A technophile’s adventureland
The World Science Festival transforms a picturesque quad in downtown Brooklyn into a staging ground for future-shaping innovations springing to life in labs and workshops around the world. Watch the first public demonstration of quantum levitation; get lost in the robot petting zoo; play with the world’s lightest material. It’s an unforgettable afternoon of amazing demos, challenges, and interactive fun, suitable for tech enthusiasts of all ages.
Apoorv Agarwal is a fourth year doctoral student in the Computer Science department at Columbia University, New York City. His areas of interest and specialization are Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning. Currently he is interning at IBM Research, working with the DeepQA team that built Watson, a machine capable of answering Jeopardy! questions. Apoorv believes that the arts may provide a fertile ground for thinking about scientific ideas. Every form of art provides a different meaning representation for concepts. “The next step”, during ideation, may be obvious in one form (of meaning representation) and not the other. As a first step to explore this hypothesis, he recently collaborated with choreographer Caitlin Trainor to create Artificial IntelliDance, a dance presentation that explains how machines learn to “think” like humans.
The Babycastles story has been one of opening new cultural territory for independent video games by inserting them aggressively into new spaces. This includes DIY punk-houses, Brooklyn music culture, art galleries, wearable games dance parties, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, Occupy Wall Street, public art space in New York City, Roger Ebert’s EbertFest, and La Gaite Lyrique in Paris. As a result of a similar worldwide emergence of cultural movement in games, there is a huge new excitement for video games as an art form. It is heart-warming to sit in a room with Tony Conrad, a pioneer of conceptual film & music, and hear him say that games are the biggest thing. A growth of influences, very different kinds of artists, large and small systems of financial support, ever-growing academic validation, are all beginning to commit to a serious pursuit of the medium.
Boaz Almog studies superconductors—materials with no electrical resistance—and their applications at Tel-Aviv University in Israel. By using exceptional superconductors, Boaz and his colleague Mishael Azoulay recently succeeded in demonstrating a phenomenon called “quantum levitation”: They trapped a superconductor disc in a powerful magnetic field, causing the disc to float uncannily in midair. Although the effect had been well known to physicists worldwide, it had never before been demonstrated quite so dramatically. The levitating disc, seemingly taken straight out of a sci-fi movie, is actually the result of many years of scientific research and development on how to produce high-quality superconductors. In addition to developing new superconductor technologies and applications, Almog and his colleagues in Professor Guy Deutscher’s superconductivity research group are dedicated to teaching young people and adults about superconductivity through the unique and counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum trapping and quantum levitation.
Andrew Blum is the author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, the first book-length look at the physical heart of the Internet itself. When not immersed in the Internet’s depths, Blum writes about architecture, design, technology, urbanism, art, and travel. Since 1999, his articles and essays have appeared in Wired, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Business Week, Metropolis, Popular Science, and Gizmodo, among others. He has degrees in literature from Amherst College and in human geography from the University of Toronto and lives in his native New York City.
Howie Choset is a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Motivated by applications in confined spaces, Choset has created a comprehensive program in snake robots, which has led to basic research in mechanism design, path planning, motion planning, and estimation. These research topics are important because once the robot is built (design), it must decide where to go (path planning), determine how to get there (motion planning) and use feedback to close the loop (estimation). By pursuing the fundamentals, this research program has made contributions to coverage tasks, dynamic climbing, and mapping large spaces. Already, Choset has directly applied this body of work to challenging and strategically significant problems in diverse areas such as surgery, manufacturing, infrastructure inspection, and search and rescue. He directs the Undergraduate Robotics Minor at Carnegie Mellon and teaches an overview course on Robotics which uses series of custom developed Lego Labs to complement the course work. Professor Choset’s students have won best paper awards at the RIA in 1999 and ICRA in 2003, he has been nominated for best papers at ICRA in 1997 and IROS in 2003 and 2007, won best paper at IEEE Bio Rob in 2006, and won best video at ICRA 2010. In 2002 the MIT Technology Review elected Choset as one of its top 100 innovators in the world under 35. In 2005, MIT Press published a textbook, lead authored by Choset, entitled Principles of Robot Motion. Recently, Choset co-founded a company called Cardiorobotics which makes a small surgical snake robot for minimally invasive surgery.
