Scholar Douglas Hofstadter to speak on poetry and science

Douglas Hofstadter, professor of cognitive science at Indiana University, will give two talks at Williams College on April 7, at 8 p.m. in Bronfman Auditorium and April 8, at 2:35 p.m. in Wege Auditorium. The first talk will focus on the universal language of poetry, while the second will be a computer science colloquium on the discovery of the Hofstadter Butterfly. Both events are free and open to the public.

Hofstadter's Thursday talk is titled "Russia's Greatest Poet Reincarnated in English." The talk will begin with a brief introduction to "Ya vas lyubil" ("I loved you") by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin. Using recent and creative renditions into English of the poem, Hofstadter will attempt to set to rest the idea that Pushkin's poetry is untranslatable. The talk will be in English; no knowledge of Russian is required.

On Friday, Hofstadter will present "A Tale of Luck and of Pluck: The Fortuitous Discovery, Forty-two Years Ago, of the Hofstadter Butterfly." He will discuss how, in the mid-1970s, he discovered that Harper's equation has a new type of quantum-mechanical energy spectrum, which, in the 40-plus years since his Ph.D., has become famous in condensed-matter physics as the "Hofstadter butterfly." While the talk will include some technical physics, it will be accessible to those with little or no science background.


Hofstadter is currently College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington. His cognitive science research involves the study and the computer modeling of conceptual fluidity and creative analogy making in carefully designed microworlds. He is the author of books including Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (Pulitzer Prize, 1980), The Mind's I (coauthored with philosopher Daniel Dennett) and I Am a Strange Loop. In addition to his own work with translation, he has written two books on the art of translation. Hofstadter has had several expositions of his heavily script-influenced line drawings, which include many ambigrams, a word that he coined in 1983 and that is now widely used around the world. He holds a B.S. from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

This event is sponsored by the Class of 1960's Scholars Program, the Department of Computer Science, and the Program in Cognitive Science.

Barney Frank to discuss life and career

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank will present a lecture titled "Washington Gridlock, Gay Rights, and Jewish Roots" at Williams College on April 10. This event will take place at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall, and is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but if overfilled the event will be simulcast in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall.

Frank's talk will draw from his memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, in which he discusses the satisfactions, fears, and grudges that come with elected office. Frank tells of battles from AIDS funding in the 1980s to the financial crisis in 2008, in which he played a key role. He recalls the emotional toll of living in the closet and how his public crusade against homophobia conflicted with his private accommodation of it.

Frank served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Fourth Congressional District of Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 to 2011 and was a leading co-sponsor of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. In 1987, he became the first Congress member to publicly come out as gay, and later was the first member to enter a same-sex marriage while in office. He is a regular commentator on MSNBC.

This talk is sponsored by the Leadership Studies program, the Bronfman Fund, and the program in Jewish Studies.

Williams Libraries 2016 Tuesday Tea Series

Williams College will host its annual Tuesday Teas series beginning in April. The program aims to celebrate Williams authors and honor their scholarly and creative works. On four consecutive Tuesdays in April and May, faculty and alumni authors will discuss their most recent publications and reflect on the writing, creating, and publishing processes. The teas will take place at 4 p.m. in the Stetson Reading Room, Sawyer Library. All of the events are free and open to the public.

Each tea will consist of a 20-minute presentation followed by a Q&A session. The full schedule is as follows:

April 12: Susan Engel, senior lecturer in Psychology and Class of 1959 Director of Program in Teaching, for her book The Hungry Mind: the Origins of Curiosity in Childhood (Harvard University Press, 2015).

April 19: Rashida K. Braggs, assistant professor of Africana Studies, for her book Jazz Diasporas: Race, Music, and Migration in Post-World War II Paris (University of California Press, 2016).

April 26: Nicolas Howe, assistant professor of Environmental Studies, for his book Landscapes of the Secular: Law, Religion, and American Sacred Space (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2016).

May 3: In Sawyer Library Archives/Chapin Instruction Room 452, Michael Blanding '95 returns to Williams for his book The Map Thief: the gripping story of an esteemed rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps (Gotham Books, 2014).

The series is organized by the Williams College Libraries and co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

Global poverty conference

The Center for Development Economics at Williams College will hold a conference, "Tackling Global Poverty" on Thursday and Friday, April 7-8.

