Event Recap: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Science

Written by: The Exchange

Magic flying carpets, how to obliterate your enemy and the ability to see through walls; sound like something from your favorite science fiction movie? What if we told you that all of those things were technically possible?

According to Neil Gershenfeld, it’s true! All of the aforementioned technologies may be possible in the future, and the future may not be as far off as you may think.

The Science & Entertainment Exchange hosted an informal evening of science, snacks, and conversation last month, featuring esteemed professor, Neil Gershenfeld. Our gracious hosts, Janet and Jerry Zucker, opened their home to entertainers and science geeks alike, to talk about technology of the future.

Our guest of honor, Professor Gershenfeld, is no stranger to bringing the technologies of tomorrow, to our living rooms, today. Prof. Gershenfeld directs a unique center at MIT, the Center for Bits and Atoms. He also founded the fab lab network, which aims to break down the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. What began as a single lab in Boston, Massachusetts now has locations as far as Afghanistan and Australia. Check out this video for more information about the fab lab, how it works and the innovative processes they employ.

So, back to the technologies of the future! The night was peppered with laughs and audience participation as Prof. Gershenfeld explained, in principle Star Trek’s teleporter (with photon pairs entangled with trapped atoms) tractor beams (with an optical trap) and replicator (with a digital material assembler), the Terminator’s shape-shifting cyborg (with coded folding), the Death Star in Star Wars (with antiparticle annihilation), Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak (with electromagnetic metamaterials) and levitation spell (with dielectrics in a strong magnetic field gradient), Quicksilver from X-Men (with quantum superposition), flying carpets (with programmable surfaces), H.G. Wells’ time machine (with closed timelike curves), how Doctor Frankenstein could create life (by synthesizing a genome), how Professor Xavier from the X-Men could read minds (with functional magnetic resonance imaging), and how to make Deep Thought from the Hitchhikers Guide (with asynchronous logic automata). Did your mind just explode? So did ours.

Interested in getting involved? Shoot us an email, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!


The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.