It was an honor to be able to attend the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on “Consciousness in Humans and Non-Human Animals” in Cambridge (UK) yesterday, thanks to my friend, neuroscientist David Edelman. The conference concluded with a dinner with acclaimed cosmologist, Stephen Hawking.
Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category
Our last seminar at Princeton was a big success. George Bisacca, a Conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was the featured guest. He dazzled the group with his stories about restoring priceless works of art, and what he had learned during his years of apprenticeship in Italy.
One result of translating lessons from magic into terms that scientists can understand (on a good day) is that it brings me great joy to organize discussions between scientists and practitioners with shared interests.
On April 23rd, with my friends Greg Calbi and Nils Norén, we organized a scientifically sound evening at Sterling Sound and Red Rooster Harlem. We invited top scientists with an interest or specialty in sound into the studio where Greg Calbi creates his magic. Greg is a legendary sound mastering engineer; his work is the final step in the recording process. He played one example after another of the kinds of choices that he needs to make each day to make a recording “sound right”. Then we all cabbed up to Harlem for an amazing feast at Red Rooster where Nils Norén served us every single thing on the menu. Nils is Vice President, Restaurant Operations of the Marcus Samuelsson Group.
It was a great evening!
Greg Calbi talked about his work at Sterling Sound.
Nils Norén hosted our incredible dinner at Red Rooster.
Thanks to the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Fund, the Humanities Council at Princeton University is sponsoring a faculty seminar on Magic, Perception, and Decisions that will explore magic and deception as they affect art, science, law, politics and other arenas of human life. Eldar Shafir, the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, is co-convener of the seminar, along with yours truly. Over four dinner sessions, we are discussing the nature and role of “magic” in human affairs.
Last night, our first invited speaker was Micah Lasher, Mayor Bloomberg’s man in Albany… and a published magician.
The Calder Foundation has asked me to help them with an upcoming project. In October of 1930, artist Alexander Calder visited Piet Mondrian’s studio in Paris. This was the moment when he embraced the abstract, first in painting and then in motorized and non-motorized moving sculpture. In February we are putting together a special event in the Netherlands commemorating this historic visit. While in Texel, I heard about a recreation of Mondrian’s studio in Amersfoort, so last week I went to check it out and also visited the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague to see the work of Mondrian and Calder.
For the third year in a row, I attended the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. This time it was held in Washington DC. My friend Stuart Firestein and I always manage to have a series of adventures at this conference…
One night we found ourselves at a party at the Spy Museum, and from there we went over to the Air and Space Museum where Jeff Lichtman from Harvard presented mind-blowing images from inside the brain showing how our neurons are connected to each other. His talk was followed by a very fancy party hosted by Zeiss, the manufacturer of incredible microscopes. In fact, this party was so fancy that they served miniature, two-bite, baked Alaskas and chocolate mousse-filled brownies for dessert. Friends from Columbia University brought over the CEO of Zeiss, James Sharp, and had me do a bunch of magic tricks for him. Then James Sharp took us over to Jeff Lichtman, and I did magic for him as well, and was able to ask him questions about his amazing presentation.
Tipped off by my friend Moran Cerf, we then headed to the third party of the night. Stuart used to drive a cab in DC many years ago and when he heard the address, he worried that it was in a dangerous neighborhood. But that didn’t stop us! Late at night, we pulled up at an Animal House-like party in a 2-story home FILLED with students where we found Moran and Christof Koch, (the Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science) in the middle of the throbbing crowd.
It was a fantastic and very nerdy night.
Performing magic for James Sharp, the CEO of Zeiss:
A few years ago I proposed an art and science conference to the Calder Foundation, a sort of meeting of the minds centered around the work of sculptor Alexander Calder. Last week, this idea came to fruition at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, thanks to the efforts of Vice Provost for the Arts Beth Turner and her team at the art museum, Vice President for Research Tom Skalak, the Calder Foundation, and our fantastic participants.
In addition to helping select the speakers for the conference, I moderated two panels – one on Art, Science and Innovation at Work, and one on Action and Perception. We brought down two art pieces from New York – O2 by Zilvinas Kempinas, and Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere by Alexander Calder.
Physicist Peter Steinberg from the Brookhaven Lab tweeted: “What a blur. Morning panel (me, Kempinas, mitton, Bart-smith) went, um, swimmingly once we noticed common interest in hydrodynamics.” A great time was had by all!
Crowd gathering to see Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere by Alexander Calder
(set in motion by Sandy Rower).
Just got back from the Gathering for Gardner in Atlanta, a recreational math conference that is held every other year in honor of the now 95-year old Martin Gardner. Gardner was the writer of the Mathematical Games column in Scientific American for over 25 years, and he’s the author of over 70 books on math and puzzles. Although Gardner himself no longer travels to the gathering, it is no exaggeration to say that G4G continues to attract the word’s foremost mathematicians, puzzlers, scientists, origami folders, artists and philosophers. Here is a small sampling of the people who attended this year – Stephen Wolfram, puzzle master Will Shortz, John Horton Conway and many others:
During the day there were presentations by the attendees, and at night there were magic and variety shows. My toy inventor friend Mark Setteducati is one of the main organizers, together with Tom Rodgers and Elwyn Berlekamp. For many years now, they have had me host the parlor magic show and the main stage show. This year we had two lovely Chinese magicians on the bill: Ruxian and Wang Lu. We traded magic secrets at a party at Tom Rodgers’ beautiful Japanese-style home outside of Atlanta.
Here are some pictures from G4G9 (click to enlarge):
L to R: Logo by Scott Kim; Ruxian does the Chinese Linking Rings; magic with silk scarves; card manipulations; post-show with Ruxian and Wang Lu, mathematician John Horton Conway and his son Gareth, Swedish magician Lennart Green, and G4G organizer Mark Setteducati.
[Photos by Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen]
It should be noted, by the way, that 8-year old Gareth Conway (pictured above) can recite the first 130 digits of pi in 40 seconds.