Connecticut has a marvelous organization called The Connecticut Forum. Four times a year, they bring together moderated panel discussions on all kinds of topics: some serious, some more fun, but all thought-provoking. It started back when I was in high school; if I remember correctly they gave away (thanks to an underwriter, I'm sure) tickets to high school organizations, and I was able to attend several that way -- I specifically remember one on race relations and one on education. (Aside: I love that they have all their past events on their website!) These days, we don't go frequently enough, and that's something we really do need to rectify. It's truly fabulous to see the Bushnell filled to capacity for an event centered around ideas.
But last night we did go, and it was truly an amazing, inspiring, and mindbending night. The theme of the evening was Vision and Brilliance, and the panelists were Neri Oxman of the MIT Media Lab, astrophysicist and science evangelist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and writer Neil Gaiman, on whom, you may recall, I have a massive crush. (Let's be honest, though: I totally crush on Neil DeGrasse Tyson too, and after last night, a new girlcrush on Neri Oxman.) And as if that wasn't enough for my nerdy little heart, the evening was moderated by John Dankosky, news director at WNPR (how much do I love that our NPR station has the honor of being WNPR?) and host of a marvelous call-in show called Where We Live.
Truly, the only bad thing about the evening was that it had to come to an end. I'm sure I speak for the entire sold-out audience of 3000+ when I say that the panel could have talked all night and we would have happily listened. Watching the three of them bounce ideas around and riff off each other (and seeing that Dankosky was clearly just as delighted as the rest of the audience) was awesome. At the beginning of the evening, the founding president of the Forum said something about being embraced in the collective glow of 3000 nerds (or something to that effect; I should really take notes at these things! Neil Gaiman had the right idea, with the notebook he whipped out of his jacket pocket) and it really was true: the sense of collective wonder and imagination and appreciation of ideas in the room was really tangible.
I really hope the Forum puts up some video of the event; I would love to re-hear some of what was said. Such interesting ideas about the intersection of art and science; the nature (literal and figurative) of design; how vision and brilliance can be explained simply by allowing people to do what they love; the future of 3D printing; the genesis of ideas; and so much more. Neri Oxman may have inspired Neil Gaiman to write a short story about Pablo Picasso's theory of relativity, which would be awesome. Tell me you wouldn't read that.
One of my favorite moments: Dankosky asked how the world will end. Neil DeGrasse Tyson gave a typically wonderul, Big Idea answer about the life cycle of the cosmos, how humans will be gone long before the earth will be, the likelihood of Death By Asteroid, and so on. Then it was Neil Gaiman's turn, and his answer, simply, was "Daleks." LOVED it. (Really, the number of Doctor Who references over the course of the evening was wonderful. And someone in the audience near us was wearing a TARDIS hat. I want one.) Another memorable moment was when Neri Oxman was asked about her current work, and she pulled a silk hankie out of her pocket and started to pull it apart, showing how the same material can simultaneously be extremely strong and durable, and yet ethereal and practically weightless. I've been wanting to try spinning yarn from silk hankies for some time now, and now I want to even more. (Christmas gift idea, people.)
In case I haven't used enough superlatives yet, it was a fantastic, amazing, memorable night, and I'm so glad I was able to have the opportunity to go. I want an encore presentation! Thanks, CT Forum, for making this happen. I don't believe that the world will end on December 21, but if it does, I think I can die happy.