I have heard that many academic campuses, ICTS, for example, are equipped with abundantly many chalkboards in all public places. I wonder what the reason behind this is and how it helps foster academic discussion, especially in science. Moreover, is there a means of keeping the chalks and dusters safely available to all without them being misplaced, wasted or otherwise stolen?

  • 5
    What's "ICTS" ?
    – Nobody
    Apr 13 at 14:24
  • 2
    If one is having a casual conversation near the coffee pot, it is often quite useful to have a blackboard/whiteboard nearby to use. Unofficial hallway conversations are amazingly productive parts of intellectual activities. One of the best management things I did was in a small "start-up" project where a team was moved off site to focus on a problem. I brought in an espresso machine and was amazed at the interactions around the machine that led to problems being solved quickly. (Espresso takes longer to make than pouring coffee from a pot, so the interaction cross section was much higher).
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 13 at 14:32
  • 1
    @Nobody, most likely the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in India.
    – JRN
    Apr 13 at 14:34
  • An excellent book I'd suggest is The Organization and Architecture of Innovation: Managing the Flow of Technology by Thomas Allen.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 13 at 14:44
  • 1
    Who steals chalk and erasers?
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 13 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


Yes, chalkboards and similar are a good way to capture quick thoughts, both for individual use and for small group discussions. They have been ubiquitous for a long time, a hundred years, at least. They are/were very common in a coffee lounge, near the main table, for example.

I once visited Cambridge, quite long ago. One cute trick there was a camera pointed at the chalkboard that would capture what was written there to save it. I think it was automatic. There might have been some technology behind it to give what was there meaning, not just pictures. I'd guess that it now formats things quite nicely.

  • I vaguely recall that at Princeton they had somebody tail Einstein and copy down stuff he wrote on chalkboards during the day. Perhaps apocryphal...
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 13 at 15:05
  • Einstein's blackboard at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.
    – IconDaemon
    Apr 13 at 17:00
  • To the user who raised LQP flag on this answer, the question is "Why are so many chalkboards placed in public places in university campuses?", the answer is "chalkboards and similar are a good way to capture quick thoughts, both for individual use and for small group discussions.". What seems to be the problem here?
    – Nobody
    Apr 14 at 12:41

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