Cover of the book Exploring Science Through Science Fiction by Barry B. Luokkala

Book Comment: Exploring Science through Science Fiction

One of the projects we’re working on at the Center for Science and the Imagination is an effort to trace the lines of communication between science and science fiction. We know the two disciplines talk to each other, that they influence one another, and that both inspire new generations of authors and scientists. So what […]

The Refurbished Me

“Who wants to live forever?” The late, great lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, crooned. “Well, I wouldn’t mind the option.” I responded flatly, the guy parking his car at ASU. While on campus, I pondered that recent conversation with my stereo. I surmised that Dr. Doris Taylor, Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at Texas […]

Romancing the Rational: Debating the Scientific Imagination

A conversation about the Romantic Era and the scientific imagination with Richard Sha, professor in the Department of Literature at American University, Mark Lussier, professor and chair of the Department of English at ASU, and Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination.

Announcing the Winners of The Future – Powered by Fiction Competition

On May 14, 2014, Intel futurist Brian David Johnson took to Google Hangouts to announce the winners of The Future – Powered by Fiction, a competition that challenged young people worldwide to think critically and creatively about possible futures we can build together. The competition is part of Tomorrow Project USA, an ongoing collaboration between Intel, […]

Digital Culture Film: Under Fire!

A young heroine must fight not only her nemesis, but the doubts from the very city she tries to save.

I created this 2D frame-by-frame animated short for my Capstone project for ASU’s Digital Culture program during the Spring 2014 semester. I wanted to create a relatable character with real-world problems. When overcome with discouragement and doubt, it is easy for us to lose sight of our passion and drive. As a 2D artist, it can become quite disheartening to hear 2D frame-by-frame animation classed as a “dying art.” Through the use of  Under Fire! I hope to reinvigorate a drive for traditional animation as well as encourage audiences to get back to the roots of their passions. I worked in collaboration with fellow Digital Culture seniors Alexa Boccieri and Antwaun Smith to complete this project.

“Under Fire!” debuted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014 at ASU’s Digital Culture Showcase.

Learn more about my work at

To the Best of Our Knowledge

CSI and Imagining Possible Futures on Public Radio

This article originally appeared on ASU News Ed Finn, director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English, was featured on the public radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge, in an episode titled “Imagining Possible Worlds,” about science […]

5 Burning Questions: David Rothenberg

In this episode, we talk with interspecies jazz musician and philosopher David Rothenberg. David appeared at Arizona State University’s Emerge: Carnival of the Future on March 7, 2014 to perform alongside flying quadcopters and the band There Is Danger. Click here to watch a clip of the performance, titled “Drone Confidential,” and visit Slate’s Future Tense channel to read an article about the process of creating the performance. Check out this transcript of the interview, or watch the video below!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is David Rothenberg. I am a musician and philosopher and I’m known for playing music with various creatures: birds and whales and insects.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

I’m looking forward to greater understanding between people with different points of view around the world. I’m looking forward to solving the problems that plague us now.

What are you dreading most about the future?

What I dread most about the future is, I think, what I dread most about the past; the capacity for people to do really terrible things to one another. Some part of us really enjoys that. People have always known how to be evil. The tendency is inside all of us. This isn’t going to go away. It’s something that really has to be tempered and watched.

How can musicians and philosophers help us prepare for the future?

Music has always brought a lot of joy to people. It’s always one of those things that has taken people’s minds off of the worst problems of any age throughout history, and now into the future. But I like the idea of making music with sounds from beyond the human world, playing music with musicians who [you] might not have previously thought were musicians, like 17 year cicadas and humpback whales. These animals are making music and when you realize that, the whole world becomes just a little bit more beautiful and accessible in an artistic way. And it’s like I find this wonderfully exciting new way of looking at things. So one way music can make the world seem ever more alive [is] if you listen more carefully, listen more closely.

How can we teach and learn for the future?

Be open to all kinds of new ways of perceiving everything, to try and understand. There’s a famous idea in philosophy in the 20th century that we can’t understand what other beings think. “We’ll never know what it’s like to be a bat,” said Thomas Nagel. Or Wittgenstein said, “If a lion could talk, we would not understand him.” And I just don’t think those things are true.

