News

  • Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    This article originally appeared in ASU News. Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship…

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    This article originally appeared in ASU News.

    Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship between art and science, and the importance of creative writing and imagination for addressing social and environmental challenges.

    Atwood’s visit will mark the launch of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a new collaborative venture at ASU among the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Atwood, author of the MaddAddam trilogy of novels that have become central to the emerging literary genre of climate fiction, or “CliFi,” will offer the inaugural lecture for the initiative on Nov. 5.

    “We are proud to welcome Margaret Atwood, one of the world’s most celebrated living writers, to ASU and engage her in these discussions around climate, science and creative writing,” said Jewell Parker Rhodes, founding artistic director for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. “A poet, novelist, literary critic and essayist, Ms. Atwood epitomizes the creative and professional excellence our students aspire to achieve.”

    Focusing in particular on CliFi, the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will explore how imaginative skills can be harnessed to create solutions to climate challenges, and question whether and how creative writing can affect political decisions and behavior by influencing our social, political and scientific imagination.

    “ASU is a leader in exploring how creativity and the imagination drive the arts, sciences, engineering and humanities,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination. “The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will use the thriving CliFi genre to ask the hard questions about our cultural relationship to climate change and offer compelling visions for sustainable futures.”

    The multidisciplinary Initiative will bring together researchers, artists, writers, decision-makers and the public to engage in research projects, teaching activities and events at ASU and beyond. The three ASU programs behind the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative have a track record for academic and public engagement around innovative programs, including the Sustainability Solutions Festival; Emerge; and the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.

    “Imagining how the future could unfold in a climatically changing world is key to making good policy and governance decisions today,” said Manjana Milkoreit, a postdoctoral fellow with the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “We need to know more about the nature of imagination, its relationship to scientific knowledge and the effect of cultural phenomena such as CliFi on our imaginative capabilities and, ultimately, our collective ability to create a safe and prosperous future.”

    For more information, please visit climateimagination.asu.edu or join the Twitter conversation at #climatefutures.

    Media Contact: Jason Franz, jason.franz@asu.edu
    (480) 727-4072

  • ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    This article originally appeared in ASU News, and was written by Amelia Huggins of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. The Center for Science and the Imagination will be contributing to the Foresight Initiative by developing design principles, prototypes and tools for geo-narratives and other interventions at the nexus of storytelling and geospatial data. 

    Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.

    Known as the Foresight Initiative, the cooperative agreement venture will explore how the effects of climate change on resources, such as water, food and energy, could contribute to political unrest and instability, and gain insights to sustainability and resilience strategies for mitigating the effects.

    This initiative will play a key role in collaborative research efforts to accelerate the evolution of Activity-Based Intelligence addressing system level activities, dynamics and interdependent network effects in the context of global climate risks to water security. This multi-year research partnership leverages ASU expertise and thought leadership in visual analytics, complex modeling and transdisciplinary decision-making evolving from years of internal and external investments at ASU.

    “NGA’s investment and partnership with ASU is a game-changing relationship,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This innovative research initiative will develop solutions and be a catalyst for the critical and creative thinking needed to address the complex challenges that come with climate change.”

    Leveraging computing and system modeling initiatives at ASU and partner organizations, the Foresight Initiative will apply ubiquitous cloud computing and storage technologies, advances in natural user interfaces and machine learning to address unique geospatial data handling and visual analytic challenges driven by the volume and character of future persistent data flows. The resulting capabilities will allow analysts and decision-makers to dynamically interact with diverse data sets in a real-time modeling and simulation environment. This will help them assess the effectiveness of plans, policies and decisions; discover second- and third-order causal relationships; and understand spatial and temporal patterns that reveal non-obvious underlying interconnections and dependencies.

    “I am very proud to announce our partnership with ASU, a world-class research university,” said Letitia Long, NGA director. “Our partnership is a prime example of the intelligence community working smartly with academia to address strategic global issues and to create capabilities that benefit everyone.”

    Key areas at ASU that will be integral to this work include the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Programs, Decision Theater Network and Decision Center for a Desert City.

    For example, ASU’s Decision Theater provides advanced modeling and simulation that allows diverse groups of stakeholders to visualize large amounts of data, policy parameters and environmental uncertainties on panoramic HD displays. Scientists, analysts and decision-makers can easily interact in real-time to tweak the rules and data sets to account for new insights and deeper understanding of relationships, providing a range of outcomes based on the changes. This allows for more effective decision-making among people from different backgrounds.

