Life, Reinvented

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In January, students at M.I.T. are let off the leash to follow their fancies. The annual monthlong Independent Activities Period is a playground for the mind, offering courses, seminars, and special events devoted to everything from energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to poetry reading. There's glassblowing, building spacecraft for mice, and the all-important coolest-stuff-made-of-duct-tape competition. "I wish I didn't teach an IAP," says Drew Endy, an assistant professor in biological engineering. "I'd take a whole bunch of the courses."

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