The 2008 World Science Festival took place on May 29-June 1 in New York City. We offered a slate of exciting new programs and old favorites this year, all aimed at unlocking the beauty and complexity of science for everyone. Sign up for our newsletter to stay connected and get exclusive interviews, stories, and updates.

2008 World Science Festival Programs


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 10:00 AM-06:00 PM
Venue: Washington Square Park

The New York University/Washington Square Park area became a science wonderland during the first World Science Festival Youth and Family Street Fair in New York City on Saturday, May 31. This free, day-long extravaganza showcased the intrigue and pure fun of science with a non-stop program of interactive exhibits, experiments, games, and shows, all meant to entertain and inspire.
Click here for a detailed map and schedule.


Will it one day be possible to take a pill to stay young? How will an average life expectancy of beyond a hundred years affect society and the planet? Our audience joined leading longevity researchers Robert Butler, David Sinclair and Richard Weindruch, along with embryonic stem cell biologist Renee Reijo Pera, to investigate the facts and implications surrounding scientific developments — emerging technologies, novel therapies, and innovative medical practices — that forecast a radical extension of a healthy human life. Featuring a special performance by acclaimed singer, Marilyn Maye.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 07:30 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: Works & Process at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Participants: Brian Greene, Karole Armitage, Lukas Ligeti

As part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series, director/choreographer Karole Armitage presented a new work inspired by physicist Brian Greene's bestselling book, The Elegant Universe. This dynamic performance blended music, dance, text, and projected imagery to create a vibrant portrait of the universe as revealed by cutting-edge physics, incorporating wondrous insights from the realm of string theory.

The performances included a discussion between Armitage, Brian Greene and composer Lukas Ligeti about the rich and challenging process of transforming scientific concepts into aesthetic expression. Lukas Ligeti's score was performed live by the Composer with Marco Cappelli on guitar, and by Ha-Yang Kim on cello.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Moderator: Paul Nurse
Participants: Janna Levin, Jim Gates, Peter Galison, Leonard Susskind

Albert Einstein spent his last thirty years unsuccessfully searching for a 'unified theory' — a single master principle to describe everything in the universe, from tiny subatomic particles to immense clusters of galaxies. In the decades since, generations of researchers have continued working toward Einstein's dream.

Renowned physicists Leonard Susskind and Jim Gates, and prominent historian Peter Galison discussed what's been achieved and tackle pivotal questions. Would a unified theory reveal why there is a universe at all? Would it tell us why mathematics is adept at unraveling nature's mysteries? Might it imply we are one universe of many, and what would that mean for our sense of how we fit into the cosmos? Moderated by Nobel Laureate Paul Nurse.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Image © istockphoto/xac to


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 07:00 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: Eyebeam Art + Technology Center
Moderator: Carl Zimmer
Participants: George Annas, Eugene Thacker, Steve Kurtz

This collaboration with Eyebeam Art & Technology Center was a provocative and timely exploration of controversial questions about the use of bio-materials as a medium for artistic expression.

Moderated by Carl Zimmer, the program used the case of Steven Kurtz, a bio artist accused of illegally obtaining bio-medical materials, as a springboard for discussion about the ethics of scientific and creative research. Featured in addition to Kurtz, bioethicist George Annas and author Eugene Thacker.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 10:00 AM-11:00 AM
Venue: Lecture Hall
Participants: Eric DeCamps, Eric Haseltine

Eric Haseltine, neuroscientist and contributor to Discover Magazine, was paired with magician Eric DeCamps in a mind-boggling demonstration of magic, brainpower and Illusion. Sleight of hand, misdirection and optical illusions were all part of the fun. Our audience was amazed as things appeared from thin air and disappeared before our eyes! Is it magic or is it all in your brain? Amaze your friends! Become a Brain Magician!

