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Kahn Institute Enters Its Seventh Year

Seven years ago, the Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute began at Smith with the mission of nurturing collaborative, broad-scope scholarly projects among a diverse crosscut of academicians.

Through the years, the Kahn Institute has supported a range of multidisciplinary projects that bring together student, faculty and visiting fellows in the exploration of topics such as the ecologies of childhood, Galileo’s influence on art, science and ethics, religious tolerance and last year, the growth and global spread of Buddhism. While focusing mainly on the Kahn Fellows’ research, each project also includes a program of events for the public.

This year, the Kahn Institute continues its success in hosting large-scale collaborations that help inform modern human experience with two long-term projects: “Biotechnology and World Health,” an examination of the sweeping effects of recent advances in cellular and molecular biology; and “Visual Languages,” a detailed look at the cultural influence of visual images and symbols.

The kickoff public event for “Visual Languages” will take place on Wednesday, October 6, when Stephen Wolfram, scientist, author and creator of Mathematica, will speak about his latest work, A New Kind of Science, which became a best-selling book upon its release in 2002.

Wolfram approaches science through the study of the “rules of the kind embodied in the simplest computer programs,” according to Wolfram’s official Web site. “Such rules can lead to behavior that shows immense complexity and mirrors many features seen in nature. Wolfram has built on this to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science, from the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe.”

Wolfram’s talk will take place at 7 p.m. in the Carroll Room of the Campus Center. It will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

On Wednesday, November 3, the “Visual Languages” public lecture series will continue with a presentation by Johanna Drucker, of the College of Information, Technology and Communication at the University of Virginia. She will speak at 7 p.m. in Graham Hall in the Brown Fine Arts Center.

Also, save the dates of March 4 and 5, 2005, for “The Promise and Politics of Human Stem Cell Research,” a conference convened by the Kahn project, “Biotechnology and World Health.”

Several subsequent events will fill the Kahn Institute slate throughout the year as the projects progress. For ongoing information about the Kahn Institute, consult online

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