First-ever festival explores the science in culture, arts and life
Scientists play an important role as myth busters, yet they seem unable to shatter one common fiction: “People think scientists are crazy white guys with frizzy hair in lab coats who don’t communicate with normal people,” says planetary scientist Heidi Hammel.
Dispelling this notion — and the idea that science is
the stuff only of cloistered laboratories, dank with formaldehyde — is a hoped-for outcome of the
upcoming World Science Festival in
The program includes a screening of The Bourne Identity at the
The kick-off will be a closed-door,
one-day “World Science Summit” on May 28. More than 100 scientists,
policy-makers, educators, and business and cultural leaders will convene to
discuss science’s role in and impact on global affairs. Also, the three
inaugural winners of the Kavli prizes in astrophysics, nanoscience and
neuroscience will be announced via a simulcast from
The festival is the brainchild of
superstring theorist Brian Greene of
“My experience has been that people love to learn about the hidden aspects of reality ... the fundamental questions and truths that transcend everyday life,” Greene says. “People can be wowed by the depth and insight science can provide.”
Five universities, as well as scientific and cultural institutions and government agencies, are partners in the endeavor. Swiss bank Credit Suisse is the principal sponsor.
A program titled “Illuminating Genius” will combine live performances, personal narratives and state-of-the art imaging technology to delve into questions about the creative process. Featuring performance artists Anna Deavere Smith and Bill T. Jones and scientists Vilayanur Ramachandran, David Eagleman and Nancy Andreasen, the program explores the idea of the innovative brain.
Andreasen will discuss her recent work scanning the brains of highly creative people. Singled out for their innovative approaches to problem-solving, her subjects have included Fields medalists, Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows.
“My theory is the creative brain of an artist and a scientist is not different — there’s a capacity to make novel associations,” she says. And her brain-imaging work suggests she’s onto something. The creative brains “all light up in the same way,” she says.
Greene hopes the festival will light new entryways to science. “Someone who wouldn’t go to a science fair but would go to the Guggenheim might come for the art and leave with the science,” he says.
Many of the festival events should
have such appeal, such as one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art offering a
series of speakers who will connect the worlds of art and science. Richard
Ernst, a chemistry Nobel laureate who is also an art collector and an expert in
Tibetan paintings, will deliver the keynote address. Other speakers include
research scientists from the Met and from
“What might not be immediately
evident to a visitor of a place like the
If people come away from the festival understanding not only that science lurks in museums of fine art, but also that science is everywhere, Greene will be pleased. “To have a general public that is intimidated or put off by science is hugely debilitating,” he says.
Hammel, co-director of research at
the Space Science Institute in
Hammel will speak at a presentation at the New Victory Theater that will showcase the French circus troupe Compagnie 111.“ The shapes of things, movement — it’s all about gravity,” she says. “Whether it’s on people or on planets, it’s the same basic laws.”
2008. World Science Festival: A Universe of Science in New York City. May 28–June 1. World Science Festival news release. April 2. Available at [Go to]