Find out about additional opportunities to see Eric DeCamps on http://www.ericdecamps.com


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 04:00 PM-05:30 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Moderator: Bill Weir
Participants: Christopher McKay, Peter Diaczuk, Ellen Prager, Laurie Santos, Ben Schwegler

Imagine building a roller coaster or solving a heinous crime.

Imagine exploring the surface of Mars or the bottom of the ocean.

This multi-media event for curious minds of all ages invited our audience to meet scientists with some of the coolest jobs in the world — from crime scene investigator and space explorer to oceanographer and Disney Imagineer.


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 07:00 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: Miller Theatre
Participants: Alan Alda, Mia Barron, Kate Burton, Anthony LaPaglia, Daniel Sullivan

This new play by Alan Alda delves into the treasure trove of letters written by Albert Einstein, his wives and his friends, tracing an intimate and unfamiliar line across his life and work. Directed by Tony award-winning director Daniel Sullivan and featuring Tony-award winning actor Anthony LaPaglia, who was joined on stage by Kate Burton and Mia Barron, Dear Albert humanizes a giant in the pantheon of great scientists and sheds light upon his momentous scientific insights through first-hand accounts of ground-breaking discoveries.

Presented as a reading, this compelling new work painted a vivid portrait of one of the greatest figures in science.


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: Proshansky Auditorium
Moderator: Ira Flatow
Participants: Helge Kragh, Lawrence Krauss, Lyman Page, Paul Steinhardt

In what many call a "golden age of cosmology", astronomers can now observe the universe with unprecedented precision, resulting in spectacular progress in the search for the origin of the universe. Yet, for all the impressive progress, fundamental questions remain. What is the mysterious "dark energy" driving space to rapidly expand? What existed before the big bang? Is there an origin of time? Do we live in a multiverse?

Our audience joined Science Friday’s Ira Flatow in conversation with leading cosmologists Lawrence Krauss, Paul Steinhardt, and Lyman Page, and historian of science Helge Kragh as they discussed and debated new advances that are shaping our understanding of the cosmic order and our place within it.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 12:00 PM-01:30 PM
Venue: Lecture Hall
Participants: William Phillips

Explore just how low you can go when Nobel-prize winning physicist William Phillips takes you on a journey to the lowest temperatures ever recorded. Featuring jaw-dropping experiments and a multimedia display, Professor Phillips shows audiences what happens when ordinary objects are taken to the edge of absolute zero. What is the relationship between speed and temperature? How can a magnet create a container? And what does all this have to do with making the perfect clock?


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 02:00 PM-03:30 PM
Venue: Martin E. Segal Theatre

Science & the Arts at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York presented the stage adaptation of Alan Lightman's internationally acclaimed book Einstein's Dreams, performed by Boston's Underground Railway Theater. The play, an inventive and charming work, was the inaugural event in a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Underground Railway Theater, conceived to develop new plays about science. The performance was followed by an informal discussion with Alan J. Friedman, co-author of Einstein as Myth and Muse.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 03:30 PM-05:00 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Moderator: Bill Blakemore
Participants: Lorenzo Albacete, Nina Azari, Paul Bloom, William Phillips

Prominent clashes — both historical and contemporary — have led to the widely held conclusion that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. Yet, many scientists practice a traditional faith, having found a way to accommodate both scientific inquiry and religious teaching in their belief system. Other scientists are bringing science to bear on the phenomenon of religion and spiritual belief — neuroscientists are studying what happens in the brain during religious experiences, while anthropologists are investigating how religion is linked to cooperation and community. This program provided an intimate look at what scientists have to say about their religious beliefs and what might be revealed by scientific studies of spirituality.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Moderator: Walter Isaacson
Participants: Blaine Brownell, Dickson Despommier, Majora Carter, Peter Head, Mitchell Joachim

We stand at a crossroads. Cities must change radically to achieve long-term sustainability. Energy, food and water sources, transportation systems and basic infrastructure, must all adapt to emerging pressures from climate change, dwindling resources and growing urban populations.

