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Tag "Guest Lecture"
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Night sky of the Milky Way over the Namibian desert near "Southern Cross"

Night sky of the Milky Way over the Namibian desert near “Southern Cross”

On May 8, Bard College Berlin had the opportunity to welcome Noam Libeskind, a researcher from the “Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam,” for a guest lecture titled “From Chaos to Cosmos: the history of the Universe as we know it.” Invited by Professor Michael Weinman for the Early Modern Science core course, Noam introduced some basic concepts regarding the physical properties of our universe, loosely basing his methodology on historical progress in scientific discoveries. In a series of PowerPoint slides, he showed how classical astronomy developed via Newton, Hershel, and Kant, and reached its peak in the modern research of Hubble, Eddington and Einstein.

Although I found almost every slide that Noam Libeskind presented to us quite fascinating and worthy of its own story, I would like to share my reflections on the first photograph he exposed us to––the sky at night. The scientific progress in astronomy started with sky observations, and looking at a relatively clear sky without light pollution inclined me to think about the first sky observers––all in my attempt to understand their fascination with the cosmos better.

Even as a city resident, I frequently look at the sky at night. I often find much peace in it. When I saw how the same sky looks in its pure form, it left me simply breathless. The same image made me realize that there is still so much to learn about the sky above us too––for example, I thought I saw Venus instead of Saturn in one of the images, (due to the invisibility of the rings), and definitely did not know what to make out of the magnetic clouds of the sun’s wind, whose collision with the thermosphere we can see as the aurora borealis in the northern latitudes.

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Carlos Fraenkel

Carlos Fraenkel

Carlos Fraenkel is Associate Professor at McGill University, jointly appointed in the Departments of Philosophy and Jewish Studies. At the beginning of March, he came to ECLA of Bard to talk about his new book and project: “Teaching Plato in Palestine.” The book is based on his experimental method of teaching philosophy to five different communities across the world (Palestinian, Islamic, Hasidic, Afro-Brazilian and Mohawk).

Prof. Fraenkel started his lecture with a very inspiring anecdote from his own life. He recounted how, during his undergraduate years, he traveled to Egypt in order to study Arabic. While he was living there, he became friends with Egyptian Muslims and every evening around the dinner table they would discuss their different backgrounds and value systems. On every occasion, Fraenkel tried to defend his secular modern values, which disproved of the existence of an afterlife, while his Muslim friends believed in life after death. They all debated the existence of God and the supporting evidence. These discussions led both parties to defend and advocate their distinct value systems even stronger, which prompted a subtle conclusion in Fraenkel’s mind: this mode of debating and arguing was basically very beneficial, since it gave all the participants a chance to defend their beliefs and, in doing so, they were fortifying the underlying reasons.

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Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her expertise lies within the history and philosophy of science. On 28th February 2013, Prof. Daston came to ECLA of Bard to give a lecture on “Observation, Time, and Scientific Experience in Early Modern Europe”.

Attending Lorraine Daston’s lecture was extremely enlightening, as she has a great command of this subject and her lecture prompted an altogether fresh understanding of scientific development during the 16th and 17th centuries. Throughout her talk, Daston had a firm disposition and was beaming with clarity of purpose. She started her lecture by talking about the reasons which led her to initiate her research into the history of observation in early modern Europe. According to Daston, many scholars have investigated the history of the scientific revolution, but her research pays particular attention to the methods and procedures developed for scientific logic during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Daston explained to the audience how observation started out in the households of illiterate peasants or on ships at sea and then evolved to become a learned experience and a part of university curriculum. It was rather surprising to hear this, since, as a modern audience, our relation to science is entirely based on empirical evidence. But, as Daston pointed out, empirical knowledge was considered merely conjectural knowledge at the time, due to the lack of sophisticated methods of inquiry. Beginning with the 16th century, a gradual shift took place in the status of science, from mere superstition to an authentic explanation of the world around. This shift occurred as an outcome of two phenomena: first, the increasing number of voyages to other territories became an incentive to develop navigation and travelling skills; second, there was a growing desire among scholars to establish the principles of the world with a degree of certainty.

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Photo: Irina Stelea

Photo: Irina Stelea

On the evening of December 5th, ECLA of Bard had the pleasure and privilege to welcome Peter Constantine. A world renowned translator, Constantine has spent the last twenty years of his career translating works by Anton Chekhov, among which some that had previously not been known to the English-speaking public.

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Image from www.einsteinfoundation.de

Image from www.einsteinfoundation.de

Every once in a while, a forgotten piece of history gets the unique chance to be remembered and to resurface in the public sphere. As it happened, on December 4 a lost piece of media history got its moment: the phonograph.

I learned about the lecture through ECLA of Bard’s weekly newsletter on activities in Berlin. Organized by the Einstein Foundation, the lecture was to take place at the Museum for Communication. Although I am not usually one to leave campus on weekdays (I always feel safer cuddled next to the heater in the Library, doing my reading for the following day), the lover of antiques in me would not let me miss such a lecture. So, armed with a map and an exact address, I left ECLA of Bard’s campus and ventured into the wet from the rain streets of Berlin.

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Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Finance Steffen Kampeter speaks at the conference (Photo: Timothy Fadek)

From November 26th to 27th, ECLA of Bard had the great opportunity to co-organize the annual Hyman P. Minsky Conference on Financial Instability together with the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Already at its 22nd edition, the conference was held at the Deutsche Bank in Berlin and had the topic of “Debt, Deficits, and Unstable Markets.”

For two days, leading economists and policymakers from both sides of the Atlantic gathered to discuss recent economic developments, problems and possible solutions.

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Photo: Irina Stelea

Photo: Irina Stelea

A little while back, on November 23, ECLA of Bard hosted the NY-based artist Zoe Beloff. The artist talk disclosed the working process behind two of Zoe Beloff’s recent pieces – The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and Days of the Commune.

The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society project started from the invitation made to Zoe by the Coney Island Museum’s director Aaron Beebe to commemorate the centennial of Sigmund Freud’s visit to Coney Island. While doing her research to develop a concept for this occasion, Zoe learned of an intriguing society founded by Albert Gross, which embodied Freudian psychoanalytical principles.

The community was called The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its members were invested in understanding the life of the mind. They were making amateur movies whose content aimed to reproduce their own dreams. In this way, they intended to faithfully illustrate and analyze their own psychic data.

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Glenn Most guest lecturing at ECLA

Glenn Most

Evening guest academic lectures are always special for the ECLA of Bard community. Apart from presenting the students with the possibility to sleep longer and prepare better, they give a chance to hear some fresh thoughts on the familiar texts and participate in a vivid discussion with experts from the “outside”.

On the 16th of October ECLA of Bard welcomed Glenn Most – an American classicist and comparatist, well-known in Italy and Germany, who works as a Visiting Professor of Social Thought and Classics at the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought (University of Chicago, US) and also teaches Greek philology in the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa (Italy).

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