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Boston is bursting at the seams with intellect. With more than 40 colleges and universities in the area—including two of the world’s most prestigious—Greater Boston is a haven for some of the brightest historians, programmers, doctors, writers, biologists, and engineers in the world.
With so many brilliant minds forming and firming in its vicinity, Bostonians—regardless of age, income, and education level—have an overwhelming (and unique) opportunity to learn via lectures, workshops, and events. It’s one of the best things about our city.
The goal of this list is to trim down the seemingly endless cognitive possibilities Boston offers into a manageable itinerary for the curious mind. Here are 10 events in the month of December that will make you brighter.
From Orson Welles to Howard Stern, radio has been an integral part of American culture for more than 100 years. Harvard’s Science Center Special Exhibition Gallery has a large collection of radios old and new, as well as information about how everything from amateur ham radio enthusiasts to FDR’s fireside chats affected the medium. (Open Monday to Friday through December 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Harvard University Science Center Special Exhibitions Gallery; free; all ages)
Author and Harvard history professor Jane Kamensky will give a short talk about artist John Singleton Copley. Copley, who was likely born in Boston, gained early fame for his portraits of founding fathers like John Hancock and John Adams. But it wasn’t until Copley abandoned the colonists and returned to London to paint masterpieces like The Death of the Earl of Chatham and longtime Museum of Fine Arts favorite Watson and the Shark that his career reached its apex. (Tuesday, December 6 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Massachusetts Historical Society; $20; all ages)
According to the UN, the world is experiencing one of the worst refugee crises and mass displacements of people since World War II, with 65.3 million people – or one out of every 113 people on Earth – impacted. TripAdvisor has put together a panel of experts to discuss what can be done stateside, especially in the face of the recent election of Donald Trump. (Tuesday, December 6 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; free; all ages)
Jack Bishop, Julia Collin Davison, Bridget Lancaster, Lisa McManus, and Adam Ried will discuss America’s Test Kitchen’s latest cookbooks, including the new title Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of our Favorite Ingredients, as well as offer up treats for audiences to try during the presentation. (Tuesday, December 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Brattle Theatre; $5 admission, $39 for book and admission; all ages)
Red Sox and Yankees. Hatfield and McCoy. Picasso and… Matisse? Sebastian Smee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for The Boston Globe, will chat about his new book, The Art of Rivalry, which chronicles four pairs of friendly rivalries that transformed the modern art world. (Tuesday, December 6 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Wellesley Books; free; all ages)
Twitter and other digital technologies have been lauded for their democratizing and organizational powers, while also facing criticism for allowing hate speech and for reinforcing hegemonic power structures. Kishonna Gray, MIT’s MLK Visiting Scholar in Women & Gender Studies, will explore these issues from the perspective of women of color and the future of such online communities. (Thursday, December 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; MIT Building 3, Room 133; free; all ages)
Obvious statement: Everybody is different. But Maryellen Ruvolo, a professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, would point out that we’re less different than we think — at least genetically. Ruvolo will examine how new genetics research contrasts sharply with beliefs held in the previous century — and by certain fringe elements in this century. (Thursday, December 8 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Harvard University Geological Lecture Hall; free; all ages)
In case anyone still subscribes to the old adage that learning can’t be fun, the MIT Museum will prove you wrong with a science-themed trivia night. The twist? Each round of trivia will have a specific scientific theme, like astronomy, followed by a short talk from a scientist in that field of study briefly talking about their research. There’s also a cash bar. (Thursday, December 8 at 7 p.m.; MIT Museum; free; all ages)
To honor the anniversary of pioneering female computer scientist Admiral Grace Murray Hopper’s birth, the Museum of Science is hosting a number of educational hands-on activities in subjects like circuitry, programming, and robotics for visitors of all ages. (Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Museum of Science, Boston; $25 GA, $21 for seniors 60 and up, $20 for kids ages 3-11)
Considering the undercurrent of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has recently surged nationally, it’s interesting to learn that Muslims have been in America for nearly 400 years. Community Muslim Chaplain and retired U.S. Army Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Shareda Hosein will discuss the history of free and enslaved Muslims who have served in U.S. wars, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War, as well as connections between the founding fathers and global Muslims. (Tuesday, December 13 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Boston Athenaeum; $30 GA, $15 Athenaeum members; all ages)