How will we meet this immense challenge? In a program that is part celebration of human ingenuity and part stark reminder of the problems we face, urban planner Peter Head, architects Blaine Brownell and Mitchell Joachim, environmentalist Majora Carter, and microbiologist Dickson Despommier laid out radical blueprints and innovative solutions as they imagine housing, feeding, transporting and sustaining city dwellers of the not too distant future. The event was moderated by President of the Aspen Institute and noted journalist, Walter Isaacson.

Image © SOA Architects


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 06:00 PM-08:00 PM
Venue: Works & Process at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The New York Academy of Sciences' Green Building initiative turned its attention to an investigation of the policy imperatives that will drive a new era of sustainable design. Two short lectures by New York State Deputy Secretary for Energy, Paul DeCotis, and by John Krieble, Director of Sustainable Design at the NYC Department of Design and Construction, set the stage for a panel discussion in which leading architects, engineers, policy-makers, and others, shared views and perspectives upon the critical question: what role is government playing in catalyzing success in our efforts to achieve urban sustainability? The event was moderated by Craig Kneeland, NYSERDA.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 05:30 PM-06:30 PM
Participants: Eben Bayer, Josh Dorfman, Mary Lou Jepsen, Gavin McIntyre

Media personality, author and self-described Lazy Environmentalist Josh Dorfman led the audience on an investigation of the ever-growing spectrum of choices presented by the marketplace for the would-be green consumer. Using the premise that reducing one's carbon footprint need not be painful and might even be stylish and yield benefits to health and well-being, this program was a must for any savvy shopper wishing to make choices, beyond changing lightbulbs, that will help preserve the environment.

Joining Dorfman was green-goods pioneers Mary-Lou Jepsen, inventor of "One Laptop per Child's" ultra low-power, low-cost computer, and Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, the entrepreneurs who turned a college dorm-room experiment using mushrooms into a product line of viable and infinitely recyclable packaging and home insulation materials.


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 07:00 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: New Victory Theater
Participants: Heidi Hammel

In this special presentation with the New Victory Theater, French theater troupe Compagnie 111 presented IJK, a witty, physics-inspired showcase of sonic juggling. Cleverly named for mathematics' designators of direction in a 3-D world, the show explores space and movement in a balancing act of light and dark that weaves whimsy with geometry.

Following the performance, Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute illuminated connections between the mathematical movement of the acrobats onstage and the science of movement of large bodies — like planets, comets and galaxies — careening and spinning through space.


Blending live performances, personal accounts of the creative process, and state-of-the-art brain imaging, this program illuminated questions about whether creativity is innate or learned, whether the innovative brain has distinct structural or chemical features, and whether we can enhance our ability — and that of our children — to be creative.

Choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, actor Michael York, painter, sculptor and digital artist Matthew Ritchie, and 2007 MacArthur Fellow and "prodigy of invention" Saul Griffith joined neuroscientists V.S. Ramachandran, Nancy C. Andreasen, and David Eagleman to explore cutting edge research into the brain’s creative impulses. The event was moderated by John Hockenberry.


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
Moderator: Alan Alda
Participants: David Z. Albert, Brian Greene, Max Tegmark, William Phillips

Proposed a century ago to better explain the mind-bending behavior of the smallest constituents of the universe, quantum theory has implications far beyond the atom. This rich set of laws has applications both practical and extraordinary — from the technology that has revolutionized modern life to the possibility of parallel worlds.

Our audience joined Alan Alda as he accompanied Brian Greene, Nobel Laureate William Phillips and other leading thinkers at the vanguard of quantum research on an accessible multimedia exploration of the astounding weirdness of the quantum world.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 04:00 PM-05:30 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Moderator: John Hockenberry
Participants: Paul Davies, Steven Benner, Maggie Turnbull

Life. Some scientists are searching the cosmos for habitable cradles of it, others are combing Earth for exotic forms of it, while others still are on the verge of creating it in the lab. The forms life could take seem endless — at least in theory. But are there universal laws of life, much like the fundamental laws of physics, which govern or limit the characteristics that make it — in any form — possible? Our audience joined John Hockenberry for a vibrant discussion with leading astrobiologists Paul Davies, Steven Benner and Maggie Turnbull as they looked at life through the lens of chemistry and physics in search of life as we don’t know it.

