Science festival to be held at Stanford, UC-Berkeley

Bay Area students and scientists will come together to explore science and satisfy their inquisitive nature at the sixth annual Wonderfest at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley Nov. 6-7. This "celebration of the scientific spirit" honors the legacy of the late astronomer Carl Sagan by stimulating curiosity and encouraging lifelong learning in students of all backgrounds.

Stanford will host the first day of the event at the Hewlett Teaching Center on Saturday, Nov. 6, from 1 to 10 p.m. UC-Berkeley will host the second day at Pimentel Hall on Sunday, Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Each day includes a series of 90-minute "debates," moderated by high school science teachers, that examine provocative or controversial topics in modern science. The debate format is designed to reflect the contentious side of science and encourage observers to think for themselves.

Saturday's three sessions are "Is the Biosphere in Jeopardy?" with scientists Terry Root of Stanford and Jennifer Dungan of the NASA Ames Research Center; "Are We Alone in the Cosmos?" with Stanford scientist Christopher Chyba, who is also the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, and Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of UC-Berkeley's SETI@home project; and "Will Nanotechnology Change the World?" with Stanford biophysicist Steven Block and UC-Berkeley physicist Alex Zettl.

The evening session will include the "Mind Duel," a fun-spirited battle of wits between Bay Area scientists and the winning team of the WonderCup Challenge for Bay Area high school students. The Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization will be presented to UC-Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko in recognition of his dedication and enthusiasm in sharing astronomy in the classroom and beyond. The winner of multiple teaching awards, Filippenko also gives frequent public lectures and contributes regularly to science programming, including PBS's NOVA.

The event will continue on Sunday at UC-Berkeley with three sessions:

  • "Is There a Fountain of Youth for the Brain?"
  • "Have Humans Stopped Evolving?"
  • "Do We Understand Time?"
  • Though Wonderfest is geared for high school and college students, the public is welcome. Admission is free for students with identification. Others can purchase tickets for $9 per session or $20 for a day pass.

    For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit, or contact Wonderfest director Tucker Hiatt at (415) 577-1126 or via e-mail at

    Matthew Early Wright is a science-writing intern at Stanford News Service.