How a warehouse in Brooklyn is breaking down barriers between science and the arts.
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Science Sandbox

When you think of the word 'culture,' what comes to mind?

Most likely, the first things that pop in there are the visual arts and music. That's natural. They're often thought of as the cornerstones of culture in any society, along with the food we eat and the technologies we use to experience the world around us.

But if that's where you stopped, you’re forgetting one important culture pillar: science.


“Science is a part of culture. We’re here, just like the artists are here, just like the musicians are here and the writers, the photographers, designers and tech guys,” says Janna Levin, Director of Sciences at Pioneer Works. Pioneer Works is a cultural center in Red Hook, Brooklyn that is dedicated to experimentation, education and production across all cultural disciplines.

Janna Levin at Pioneer Works. All images via Science Sandbox.

When Dustin Yellin founded Pioneer Works, he wanted science and the arts to come together in one place. Pioneer Works has an open floor plan that creates a collaborative environment. It also hosts a number of events, educational programs, performances, residencies and exhibitions across all of these disciplines.

One of these events is their free Second Sundays series, which is open to the public on the second Sunday of every month, as the name suggests.

During these events, the artists in residence at Pioneer Works have the opportunity to directly engage with their local community in Red Hook and the general public as a whole, and demonstrate how their work from seemingly very different disciplines, like the arts, technology and science, can in fact come together to make a cohesive experience.

Guests are invited to explore the studios, attend exhibitions, and participate in educational programs. For example, at past Second Sunday events, visitors have been able to enjoy a mask-making workshop to create their own ceremonial-style masks, then head over to the garden right after to join the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York in some stargazing. There’s also always live music at these events, as well as free food and drinks.

“The only way you can change the world is by getting people together,” says Yellin. “The arts and sciences are our greatest soil to build community. I think when you get different kinds of people coming together, then you create a crucible for new ideas. And that’s where people can learn.”

It’s also why Janna Levin wanted to find a way to make science more visceral — like the arts.

So she created “Scientific Controversies,” a live event that is free and open to the public and where scientists discuss big, unanswered questions in science, such as: Are we alone? Is reality beautiful? Can we explain the world?

For each event, she brings together some of the world’s most notable scientists to discuss these questions. For example, back in 2014, Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek and MIT physicist Max Tegmark came together to discuss the question “Are there many worlds?” She also brought together geneticist George Church and biologist Siddhartha Mukherjee to discuss genetic manipulation.

“The controversy isn’t necessarily between the two people,” Levin explains. “It’s between people and nature.”

“Scientific controversies is about being on the far edge of what we know,” she continues. By bringing together leading scientists with curious audiences, she aims to celebrate the spirit of curiosity as a whole.

And 'Scientific Controversies' is just one example of how Pioneer Works makes science accessible to everyone.

They're also planning to launch a global science channel soon, and they’re also opening the very first public observatory in New York City. The idea is that people who visit Pioneer works will be just as inspired by the wonders of science as they are by any other cornerstone of culture.  

To learn more about Pioneer Works and their science programming, check out this video:

Pioneer Works is a one-of-a-kind cultural center where the arts and sciences collide, and programming is free to the public.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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