Image © Roxana González | Dreamstime.com


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 03:30 PM-04:30 PM
Venue: Lecture Hall
Participants: Arthur Benjamin

In this highly entertaining show combining math with magic, "Mathemagician" Arthur Benjamin displayed feats of amazing mental mathematical gymnastics and explained the secrets behind his skills. Find out how he can be faster than an electronic calculator!

Reader’s Digest has called Arthur Benjamin "America’s Best Math Whiz." He's been seen on radio and TV, and profiled in The New York Times and People Magazine. He's appeared around the world in this highly entertaining show, which combines math with magic. As the "Mathemagician" Benjamin displays feats of amazing mental mathematical gymnastics and explains the secrets behind his skills. His calculations are astonishing.

Image © Anne White


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 06:00 PM-07:30 PM
Venue: Abyssinian Baptist Church
Participants: Calvin O. Butts(III), Oliver Sacks, The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir

The Abyssinian Gospel Choir joined neurologist/author Oliver Sacks in an exploration of the power of music, as the choir's performance provides a stimulating context for accounts of music’s biological foundations, and of patients whose lives were altered by the empowerment of music.

As part of the 200th anniversary celebration of The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York, where Calvin O. Butts, III is pastor, the Abyssinian Baptist Church choir joined neurologist/author Oliver Sacks in an exploration of the power of music to inspire and uplift, and as an effective tool in the therapeutic process. Blending neuroscience with the choir's vibrant and extensive repertoire, along with reflections on the role of African-American sacred music's significant historical expressions, this program provided a stimulating context for Sacks' true-life accounts of patients whose lives were altered by the empowerment of music.

Image © Seriousguy | Dreamstime.com


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 06:30 PM-08:00 PM
Venue: Martin E. Segal Theatre

Who deserves the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the chemical element oxygen? Three scientists — Lavoisier, Priestley, and Scheele — lay claim to the prize in this play written by distinguished chemists Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann. With the drama unfolding in both 1777 and 2001, the play examines the nature of discovery and the desire for recognition that motivated scientists then as now.


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 06:00 PM-08:30 PM
Venue: Paley Center for Media
Moderator: Brian Cox
Participants: Mark Oliver Everett, Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark, Paula S. Apsell

In a special collaboration, the Paley Center for Media presented the American premiere screening of Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives. In this poignant documentary, Mark Oliver Everett, creative force behind the indie rock band "Eels," embarks on a personal journey to understand the astounding contribution that his reclusive father Hugh Everett made to physics — a theory of parallel worlds.

Following the screening, Everett was joined by theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Max Tegmark, and physicist/moderator Brian Cox, to explore why — fifty years later — his father's work is now gaining wider acceptance. This program was presented in partnership with NOVA, which broadcast the film on PBS in the fall of 2008.


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 07:00 PM-07:00 AM
Venue: Rubin Museum of Art
Participants: Jay Lemery

Peak Experience was the ultimate sleepover for kids ages 10-12. In a unique program, forty children — roped together alpine-style — confronted the challenges of climbing Mt. Everest.

During an 'ascent' guided by wilderness and environmental medicine Jay Lemery, as well as Everest veterans, and scientists, participants explored the many scientific aspects of mountaineering — from the medical and physiological demands placed upon climbers to the physics of mountaineering. No adults were permitted.


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 04:00 PM-05:30 PM
Venue: Proshansky Auditorium
Moderator: SuChin Pak
Participants: Cynthia Breazeal, Leon Lederman

Will robots ever have emotions? What are the limits of artificial intelligence? What is the universe made of? And how did it form?