    “This is a tremendous partnership and opportunity for a real, tangible impact in addressing strategic security and humanitarian needs,” said Nadya Bliss, principal investigator of the Foresight Initiative and assistant vice president, research strategy with ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “It is also pioneering how the academic and government research communities can leverage each other’s strengths to seek solutions to these global-scale issues while advancing fundamental transdisciplinary research. ASU is the perfect place for this initiative because of the culture of use-inspired research and exceptional quality faculty working across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”

  • Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    From the geostationary satellite to the Taser, the submarine to virtual reality, many technologies we use today were originally conceived of by writers and artists. These visionaries imagined future inventions with remarkable accuracy, even if they didn’t know how to actually make them.

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    Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    This piece was originally published at ASU News, and written by Lorraine Longhi of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. 

    The next time you call your boss from a traffic jam to say you’ll be late for work, offer a silent “thank you” to Captain Kirk. The fictional hero of television’s “Star Trek,” Kirk often talked to his crew through a handheld communicator. Martin Cooper, the man who invented the cell phone, says the show was the inspiration for his idea.

    From the geostationary satellite to the Taser, the submarine to virtual reality, many technologies we use today were originally conceived of by writers and artists. These visionaries imagined future inventions with remarkable accuracy, even if they didn’t know how to actually make them.

    Science fiction books, movies, TV shows and art also allow us to explore the social implications of these advances. Do clones have rights? What about sentient robots? How might advances in genetics and behavioral prediction affect privacy?

    The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University brings together writers, artists, scientists and other creative thinkers to reignite humanity’s grand ambitions for innovation and discovery. They link human narratives to scientific questions and explore the full social implications of cutting-edge research. Ed Finn, director of the center, says that science fiction continues to influence science today, leading to fascinating discussions at the center.

    “Science fiction is a kind of laboratory to experiment intellectually with all sorts of ideas, and whether they’re technical or social changes, it allows you to examine all sorts of cultural assumptions about everything from justice to gender to physics,” says Finn, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.

    The center experiments with these changes and ideas through several of its own projects. Project Hieroglyph, a collaboration with author Neal Stephenson, allows scientists and researchers to write their own works of science fiction that envision futures shaped by technological innovation. Additionally, the center co-hosts Emerge, an annual festival that brings scientists and writers together to create tangible, visceral depictions of the future.

    “The most important thing science fiction gives us is a sense of possibility and a more active relationship with the future,” says Finn. “The big problem is that our time horizon is very small, and it’s very difficult to think beyond the next few years or beyond the next election cycle. Science fiction is an important tool to show us the full spectrum of possibilities for the future and to paint it as a series of choices that we’re all invested in.”

    The center also explores data-mining works of science fiction to look for technical ideas that might not have made their way into scientific literature. What was once merely a work of fiction could now be a plausible research question.

    In the realm of social impact, Finn and David Guston, co-director of ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, are leading a multi-institutional, bicentennial celebration of the novel “Frankenstein” that will take place from 2016-2018. This seminal work of science fiction demonstrates the unintended consequences that our creations can wreak upon society.

    “‘Frankenstein’ beautifully captures issues such as creativity and responsibility, and the difficult balance between letting your imagination run wild and dealing with ownership and parental responsibility of that idea,” says Finn.

    These ideas have permeated our culture in all sorts of ways and spawned countless derivatives and adaptations of the iconic monster. Indeed, Frankenstein’s own name has become shorthand for the delicate relationship between creativity and responsibility.

    Joey Eschrich, editor and program manager for the center, is also working on the “Frankenstein” bicentennial and grappling with the important questions the novel raises.

    “‘Frankenstein’ allows us to come together around a shared point of reference. One of our main goals is to create arenas for conversation where everyone feels like they have a voice in shaping the future and that their opinion is valuable,” says Eschrich. “‘Frankenstein’ and other science fiction stories are platforms where individuals can feel connected to other fields and feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.”

    One of Eschrich’s personal influences is the neo-noir thriller “Minority Report.” The movie presents a world in which a hyper-effective law enforcement system can predict – and punish – crimes before they even happen.

    “‘Minority Report’ captures the way that science fiction can be deliberative about ethics and how our technological systems affect the way we interact with one another,” said Eschrich. “We can see how the technological landscape and infrastructure of the film’s fictional world shapes people’s lives and relationships.”

    Finn cites “The Diamond Age,” a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson, as one of his own influences. The novel takes place in a future where nanotechnology pervades all aspects of life, and is a coming-of-age story that explores education, social class and ethnicity.

