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.
Sylvester James (Jim) Gates, Jr. is currently the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland-College Park. In spring of 2009 he was appointed to serve on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Maryland State Board of Education.
Gates is a theoretical physicist and received two BS and a PhD degree from MIT, the latter in 1977. His thesis was the first at MIT on supersymmetry, part of string theory. In 1983, Gates coauthored Superspace, or One Thousand and One Lessons in Supersymmetry, one of two comprehensive text books in the field to this day.
Gates has been featured extensively on many NOVA PBS programs on physics, most notably “The Elegant Universe” in 2003. In 2006, he completed a DVD series “Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality” and a book, The Art of Physics (in Italian). Gates is strongly committed to education. In the summers of 1971 to 1985, he returned to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, to work with freshmen in the same minority student program by which he had entered that university. He was instrumental in the development of Ph.D. physics programs at Hampton University in Virginia, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Lucy Hawking is a journalist, and the author of several novels. With her father, the physicist Stephen Hawking, she has written George’s Secret Key to the Universe, a children’s adventure featuring the mysteries of physics, science and the Universe.
Nathan Englander’s story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges became an international bestseller, earning him both the PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2000. His first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, was published in Spring 2007.
Sam Shepard is an Oscar-nominated actor, screenwriter, director, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. His best-known works include Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, and True West. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1986, and his plays are performed on and off Broadway, and in regional theaters across America.
Theoretical astrophysicist Michael S. Turner is a recognized figure in pioneering the interdisciplinary field of particle astrophysics and cosmology, for which he shared the 2010 Dannie Heineman Prize. In collaboration with Edward Kolb, he initiated the Fermilab astrophysics program, which today accounts for about 10% of the lab’s activities.
Leading the National Academy study, “Quarks to the Cosmos,” which established the strategic vision for the field, Turner’s scholarly contributions also include predicting cosmic acceleration and coining the term “dark energy”; showing how quantum fluctuations evolve into seed perturbations for galaxies during cosmic inflation; and cultivating several key ideas that helped formulate the cold dark matter theory of structure formation.
His honors include the Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society; the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society (APS); the Klopsted Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers; the Heineman Prize (with Kolb) of the AAS and American Institute of Physics; and the 2011 Darwin Lecture of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Turner has served as Chief Scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory, Assistant Director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation, Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and President of the Aspen Center for Physics. Turner’s recent national service includes membership on the NRC’s Astronomy Decadal Survey (Astro2010) and Board on Physics and Astronomy. He is also a member of the NASA Advisory Committee (NAC) and Senior Editorial Board of Science Magazine.
Currently, Turner is Chairman of the Board of the Aspen Center for Physics, a Director of the Fermi Research Alliance, and a member of the Governing Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS Council). He is also the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, which he helped establish. In 2010, he was elected to the Presidential-line of the American Physical Society and will serve as its President in 2013.
Born in Los Angeles, CA, Turner received his B.S. in Physics from Caltech and his M.S. and Ph.D in Physics from Stanford. He also holds an honorary D.Sc. from Michigan State University.