Have policy innovations coordinated by the Millennium Development Goals succeeded in tackling the problem of global poverty? Have evaluation technologies contributed optimally to more successful interventions? What innovative policies and approaches have proved most effective at tackling global poverty? How are evidence-building technologies supporting (or hindering) global progress in tackling poverty? How can we improve evidence-building technologies to cultivate the policy innovation required to ensure the success of the Sustainable Development Goals? The conference will address these questions and more in a series of panels and public talks. April 7 – Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, Bernhard Music Center 4 p.m. "Evaluation Technologies: Have policy innovations succeeded in tackling the problem of global poverty?" Opening presentation via videoconference with Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University and Earth Institute), followed by panel discussion with Angus Deaton (Princeton), John Hoddinott (Cornell University), and Oliver Babson (Gates Foundation). 8 p.m. Keynote address by Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton: Deaton is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University. Deaton's research focuses on the determinants of health in rich and poor countries, as well as on the measurement of poverty in India and around the world.

April 8 – Griffin Hall, room 3, 9 a.m. "What innovative politics and approaches have proved most effective at tackling global poverty?" Presenters: Fred Ssewamala (Columbia), Jessica Leight (Williams College), Oliver Babson, and Diego Angemi (UNICEF). 11 a.m. "How are evidence building technologies supporting (or hindering) global progress in tackling poverty?" Panel discussion with John Hoddinott (Cornell University), Lucie Cluver (Oxford, via videoconference), Frank DeGiovanni (Ford Foundation), and Susan Godlonton (Williams College). 2 p.m. "How can we improve evidence-building technologies to cultivate the policy innovation required to tackle global poverty and ensure the success of the Sustainable Development Goals?" Panel with Angus Deaton, Frank DeGiovanni, Jessica Leight, Jason Wolfe (USAID), Tara Watson (Williams College and U.S. Treasury).

Ahmad Greene-Hayes named Waston Fellow

Williams College senior Ahmad Greene-Hayes has been named a Thomas J. Watson Fellow for 2016-17, an award that provides a $30,000 grant to support a year of purposeful, independent study outside the United States.

Greene-Hayes joins 39 other students selected as Watson fellows from 152 candidates nationwide. This year's class comes from eight countries and 21 states, and in the coming year they plan to traverse 67 countries exploring a wide range of topics.

"I am very excited, a bit nervous, and a little anxious," Greene-Hayes said. "I am very thankful to the Williams Fellowship Office for all their help with the application process."

Greene-Hayes, a history and Africana studies major, is from Irvington, N.J., and is a writer, scholar-activist, and minister who gave his first sermon at age 12. His family's roots in the Black church as a place for social progress, community, and political engagement have shaped Greene-Hayes' interests at Williams. He has been a political activist on and off campus—as a member of the Men of Color Collective and Sexual Assault Prevention Network, a board member of the Black Student Union, and as an early activist of the national Black Lives Matter movement. In 2014, he traveled from New York City to Ferguson, Mo., as part of the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to march, rally, and strategize with others on how to end police brutality.

Greene-Hayes came to Williams after attending high school in Winchester, Mass., as a student in the national A Better Chance (ABC) program.

His Watson project, "Preaching With Sacred Fire: Social Justice and Global Afro-Pentecostalism," would take him to Ghana, the United Kingdom, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Brazil to explore how the Afro-Pentecostal church uses the pulpit to foster social justice movements, and how healing and survival are inextricably linked with faith and political struggle. He plans to use his skills as an organizer, youth minister, and tutor in various capacities during his travels, such as helping the London Black Lives Matter movement and working with youth in Jamaica to offer alternatives to crime and violence.

Greene-Hayes has also been accepted into graduate programs at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. His future plans include pursuing a Ph.D. in religion, with the possibility of serving in pastoral leadership and/or teaching at the collegiate level.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship was established in 1968. It offers recent college graduates an opportunity to engage their deepest interests on a world scale before beginning their professional lives. Fellows conceive original projects and execute them outside of the U.S. for a full year. Among recent Williams graduates are Watson fellows Aseel Abulhab '15, Nathan Miller '15, Eloise Andry '14, Ali Mctar '14, Abdullah Awad '13, Emmanuel Whyte '13, Lindsay Olsen '12, and Emanuel Yekutiel '11.