Last week, The Exchange brought its Science Speed Dating format to Los Angeles. The event kicked off with a YouTube video titled “The Fiction of the Science,” featuring Robert Wong from the Google Creative Lab. In the video, he argues that the collaboration between art and science is crucial to actual scientific development, detailing examples from popular movies and television shows, such as Iron Man and Star Trek, where technologies on the screen have inspired real-life products. Before we build it, we have to imagine it.
After setting the tone for the evening with the idea that science and art inspire each other, the event connected more than 100 guests to 7 scientists. Like Science Speed Dating in New York, our guests were separated into seven different rooms where they had the opportunity to hear a 7minute talk from each of the scientists.
Mekka Okereke from Google championed the value of ubiquitous computing and the ability to bring the Internet to those in the developing world. Karen Reilly from Tor spoke about the future of online privacy and surveillance. Beth Shapiro, a professor in paleogenomics from UC Santa Cruz, taught us how we could bring extinct species like mammoths back to life. Christine Trinkle, a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky, amazed us with her work on cell-scale micro-robots that could help deliver drugs in the body. Thomas Wagner, a scientist at NASA, expertly demonstrated the importance of Earth’s polar regions, glaciers, and sea ice in reference to our changing climate. Sabrina Williams, another Google engineer, gave us the scoop on Google X, the semi-secret facility dedicated to special projects like Google Glass and the self-driving car. And lastly, Chaoting Wu, a professor at Harvard Medical School, informed us of the possibilities of gene therapy and enthralled us with her observations on how the human race has changed since the advent of full genome sequencing.
As the countdown began to signal the end of one talk, there would be groans from both the entertainers and the scientists. Seven minutes just was not enough time. No one wanted it to end, and everyone still had questions to ask. Which was, of course, exactly the point of the event. Getting everyone to want more science? When does that happen?
So, at the end of the evening The Exchange brought everyone together for a spirited Q&A session moderated by filmmaker Richard Kelly, best known as the creative force behind Donnie Darko. Throughout the event, the theme was not only the possibility of the future of science, and how this can be translated to the big or small screen, but it was also the responsibility of conveying this science.
At the end of the night, a filmmaker asked why the scientists have dedicated their lives to their chosen field. The scientists all pointed to their larger altruistic goals that should obviously be admired and respected, whether they be curing cancer or solving climate change or providing everyone in the world access to proper health care and other technologies. Still, their answers always seemed to cycle back to one thing: because it’s fun.
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