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  • The Sciences in Ancient Greece & Rome: How far did they get?

    Dr. Richard Carrier is an expert in ancient science. Since earning his PhD at Columbia University, he has written numerous books on modern philosophy and ancient history. In this lively, illustrated talk, Dr. Carrier will compare modern science (from the Scientific Revolution to today) with science in the ancient Greco-Roman world…

  • Hunting the Elements – PBS-NOVA Special Screening

    Where do nature’s building blocks, called the elements, come from? They’re the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. To unlock their secrets, David Pogue, the lively host of NOVA’s popular “Making Stuff” series and technology correspondent of The New York Times, spins ...

  • Physics of Baseball
    The Physics of Baseball

    Spring is no longer in the air, and the grass is worn down. But excitement is building as the boys of summer become the play-off boys of October — with the end of the Major League Baseball season. Please join two veteran physics teachers as they explain — and demonstrate — the physical nuances of ...

  • Mind Puzzles Wonderfest
    Mind Puzzles

    What if our soundest, most reasonable judgments are beyond our control? Are the feelings of being rational and having free will generated by conscious decisions or involuntary brain mechanisms? Is there a way to resolve the conflict between our innate biology and our traditional beliefs? Dr. Robert A. Burton, author of “A Skeptic’s Guide to ...

  • homo erectus - wonderfest
    Whatever Happened to Homo erectus?

    Who’s your (ancient) daddy? Did he walk upright? Could he control fire? Did he have a brow ridge that wouldn’t quit? Then maybe he was a Homo of the erectus — not so sapient — type. Many new Homo erectus specimens

  • Placebo and the Illusory Nature of Perception
    Placebo and the Illusory Nature of Perception

    The word placebo, from Latin “I shall please,” was defined in Quincy’s Lexicon-Medicum (1811) as “ adapted more to please than to benefit the patient”. But as you probably know, pharmacologically inert “sugar pills” can do much more than just please…

  • Mysteries of Sleep
    The Mysteries of Sleep

    We spend one third of our lives asleep, yet doctors and scientists still have no complete understanding as to why. It is one of the last great scientific mysteries.

  • Does the Scientific Approach to Cooking Kill the Joy?
    Scientific Cooking Kills the Joy?

    As a cookbook, Joy of Cooking has sold over 18 million copies. As a philosophy, it has enriched countless fine meals. Scientists contend that science intensifies the joy of cooking. From boiling water to baking a soufflé, scientific insights can inform and enhance most every kitchen experience.

  • Our Future with Bees

    The world’s bees can improve economic and ecological sustainability, if only we let them. We know the vital importance of bees, yet we also know that they are dying off. What does the future human condition look like in a world that incorporates bees into our architecture, healthcare, and everyday lives? Join Noah Wilson-Rich for ...

  • The Extreme Life of the Sea - Wonderfest
    The Extreme Life of the Sea

    Steve Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, takes us to the absolute limits of the aquatic world—into the icy arctic, toward boiling hydrothermal vents, and into the deepest undersea trenches—to show how marine life thrives against the odds.

  • TED-Ed’s How Fast Are You Moving?

    How Fast Are You Moving Right Now? A TED-Ed video by our own Tucker Hiatt, with more than 3/4 million views!

  • Understanding Pain
    Do We Understand Pain?

    Pain speaks as forcefully and as personally as any human experience. While the ability to experience pain is essential for survival, chronic pain is the scourge of sentient existence. As a topic of research, pain presents a formidable challenge for scientists. Why can it be so hard to control? …

  • A Biologist and a Chemist Confer on the Recipe for Life
    A Biologist and a Chemist Confer on the Recipe for Life

    Earth was once a molten ball totally uninhabitable. In a geological instant, it was filled with life. What do we know about this transformation? And could there be more than one recipe for the transition from non-life to life?

  • Viruses, Stars, Brains, & Shapes

    Earth was once a molten ball totally uninhabitable. In a geological instant, it was filled with life. What do we know about this transformation? And could there be more than one recipe for the transition from non-life to life?

  • The Neuroscience of Magic

    From ancient conjurers to quick-handed con artists to big ticket Las Vegas illusionists, magicians throughout the ages have been expertly manipulating human attention and perception to dazzle and delight us (or scare us, or steal our watches). Of course you know that the phenomena of cognitive and sensory illusions are responsible for the “magic” of ...

  • Is Anybody Out There

    The evening will begin with a lecture and slide presentation by UC Berkeley researcher Dan Werthimer. Then Paul Salazar, the Urban Astronomer, will lead the audience in a brief tour of the night sky. Finally, all attendees are invited to walk to a nearby site where the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers will make ...

  • Science Comedy Improv
    Science-Comedy Improv Blitz

    Actors meet scientists! See what happens when experts in comedy improvisation glorify, qualify, and versify the science insights of earnest PhD students (Wonderfest’s Science Envoys)… Laughter joins learning to capture your imagination.

  • The African Origins of Human Intelligence

    Humans commonly make the perceptual error of equating the knowledge products of a society with the individual intellectual capacities of that society’s members, but this assumption has legs and feet of very soft clay. Sure, knowledge tends to be produced by smart people in any particular society, but the concentration of energy a society can ...

  • Does Social Networking Have Side Effects?

    When we talk about social networks, we’re almost always talking about online networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, weblogs. Constantly changing and ever-increasing online media offer us unique ways to connect, collaborate, and express our interests and creativity. Yet, questions have been raised about the widespread use of social networks, revealing …

  • Overconfidence
    Overconfidence & the Frailty of Knowledge

    While self-confidence is a prized human attribute, too much confidence can be obnoxious, pernicious, and even deadly.

