Wonderfest honors Sagan's memory by bringing popular issues in science to the general public in a dialogue format that is both entertaining and educational. This year's topics, which range from genetics to computer science to physics, were chosen to address scientific questions for which there are no clear answers. Each topic will be presented in a 90-minute dialogue hosted by eminent scientists from Stanford, the University of California-Santa Cruz and UC-Berkeley, and other institutions. The dialogues are designed to encourage debate and questions from the audience.
Six controversial topics will be debated this year, including ''Where Did the Universe Come From?'' presented by Stanford physicists Savas Dimopoulos and Andrei Linde; ''Do Men and Women Think Differently?'' with psychologists Melissa Adams of UC-Berkeley and Campbell Leaper of UC-Santa Cruz; ''Is Matter Still a Mystery?'' with Nobel physics laureate Martin Perl and chemist John Brauman of Stanford; and ''Are There Natural Limits to the Power of Computers?'' with computer scientist John McCarthy and philosopher Kenneth Taylor of Stanford.
Wonderfest director Tucker Hiatt said the festival is designed to make science accessible by ''presenting provocative science questions in dialogue form - a form which reflects the exciting and contentious way that real scientists work.''
The festival will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the WonderCup Challenge, an event that tests teams of local high school students on their knowledge of basic science. The climax of the competition will occur at 12:30 p.m. with a championship round between the top two teams.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, the evening dialogue will begin with the presentation of the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization to Andrew Fraknoi, chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College and educational consultant for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
This year's Wonderfest will include two special art exhibitions. The first presents the work of Felice Frankel, a science photographer and research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her photographs encompass ''a visual representation of physical phenomena revealing hours of scientists' thinking, years of preparation and lifetimes of exploration.'' The works to be exhibited represent collaborations between Frankel and other scientists, and bring together the beautiful nature of science and the artist's eye. Her award-winning photographs have been shown internationally, and her newest exhibition, ''Envisioning Science,'' is currently traveling the United States. More information about her work can be found at http://web.mit.edu/felicef/.
Wonderfest also will feature a DVD presentation about the work of former Stanford graduate student Nancy Anderson, whose research focuses on transgenic light and the use of green fluorescent protein in research.
Tickets are available through the Stanford Ticket Office, 650-725-8727. Admission is $9 for the public and $5 for students per discussion session; discounted day passes are available. For more information, visit www.wonderfest.org or call 415-577-1126.
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EDITORS: This article was written by science writing intern Caroline Uhlik.