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High Honors for Big Ideas Set the Tone for a Fascinating Festival

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Following a thrilling opening night celebration of the life and work of Dr. Oliver Sacks, nine scientists took home Kavli Prizes on Day 2 of the 2016 World Science Festival in recognition of their achievements in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.

The prizes, which awarded every other year by The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and come with a cash award of $1 million each, honored the LIGO Scientific Collaboration’s successful detection of gravitational waves, pioneering efforts in atomic force microscopy, and for the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function.

In collaboration with the award-winning storytelling series The Moth, a sold-out crowd gathered at Lincoln Center for a night full of personal stories told by people who have dedicated their lives to scientific exploration. Sylvia Earle, who has spent a lifetime exploring the ocean and will share her thoughts on how we can live more sustainably tonight at the American Museum of Natural History, offered some insight into how it all began.

“I was knocked over by a wave when I was three, and the ocean caught my attention,” Earle said. “It has ever since.”

Day 2 also saw some of most challenging questions scientists wrestle with on a daily basis launch off the pages of prestigious academic journals and onto the stage as part of The Big Ideas series.

Inside the Lynch Theater at John Jay College, moderator John Hockenberry and a stage full of experts were shining the spotlight on dark matter — a subject jam-packed with thrilling questions about the basic building blocks of our universe.

Downtown at NYU’s Skirball Center, physicist Brian Greene, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, and author Leon Wieseltier zeroed in on questions like this one: “When it comes to the evaluation of human experience—passion to prayer, consciousness to creativity—what can science explain, and what are the limits of its explanatory powers?”

New York City is abuzz with scientific exploration this week and that hum of curiosity echoes across the world during every World Science Festival. More than 30 partners are hosting their own events to watch and participate in conversations as part of World Science Festival Live. Thousands more are watching on Livestream and asking questions using #WSF16.

Image: Greg Kessler

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