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
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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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