In the emerging field of medical ecology, Dickson Despommier is a trailblazer, devising solutions to problems in agriculture and public health that likely will be magnified by climate change. A microbiologist, he is a Professor of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School, where he developed the idea of growing food in urban farm skyscrapers. He is currently featured by the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry in a major exhibition as one of ten great modern innovators. At Columbia, Despommier teaches microbiology, environmental science and medical ecology, which focuses on direct environmental influences on human health. For nearly 30 years, he has been involved in lab-based research on parasites and the health risk they pose to large segments of the poor population in the tropics. He has authored three books on the topic of parasites, including West Nile Story. More recently, Despommier has turned his attention to new approaches to sustainable urban life. As founder and director of The Vertical Farm Project, he is looking into how agriculture can be adapted and integrated into city living. He envisions multi-story indoor farming facilities that allow for year-round supplies of fresh, organic, and locally grown food. Such an endeavor could benefit the environment by returning existing farmland to nature and restoring the natural functions and services of the ecosystem.
Despommier has received awards both as an innovator and as a highly successful teacher; notably, in 2003, he was named “Teacher of the Year” by the American Medical Students Association, and he has earned the same distinction six times at Columbia.
Peter Edwards is an American artist, musician, and teacher. He has been exploring the field of circuit bending and musical electronics since 2000 through his business Casperelectronics. He performs regularly under the same name. Edwards received a BFA in sculpture from The Rhode Island School of Design in 2000. Since then he has taught himself electronics and strives to find ways to help creative thinkers take control of the medium. In 2005 he developed the creative electronics department at Hampshire College. He currently teaches circuit bending classes at New York City’s new media arts center, Harvestworks, and writes electronics tutorials for American DIY tech magazine Make. Edwards has performed, taught workshops and spoken on the topic of circuit bending and creative electronics at MIT’s Media Lab, Hasbro Toys, Hampshire College, Skidmore College, New York University, Bloomfield University, Long Beach University and at new media festivals around the world including The Piksel Festival (Bergen, Norway), The OFFF Festival (Paris, France), Sequences Festival (Reykjavik, Iceland) and Bent Festival (New York & LA, USA). Edwards’ sculptural work has been shown at the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs, NY), Green Gallery (YALE University, New Haven, CT), West Hall Gallery (RPI, Troy, NY) ABC no Rio (New York, NY), Lost Horse Gallery (Reykjavik, Iceland), Hans Wies Gallery (Manchester, CT) and more.
Heinrich Frontzek has more than 15 years of experience in corporate communication of innovation, technology, education and knowledge in engineering industrial companies. He was founding president of the Cluster Initiative Mechatronics Baden-Württemberg and is member of communication networks of VDMA (German Engineering Federation) and of acatech (German Academy of Science and Engineering). In his role he heads up the Festo Bionic Learning Network, awarded with the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany 2010 in the category Communication Design.
Robert J. Full is a Chancellor’s and Goldman Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Full completed his undergraduate, master and PhD studies at SUNY Buffalo. He held a research and teaching post doctoral position at The University of Chicago from 1984 to 1986. In 1986 he joined the faculty at Berkeley as an Assistant Professor of Zoology. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Integrative Biology in 1991, and to Full Professor of Integrative Biology in 1995, a position he holds today. Full has received an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, a Distinguished Teaching Award from Berkeley, and is a National Academy of Sciences Mentor in the Life Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Eitan Grinspun is associate professor of computer science at Columbia University, and Director of the Columbia Computer Graphics Group. His research seeks to discover connections between geometry, physics, and computation, typically with applications to computer graphics. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the California Institute of Technology in 2003, and his B.A.Sc. in engineering science from the University of Toronto in 1997. He was Professeur d’Université Invité in Paris at l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie in 2009, and a Research Scientist at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in 2003-04, He is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and NSF CAREER Award recipient, and was previously an NVIDIA Fellow and a Caltech Everhart Distinguished Lecturer. The technologies developed by his laboratory are used in consumer software such as Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, in film studios such as Disney, Pixar, and Weta Digital, and in physics laboratories at institutions such as MIT and the Université Paris VI. His work has been profiled in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Popular Science (“Brilliant 10”).
