2010 Festival Events

June 2 - June 6

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  • The James Webb Space Telescope

    Battery Park

    The world’s most powerful future space telescope arrived in New York City as part of the World Science Festival. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to unveil the very first galaxies formed in the Universe and discover hidden worlds around distant stars when the mission launches in 2014. For six days in June, a full-scale model of this successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope was on public view in Battery Park.

    The model, at 80 feet long, 37 feet wide and nearly 40 feet high, is as big as a tennis court. It’s as close to a first-hand look at the telescope as most people will ever get.

    There was more to do than just marvel. Once visitors took in the awe-inspiring sight, they could play with interactive exhibits, watch videos showing what we will learn from the Webb, and ask scientists on-hand about how the telescope works.

    The Webb Telescope was also the site of our Friday June 4th party, “From the City to the Stars,” where leading scientists joined us to talk about the anticipated discoveries. Visitors were encouraged to bring their telescopes if they had one, or could to use one of the dozens we had on hand. Amateur astronomers and novices alike congregated for a festive evening of marveling at the wonders of the cosmos.

    This program was made possible with the support of Northrop Grumman, and presented in collaboration with The Battery Conservancy.

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  • Astronomy’s New Messengers: The Exhibit Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves

    Experience the power and beauty of LIGO, a new kind of telescope—one that observes not light but gravitational waves from millions of light years away.

    LIGO, which stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is made up of two installations in Louisiana and Washington. Operated as a single powerful observatory, LIGO is at the cutting edge of our exploration of the cosmos. By delving into the fundamental nature of gravity, the massive physics experiment is hoping to open an entirely new window onto the universe.

    This jam-packed interactive exhibit, courtesy of the National Science Foundation, featured a model interferometer with laser, a space-time curvature simulation, games to find the hidden gravitational wave in the static of the universe, even a mirror from the real LIGO. Overhead, an artist’s dazzling light sculpture depicted the universe LIGO is trying to observe. For more information visit Free for all ages.

    On Thursday June 3, a free panel on the design process of the exhibit and light sculpture was presented by CUNY’s Science & the Arts Series. For more details go to

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  • Opening Night Gala Performance

    Stephen Hawking, Alan Alda, Danny Burstein, Elizabeth Alexander, Eldar Djangirov, John Lithgow, Arturo Delmoni, Tiler Peck, Kelli O’Hara, Brian Greene, David Hallberg, Yo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble, Brad Lubman, Emalie Savoy Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center

    About the Honoree
    Stephen W. Hawking is one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists. His dramatic breakthroughs into the origin of the universe and the properties of black holes are among the most revolutionary insights into the nature of the cosmos since the work of Albert Einstein. Until stepping down last October, Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post once held by Isaac Newton. In presenting Professor Hawking the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 12, 2009, President Barack Obama stated that “he’s led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos. In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on Earth.”

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  • 2010 Kavli Prizes

    Elizabeth Vargas, Antonio Damasio, Harold Varmus, Kip Thorne, Mostafa A. El-Sayed Rosenthal Pavilion

    Winners of the prestigious 2010 Kavli Prizes—biennial international awards that recognize seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience, and include a cash prize of $1 million in each field— were announced via live satellite from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, in Oslo. Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus, Co-Chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, delivered the keynote address to open the event. Following the announcement of the winners, a panel of internationally renowned scientists, including Antonio Damasio and Mostafa A. El-Sayed, discussed the scientific achievements of the 2010 Kavli laureates and provided insightful commentary on the next wave of research and opportunities being pursued in these dynamic fields.

    A rebroadcast of the webcast is available at: The World Science Festival website, The Kavli Prize and The Kavli Foundation.

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  • Pioneers in Science 2010

    Carl Zimmer, John C. Mather

    Pioneers in Science gives middle and high school students the rare opportunity to interact with world-renowned scientists. In this installment, Nobel laureate and NASA astrophysicist John Mather—whose groundbreaking research has greatly advanced our understanding of the origin of the universe—met live and online with local-area New York City students and others, including schools in Africa and Kansas, in a discussion hosted by Carl Zimmer.

