In our ongoing efforts to promote scientific literacy across our global society, OPEN has launched the video interview series called - "Why Sci?"™. The goal of "Why Sci?" is to interview leading scientists and experts in their fields, many of whom are authorities on the topics which OPEN's international education programs cover. This is where we first introduce and explore 21st and 22nd century Grand Global Challenges (and also amazing opportunities) confronting civilization and the planet. Some of these include the impacts of Biotechnology and Gene Editing; AI, Machine Learning & Robotics; the Frontiers of Neuroscience and Bio-engineering; Privacy and Security of the Internet; Next Generation Internet; Nanotechnology; Quantum Computing; Frontiers of Particle Physics and Astrophysics/Cosmology; Commercialization and Colonization of Space; Gracefully Backing Out of the Anthropocene Age; and Apocalyptic Dangers Nature Poses to Humanity.
Through "Why Sci?" we introduce our young earth-bound citizens and curious adults to these leading scientists and experts to learn about their exciting and important work, the positive and possible negative implications of their work/research, the machines they use, their predictions for the future of humanity and the planet, and a little bit about the real person behind the science or discipline. We also intend to uncover what motivated, inspired, and thrilled them enough to embark on the long journey to become a scientist and expert in their chosen field.
The "Why Sci?" Series is co-hosted by Ashley Ruiz and Owen Kent (and sometimes by George Newman), edited and directed by Owen Kent, and produced by George Newman. Omri-Shir Dallal is sometimes found behind the camera and also has assisted in technical support.
Professor Martin John Rees
Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, is an Astrophysicist and Cosmologist. Lord Martin has contributed a great deal to our understanding of the universe, doing seminal research work on the ‘Big Bang’, black holes, galaxy evolution, and the multiverse. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge from 2004-2012, and President of the Royal Society, just to name a few of his professional posts and honors.
In addition to his research work in cosmology and astrophysics, Lord Martin writes and lectures extensively on science policy and the challenges of the 21st century and beyond - the ethics and implications of science and technology for humanity and the planet. He is co-founder of the Centre for Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, a Scientific Advisory Board member of the Future of Life Institute, and sits on the Board of Sponsors for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Professor Rees has also written many popular science books on these issues and his research work. Some of these include his latest book, On the Future: The Prospects for Humanity. Other books include: Our Final Century; Before the Beginning; Just Six Numbers; Our Cosmic Habitat; From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons. Check out the Vanity Fair review of On the Future:
OPEN’s Why Sci? Co-Hosts Owen and Ashley discussed his professional career, his inspirations, and advice for our young students around the world. We also learned about Sir Martin's concerns, hopes, and predictions for science and technology and the fate of humanity and the planet in the centuries ahead.
Professor George Church
George Church is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, which provides the world’s only open-access information on human Genomic, Environmental & Trait data (GET).
George and his Labs’ research and development work includes the most powerful tool yet, for repairing and altering the gene code-Genome Engineering with CRISPR Cas-9. Other work includes using CRISPR Cas-9 for the revival and restoration of the Wooly Mammoth and other extinct mammals. Additionally their team has developed a method of identifying extraterrestrial genomes if their DNA and RNA are found to be similar to Earth life. Programs on aging and life extension research, the BRAIN initiative, and much more are additional areas of R&D for Church Labs at Harvard Medical.
Dr. Church’s 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding. For a look at the wide range of cutting edge scientific,technological, and nano-engineering biotech work coming out of the Church Labs.
Dr. Sara Seager
To learn about the exciting frontiers of exoplanet research in finding planets orbiting other stars, OPEN’s Why Sci? Team conducted an interview with leading Exo-Planetary Scientist, Professor Sara Seager of MIT.
Co-Hosts Owen Kent and Ashley Ruiz situated on campus at University of California, Berkeley interviewed Professor Seager in her office at MIT, via Skype. George Newman, founder of OPEN, also at MIT, helped manage the connection and session.
