A gold mine for lifelong learners

by Joan Rachlin, executive director

Reading the Sunday New York Times is one of my greatest pleasures and I never regret the time spent thumbing through its always packed pages. Yesterday’s edition was no exception; in fact, if anything, it was even more of a feast than usual. Two of the items that caught my eye were so exciting that I wanted to pass them on to you.

First, there was an article about TED (Technology, Education, Design) Talks, which has been one of my favorite internet destinations for the past year since first hearing about it from a young cousin who said that his college professors require many of the talks as an integral part of their curricula. I took a look at some of these “ideas worth sharing” and found them fascinating and addictive.
I’ve summarized a few of my favorite talks below, and hope that they will be a worthy introduction for those of you who have not yet discovered the pleasures of this incredible site. For those who have a favorite TED Talk, please share yours by leaving a comment on this post.

The first is a talk by Dan Ariely, who is a well known behavioral economist, author, and NPR commentator. Dan was also one of the 2009 Advancing Ethical Research Conference keynote speakers, and generated higher marks than almost any of the speakers I can remember. Have a look/listen to his TED Talk and see why.

The next talk is by Dan Gilbert who, similarly, is a crossover researcher, in that his work has made it into the mainstream, most notably via his book Stumbling Upon Happiness, and his PBS series This Emotional Life. You can enjoy this talk here.

In an effort to find a talk that would interest our many instutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) members and other members of the PRIM&R community, I listened to Laurie Santos, a primate researcher at Yale, and found her talk fun and fascinating. When’s the last time you heard a primate talk that included references to Shakespeare, Stephen Colbert, and the “monkey marketplace” (including notes about economists and financial advisors)? Watch this talk here.

Finally, my friend Alan Wertheimer, another fan of the site, told me about the fourth talk that I’ve included, which was given by Esther Duflo, a professor at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT. Professor Duflo is using traditional research methods to more systematically and reliably determine what interventions work in programs seeking to reduce poverty. Watch hers here.

Trust me, you’ll enjoy these, and will hopefully find your own favorites as I have.
The other “WOW!” moment during my Sunday Times perusal was an article on “An Introduction to Op Ed at 40”. Visit this section, browse the left-hand section of the page, and see who has written letters over these past four decades and what they had to say. I found this to be a short but spectacular refresher course in politics, history, literature, and more.
In short, for those of us who are ardent believers in the need for lifelong learning, here are two gold mines. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I, and please let me know what you think.