  • The Official Houdini Séance
    The Official Houdini Séance – Halloween!

    Join us for a fascinating journey through the early universe using the latest computer animations of early star formation, supernova explosions, and the build-up of the first galaxies. Dr. Abel’s work has shown that the first luminous objects in the universe were very massive stars shining one million times as brightly as our Sun. They died quickly and seeded the cosmos with the ...

  • Quantum Strangeness
    Quantum Strangeness Beneath Our Everyday World

    Quantum theory is our best description of the micro-world. Quantum phenomena underly all processes in nature (except possibly gravitation). Some of these phenomena — superposition and entanglement, in particular — seem very strange to those of us living and functioning…

  • Big Ideas about Big AnimalsAshley Poust & Nicholas Spano, Paleontologists, UC Berkeley
    24 September, 2018

    As human populations have been spreading during the past 50 thousand years, over half of Earth’s large animals have become extinct, and at an accelerating rate. What’s happening? And what does it mean for saving the last big animals left today?

  • Extreme WeatherDr. Michael Wehner, Senior Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
    16 September, 2018

    Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s Dr. Michael Wehner explains how changes in the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events are likely the most serious consequence of human-induced global warming.

  • Quantum Computers: Now & SoonDr. Norman Yao, Assistant Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley
    29 July, 2018

    UC Berkeley physicist Norman Yao presents the present and future state of quantum computer development.

  • Quantum QuestionsDr. Miriam Diamond, Research Associate, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

    Stanford physicist Miriam Diamond answers questions about the realm of the VERY small, especially exploring common misapplications of the word “quantum.”

  • Machine LearningDr. Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google

    Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, explains how modern software can/must incorporate machine learning.

  • The Human Drive to ExplainDr. Tania Lombrozo, Professor of Psychology, UC Berkeley

    Cognitive psychologist Tania Lombrozo suggests that our “drive to explain” itself explains some of the most remarkable human achievements, but also some of our failings.

  • Pleasure vs. HappinessDr. Robert Lustig, Professor, UC San Francisco
    02 November, 2017

    UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig explores the scientific, cultural, historic, economic, and social causes of our modern problem with pleasure.

  • The Science of Deception
    29 October, 2017

    We’ve all been fooled. Understanding how and why we’re fooled is the beginning of wisdom. A physicist, neuroscientist, and master magician help provide that understanding.

  • The Unconscious MindDr. John Bargh, Professor of Psychology, Yale University
    24 October, 2017

    Yale psychologist John Bargh presents remarkable findings about the power and scope of unconscious motivators.

  • N~1: Alone in the Milky WayDr. Pascal Lee, Planetary Scientist, Mars Institute and SETI Institute
    14 September, 2017

    According to planetary scientist Dr. Pascal Lee, the famous “Drake Equation” shows us that Earth is — most probably — home to the only “advanced” civilization in the Milky Way galaxy.

  • US Solar Eclipse of August ’17Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy, UC Berkeley

    Astronomer Alex Filippenko discusses the magnificence of the “All-American” total solar eclipse (2017) AND of the many others he’s observed.

  • March For Science

    A dozen dedicated Wonderfest fans joined the March for Science in San Francisco — alongside ~ 50,000 other lovers of science and reason.

  • Exploring Mars: the Next 100yrsPascal Lee & Chris McKay

    MARS BECKONS. The SETI Insititute’s Pascal Lee presents “Mission to Mars: The First Human Journeys to the Red Planet.” And NASA Planetary Scientist Chris McKay looks even further with “The Long View of Mars: Biology, Humans, and Terraforming.”

  • Magic vs. Quantum EntanglementKen Wharton, Professor of Physics, San José State University

    Entanglement phenomena are the closest thing we have to reproducible magic, and even physicists can’t agree as to what’s really going on.

  • The Parent as GardenerDr. Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology, UC Berkeley

    Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call “parenting” is a surprisingly new invention. Drawing on the study of human evolution and her own cutting-edge research, developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik shatters key myths of “good parenting.”

  • EXPLORING MARSPascal Lee, Andy Weir, Mary Roach
    19 October, 2016

    Sooner or later, humans will walk on the Red Planet. NASA scientist Pascal Lee and The Martian author Andy Weir want it to be “sooner,” and they have deep insights—both technical and psychological—about how to make it happen.

  • Love in the Time of Facebook
    Love in the Time of FacebookDr. Carlos Diuk, Facebook Data Scientist

    Facebook is a great way to share news, keep in touch with friends, and make fun of old photos. It’s also a gold mine of information about human relationships. Data scientists have studied the communications of people who change their Facebook relationship status from “Single” to “In a relationship.” We now know how their timeline ...

  • Understanding PainAllan Basbaum, MD, Professor and Chair, Anatomy Department, UC San Francisco

    Pain speaks as forcefully and as personally as any human experience. While the ability to experience pain is essential for survival, chronic pain is the scourge of sentient existence. As a topic of research, pain presents a formidable challenge for scientists.

  • Incomplete Nature: Consciousness, and Purpose?Terrence Deacon, Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley

    Incomplete Nature begins by accepting what other theories try to deny: that, although mental contents do indeed lack these material-energetic properties, they are still entirely products of physical processes and have an unprecedented kind of causal power that is unlike anything that physics and chemistry alone have so far explained. Paradoxically, it is the intrinsic ...