Education: Time to Think

To scholars who cry for time to stretch the mind, a curious oasis in central California beckons like Elysium. The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, initial-named the Casbah, has been called "a resort for academic hipsters, a dreamy pad for a bunch of non-celibate monks." Its stunning redwood-and-glass buildings, sprawled elegantly on a green hill above Palo Alto, make it look like a motel for Rolls-Royce owners. It comes close to being a boondoggle—and one of the world's most exciting havens for deep thinkers.

Insights & Irreverence. One day last week, an odd procession of professors paced the place,...

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