World Science Festival

TOPIC: science for the masses?

A World Science Festival? Yep, the first World Science Festival took place recently in New York City. As reported in the New York Times, the 5-day festival drew large crowds, and most if not all events were sold out, even with multiple festival events running concurrently. Looking over the events and participants (see http://www.worldsciencefestival.com), perhaps that's not entirely surprising. The originators of the festival—Columbia physicist Brian Greene and his wife, Tracy Day, a former producer for ABC news—put together an fascinating and enticing collection of more than 30 events celebrating and exploring science, with a world-renowned cast of players. With an estimated 120,000 people in attendance, the inaugural event drew enthusiastic crowds and greater than anticipated interest; plans are already underway for another festival next May.

I'd be interested to know more about the demographics of the Festival attendees. Relative to the population of and tourism in New York City, 120,000 attendees is somewhat less remarkable. Or is it? Perhaps that depends not only on the number in attendance, but on other characteristics of those in attendance.

Regardless, it's intriguing to consider science festivals as an addition to our array of cultural events. As Brian Greene, physicist and co-founder of the World Science Festival states, "The World Science Festival aims to spark a movement where science shifts from the cultural outskirts to the cultural center."