosens, November 14, 2013 
Memories formed while anxious have been shown to influence occurences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How does fear and anxiety affect our perception of the world, and subsequent memories? Join in a discussion with Ki Goosens, MIT Assistant Professor of Neuroscience in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, about her recent research on these topics and more in our evening discussion series.

Spring 2013: The Political Life of Cheese

The Political Life of Cheese, May 8, 2013 
Learn about artisanal cheesemaking in America. Heather Paxson, MIT anthropology professor and author of The Life of Cheese, will lead a discussion about the practical and legal challenges of artisanal cheese production -- especially when working with raw (unpasteurized) milk -- from farm to market. Share your thoughts on consumer choice, public health, and government regulation as they relate to this unique, tasty, and living food. Cheeses generously provided by Central Bottle Wine + Provisions.

Fall 2012: Climate & Conflict

Inspired by the response to our popular Rivers of Ice exhibition and ongoing public concerns about the role of science in current political campaigns and policies, the MIT Museum invites you to join us in October for three dynamic discussions about climate and conflict [PDF].

Risky Politics, October 2, 2012 
Why is climate change a taboo topic? Join John Sterman, MIT Professor of Management and Director of the System Dynamics Group, on the eve of the first presidential debate to discuss what happens when we elect policymakers who won’t talk about science. Share your ideas about the topics that OUGHT to be talked about in the debates and find out how decisions about climate really get made. 

Is America Profiting from Climate Change?, October 16, 2012 
Here in the Northeast we enjoy warm summers and (relatively) low fuel prices, but what is the REAL impact of climate change on Americans? Join John Reilly, MIT economist and co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, to discuss the short-term, long-lived, local, and global effects of our everyday environmental and economic decisions.

Heat and Violence, October 30, 2012 
Can global temperature change cause conflicts to heat up? Nathan Black, French Environmental Fellow at Harvard University Center for the Environment, will discuss the link between climate change and civil unrest. Explore how governmental response to climate change can incite or defuse violent conflict around the globe.

Spring 2011

The Internet and Political Change in the Middle East, May 4, 2011 
Join MIT Museum Director John Durant and international guests for timely discussion about the role – and control – of the Internet during periods of social and political change. This special breakfast-time Soap Box will feature informal café-style conversation with experts in Cambridge and (by live link) in Cairo, Egypt, with whom we will discuss the (ab)uses of electronic social networks during the recent "January 25 Revolution". Presented as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.

In Cairo there will be speakers from the Jan. 25th Revolution Youth Union (RYU). Mr. Abdullah Helmey, Member of RYU Executive office bureau and representative of the Reform and Development Party; Dr. Rana Farouk, Media Officer & Member of the RYU Executive office bureau; Mohamed Salem, Blogger.

In Cambridge, MA the speakers will include Dr. Ethan Zuckerman, Senior Researcher, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, Dr. Marlyn Tadros, Executive Director, Virtual Activism/ Visiting Scholar, Northeastern University.

Fall 2010 Series: The Gulf Oil Spill and Its Long Term Consequences

Probing the Plume, November 17, 2010
What has happened to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico? Do we really know? What are we doing to find out? Rich Camilli, an environmental engineer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was the Chief Scientist on the June 2010 Endeavor research cruise to investigate the 1.2-mile-wide, 650-foot-high plume that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Join this interactive discussion session for an up-to-date account of the latest field research in the Gulf.

Mixing Oil and Ecosystems, November 10, 2010
While few would praise the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig as being a boon to environmental research, there is still much to be learned from this extreme tragedy. Chris Reddy, marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studies how oil spills affect ocean ecosystems, and what role humans have in changing the way nature deals with such events. Come share your opinions about the long-term environmental impacts of the Gulf oil spill and the risk factors currently at work.

Soap Box: Negotiating the Gulf Disaster, October 26, 2010
Larry Susskind, MIT’s Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, and Vice Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, is asking the tough questions. Should those affected by the Gulf oil spill receive compensatory payments? What’s the best way to guarantee the future safety of offshore oil and gas facilities? Add your voice to this important discussion about how public policy can help us prevent or navigate these situations in the future.

2009-2010 Soap Box Season 5

How Can Engineers Contribute to the Fight Against Malaria?, Tuesday, May 11, 2010
MIT Dean of Engineering Subra Suresh has made understanding malaria – its effect on red blood cells, its diagnosis, and future methods of treatment – a top priority of his research group. Professor Suresh and members of his research group will talk about how engineers and biologists have come together to examine the biomechanical properties of living materials, especially malaria-infected red blood cells. Join the conversation and explore how interdisciplinary research allows for the rapid development of technologies that were science fiction only a few years ago. The Suresh Research Group's malaria research is featured in the Sampling MIT exhibit.