Dennis Hong, a TED alumnus, is an associate professor and the founding director of RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on robot locomotion and manipulation, autonomous vehicles and humanoid robots. He is the inventor of a number of novel robots and mechanisms, including the ‘whole skin locomotion’ for mobile robots inspired by how amoeba move, a unique three-legged waking robot STriDER, an air-powered robotic hand RAPHaEL, and the world’s first car that can be driven by the blind. His work has been featured on numerous national and international media. Washington Post magazine called Hong “the Leonardo da Vinci of robots.”
Hong has been named to Popular Science‘s 8th annual “Brilliant 10”, honoring top scientists younger than 40 years of age from across the United States, “Forward Under 40” by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Association, and also honored as “Top 40 Under 40” alumni by Purdue University. Hong’s other past awards include the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the SAE International’s Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, and the ASME Freudenstein/GM Young Investigator Award to name a few. Hong also actively leads student teams for various international robotics and design competitions winning numerous top prizes including the DARPA Urban Challenge where they won third place and the $500,000 prize, and the RoboCup, the international autonomous robot soccer competition where his team won First Place in both the Kid-Size and Adult-Size Humanoid divisions and brought the Louis Vuitton Cup Best Humanoid Award to the United States for the very first time.
Hong received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1994), his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University (1999, 2002). He is also a serious gourmet chef and a magician performing annual charity magic shows and lectures on the science of magic.
Don Ingber is Founding Director of the Wyss Institute and a leader in the emerging field of biologically inspired engineering. He oversees a multifaceted effort to identify the mechanisms that living organisms use to self assemble and to apply these design principles to develop advanced materials and devices. Within this overall effort, he also leads the Biomimetic Microsystems platform in which microfabrication techniques from the computer industry are used to build functional circuits with living cells as components. His most recent innovation is a technology for building tiny, complex, three-dimensional models of human organs. These “organs on chips” mimic complicated human functions, providing critical information for diagnostic and therapeutic applications more reliably and at a fraction of the cost and resources associated with traditional drug-testing methods. Ingber has made major contributions to cell and tissue engineering, angiogenesis and cancer research, systems biology, and nanobiotechnology. He was the first researcher to recognize that tensegrityarchitecture (in which a system stabilizes itself mechanically by balancing local compression with continuous tension) is a fundamental principle in the way living organisms are structured at the nanometer scale.
Ingber has authored more than 300 publications and 40 patents and has received numerous distinctions including the Pritzker Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of In Vitro Biology, the Rous-Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology, and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Innovator Award. He holds the Judah Folkman Professorship of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston and is a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ingber also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and was recently elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
Katherine Isbister has a joint appointment between the NYU-Poly computer science department and the NYU Game Center. Isbister is research director of the Game Innovation Lab at NYU-Poly, and an investigator in the NYU Games for Learning Institute. Her research in human computer interaction focuses on enhancing the social and emotional range of everyday interaction with technology. Isbister’s book on game character design—Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach—was nominated for a Game Developer Magazine Frontline award. Her edited volume, Game Usability, brings together best practices in game playtesting and user research. In 1999, Isbister was selected as one of MIT Technology Review’s Young Innovators, and she received a Humboldt Experienced Researcher award in 2011. Her research has been covered in Wired, Scientific American, and on NPR and BBC radio.