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  • BioArt

    Amy Chase Gulden, Kristin Baldwin Museum of Arts and Design

    Science is transformed into art in this program that uses pigmented E. coli as a “living paint,” to create printed designs on paper. Under the guidance of Growing Impressions team Amy Chase Gulden and Kristin Baldwin, select New York City students were able to learn about microbiology as they spent the afternoon cultivating living designs of their own imagination. Throughout the program, the public is invited to visit the Museum’s Open Studio (sixth floor), to watch the designs, quite literally, emerge.
    Participation by invitation only; public welcome to observe.

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  • Machover and Minsky: Making Music in the Dome

    Tom Ashbrook, Joélle Harvey, Marvin Minsky, Tod Machover Hayden Planetarium, AMNH

    How does music help order emerge from the mind’s chaos? How does it create and conjure thoughts, emotions and memories? Legendary composer and inventor Tod Machover explores these mysteries with Artificial Intelligence visionary Marvin Minsky. The two iconoclasts revisit their landmark musical experiment, the Brain Opera, and offer an exclusive sneak peak at Machover’s upcoming opera, Death and the Powers, a groundbreaking MIT Media Lab production that explores what we leave behind for the world and our loved ones, using specially designed technology, including a chorus of robots. Featuring a performance by Soprano Joélle Harvey.

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  • Eye Candy: Science, Sight, Art

    Lawrence Weschler, Buzz Hays, Christopher W. Tyler, Jules Feiffer, Patrick Cavanagh Rosenthal Pavilion

    Are you drawn to Impressionism? Or more toward 3D computer art? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it? Contrary to the old adage, there may be universal biological principles that drive art’s appeal, and its capacity to engage our brains and our interest. Through artworks ranging from post-modernism to political caricature to 3D film, Margaret S. Livingstone and Patrick Cavanagh join cartoonist Jules Feiffer and others in an examination of newly understood principles of visual perception.

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  • Modern MacGyvers: Innovations for a Developing World

    Carl Zimmer, Bevil Conway, Hugo Van Vuuren, Benjamin West, Winston Soboyejo Museum of Arts and Design

    Extraordinary visionaries are changing lives around the globe—with ideas ranging from microbe-powered dirt batteries to solar-powered camel-transported refrigerators. Carl Zimmer engages with Pamela Ronald and Bevil Conway, as well as biologists, inventors and engineers whose scientific innovations are addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

    This program is presented in collaboration with the Museum of Arts & Design.

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  • The Search for Life in the Universe

    Sir Paul Nurse, David Charbonneau, Jill Tarter, Michael Russell, Steven Squyres Galapagos Art Space

    Are we alone? It’s a question that has obsessed us for centuries, and now we have the technology to do more than wonder. Scientists on the hunt for distant planets and extraterrestrial intelligence will take us on their expeditions into faraway galaxies and barely visible realms. Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse journeys to the brink of discovery with Jill Tarter, David Charbonneau, and Steven Squyres to contemplate what it would mean to have company in the cosmos.

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  • The Moth: Grey Matter

    Kristin Baldwin, Richard Garriott, Leonard Mlodinow, Frank Wilczek Webster Hall

    Presented with New York’s innovative storytelling organization, The Moth, scientists, writers and esteemed artists tell on-stage stories about their personal relationship with science. In keeping with Moth tradition, each story must be true, and told without notes in ten minutes. The result is a poignant, hilarious and always unpredictable evening of storytelling and science. Participants include Leonard Mlodinow (The Drunkard’s Walk) and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek.

    More from The Moth series

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  • Good Vibrations: The Science of Sound

    John Schaefer, Christopher Shera, Jacob Kirkegaard, Mark Whittle, Polygraph Lounge The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

    We look around us—constantly. But how often do we listen around us? Sound is critically important to our bodies and brains, and to the wider natural world. In the womb, we hear before we see. Join John Schaefer, Jamshed Bharucha, Christopher Shera, the Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard and multi-instrumentalists Polygraph Lounge for a fascinating journey through the nature of sound. How we perceive it, how it acts upon us and how it profoundly affects our well-being—including a demonstration of sounds produced by sources as varied as the human inner ear and the creation of the universe itself.

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  • Black Holes and Holographic Worlds

    Alan Alda, Andrew Hamilton, Kip Thorne, Raphael Bousso, Robbert Dijkgraaf NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

    Black holes are gravitational behemoths that dramatically twist space and time. Recently, they’ve also pointed researchers to a remarkable proposal—that everything we see may be akin to a hologram. Alan Alda joins Kip Thorne, Robbert Dijkgraaf and other renowned researchers on an odyssey through one of nature’s most spectacular creations, and learn how they are leading scientists to rewrite the rules of reality.