    “The novel excels at asking profound questions about social structure and education,” says Finn. “In my field, it’s especially relevant for reflecting on, and putting into practice, different forms of education. Why have we not yet created some of the technologies he’s imagined?”

    Researchers and faculty at the center believe there is great value in keeping scientists and engineers engaged with these imaginary worlds, as well as keeping writers and artists connected with science and technology. This interaction helps us to stay conscious of the broader implications and consequences of our scientific advances.

    “What resonates most with us is that moment of estrangement when you realize there’s something in this world that you’ve never experienced in your own life, combined with real human stories,” says Finn. “The story itself is really a blueprint for the universe, and we’re creating it with our own imaginations and agency.”

  • Researchers receive NSF grant to lead Frankenstein Bicentennial Workshop

    Researchers receive NSF grant to lead Frankenstein Bicentennial Workshop

    This item was originally published by ASU News. Three Arizona State University researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to lead a workshop…

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    Researchers receive NSF grant to lead Frankenstein Bicentennial Workshop

    This item was originally published by ASU News.

    Three Arizona State University researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to lead a workshop to build a global, multi-institutional network of collaborators to celebrate the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.”

    The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will span from 2016 through 2018, marking the anniversary of the legendary “dare” among Shelley, her husband Percy, Lord Byron and John William Polidori on the shores of Lake Geneva that ignited Shelley’s imagination, as well as the novel’s eventual publication in 1818.

    To learn more about the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project and sign up for updates, visit http://frankenstein.asu.edu.

    The project, officially titled “Informal Learning And Scholarship In Science And Society: A Multi-Disciplinary Workshop On Scientific Creativity And Societal Responsibility,” will bring together dozens of scholars, researchers, science educators, museum curators, ethicists, archivists, authors, performers, artists and technologists at Arizona State University this April to lay the groundwork for the global celebration of the bicentennial, with ASU acting as a network hub and project headquarters.

    “No work of literature has done more to shape the way humans imagine science and its moral consequences than ‘Frankenstein,’” says Ed Finn. “In this single act of imagination, Mary Shelley produced both the creature and its creator tropes that continue to resonate in our contemporary moment and actually influence the way we confront emerging technologies, understand the motivations and ethical struggles of scientists, and weigh the benefits of research with its unforeseen pitfalls.”

    The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will encompass a vast array of activities at institutions across the United States and around the world, including universities, libraries, laboratories, museums, science centers, theaters and K-12 schools.

    Projects in the planning stages include writing and artistic competitions to commemorate the fateful dare; a global film festival offering the best – and the worst – of the 250-plus films based on the novel; a Halloween costume gala; museum exhibits blending the scientific, artistic and historical; public scientific demonstrations; intellectual salons; theatrical performances; online and in-person courses; synthetic biology projects; new books and special issues of magazines and journals.

    The workshop will be split into eight working groups, representing the breadth and massive public reach of the celebration:

    • Exhibits and Installations: Frankenstein and the Creation of Life

    • Frankenstein: A Critical Edition for Scientists and Engineers

    • “It’s Alive!”: Frankenstein on Film

    • Monsters on Stage: Frankenstein in Theater and Performance

    • “MOOCenstein”: Frankenstein Goes Global

    • Engineering Life: Distributed Demonstrations

    • Reinventing the Dare: Frankenstein, Science Fiction and the Culture of Science

    • Bringing Nonfiction to Life: Frankenstein and Science Writing

    “The project seeks to take advantage of the incredible cultural resonance of Frankenstein to facilitate conversations among scholars of vastly different disciplinary stripes, as well as among all those scholars, artists, performers, and the broader public,” says David Guston, co-principal investigator. “Such conversations are critical for the broad, democratic governance of today’s science and technology.”

    Many other groups at Arizona State University will join in celebrating the bicentennial, including the ASU Art Museum; ASU Libraries; Institute for Humanities Research; Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; Center for Biology and Society; Program on Jewish Studies; all research units in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, among others. External partners include the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Bakken Museum.

    Ed Finn, principal investigator, is the director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.

    Guston, co-principal investigator, is the co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, and a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

    Stephen Helms Tillery, co-principal investigator, is an associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and a Fellow of Ethics and Bioengineering at the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

    For more information on ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Celebration, visit http://frankenstein.asu.edu.

  • ASU collaborates on “American POP!” comic book, sci-fi exhibit

    ASU collaborates on “American POP!” comic book, sci-fi exhibit

    From Jan. 17 through June 8, the Tempe Center for the Arts presents “American POP! Comic Books to Science Fiction…and Beyond,” an exhibition that explores the transformative effects that science fiction and popular culture have on our everyday lives and the technology that surrounds us.