Humans in Space, December 8, 2009
It’s been 40 years since humans rose above low Earth orbit. Has space exploration stalled out? Should it be abandoned? What new technologies or geopolitical realities could shift the equation? The future of human space exploration is getting started, and not just at NASA. Hear from Professor Dava Newman about new technologies, companies, and policies that are leading people back into space. Tied up in issues of national pride, scientific discovery, income disparity, and the meaning of being human, space flight is a topic on which everyone has an opinion. Share yours at Soap Box.

Global Pandemics, November 17, 2009
From SARS to H1N1, diseases are traveling faster and farther that ever before in our increasingly interconnected world. New disease analysis tools and vaccine and antiviral technologies could tip the balance, or one bad bug might wipe us all out. Which way will it go? Professor Hidde Ploegh talks about the weapons we have now to fight pandemics and new tools in the pipeline, and invites you to discuss challenges for privacy, biodefense, and public health that arise in the aggressive response to a pandemic. Join the conversation and help figure out the appropriate response to a threat to civilization itself.

Spring 2009: What's the Latest in Solar Energy?

Luminescent Solar Concentrators Explained, May 19, 2009
Learn from Marc Baldo (Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) about the latest research being done with luminescent solar concentrators - inexpensive plates of glass or transparent plastic that concentrate sunlight without the need to track the sun across the sky.

Nanoscale Engineering for High Performance Solar Cells, May 12, 2009
Nanotech opens up new possibilities for those working to more effectively exploit or manipulate light. Listen to Vladimir Bulovic (KDD Associate Professor of Communications and Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) as he discusses quantum dots -- nanoparticles of semiconductor material that give off different colors of light depending on size -- and how these hardy, brightly colored nano dots could be used to reinvent the light bulb.

Next Generation Solar Cells – Lowering Costs, Improving Performance and Scale, May 5, 2009
Hear from Tonio Buonassisi (Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering) about the search for the best kinds of materials for making cheaper and more efficient solar cells in the future, either by incorporating materials that are so abundant that they could support a major boom in the industry or by cutting production costs for conventional solar cells.

IAP 2008 Soap Box

Do-It-Yourself Biology, January 14, 2009
MIT biology professor, Natalie Kuldell and Reshma Shetty PhD '08 explain the meaning of the term Do-It-Yourself Biology, engage the audience by stimulating their imagination, and lead a discussion about the ethics and standards involved in teaching people how to take science into their own hands.

Fall 2008 Series: Grassroots and Global: Technologies & Social Change

The Future of the News, November 18, 2008
Ellen Hume, Research Director of MIT's Center for Future Civic Media speaks about the future of the news in a digital age.

Technologies Changing Communities, Communities Innovating Technology, November 5, 2008
Dayna Cunningham, Executive Director of the Community Innovators lab at MIT's Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning explores how putting different media—cameras, recorders, and other data gathering tools—into the hands of people who traditionally have been excluded from political power, can achieve positive political and social change.

The Role of Civic Media in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, October 22, 2008
Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities encourges people to better understand the concept of "civic media." Will new media platforms that encourage bonding over long distances help move Americans toward more personal and immediate civic engagement?

Technologies and Emerging Democracies: Building a Better Gatekeeper, October 8, 2008
Ethan Zuckerman, Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University Law School was the first in a series about Technologies and Emerging Democracies

2007 - 2008 Soap Box Speakers

Sociable Robots, April 29, 2008
Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and Media Lab professor Cynthia Breazeal discuss sociable robots and their impact on human-technology relations.

Human Augmentation, April 9, 2008
Award winning journalist, author and editor, now a Distinguished Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, John Hockenberry joins with Associate Professor Hugh Herr, director of the MIT Media Lab Biomechtronics Group to talk about human augmentation.

Building Microbe Refineries, April 2, 2008
Dr. David Berry, bioengineer and venture capitalist, discusses genetic engineering of microbes for biofuel production, focusing on developing an inexpensive way to harness hydrogen from bacteria.

The City Car, March 19, 2008
Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences, William Mitchell talks about the City Car project, a new transportation ecosystem - prototypes of which are on display at the MIT Museum.

Advancements in Underwater Vehicles: Responding to Current Environmental Issues, November 14, 2007
Research Engineer James Morash talks about how technology advances aid research in areas such as the health of coral reefs and post storm event water quality.

Making Health Policy in Massachusetts: An Insider's Perspective, November 6, 2007
Economics Professor and member of the Health Insurance Connector Board Jon Gruber discusses Massachusetts' groundbreaking health reform law and gives an inside view into the ongoing process of shaping health care in Massachusetts.