Humans do learn more and more about the world around us, but we still know hardly anything. There’s so much going on, and it’s so huge and so vast. The more time we spend trying to learn about the surrounding world, the better we will understand it and be able to save it and fit into it – without destroying it and running it all over with our ideas and our certainty about ourselves.

What story or piece of music most inspires you?

One piece of music that I think of is a piece by Olivier Messiaen, the French composer, called the “Quartet for the End of Time,” which is one of the most famous pieces of 20th century classical music. Many things are known about it, like it was written in a prison camp when Messiaen was a French soldier captured by the Germans and he was imprisoned in France. He was allowed to write this piece of music and instruments were found, and the performance was held – at not quite a concentration camp, but a prison camp – of this very experimental work of music. It was especially experimental at that time, but also it’s very accessible and it’s about the pain and beauty of the 20th century, if you listen to the whole thing. It sort of encapsulates what’s best about 20th century music.

An Aerialist, Two Clowns, and a Robot Walk Into a Carnival …

In his 1984 film The Terminator and its sequels, James Cameron imagines a dystopic future in which armies of intelligent robots move with startling suddenness from positions of servility to utter and violent dominance, destroying civilization and driving humankind to the brink of extinction.

This, of course, is pure science fiction. There’s little reason to believe things will unfold that way. First, they would take all our jobs and wreck our economy.

This is the nightmare narrative of our future with robots and artificial intelligence. The utopian version of this tale—one accepted by many powerful people in industry and government—involves a …read more

Confess Your Digital Sins

A voice cries out in the desert:

“Know thyself, not thy selfies!”

“Digital media will not save you!”

“The zero is not whole and the one is not The One!”

Technically, we’re not in the desert—we’re in a dusty parking lot in downtown Phoenix. And the voice is not coming from the Prophet Isaiah, but from professor Ron Broglio, whom I’ve ordained as a Minister of the Digital Tabernacle. As people wander into the massive circus tent at Arizona State University’s Emerge: Carnival of the Future, they are greeted by a pair of shifty evangelists preaching the analog Word. (Disclosure: …read more

How to Make Music With Drones

The good thing about performing music with drones is that they always show up for rehearsal on time. The bad thing is that they might suddenly drop out of the air and onto your head.

I learned all this while putting together a piece called “Drone Confidential” for Arizona State University’s Emerge, a “Carnival of the Future” that was held in Phoenix recently. Emerge is an annual circus of cool new technologies in performance, dedicated to showing how artists and machines can work together to create something awesome. …read more

A close up photo of a computer screen with unreadable numbers and words stack on each other and all different colors.

What if Computers Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?

I recently read about the launches of both an “ultrasecure” mobile phone for protecting privacy and a clip-on camera that takes a picture of everything you do at 30-second intervals. Our cultural relationship with data is more complicated and contradictory than it has ever been, and our debates on the subject almost always center on privacy. But privacy, the notion that only you should be able to control information about yourself, cloaks a deeper tension between information and meaning, between databases and insights.

Technology, Craft and Spirituality: Building a Gyroscopic Mandala

Our friend Thad Trubakoff, an MFA student in Woodworking at ASU and a contributor to our recent Cautions, Dreams and Curiosities anthology, just let us know about a cool new project, which he calls “Gyroscopic Mandala.” Check out the demo video and read Thad’s guest post about the project below. To learn more about ASU and Mandalas, which have been popping up around here a lot recently, visit our Emerge 2014: The Carnival of the Future website:

Wonder Dome

The Wonder Dome: Embodied, Interactive Stories in an Immersive Environment

Humans tell stories; how we tell them changes.  Wonder Dome is a touring performance platform that brings traditional storytelling into the 21st century by inviting audiences of all ages into an interactive, 360-degree immersive dome where stories are encountered, explored and told by mixing ancient forms of live performance with cinema, gaming, human-computer interaction and […]

Kim Stanley Robinson: The Political Novelist


Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the epic Mars Trilogy, is known for applying scientific thinking to politics in his fictional worlds. Robinson’s stories are often centered around political struggles and governmental structures that allow the reader to question their unexamined beliefs about capitalism and democracy. Writing for The New Yorker, essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider argues convincingly that Robinson is one of the greatest political novelists of our time.