Alan Jacobsen is a senior scientist at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, CA. He is the inventor and lead developer of a new technique to fabricate microlattice materials based on a self-propagating optical waveguide phenomenon. This fabrication breakthrough enables the rapid formation of materials with a truss, or lattice-based architecture, similar to the type of architecture utilized in bridges and buildings. By bringing larger-scale truss-based design concepts to the materials level, Dr. Jacobsen and his colleagues at HRL are blurring the line between “material” and “structure.” This technique was the foundational technology used to design the world’s lightest material, which has been highlighted in Discover Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and National Geographic, among other publications.
Ellen Jorgensen is a molecular biologist and a passionate advocate of citizen science. Her research interests have encompassed such diverse areas as free radicals in disease, DNA fingerprinting, virus protein structure/function relationships, and cancer biomarkers. In 2009 she co-founded Genspace NYC, the world’s first community biotechnology laboratory. Its mission is to promote science literacy and demystify the latest advances in biotechnology and synthetic biology though education, outreach, and engaging the general public in a hands-on manner. In 2011, Genspace’s groundbreaking programs were awarded the prize for Best Social Study in Synthetic Biology at SB 5.0, the leading international synthetic biology conference. Last summer, Jorgensen’s Genspace-based team of undergraduates won a gold medal in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. She has spearheaded many of Genspace’s outreach programs such as the collaborative effort between Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Genspace to mentor students competing in the Urban Barcode Project via the use of DNA-based species identification technologies. She has served as Genspace’s president for the past two years, and her efforts to develop Genspace into a haven for entrepreneurship, innovation and citizen science have been chronicled in Nature Medicine, Science, BBC News, Discover Magazine, PBS News Hour, and The New York Times.
Oliver Medvedik earned his Ph.D. at Harvard Medical School, in the Biomedical and Biological Sciences program. As part of his doctoral work he has used single-celled budding yeast as a model system to map the genetic pathways that underlie the processes of aging in more complex organisms, such as humans.
Prior to arriving in Boston for his doctoral studies, he has lived most of his life in New York City. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from Hunter College, City University of New York. Since graduating from Harvard, he has worked as a biotechnology consultant, taught molecular biology to numerous undergraduates at Harvard University and served as an instructor on multiple teams for the international genetically engineered machines competition (IGEM) held annually at M.I.T.
He recently co-founded Genspace, a non-profit community biotechnology laboratory. He is currently based in Brooklyn.
Vinod Menon is an Associate Professor of Physics at the City University of New York (CUNY) – Queens College and Graduate Center. He joined CUNY as part of the Photonic Initiative in 2004. Prior to joining CUNY he was a research staff member at Princeton University (2003-04). He joined Princeton as the Lucent Bell Labs Post Doctoral Fellow in Photonics in 2001. He received his MSc in Physics from the University of Hyderabad, India in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Massachusetts in 2001. His current research interests include the development of classical and non-classical light sources using quantum dots, metamaterials for controlling light-matter interaction, and engineered nonlinear optical materials using hybrid nanocomposites.
Jin Kim Montclare is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who is performing groundbreaking research in engineering proteins to mimic nature and, in some cases, work better than nature. She works to customize artificial proteins with the aim of targeting human disorders, drug delivery and tissue regeneration as well as create nanomaterials for electronics. Using multidisciplinary expertise in chemistry and genetic engineering, these results have already been realized. Prior to joining NYU-Poly, Montclare was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Among her many honors and awards are the American Chemical Society PROGRESS /Dreyfus Lectureship, the Dreyfus Special Grants Program Award, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, the Wechsler Award for Excellence, the Othmer Junior Fellow Award, the National Institute’s of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship.
David Ng is a faculty researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Michael Smith Laboratories, where he heads a science education lab aimed at training researchers, engaging students in the life sciences, and informing the public on the societal, political, economic and ethical nuances of the sciences. An immunologist and biochemist by training, Ng has been running the laboratory, originally conceived by the late Nobel Laureate Michael Smith, since 1999. The lab hosts a wide range of programs for a diverse range of audiences, but is particularly active with public schools, organizing field trips, scientific conferences for high school students, and symposia focused on nurturing science writing.