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  • Brutality and the Brain

    Walter Isaacson, Marc Hauser, Oliver Goodenough, Stephen J. Morse Baruch Performing Arts Center

    Why do humans commit violent crimes and go to war?  How to explain Abu Ghraib? Is human violence wired into our brains and genes? What role does it play in human evolution? Walter Isaacson joins Oliver Goodenough, Marc Hauser and scientists who are using brain imaging and the study of psychopaths to explore the science of moral judgment and behavior, shedding fresh light on the dark side of human nature.

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  • Our Genome Ourselves

    Richard Besser, Adam Cole, George Church, Francis Collins, Robert C. Green Eisner & Lubin Auditorium

    There is a revolution underway in the world of medicine.  As researchers identify the genetic variants responsible for cancer, schizophrenia and diabetes, and doctors tailor medications and diagnostic tests specifically for your genomic makeup, we inch closer to personalized medicine. But what does this mean for you today?  And how will it impact your health care 10, 20 or 30 years in the future? ABC’s Richard Besser joins Francis Collins, George Church and Robert C. Green. They look over the leading edge of genomics research to learn the promise, pitfalls, and realities barreling toward us.

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  • Astronomy’s New Messengers Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves

    Andrea Lommen, Kip Thorne, Laura Danly, Rainer Weiss Eisner & Lubin Auditorium

    Marcia Bartusiak joins Kip Thorne, Laura Danly and Rainer Weiss to demonstrate how two observatories on opposite sides of the country, called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), may open a new window on observing the cosmos—one based not in light but in gravity. Scientists have embarked on this joint experiment, seeking whispers of far-away violence—like the collision between distant black holes—rippling through the cosmos. It’s taken nearly a century, but technology has finally caught up to Einstein’s brilliance. His 1916 General Theory of Relativity predicted the existence of gravitational waves—undulations in the very fabric of space and time—and LIGO researchers are now poised to detect them.

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  • Food 2.0: Feeding a Hungry World

    Bill Blakemore, Louise O. Fresco, Monty P. Jones, Pamela Ronald Baruch Performing Arts Center

    Pamela Ronald, Louise Fresco and Monty Jones—influential voices from a wide variety of perspectives—engage in a spirited discussion and debate on issues vital to our future. By 2050, one of every four people on Earth will go hungry unless food production more than doubles. Science-based agriculture has proposed unconventional new tools—earthworms, bacteria, and even genes from sunny daffodils—to meet this towering challenge. But will such innovative ideas be enough? And can we bridge the ideological divide over genetically modified foods that separates scientists and environmentalists? What role does eating and farming locally play in the next green revolution?

    This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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  • The Science of Star Trek

    Faith Salie, Eric Horvitz, Lawrence M. Krauss, Seth Shostak Galapagos Art Space

    The original Star Trek and its numerous successors were far ahead of their time, but just how far? Will science eventually catch up to this series’ nearly five-decade-old creations? With Lawrence Krauss, Eric Horvitz, Seth Shostak and moderator Faith Salie, explore the plausibility of scientific phenomena from the Star Trek universe, including warp speed, time travel, humanoid aliens and whether anyone in our universe will be “beamed up” by transporter anytime soon.

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  • Mind And Machine: The Future of Thinking

    John Hockenberry, Luciano Floridi, Gary Small, Rosalind Picard NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

    Creative thought is surely among our most precious and mysterious capabilities. But can powerful computers rival the human brain? As thinking, remembering and innovating become increasingly interwoven with technological advances, what are we capable of? What do we lose? Join Luciano Floridi, John Donoghue, Gary Small and Rosalind Picard for a thought-provoking program about thinking.