A select group of six students from New York City public high schools posed these questions and many more when they took the stage to interview groundbreaking robot designer Cynthia Breazeal and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman. These unusually candid, disarming, and revealing conversations engaged two of the best minds in science in a multimedia event that educated, entertained and inspired.


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 02:00 PM-03:00 PM
Venue: New-York Historical Society

The New York Historical Society's exhibition Plague in Gotham, about the deadly cholera outbreaks in 19th-century New York City, was on view through November 2, 2008. See maps illustrating the rapid spread of the epidemic and displays of remedies that reflect the limited scientific understanding of the disease at that time. Please visit our blog for further information.


The shock of climate change has spurred a worldwide quest to power the entire planet with clean, renewable energy. But is this goal realistic, and if so, how fast can such a dramatic transformation be achieved?

In this sweeping town hall meeting moderated by New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin, pioneering scientists presented research at the vanguard of solar, wind, geothermal and algae/biofuel energy, while conservationists and high-level policy-makers provided additional perspectives on the challenges and opportunities presented by this urgent global problem.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: Miller Theatre
Participants: Alan Alda, Mia Barron, Gordon Davidson, Vera Rubin, Pierre C. Hohenberg, Stephon Alexander

Emmy award-winning actor Alan Alda revisited his acclaimed performance as the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman in Peter Parnell’s play QED, in a reading followed by a conversation with astronomer Vera Rubin and physicists Pierre Hohenberg and Stephon Alexander about Feynman's life and work.

Reading from this exploration of Feynman’s life, Alda brought forth a moving portrayal of one of the most brilliant and colorful physicists of the 20th century. Directed by Gordon Davidson and featuring Mia Barron as Feynman's student Miriam Field.


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 05:00 PM-07:00 PM
Venue: Rubin Museum of Art
Moderator: Faith Salie
Participants: Ray Kurzweil, Vilayanur Ramachandran

In this special presentation with the Rubin Museum of Art, neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran explored the origin of human abilities and whether certain brain structures are unique to humans or whether they evolved from structures originally designed for other functions while inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, examined the human implications if artificial intelligence surpasses our own. The event was moderated by Faith Salie.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 03:00 PM-04:00 PM
Venue: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

G-Force simulators, elephants with GPS, turning audience members into video game controllers, sounds coming out of your head, and things that go "boom" — it was all part of the science behind the "make believe" at Walt Disney Imagineering. No one left empty-handed with all the fun giveaways! Did we mention walking dinosaurs, talking turtles, and more surprise guests? How can one person hear a sound that the person right next to them can't? Why are we tracking elephants and what are they saying to each other? What happens when you freeze air? Are you up to the challenge of our Roller Coaster simulation? This event offered a chance to find out all the answers, plus interact with Lucky the Dinosaur, ask Finding Nemo's Crush questions, and of course, meet the Imagineers, the scientists and engineers of Walt Disney Imagineering. The audience got a glimpse of "make-believe" Disney style as the scientists pulled back the curtain to reveal some of the chemistry, physics, biology and technology behind special effects, roller coasters, computer simulation, and animatronics!


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 08:15 PM-09:45 PM
Venue: 92nd Street Y
Moderator: Jon Meacham
Participants: Antonio Damasio, Daniel C. Dennett, Patricia Churchland

Science is investigating the biological roots of empathy, altruism and cooperation to discover whether we possess an innate moral grammar, much like language, or whether morality arises from the interactions among biological and social systems.

In this presentation at the 92nd Street Y, philosophers Patricia Churchland and Daniel Dennett, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, and evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser discussed the science of right and wrong, and explored how our scientific understanding of morality may affect society, from shaping justice systems to deciding whether to engage in wars or to assist others in economic and humanitarian struggles. The event was moderated by author and journalist Jon Meacham.

