2014 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2013 – DEC 2014

EPO Activity: Soapbox Series at the MIT Museum

Project Progress

“How to Make Life & Influence Planets” was a 90-minute, interactive public discussion series held at the MIT Museum, in a café-style setting, every Tuesday evening in October 2015. Each evening, two scientists presented talks of 15 minutes each, followed by 20 minutes of discussion amongst the audience, who posted their questions via Twitter. In the final 40 minutes, presenters answered questions from Twitter, as well as directly from the audience. (Figure 1 – caption: “MIT team members David Johnston and David Gold answer audience questions about “why life got big” as they appear via Twitter on the screen behind them.”) (Figure 2 – caption: “Designed as an interactive discussion rather than a public lecture, the format of the event engendered lively conversation among the audience and the presenters.”)

The series was co-organised by MIT team member Benjamin Kotrc and the MIT Museum, and all but two of the presenters were members of the MIT Team.

The topics of the evenings were “Origins of Life on Earth”, “The Invisible Majority”, “Why Life Got Big”, and “Life Beyond Earth”. Each discussion was video recorded and made available via MIT’s website. We used a retrospective pre/post survey to measure impact on the goals in behavior, knowledge, attitude, and interest defined for this program. Measurable impact is evident in the data collected. (Figure 3 – “The program for the Fall 2014 Soap Box series at the MIT Museum featured six presenters from the MIT Team”)