    This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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  • From the City to the Stars: Star-gazing with the Webb Telescope

    Miles O’Brien, Heidi Hammel, John C. Mather, Neil deGrasse Tyson Battery Park

    Join professional and amateur astronomers at the base of the full-scale, tennis court-sized James Webb Space Telescope model for a free evening of star-gazing in Battery Park. John Mather, Nobel laureate and the Webb telescope’s senior project scientist; John Grunsfeld, astronaut, physicist and “chief repairman” of the Hubble Telescope and planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel, with journalist Miles O’Brien moderating, will be with us to talk about the discoveries anticipated when the world’s most powerful space telescope, the successor to the Hubble, launches in 2014. Hayden Planetarium Director, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, will host the stargazing party to follow. It will be a festive evening of appreciating the vast wonders of the cosmos. Bring your telescope if you have one or plan to use one of the dozens we’ll have set up.

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  • The Limits of Understanding

    Sir Paul Nurse, Gregory Chaitin, Mario Livio, Marvin Minsky, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein Tishman Auditorium at The New School

    This statement is false. Think about it, and it makes your head hurt. If it’s true, it’s false. If it’s false, it’s true. In 1931, Austrian logician Kurt Gödel shocked the worlds of mathematics and philosophy by establishing that such statements are far more than a quirky turn of language: he showed that there are mathematical truths which simply can’t be proven. In the decades since, thinkers have taken the brilliant Gödel’s result in a variety of directions—linking it to limits of human comprehension and the quest to recreate human thinking on a computer. This program explores Gödel’s discovery and examines the wider implications of his revolutionary finding. Participants include mathematician Gregory Chaitin, author Rebecca Goldstein, astrophysicist Mario Livio and artificial intelligence expert Marvin Minsky.

    This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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  • Strangers in the Mirror

    Robert Krulwich, Chuck Close, Alexandra Lynch, Oliver Sacks The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

    What’s it like to face a faceless world? Acclaimed neurologist Oliver Sacks once apologized for almost bumping into a large bearded man, only to realize he was speaking to a mirror. Sacks and photorealist painter Chuck Close—geniuses from opposite ends of the creative spectrum—share their experiences of living with a curious condition known as “face blindness,” or prosopagnosia.

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  • Mathemagician and the Mathemagician’s Apprentice 2010

    Arthur Benjamin, Tishman Auditorium at The New School

    Mix math with magic and the result is thrilling. Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin returns in an encore presentation, with mesmerizing feats of mental mathematical gymnastics. Followed by Mathemagician’s Apprentice, at Wollman Hall, where Benjamin will divulge his secrets of doing lightning-fast mental math.

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  • Einstein, Time and the Explorer’s Clock

    William Phillips Eisner & Lubin Auditorium

    Back by popular demand, Nobel prize-winning physicist William Phillips takes us on a voyage to the lowest temperatures ever recorded. What is an atomic clock and why do they keep better time when they’re cold? And just what is the relationship between speed, temperature and relativity? Phillips shows us with jaw-dropping experiments what happens when ordinary objects are taken to the edge of absolute zero.

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  • All Creatures Great And Smart

    Jad Abumrad, Brian Hare, Jeremy Niven, Klaus Zuberbühler, Vanessa Woods, Patrick R. Hof NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

    Join leading scientists—Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods, Jeremy Niven, Patrick Hof and Klaus Zuberbühler—whose research is challenging long-held assumptions about the differences between “animal” and “human”—and learn about pin-sized brains that can count, categorize, and hold a grudge against those who’ve tried to swat them. Does your dog really think and feel like a human? Do our closest primate relatives have brains and emotions similar to ours? What about the storied intelligence of dolphins and singing humpback whales? And do other species hold surprises for us if we’re willing to look closely?

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  • Back To The Big Bang: Inside the Large Hadron Collider

    John Hockenberry, Frank Wilczek, Jennifer Klay, Marcela Carena, Monica Dunford Tishman Auditorium at The New School

    Come venture deep inside the world’s biggest physics machine, the Large Hadron Collider. This extraordinary feat of human engineering took 16 years and $10 billion to build, and just weeks ago began colliding particles at energies unseen since a fraction of a second after the big bang. We’ll explore this amazing apparatus that could soon reveal clues about nature’s fundamental laws and even the origin of the universe itself. John Hockenberry moderates a discussion among physicists including Marcela Carena, Monica Dunford, Jennifer Klay and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek.