Image © Andrey Novikov | Dreamstime.com


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 03:00 PM-04:00 PM
Venue: Coles Sports Center
Participants: David Eagleman, Tom Crawford

Fans of all ages found something to cheer about when science and sports united. Olympic athletes and NBA players joined top neurologists, physicists, nutritionists, and trainers, to demonstrate just what it takes to be the best in the world and why science is a major player.

Sports fans of all ages found something to cheer about when science and sports brought their A-games to New York University’s Cole Sport Center . Scientists and athletes explored the physics and physiology of the human body as they relate to basketball, skiing, running and more. The program was a lively mix of action, audience participation and video, creating the excitement of a live sporting event. Olympic athletes and NBA players joined professional trainers, physicists and nutritionists to demonstrate just what it takes to be the best in the world and why science is a major player.


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 01:30 PM-05:00 PM
Venue: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sunday at the Met celebrated the fascinating relationship between art and science through a range of programming throughout the day. These specially programmed events included gallery talks devoted to viewing the collection through the lens of science, educational programs, museum audio-guides about science and art, and lectures that brought museum conservators out of their laboratories and onto the stage to illuminate the science behind art restoration and conservation. The free-with-admission Sunday afternoon lecture program covered a spectrum of art, from classical sculpture to paintings by Jackson Pollock, and was introduced by Marco Leona, the David H. Koch Scientist in Charge, Department of Scientific Research at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mark Abbe, research scholar at the Metropolitan Museum, examines by fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy a funerary stele. [Funerary stele with a woman in childbirth, Early Hellenistic, late 4th–early 3rd century B.C. Greek; from the Soldiers' Tomb, Ibrahimieh necropolis, Alexandria, excavated 1884; limestone, paint; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Darius Ogden Mills, 1904 (04.17.1)] Photograph by Marco Leona.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 03:00 PM-04:00 PM
Venue: New York Botanical Garden
Moderator: Carl Zimmer
Participants: Robert Goodman, Peter Pringle, Edward Toth

Nearly 100 years ago, Russian geneticist Nikolai Vavilov — recognized today as the "father of biodiversity" — created the world's first seed bank with the dream of ending famine and hunger. Persecuted by Stalin, Vavilov was thrown into a Communist jail and died before he could enact his grand vision, but his groundbreaking discoveries triggered a global revolution in agriculture that continues today.

Peter Pringle, acclaimed journalist and author of The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, joined Robert Goodman, Executive Dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, to explore strategies for ensuring the survival of the planet’s botanical heritage in the face of potentially catastrophic global threats. Award-winning science writer Carl Zimmer moderated.


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 05:00 PM-08:00 PM
Venue: The Museum Of Modern Art
Participants: James Schamus, Giulio Tononi, Doug Liman

In this special collaboration with MoMA, a screening of The Bourne Identity was followed by a panel discussion in which the film’s producer/director Doug Liman was joined by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi to explore the science behind The Bourne Trilogy. Film scholar and producer/screenwriter James Schamus (Co-President of Focus Features) moderated a discussion about brain function, memory, personality, and identity as seen through the lens of the remarkable character, Jason Bourne.

The program was presented to coincide with a series of screenings of The Bourne Trilogy - recently acquired by MoMA’s Film Department for its permanent collection.


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 06:00 PM-07:30 PM
Moderator: Robert Krulwich
Participants: Oliver Sacks

This special presentation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art illuminated the complex and often surprising relationship between vision and the brain. In a wide-ranging conversation, Oliver Sacks and Robert Krulwich shed light on the interplay between what the eye sees and how the mind perceives it. Touching on topics including stereo vision, how the blind can be paradoxically hyper visual, and the mechanisms of visual hallucinations, this program added a new chapter to Sacks’ ongoing exploration into the fascinating mysteries of the brain and human experience.

