Believing in Something Bigger

Dear Wonderfest friend, 

“Believe in something bigger” is the current sales pitch of the California Lotto. Presumably the “something,” here, is the probability P of winning the Powerball six-number jackpot: P = 0.0000000057 (that’s 1 in ~ 175 million). Believing in a probability bigger than this—much MUCH bigger than this—is the only “reasonable” explanation for buying a lotto ticket.
Lotto Billboard
Wonderfest friends have no problem believing in “something bigger.” At last week’s Modern Origins Story: From the Big Bang to Habitable Planets, astronomer Eliot Quataert (pictured at center, below, at StrEat Food Park) showed us that ~ 1030 cubic lightyears of space is plenty big. And that’s just the portion of the universe that we can see!
Modern Origins
Believe in something bigger. Of course, I shouldn’t interpret the word “bigger” so literally. The Lotto folks mean “big” in the sense of living large: getting rich and being able to buy a better life. But what about buying life itself … by SAVING a life? The state-of-the-art life-saving medical marvel seems to be stem cell research.
On June 4, also at StrEat Food Park, Wonderfest and Ask a Scientist join forces to present The Promise of Stem Cells: Hope or Hype?  Researchers Uta Grieshammer and Kevin Whittlesey will show us just how “big” stem cells really are in the realm of saving and improving lives.

Stem Cells

Believe in something bigger.  Or maybe “bigger” means “more wonderful”!  In that case, I again point to an upcoming Wonderfest event: Time Travel Not Guaranteed.  What could be more wonderful than time travel?! On June 8th, we will watch a terrific little movie called “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and then hear physicist Ken Wharton describe the logical perils of time travel.

This limited-seating event is the third in Wonderfest’s Cinema Science series that benefits Variety Children’s Charity as well as Wonderfest. It takes place just a few blocks from StrEat Food Park at the Variety Preview Theater on Market Street. At this moment only 45 tickets are available, so please act promptly.
Time Travel Not Guaranteed
Believe in something bigger. The spiritual overtones of this command are obvious, too — if not to the Lotto advertisers who crafted the slogan, then surely to us Wonderfest folk. The science that we believe in—that we have so much gorgeous evidence for—is enormous and life-affirming and wondrous. The global effort to understand “the awesome machinery of nature” (as Carl Sagan put it) enriches us like nothing else. In our lives, science is “something bigger” for sure.
Wondrous regards,
Tucker Hiatt
Executive Director
P.S. Need even more science in June? Please remember to consider SkeptiCal, the NorCal Conference on Science and Skepticism, on June 15 at the Berkeley Doubletree Hotel. The official experiment of SkeptiCal investigates the claim that hot water freezes faster than cold water. This is I.C.E., of course, the Incredible Community Experiment that Wonderfest introduced last fall. Have you done the experiment yourself, yet?