Recently, when he heard of data showing that most kids know more about Pokémon characters than they do about the plants and animals in their neighborhoods, Ng set his lab to work on the Phylo project, a crowd-sourcing initiative gathering together artists, scientists, gamers, educators and museum staff to create a biodiversity-themed trading card game.
In addition to his scientific publications, Ng has written humor for McSweeney’s, essays for the Canadian magazine The Walrus, and blog posts for BoingBoing.net, and he is currently working on a book illustrating why it is crucial for society to understand “the freakishly awesome power of the scientific method.” He edits the Science Creative Quarterly, an online compendium of creative writing about the sciences.
Tristan Perich’s work is inspired by the aesthetic simplicity of math, physics and code. WIRE magazine describes his compositions as “an austere meeting of electronic and organic.” 1-Bit Music, his 2004 release, was the first album ever released as a microchip, programmed to synthesize his electronic composition live. His latest circuit album, 1-Bit Symphony (Cantaloupe, 2010) has received critical acclaim, called “sublime” (New York Press), and The Wall Street Journal said “its oscillations have an intense, hypnotic force and a surprising emotional depth.” His award-winning work coupling 1-bit electronics with traditional forms in both music (Active Field, Observations) and visual art (Machine Drawings, Microtonal Wall) has been presented around the world, from Sonar and Ars Electronica to the Whitney Museum and bitforms gallery.
As a former student of NYU’s ITP program, Syed been involved in various transmedia projects that explore relationships and create dialogues between humans and machines. At ITP he mainly focused on creating games that wove gameplay into social spaces that took the form of arcades, LARPS, and ARGs. Recently he has been running a D.I.Y. independent video game arcade called Babycastles. Babycastles provides a space for people to exhibit their work within a social context of an Arcade. Currently, Syed is working with the Social Game Lab team as a consultant on their current game development endeavors.
Caitlin Trainor is the artistic director of Trainor Dance and a lecturer at Barnard College/Columbia University. Originally from Rhode Island, Trainor has taught, choreographed, and performed on both sides of the Atlantic. She enjoys using dance as a playground for ideas, particularly in collaboration with other artists and thinkers. Her latest partnership with computer scientist Apoorv Agarwal, Artificial IntelliDance, uses dance to explain a relatively new machine learning paradigm. Trainor’s performance career includes appearances at Lincoln Center, onstage with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and on the walls of the building itself with site-specific choreographer Stephan Koplowitz. She has danced with and acted as rehearsal director for Seán Curran Company, and performed in numerous productions ranging from experimental downtown work to a recent appearance in a music video forDiehard. She has created new work on dancers from Nacre Dance Company, Murray State University, Providence College, and Northumbria University (Newcastle Upon Tyne, England).
An alumna of Skidmore College (B.S.) and Mills College (M.F.A.), Trainor is the grateful recipient of an education grant from New York Foundation of the Arts(NYFA) and appreciates ongoing production support from Barnard College/Columbia University.
Philip White’s performances center on a non-linear feedback system, which consists of a mixer and several homemade circuits. In addition to his work with analog and digital electronics, White has written extensively for chamber ensembles and created a large body of intermedia pieces that explore meaning in information transmission.
He currently performs with Suzanne Thorpe (thenumber46), Chuck Johnson (with chuck johnson with philip white) Ted Hearne (Re we Who R We) Phillip Stearns, Jeff Donaldson and Taylor Levine. Recent performances/exhibitions include Diapason (NYC), ISSUE Project Room (NYC), The Stone (NYC), Sonic Circuits (DC), Redux New Media Festival (Charleston, SC), Galerie Neurotitan (Berlin), Princeton University, Bent Festival, In/Out Festival, NYCEMF 2010, Floating Points Festival 2010 and a featured spot on free103.9.org. He has performed with Toshimaru Nakamura, Gene Coleman, Kenta Nagai, ADACHI Tomomi, MV Carbon, Michael Schumacher and Nisi Jacobs. He has received grants form Meet The Composer and Electronic Music Foundation. He is currently an artist-in-residence at Harvestworks.