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Spotlight: Innovation from Unexpected Places

Saturday, June 2, 2012
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Strip away the trimmings of a traditional science presentation, add cocktails and an intimate lounge setting, and you have WSF Spotlight. This year’s series provides an unobstructed glimpse into the minds of some of the most inventive thinkers. Experiments gone wrong. Happy accidents. Ah-ha moments. Every innovation or scientific breakthrough has a story. We’ll hear a few of them from some of our favorite innovators: from discovering the world’s largest spider to inventing the world’s lightest substance, and from looking to art for insights into cellular processes to building social robots of the future. Join us as we trace some of the unlikely, entertaining and enlightening paths to discovery.

This program was an extension of Innovation Square, a free outdoor tech fest featuring amazing demos, performances and interactive fun at NYU Polytechnic Institute, MetroTech Plaza.


Jason SilvaTelevision Personality, Filmmaker, Philosopher

Television personality, filmmaker and philosopher, Jason Silva was recently described as “part Timothy Leary, part Ray Kurzweil, and part Neo from The Matrix.”

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Cynthia BirBiomedical Engineer

Cynthia Bir studies what happens to the human body after sports injuries, ballistic impacts, and explosive blasts. She is known worldwide for her research into the effects of blunt ballistic impacts from rubber bullets and other less-lethal ammunition.

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Don IngberCell Biologist

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.

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Alan JacobsenMaterial Scientist

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.

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Peter JägerArachnologist

Renowned arachnologist Peter Jäger has discovered more than 200 species of spiders in the last decade, including a rare species in Malaysia that he named Heteropoda davidbowie after the legendary British rocker to raise awareness of endangered spiders and their threatened tropical habitats.

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Maja MatarićComputer Scientist, Roboticist

Maja Matarić is at the forefront of the growing field of “socially assistive” robotics, building intelligent machines that can interact with humans socially, rather than physically, to help them learn new skills or recover from illness and injury.

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