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    ASU collaborates on “American POP!” comic book, sci-fi exhibit

    This item was originally printed by ASU News, and was written by Nikki Cassis of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

    The popular culture we love – movies, TV, literature, video games – can have an enormous impact on the way we see the world, and it feeds our passion to learn about new ideas and imagine the world differently. This is especially true for science fiction: many scientists and engineers can trace their interest in science back to a moment in their past when a fictional universe like “Star Trek” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” inspired them to learn more about the world around them.

    From Jan. 17 through June 8, the Tempe Center for the Arts presents “American POP! Comic Books to Science Fiction…and Beyond,” an exhibition that explores the transformative effects that science fiction and popular culture have on our everyday lives and the technology that surrounds us. Displays include materials from local and national collectors, original art and limited edition pieces from some of America’s favorite pop culture icons, as well as science exhibits.

    The Tempe Center for the Arts and Arizona State University have worked together to create an exhibit that will investigate the relationship between popular culture, scientific inquiry, technological innovation and cultural change. Several ASU units, including the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Center for Science and the Imagination, contributed to the design of the exhibit.

    In an effort to bring some reality to all the pop culture and science fiction, the School of Earth and Space Exploration will be providing nonfiction scientific displays and all-too-real, stunning images of actual science, including exhibits specific to the moon, Mars and meteorites.

    The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team, located on ASU’s Tempe campus, will be providing 24 framed lunar images and a few larger panels. The Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies will provide images from various early NASA missions, including Viking and Voyager. The Mars Space Flight Facility will provide images from various missions, past and ongoing, including a panoramic landscape that will be used as a backdrop for “Marvin the Martian,” a 4-foot-high 3-D model that belonged to the iconic character’s creator, Chuck Jones. A replica of the ray guns that Marvin used will also be available for a photo op. The Center for Meteorite Studies will provide samples of lunar, Martian and other meteorites to be displayed in each of these exhibits. As a part of the meteorite display, artistic and informative digital images of meteorite sections will be displayed as large banners.

    As a part of this innovative exhibition, Tempe Center for the Arts also partnered with ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. The ASU center filmed a series of video interviews with scientists, engineers and other creative people from ASU and beyond, tracing the influence of science fiction and popular culture on their education, their careers and their scientific and creative work. The video exhibit is online now at csi.asu.edu/tca-pop, and will air in the exhibit, starting Jan. 17.

    “Our mission is to bring scientists, engineers and technologists together with writers, artists and other creative thinkers to imagine our future differently,” says Ed Finn, Center for Science and the Imagination director. “Building these collaborations has helped us realize that there is a vibrant flow of ideas between the scientific community and the science fiction community. This exhibit is a great example of how understanding pop culture helps you better understand the culture of science and engineering, and vice versa.”

    Two School of Earth and Space Exploration scientists are featured in the video collection. Earth and space associate research professor David Williams discussed how his work on planetary geology was inspired by his childhood fascination with the “Star Trek” universe, complete with a question about “cold fusion,” a science fictional process that “Star Trek’s” Dr. Spock (Williams’ favorite fictional character) uses to stop a volcanic eruption in the 2013 film “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

    Melissa Morris, assistant director of the Center for Meteorite Studies, was also interviewed, with her interview focusing on science fiction’s ability to present optimistic and inspiring visions of the future, as well as the planet-generating spaceship featured in the film “Titan A.E.” Other ASU scholars featured in the collection include David Guston, co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Jeff Yarger, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Ron Broglio, associate professor in the Department of English.

    A collection of Williams’ and Morris’ science fiction-related personal items will also be on display at the exhibit. Be sure to check out Williams’ “Star Trek” uniform from his graduate student days, and a retro “Star Trek” transport toy – with all the characters.

    Each Friday evening from Jan. 17 through June 8, Tempe Center for the Arts will host Sci-Fi Friday, featuring presentations on subjects ranging from robotics to game design to planetary imaging. Several SESE community members, including a student, will be presenting.

    • Feb. 7: David Williams, “Asteroids, Ion Propulsion and NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta and Ceres”
    • Feb. 14: Graduate student Teresa Ashcraft will present hands-on demonstrations, Internet resources and lesson plan information for teachers
    • March 14: Professor Mark Robinson will discuss what scientists have learned about the moon from recent missions and the future of lunar exploration
    • April 4: Melissa Morris, “Rocks from Space”
    • April 11: Meg Hufford and Amy Zink from the Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies

    Further details can be found at: http://www.tempe.gov/index.aspx?page=661.