    This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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  • Faith and Science 2010

    Bill Blakemore, Francisco Ayala, Elaine Pagels, Paul Davies, Thupten Jinpa Eisner & Lubin Auditorium

    For all their historical tensions, scientists and religious scholars from a wide variety of faiths ponder many similar questions—how did the universe begin? How might it end? What is the origin of matter, energy, and life? The modes of inquiry and standards for judging progress are, to be sure, very different. But is there a common ground to be found? ABC News’ Bill Blakemore moderates a panel that includes evolutionary geneticist Francisco Ayala, astrobiologist Paul Davies, Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels and Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa. These leading thinkers who come at these issues from a range of perspectives address the evolving relationship between science and faith.

    This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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  • Illuminating the Abyss: The Unknown Ocean

    Bill Weir, David G. Gallo, Fabien Cousteau, David E. Guggenheim, Sylvia Earle The Paley Center for Media

    The oceans remain a realm of mystery, with an astonishing 95% still unmapped, but their secrets are starting to be revealed. Journey into the deep to explore exciting discoveries like sea sponges with cancer-fighting potential and underwater mountain ranges that may hold the clue to life’s origin. ABC News’ Bill Weir moderates a discussion with marine biologist Sylvia Earle, oceanographer David Gallo and Fabien Cousteau. Rare footage of pioneer Jacques Cousteau will take us back to the early days of passionate ocean exploration; the premiere of “behind-the-scenes” footage from Jacques Perrin’s new film Oceans will inspire with a vision of what lies ahead.

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  • WSF Spotlight 2010

    Faith Salie, Debra Fischer, Mark Moffett, Mario Livio, Jamshed Bharucha Rubin Museum of Art

    Strip away the trimmings of a traditional science presentation, add cocktails, and you have the WSF Spotlight. An intimate, cabaret-style setting provides an unobstructed glimpse into the minds of some of the world’s most inspired thinkers. It’s a science happy hour featuring cutting edge science and one-of-a-kind talks that promise to entertain, engage and enlighten. Participants include astrophysicist Mario Livio and cognitive neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha, with Faith Salie moderating.

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  • Cool Jobs 2010

    Josh Zepps, André Fenton, Dennis Hong, Jill Tarter, Pamela Schaller Eisner & Lubin Auditorium

    Imagine hunting extraterrestrial life for a living. Or getting paid to study South African penguins. Meet scientists with some of the coolest jobs in the world; watch as a neuroscientist scans a brain and a robot inventor brings his complex and novel creations to life. Get inspired by the possibilities. Participants include roboticist Dennis Hong, neuroscientist André Fenton, extraterrestrial life hunter Jill Tarter and aquatic biologist Pamela Schaller; Josh Zepps moderates.

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  • Armitage Gone! Dance in the New York Premiere of “Three Theories”

    Faith Salie, Karole Armitage, Janna Levin, Lawrence M. Krauss, Michio Kaku Cedar Lake Theater

    Internationally renowned choreographer Karole Armitage has created a stunning dance of high-speed duets, sensual undulating moves and shape-shifting formations. Inspired by Brian Greene’s book, The Elegant Universe, Armitage translates key concepts in contemporary physics into a thrilling kinetic ride. Following performances on Friday and Saturday, the choreographer and noted physicists Michio Kaku (Friday), Lawrence Krauss (Saturday afternoon) and Janna Levin (Saturday evening) will discuss the science behind the work and explore how these concepts informed the dance’s development.

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  • Hidden Dimensions: Exploring Hyperspace

    John Hockenberry, Escher String Quartet, Brian Greene, Lawrence M. Krauss, Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Shamit Kachru NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

    Extra dimensions of space–the idea that we are immersed in hyperspace—may be key to explaining the fundamental nature of the universe. Relativity introduced time as the fourth dimension, and Einstein’s subsequent work envisioned more dimensions still—but ultimately hit a dead end. Modern research has advanced the subject in ways he couldn’t have imagined. John Hockenberry joins Brian Greene, Lawrence Krauss and other leading thinkers on a visual tour through wondrous spatial realms that may lie beyond the ones we experience.

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  • Consciousness: Explored and Explained

    Alan Alda, Charlie Kaufman, Giulio Tononi The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

    Consciousness is a terrible curse. Or so says a character in screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich. Part theater of the absurd and part neuroscience fiction, the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s work captures the splintering between what we perceive and what we feel as our brains grapple with multiple layers of reality. Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, one of the world’s leading sleep researchers, casts new light on the science of the mind, probing where and how consciousness is generated in the brain.

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