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Spotlight: Innovation from Unexpected Places

Date & Time

Saturday, June 2, 2012
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
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Galapagos Art Space

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 Silva

    Television personality, filmmaker and philosopher, Jason Silva was recently described as “part Timothy Leary, part Ray Kurzweil, and part Neo from The Matrix.” Others have described Jason as “A Digital DJ, a re-vitalizer and remixer of optimism, and above all, a curator: of ideas, of inspiration, and of awe… like a trumpet player or modern-day digital Mingus, he jams, riffs and rhapsodizes through a tumbling thicket of ideas with such a sharp and vital alacrity that it can take the breath away." More »


  • Cynthia Bir

    Biomedical 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, and most recently, she has been investigating how explosions can cause unseen neurological trauma. More »
  • Don Ingber

    Cell 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. More »
  • Alan Jacobsen

    Material 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. This fabrication breakthrough enables the rapid formation of materials with a truss, or lattice-based architecture, similar to the type of architecture utilized in bridges and buildings. By bringing larger-scale truss-based design concepts to the materials level, Dr. Jacobsen and his colleagues at HRL are blurring the line between “material” and “structure.” This technique was the foundational technology used to design the world’s lightest material, which has been highlighted in Discover Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and National Geographic, among other publications. More »
  • Peter Jäger

    Arachnologist 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. More »
  • Maja Matarić

    Computer 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. Her Interaction Lab at the University of Southern California iscurrently developing robot-assisted therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders, survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injuries, and people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. More »