New Lessons in Cancer Research, October 24, 2007
Biology Professor Jacqueline Lees explains how gene marking will help scientists and doctors better understand tumor growth.

A Genius for Change, and the Passion To Do It, October 10, 2007
Senior lecturer Amy Smith co-hosts with students discussing their latest work on new technologies for the developing world. Cosponsored with The Technology and Culture Forum at MIT.

2006 - 2007 Soap Box Speakers

Global Warming: Up Close and Local, part 2, April 25, 2007
Boston University Biology Professor Richard Primack and graduate student Abraham Miller-Rushing return to the MIT Museum during the Cambridge Science Festival to discuss observations contributed by citizens and their contribution to our growing understanding of the local effects of climate change in New England.

Laura Schulz, March 21, 2007
Laura Schulz, Assistant Professor in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, discusses how children think and learn about cause and effect, and the role of play.

Global Warming: Up Close and Local, part 1, February 21, 2007
Boston University Biology Professor Richard Primack and graduate student Abraham Miller-Rushing launch a citizen science initiative to support work in better understanding the effects of climate change in the Boston area.

Geothermal - An Undervalued Primary U.S. Energy Source, February 7, 2007
Tester led a panel that concluded that a substantial portion of the country's energy needs could be met by mining geothermal resources.

One Laptop per Child: Revolutionizing How the World's Children Engage in Learning, January 17, 2007
Walter Bender, SM '80, Senior Research Scientist, MIT Media Lab joins us. In an informal conversation with an MIT Museum audience, Walter Bender describes the mission and progress of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) venture. The brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte and the MIT Media Lab, this enterprise aims to put low-cost ($100 or less!) laptops into the hands of a billion plus children in the developing world. The mission is not merely to supply inexpensive technology, but to provide a multi-purpose teaching tool, Bender explains, with hardware and software aimed at enabling kids to explore the world and express themselves.

Growing Pains: Transitioning to a Sustainable Energy Economy, November 1, 2006
Part 3 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy. ohn Heywood, SM '62, PhD '65, Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Stephen Ansolabehere, Professor, Department of Political Science, MIT and Professor of Government, Harvard University. Both small, private and large, public actions are essential if we're to have any hope of addressing global warming and achieving a sustainable energy future.

The Role of New Technologies in a Sustainable Energy Economy, October 25, 2006
Part 2 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy. Daniel Nocera, The Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and Professor of Chemistry; Angela Belcher, Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Biological Engineering.

The Challenge: Meeting Global Energy Demand Sustainably, October 18, 2006
Part 1 of the Fall 2006 Soap Box Special on Energy. Ernest Moniz, Director, MIT Energy Initiative; Kerry Emanuel, '76, PhD '78, Professor of Atmospheric Science joins us. Despite their calm demeanors, Kerry Emanuel and Ernie Moniz impart grave and pressing concerns about global warming to this Museum gathering.

Zebrafish and Cancer: What's the Connection?, September 19, 2006
Nancy Hopkins, Amgen, Inc. Professor of BiologyDescription: Through her rapport with the zebrafish, Nancy Hopkins has made large contributions to the fields of developmental biology and cancer research. But her model organism, and to some degree her particular slant on molecular biology, were a matter of serendipity, as she relates to this MIT Museum audience.

2005 - 2006 Soap Box Speakers

Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society, May 22, 2006
Mitchel Resnick, SM '88, PhD '92, Head, Program in Media Arts and Sciences; LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research speaks. A few years ago, the government of Singapore summoned Mitch Resnick to help crack a problem. Although thousands of schoolchildren in that country were designing and building robots using the Lego Mindstorm kits Resnick helped invent, Singapore businesses complained that when these same students hit the workplace, they lacked creativity and initiative. Resnick discovered, in conversations with teachers, that robot building was an after-school activity, and classroom time was devoted to math and science drills.

The Brain Basis of Human Vision, April 26, 2006
Nancy Kanwisher's breakthrough scanning research reveals "a teeny part of an answer to the big question of what kinds of brains we have," she says. Her work depends on functional MRI, a way of imaging people's brains that detects areas of high neural activity. Kanwisher focuses on vision, to which almost 1/2 of the human cortex is dedicated.

The Implications of Synthetic Biology, March 21, 2006
Andrew (Drew) Endy, Cabot Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering joins us.

Fuel Cells and Portable Power Solutions, February 21, 2006
Donald Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry; Department of Materials Science Engineering joins us.

Robotics in Space Exploration, January 10, 2006
Rodney A. Brooks, Founder, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer, Heartland Robotics joins us.

Human Genetics: Our Past and Our Future, November 15, 2005
Will genomics vanquish our most common diseases, or create a society based on vile eugenics _ or both? David Altshuler outlines these possibilities in his informal talk and conversation at the MIT Museum.