Image © Elena Siebert


Date: Friday May 30, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: Miller Theatre
Participants: Richard Leakey, Bernie Krause, David Thoreson

Our audience joined renowned conservationist Richard Leakey and bio-acoustician Bernie Krause for an intimate look at some of the world's most endangered species of plants and animals.

Featuring presentations of sounds now extinct from the wild, as well as stunning new video footage from the Arctic, the program took us on a visceral journey through the past, present, and possible future of life on earth, and presented in no uncertain terms what’s at stake in the fight to preserve our planet’s rich biodiversity.


Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 07:30 PM-09:00 PM
Venue: Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
Participants: Jim Gates, Lucy Hawking, Nathan Englander, Sam Shepard, Michael Turner

Throwing a uniquely personal and intimate spotlight on their relationship with science, renowned researchers, writers, and artists, including Sam Shepard, Jim Gates, Nathan Englander, Lucy Hawking, and Michael Turner, took to the stage to tell stories about heroic failures, miscalculations and experiments — scientific and otherwise — gone wrong.

This captivating evening of live stories was presented in partnership with New York’s extraordinary storytelling collective, The Moth. In keeping with Moth traditions, each story must be true, must be told live, and must be told in ten minutes.


Drawing on a range of disciplines, this provocative program looked at how discoveries in areas like fundamental physics, anthropology, and genomics are influencing our understanding of uniquely human characteristics. As science increasingly tests these boundaries — from the roots of morality and our capacity to contemplate our own existence to the emergence of artificial intelligence — what will it mean to be human?

The event was moderated by Charlie Rose. Participants include philosopher Daniel Dennett, artist Jonathan Harris, anthropologist Ian Tattersall, geneticist Francis Collins, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, philosopher Patricia Churchland, sociologist Nikolas Rose, embryonic stem cell biologist Renee Reijo Pera, and Nobel Laureates Harold Varmus and Paul Nurse.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Image © iStockphoto.com/urbancow


Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Time: 08:00 PM-10:00 PM
Venue: American Museum of Natural History

For 50 years, American has led the way in space exploration. Yet the boundless void that begins just 62 miles above us has been visited by no more than 500 people. Now, a stunning high-definition series from The Discovery Channel opens up space as never before. In celebration of NASA's 50th Anniversary, THe Discovery Channel and NASA have produced an epic series, When We Left Earth, broadcasted in June 2008. The World Science Festival and the American Museum of Natural History hosted the premiere live screening of this awe-inspiring series followed by Three Generations in Space, a moderated conversation exploring the past, present and future of space exploration.

Supported by The Discovery Channel and the American Museum of Natural History.

irrational brain image

Date: Thursday May 29, 2008
Time: 07:00 PM-08:00 PM
Venue: Water Taxi Beach
Moderator: Jad Abumrad
Participants: Dan Ariely, Jonah Lehrer, Robert Krulwich

In this special presentation of WNYC’s popular show Radio Lab, behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, joined science writer Jonah Lehrer and program hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich to explore the often surprising factors which motivate and dictate human behavior. Why for example are people generally more comfortable stealing pencils from work than money from a petty cash box? And what does this tell us about the degree to which human decision-making is based upon irrational thinking?

The event combined discussion with live group experiments, games and demonstrations that test the ideas in Ariely's book, and was followed by food, drink and music under the stars.


Date: Saturday May 31, 2008
Time: 01:00 PM-02:30 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Participants: Francis Collins, Misha Angrist, Latanya Sweeney, James Evans, Nikolas Rose, Paul Nurse

The advent of direct-to-consumer DNA testing means that anyone with cash and curiosity can now glimpse their molecular makeup. Personal genomics will soon be common currency. Nobel Laureate Paul Nurse, geneticist Francis Collins and other prominent researchers discussed how personal genomics will affect our lives. To what extent do our genes determine our health and who we are? What are the dangers and opportunities of viewing ourselves in molecular terms? If your DNA can hint at your future, will you read your biological biography?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1951 (51.90)
Image ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art