8 events that will make you smarter this month

Because more than just college students can learn something new.

Brookline, MA 7/14/08    Jessica Thomason (cq), right of Brookline, browses with her visiting sister Sarah Thomason (cq), left, and mother Peggy Prophet (cq) of Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday, July 14, 2008.  Dana Brigham (cq) is manager and co-owner of Brookline Booksmith, on Harvard Street.    (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff);  Reporter:  Andreae Downs; Section:  CiWk;  Slug:  20cibrookl
Brookline Booksmith. –Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

If you’re hoping to boost your intellect or expand your world view, look no further than Boston. The Greater Boston area is home to more than 40 colleges and universities – including prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT – and boasts some of the nation’s best and brightest doctors, writers, and scientists.

Knowledge is all around us–and we should take advantage of it. However, it can be daunting to scroll through a seemingly endless list events to find the city’s best intellectual offerings. The goal of this list is to provide a more manageable calendar of lectures, workshops, and other programs designed to make you smarter.


Here are eight events in May that will satiate the curious mind.

Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved

Ever find yourself glued to the television during an episode of ‘Untold Stories of the E.R?’ If so, join Dr. Stuart Mushlin for a reading of his book, Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved, in which he discusses some of the most puzzling and fascinating cases he has encountered during more than four decades as a diagnostician. (Wednesday, May 10 at 7 p.m.; Brookline Booksmith; free; all ages)

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Natural World—and Us

Charles Darwin is best known for his theory of natural selection, but he also developed the theory of sexual selection, which posits that choosing a mate based purely on physical appearance is part of evolutionary change. Yale professor Richard Prum, who wrote the book The Evolution of Beauty, will examine the effects of Darwin’s lesser-known theory on mating preferences–or, as Darwin called it, “the taste for the beautiful.” (Thursday, May 11 at 6 p.m.; Harvard Museum of Natural History; free; all ages)

U.S. and Mexico in the Trump Era

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 2007 to 2013, and Lourdes Melgar, MIT Center for International Studies Fellow, will analyze the state of U.S.-Mexico relations under President Trump’s administration. Lunch will be served. (Friday, May 12 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Bartos Theater at MIT; free; all ages)

JFK: A Vision for America


In commemoration of the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy, editors Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley compiled JFK: A Vision for America, a collection of the former president’s greatest speeches. Smith and Brinkley will discuss the book on a panel moderated by historian Fredrik Logevall, with a book signing to follow. (Sunday, May 14 at 6 p.m.; First Parish Church; $5 general admission and $43.25 with book; all ages)

ADHD’s Challenges and Controversies

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has no biological or neurophysical measure for diagnosis. As many as 11 percent of children in the world currently qualify for an ADHD diagnosis, a 43 percent increase over the past decade. A panel of experts will discuss the diagnosis, treatment and frequency of this controversial disorder. (Tuesday, May 16 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Boston Athenaeum; free; all ages)

Fueling Extremism in a Wired World

The emergence of new technology and social media has provided extremists with unparalleled access to new followers, allowing them to expand their terror networks and carry out fatal attacks with no in-person contact whatsoever. This lecture will consider the responsibility of journalists, technology companies, and governmental entities in keeping the world safe as technological developments continue to grow. (Wednesday, May 17 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Boston Public Library; free; all ages)

The Big Picture

Art historian Matthew Israel and MFA curator Jen Mergel will discuss Israel’s new book, The Big Picture: Contemporary Art in 10 Works by 10 Artists, which draws from a wide range of artistic media – including photography, film, performance art, and public art – to understand the meaning of contemporary art in the 21st century. (Wednesday, May 24 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Museum of Fine Arts; $10 for members and $12 for nonmembers; all ages)

Seeing Deeper into the World of the Great White Shark


Fun fact: Cape Cod is the only known aggregating site for white sharks in the entire North Atlantic. Because of this, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has developed a long-term research project aimed at studying the ecology and natural history of this fascinating species. Greg Skomal, a senior scientist on the project, will share some of the team’s findings so far. Registration is required for this event. (Thursday, May 25 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; New England Aquarium; free; all ages)