How do you see colors, and do they look the same to everyone? It’s not an easy question. Most human eyes can see around 10 million different colors, but our eyes can’t see other spectra of light that many insects, birds, and fish can see. Some colors even look different when your brain compares them to other colors, something painters such as Monet and Matisse took advantage of. And some people, synesthetes, can invent colors to go along with words, numbers, or even music. In an action-packed hour, our audience and experts will delve into the world of color. It all leads up to a dazzling sound and light show, helping us see the colors a young synesthete has in her head when she rocks out on the electric violin. This program is in association with the Flame Challenge, an annual contest held by The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
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Alan Alda, a seven-time Emmy Award–winner, played Hawkeye Pierce and wrote many of the episodes on the classic TV series M*A*S*H, and appeared in continuing roles on ER, The West Wing, 30 Rock, and The Blacklist. He has starred in, written, and directed many films, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. His interest in science led to his hosting the award-winning PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years, on which he interviewed hundreds of scientists. Also on PBS he hosted The Human Spark, winning the 2010 Kavli Science Journalism Award, and Brains on Trial in 2013. On Broadway, he appeared as the physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED. He is the author of the play Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie. He has won the National Science Board’s “Public Service Award,” the Scientific American “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and the American Chemical Society Award for “Public Service,” among others. He is a Visiting Professor at Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist, best-selling author, and Guggenheim Fellow who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His areas of research include time perception, vision, and synesthesia—a condition where stimulation of one sense triggers responses in others. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and is the founder and director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He has written several neuroscience books, including his latest, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. His work has also appeared in Discover Magazine, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist.
Kaitlyn Hova is a neuroscientist performing violinist/composer and the creator of ‘The Synesthesia Network’. Hova has several types of synesthesia, a neurological condition where stimulation of one sense triggers experiences in a second sense. She works with her husband, an electrical engineer and inventor, to create live light shows that project the colors Hova hears when she performs her own music. She also 3D prints electric violins and plans to make the code open source so that anyone who can’t afford a violin will be able to print their own. Hova is working to raise awareness and promote the funding of synesthesia research.
Bevil Conway, originally from Zimbabwe, is an artist and neuroscientist who researches the neural basis for visual behavior, with a focus on color vision, and investigates the relationship between visual processing and visual art. His artwork is held in numerous private collections and the Fogg Museum, and has been published in several books, including as the frontispiece for Brain and Visual Perception, the landmark work by Nobel Laureates David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel.
Conway, who writes and lectures widely on the intersection between neuroscience and art, is the author of Neural Mechanisms of Color Vision. He is the Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Science and Neuroscience at Wellesley College, and his research laboratory is located at Wellesley College and the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School. His art studio is in Cambridge, Mass.
Jay Neitz is a vision researcher and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington in Seattle. At the Neitz Lab, he explores color vision in primates to better understand the visual system and develop gene therapies for human vision problems, including color-blindness, macular degeneration, and nearsightedness. His research that allowed color-blind monkeys to perceive red and green was hailed as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of 2009 by Time Magazine, and suggested that it may be possible to enhance sight in already healthy individuals. He received his PhD in biopsychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.