DATE: Friday, June 12, 2009
TIME: 7:30 PM-9:30 PM
VENUE: The Players
MODERATOR: Andy Borowitz
PARTICIPANTS: Erich Jarvis, Irene Pepperberg, Paul Nurse, Paul Hoffman, Leon Lederman

Presented with New York’s storytelling organization, The Moth, Nobel-prize-winning scientists, renowned writers and esteemed artists tell on-stage stories about their personal relationship with science. In keeping with Moth tradition, each story must be true and told without notes in ten minutes. The result is a poignant, hilarious, and always unpredictable evening of storytelling and science.

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Comedian, Actor, Writer

Andy Borowitz is a comedian, actor and writer whose work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and at He is the first winner of the National Press Club’s humor award and has won seven Dot-Comedy Awards for his website, He has appeared on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday, CNN’s American Morning, VH1’s Best Week Ever and has acted in the films Marie and Bruce, starring Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick, and Melinda and Melinda, starring Will Ferrell and directed by Woody Allen. He is the author of five humor books, including Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO’s Guide to Surviving in Prison, and The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers, a 2005 Finalist for the Thurber prize for American Humor.



At Duke University, neurobiologist Erich Jarvis leads a team that studies the abilities of songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds to learn new sounds and pass along a vocal repertoire into the next generation. His research in the neurobiology of vocal learning has led to the discovery of natural behaviorally regulated gene expression in the brain, social context-dependent gene regulation, convergent vocal learning systems across distantly related animal groups, the FoxP2 gene in vocal learning birds, and the recent finding that vocal learning systems may have evolved out of ancient motor learning systems.

In 2002, the National Science Foundation awarded Jarvis its highest honor for a young researcher, the Alan T. Waterman Award. In 2005 he was awarded the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award providing funding for five years to researchers pursuing innovative approaches to biomedical research. In 2008 Dr. Jarvis was selected to the prestigious position of Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Dr. Jarvis received his undergraduate training in Biology and Mathematics at Hunter College in New York City and his doctorate in Molecular Neurobiology and Animal Behavior from the Rockefeller University in New York City.

Ethologist, Author

Irene Pepperberg is Adjunct Associate Professor at Brandeis University and Research Associate and Lecturer at Harvard. She has studied the cognitive and communicative ability of Grey parrots for over two decades. Her book, Alex and Me, a description of life with her famous subject, became a New York Times bestseller.

She has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim, Harry Frank Guggenheim, and Whitehall Foundations, the Radcliffe Institute; National Science Foundation grants, and the 2000 Selby Fellowship (Australian Academy of Sciences).

Paul Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse is a Nobel Laureate and the President of Rockefeller University, where he continues to do research in cell biology. He is the former Chief Executive of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom. Nurse was knighted in Great Britain for his contributions to cancer research.

Science Writer

Paul Hoffman is the author of a memoir called King’s Gambit and two biographies, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers and Wings of Madness. Formerly the publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the long-time editor in chief of Discover magazine, Hoffman has performed mathematical paper-folding tricks on David Letterman and strapped Oprah into a virtual hang-glider while she accused him of ogling her butt.

The winner of the first National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, he has written for the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, TIME, The New York Times, Seed, and Wired. He has delivered essays on NPR’s All Things Considered and hosted the five-part PBS series Great Minds of Science. Under the pseudonym Dr. Crypton, he has created mind-numbing puzzle contests. Chicago magazine once called Dr. Crypton “the smartest man in the world,” but they evidently caught him on a particularly good day.

Physicist, Nobel Laureate in Physics

Leon Lederman is the Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and Pritzker Professor of Science at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago; for his contributions to neutrino physics, he shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics. In the standard model of modern physics, there are only twelve different species of matter particles. During a remarkable career spanning more than four decades, Lederman has played a crucial role in discovering two of these species: the bottom quark (a heavier cousin to the particles of which atomic nuclei are made) and the muon neutrino (an almost massless, ghostly particle which hardly interacts with other matter at all). He was also part of the team that produced the first artificial high-intensity neutrino beam; such beams have since proved a valuable physics tool to study the fundamental properties of matter and its interactions.

A graduate of the City College of New York and Columbia University, as well as the New York City public schools, Lederman, has authored a number of popular books on particle physics, including The God Particle and the recently released Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe.