Eclectic Curiosity

Idea Festival – Day 3

Posted on September 15th, 2007, by Steve Hardy in Archives, ideaFestival 07. No Comments

Day 3 at Idea Festival 2007

The Internet is NOT Flat
Amira Al Hussaini, Georgia Popplewell, and Ethan Zuckerman

Super blogger Ethan Zuckerman kicked off the morning with a session discussing the evolution of the internet–from DARPA to now–and how it has facilitated international conversation. “We can now move atoms around cheaply (eg. Fiji water). But how global are our bits? Well, it’s as international as we want it to be.” To prove his point he showed various maps of the world – electricity use at night, fibre-optic cable lines, political net access, and media attention.

Zuckerman is a co-founder of Global Voices, a website that finds, filters, translates and amplifies grassroots media and blog reporting and commentary. He asserts that not only do people around the world want to talk with each other, they need to talk to each other if we are to solve any of the many global issues. A couple of the editors/writers behind Global Voices, Amira Al Hussaini, Georgia Popplewell, joined Zuckerman to demo the site.

Parallel Worlds, Higher Dimensions, Time Warps, and More…
Michio Kaku

I’ve blogged about Michio Kaku here at CG before. Kaku is the prominent author and professor of theoretical physics at City University in NYC. He’s best known as a co-founder of string field theory, which holds within it the incredibly difficult goal of unifying physics–gravity, weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force, and strong nuclear force–just like in the beginning (“the superforce”). Quite possibly the ultimate connect-the-dots challenge. It will also take two polar opposite religious views–the Judeo-Christian idea of genesis and the Buddhist and Hindu idea of nirvana–and bring them together. “We are on the verge of the most fantastic, mind-blowing theory of all-time,” said Kaku. Further insight into the theory is likely to be gained next year when the Hadron atom smasher near Geneva flicks on.

Kaku spoke about how most of the universe is made up of dark matter and dark energy. Only 0.03% is made up of higher elements like us. He talked about the different types of civilizations – 0 (us), 1 (control of the planet), 2, (control of stars), 3 (control of galaxies). He touched on the notion of blackholes and wormholes. He also mentioned the core metaphor to string theory, music. “The mind of God is cosmic music.” In an 11-dimension hyperspace, molecules are like musical notes on an elastic band. He didn’t get to deep into any particular area of the theory, however.

Kaku was very well-spoken and told funny jokes throughout but I must admit I was a bit disappointed overall. He opened with a ridiculous over-the-top video visualizing the future and talked a lot about science fiction to the point where it was sometimes hard to see the real and accomplished physicist on stage. I would have like to know a bit more about string theory and the exploration surrounding it but I suppose these talks and his many media appearances are more of a popularizing effort on his part. In that sense, he seems to be doing a great job.

“Green” Landscape Design
Ignacio Bunster-Ossa

Ignacio Bunster-Ossa is a landscape urbanist and works with Wallace Roberts & Todd in Philadelphia. His presentation was an overview of the renewed movement towards large and eco-responsible urban park development in the US. He started, of all places, with an image of an atomic bomb mushroom cloud. That visual connects to the threat that established the gigantic and expensive American Interstate Highway System project, which has shaped a majority of our current land use patterns. He added here that we cannot sustain current population growths with such land use. The suburban single-family set-up needs to be rethought and this is where the new greening ideas are coming from.

Bunster-Ossa walked us through several slides sampling various architectural styles, particularly ones that fit within their larger context and which integrate gardens and water into the design. “Imagine buildings of gardens, then translate that to the city scale, and then to the grand region.” He calls that the Green Continuum.

He then showed us three park system projects that his firm is working on – one in Washington DC, one in Dallas, and one in Louisvile, where the father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, already has three grand parks. Bunster-Ossa considers parks as a community life force and in this way his views differ slightly from Olmsted’s use of nature more for aesthetics than for its productive qualities, such as water cleansing, recreational food growth, and composting.

West Side Story at 50: The Mind and Music of Leonard Bernstein
Richard Kogan

This was another session that’s not really bloggable. Psychiatrist and classical pianist Dr. Richard Kogan deftly recounted the biography of Leonard Bernstein, “the greatest musician America has ever produced.” Later this month will be the 50th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Bernstein’s crowning achievement, West Side Story. Kogan dissected some of “Lenny’s” musical ingredients and then played an inspired and wide-ranging sample of the famous musical.

Ray Bradbury

Bradbury, the author of such classics as The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and The Illustrated Man, appeared via teleportec, which to my surprise is basically just a projection screen. He wasn’t actually present nor was it even apparent if this was a live recording or not. He didn’t mention anything about IF, Louisville, what time it was, or where he was beaming in from. A missed opportunity. Instead, he jumped right into his life story, which he told with humour and a storyteller’s flair. His main message was to do what you love and love what you do. In his case, he loved books, libraries and authors, and that love fueled his passion which then caught the attention of collaborators, editors, and filmmakers like Federico Fellini.

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