At home in Aspen: Brain candy from Aspen Ideas Fest |

At home in Aspen: Brain candy from Aspen Ideas Fest

Anthony Fauci at the 2019 Aspen Ideas: Health forum on the panel "Eliminating HIV." Photo Dan Bayer/The Aspen Institute

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was a guest on the Aspen Institute’s “Ideas to Go” podcast in early March when there were about 100 novel coronavirus cases in the United States. Fauci discussed the new virus with public health experts and gave a sense of what was to come in the absence of an aggressive global response.

“Is there a risk that this is going to turn into a global pandemic?” he said in the March 3 episode. “Absolutely, yes.”

The Institute’s online resources — including its podcast, blog and archived videos from years of conferences in Aspen — are a trove of material for the home-bound as the pandemic now keeps us all inside.

The Institute also has been regularly sharing recommended video and audio sessions to dig into during stay-at-home orders through the Ideas Fest Facebook page here.

The Ideas blog last week included the post “Four Mental Health Tips for the Socially Distanced.” Its suggestions: meditating; practicing joyfulness; exercising; and embracing boredom.

The archives of Institute conference sessions are deep and diverse. This is a selection of the best, from the coronavirus-relevant to soothing and escapist fare about art, astronomy and dogs.


  • Anthony Fauci and five public health experts on a “Preventing Pandemics” panel from Spotlight Health 2017.
  • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, with Federal Reserve Bank official Patrick Harker at the 2019 Aspen Ideas: Health conference, discusses the connection between physical and economic Health.
  • Many have had their first experiences with telemedicine in recent days. At Spotlight Health in 2018, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt led a panel with experts on how technology would change health care delivery in the years to come, from virtual doctor visits to drone supply deliveries.
  • From Aspen Ideas: Health 2019, experts discuss and compare the American health insurance system with international universal health care models like those in the U.K and the Netherlands.


  • For keeping your head during this fraught moment in world history, from Aspen Ideas Fest 2018, the session “Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times,” with pastor Adam Hamilton and CBS News’ John Dickerson. “It takes as much energy to imagine the worst as to imagine the best,” says Hamilton.
  • For parents and guardians at home with kids during public health restrictions, some context from the panel “It’s Not Just the Hormones: Unpacking Teen Emotions” with psychologists and experts from Aspen Ideas Fest 2019.
  • For planning meals while you’re at home, “Foods for Protecting the Body and Mind,” with Dr. Neal Barnard from the 2015 Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit Series.
  • For a reminder of why you need to try to have fun, even now: “The Neuroscience of Play,” from Ideas Fest 2010, with Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play.


  • “The Mysterious Mind of a Dog” with dog cognition scientist Alexandra Horowitz from Ideas Fest 2018. “The thing that dogs do for us is they really increase empathy,” she says on this panel with Duke University professor Brian Hare and The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen.
  • “From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” with astrophysicist Janna Levin. “Is time something that exists only momentarily, or is it there behind us and in our future?” Levin asks.
  • Beloved American soprano, Aspen Music Festival alum and 2016 Aspen Institute Artist in Residence Renee Fleming discusses artists’ impact on society.
  • Cellist and 2013 Aspen Institute Artist in Residence Yo-Yo Ma performs and discusses the concept of the “citizen artist.”
  • Artist, memoirist and 2019 Aspen Institute Artist in Residence Edmund de Waal on how he works. “Objects for me are akin to words, so I think I am making poems,” he says in his conversation with the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik.
  • The brilliant Susan Orlean on the joys of not knowing things in “It’s OK to be Clueless,” an intimate conversation at Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar (audio only) from Ideas Fest 2017 when she was writing “The Library Book.” Listen here.

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