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What is the sound of two multiverses clapping?

Had my eye on the World Science Festival for a few years now. 2013 was the year the forces of the cosmos aligned and I was able to go. Fortunately I didn’t have to twist my BF’s arm to take the trip to NYC for this event, as he is a big nerd too.

We attended 4 events, had to get tickets ahead of time because things seemed to be selling out (yay, science!). Signed up for Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm, Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm, Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm, and Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

The whole thing, ‘cept for the big broadway performance from Brian Greene, was down at NYU, near Washington Square Park.

Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm

I don’t have any photos of this event as I followed instructions and didn’t take any inside the theater, tho if you search instagram and flickr you can find plenty of other people’s photos of the show. ๐Ÿ™‚

Going in I was expecting the typical panel discussion, even though we were in a swanky legit Broadway theater. Turns out it was Brian Greene doing rehearsed stage schtick about Quantum Mechanics, spooky action, quantum entanglements, etc, with 3 other actors and a nice multimedia show projected behind him. My nerdly self was thrilled. Through this show they got complex ideas across as well as taught a bit of the history of how physicists like Einstein and his contemporaries worked through these game changing ideas. Here’s an overview video from the WSF.

 

next we attended:

Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm

The theater waiting for “Infinity” to begin.

How do I say this? Truthfully, “Infinity” my least favorite talk. The description for this one said “Does infinity exist? Can it be found in the physical world? What types of infinity are there?“. Really the group ended up speaking about the last question: “What types of infinity are there?” One guy was working on infinity past the highest number you can count to, another guy was working on the infinity that exists between numbers 3 and 4, i.e. 3.11111111111, 3.1415927, 3.99999999998, etc. Interesting to think about, in and of itself, but I felt like the group of guys was arguing a point without having that point defined, and so no one came to any conclusion. The whole discussion was nebulous, and I felt like I was watching a pissing contest where no one knew what they were aiming for.

I, an aetheist, found myself agreeing most often with the person representing philosophy and religion, Philip Clayton. He cut to the heart of the matter a couple of times, finding a point to the discussion where the others were often speaking about their own research as an answer to a question that wasn’t explicitly asked.

Have a look at the video, jump around to listen to bits and pieces to get the complete gist of the talk.

 

then it was:

Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm

If you watch one video from this post, watch this one, as it will give you information that will help you understand things happening in medicine right now, and more widely so in the next few years.

Epigenetics.

The premise of this talk was that, before recently, scientists believed that we inherit our DNA cleanly when we are conceived. Turns out this is not the case, we instead inherit our DNA with our specific markers already turned on and off depending on the lives our parents and grandparents lived. Different genes and traits are favored by the software that runs on the hardware of our DNA.

There was a NOVA on this topic, btw, which, of course, explained the topic beautifully.

Things like a predisposition to be overweight, or to be stressed, or to be super fit, or the ability to live to the age of 100, are influenced by things including the nutrition and stress levels of parents. The speakers were always very careful in how they spoke, because they realized there can be implications if, say, someone decided to go out and sue their own mother for being stressed and therefore causing them to be unhealthy.

All of the members of the panel had their own interesting research to share, as well as ideas on more research that could be done.

And then, members of the audience asked the best questions, my favorite being about culture and such influencing the health profiles of entire populations.

Seriously, this is the video to watch.

 

and lastly,

Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

oop, look, here’s Brian Greene again introducing the discussion.

Brian Greene introduces the talk about the Multiverse

This talk was very good, basically because of this guy, John Hockenberry.

John Hockenberry moderated the Multiverse discussion

John Hockenberry (great name!) kept everyone grounded and added just the right amount of snark to keep the tone of the discussion in the realm of accessibility by the audience.

The discussion was between Andreas Albrecht, Alan Guth (MIT!), Andrei Linde, and Neil Turok. Each working on different theories on the origins of our universe including the possibility of other multiverses, the “uni” goes away when we open up to the possibility of having more than one. Three of the four were working with the theory of the existence of multiverses, and one, Linde, landed on the side of ‘nope, just the one’.

My favorite part of the talk (besides Hockenberry carrying us nicely through the discussion) was towards the end when Turok opened up the possibility that there’s not one, nor many, but TWO multiverses that exist in tandem, constantly influencing each other. Guth laughed at Turok’s video, calling it two universes clapping, and dismissed the theory outright… ‘cuz what is science but the proving and disproving of theories with experiments and calculations… or just outright mockery. The moment was funny because it was fun seeing the scientists “throw down” over REALLY abStRacT concepts. My own opinion would be to give the two multiverses clapping theory a chance, yeesh.

Here’s the video, I think I need to see it again, if only to enjoy the moderator’s commentary, and perhaps some of the science here will make some more sense.

Oh, and check this out, people getting the physicists’ autographs.

Physicist signing autographs

Good times, to summarize: go to this event. The World Science Festival is a wonderfully unique experience connecting brainiacs with the curious public.

Nerd on!

– H

Click here for all my flickr photos of the trip.

P.S. & as a post script let me point out the three places I got tasty gluten free food at while we were down there. Nizza, just west of Times Square in Hell’s Kitchen, had great dinner and brunch, completely gluten free savvy, reasonably priced, and delicious. Bareburger, near NYU, served just what you’re looking for when you order a hamburger. And Pie by the Pound, for GF pizza downtown, yum.

Yes, I let my BF have some of my root beer float at Bareburger.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012