In an engaging hour and a half dialogue with our Why Sci? co-hosts, Professor Seager discussed her exciting groundbreaking work and that of her colleagues in their primary search for other habitableplanets beyond our solar system (Habitable Exoplanets) and The Hunt for Earth’s Sibling. During this interview Professor Seager describes the many fast-evolving and sophisticated technologies, spacecraft systems, and scientific sleuthing work required for a successful search that her team at MIT and NASA and others are working on 24/7.
Sara also gave us insight into her daily work life and the many challenges faced by a pioneering young scientist in this new field of research. This included a window into the personal life of a caring loving Mom fully attending to day-to-day family obligations in between interplanetary rocket launch missions!
This will be a civilization-jolting news event when they are able to unequivocally confirm that a galactic neighbor is home to microbial or multicellular life akin to ours.
Someday soon we hope, Sara and her colleagues will have a space-telescope’s eye view of this new living world merrily circling some star relatively nearby. Please follow her on her historic quest – and through Twitter.
Dr. Nicholas Pilcher
The WhySci? team was able to interview Dr. Nicholas Pilcher, Marine Biologist and Turtle Researcher and Conservationist.
This interview was conducted via multipoint videoconferencing with our interviewers at University of California at Berkeley and Dr. Pilcher in Sabah, Malaysia. The multipoint session was managed via Skype by George Newman, in Scituate, Massachusetts, USA.
Dr. Pilcher’s work and research is conducted all across the Indian Ocean basin from Oman to Malaysia and every country in between. Hear him explain his life’s work, and what is fun and continually motivating him to protect these important species and the ecosystems across the world upon which they depend.
Music and Science
"Save Me! - I am the Hawksbill Turtle"
In the Turtle Trails “Save Me! - I am the Hawksbill Turtle" game a player helps critically endangered Hawksbill turtles to successfully go through the land-based stages of their reproductive cycle on Halape, a Hawaiian beach within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO),while avoiding numerous human-derived and natural hazards.
Interactive-story segments between runner levels inform the player about associated statistics and Hawaiian culture, while giving the player meaningful choices for the next level's play; these segments also offer opportunities for active reflection and assessment during the game.
Leveraging familiar elements of popular entertainment games, Turtle Trails is primarily intended for diverse learners ages 7 - 13 (but should appeal to older players too), in both casual play and structured classroom environments.
“Save Me! - I am the African Elephant, Rhino & Lion"
Episodes I & II
Serengeti Trails “Save Me - I am the African Elephant, Rhino & Lion" is the first Episode of OPEN’s illegal wildlife crime STEM+ educational game series.
Through an animated storybook, a player follows undercover agents of an international crime-fighting unit tracking and gathering evidence against poachers and their black market syndicate overlords.
Through game play users are given detailed background information from our time traveling wildlife conservationist characters. Players learn geography, economics, mathematics, literacy, new digital technologies, international law, life sciences, and ecosystem impacts of several African iconic species being pushed toward near-term extinction.
Leveraging familiar elements of popular animated storybook style games, Serengeti Trails-Mara is primarily intended for diverse learners ages 8 - 15 (but should appeal to older players too), in both structured classroom environments, as well as casual play.
International Distance Learning
International Distance Learning Session - Hawaii Volcanoes, 12-18
International Distance Learning Session - Indoor simulations discussed by students in Liberia and Brooklyn, NY
Project Based Learning
Community Emergency Services Education:
Save Me! I am the City of Goma, DRC – City of 2 million living under a very active volcano
Hawaii Volcanoes - Kilauea-Pele Awakens
Sustainable Agriculture & Forestry:
Save and Restore Me! I am a Damaged and Depleted Ecosystem – Case studies and comparative analyses of West Kenya, Liberia, Australia, East DR Congo, Liberia, and Kenscoff, Haiti farming regions and forests
Endangered Species Ecosystem Restoration Series:
Save the African Elephant & Rhino - A Student Policy Initiative
Save the Sea Turtle - IoT Turtle Tracking/Monitoring STEM+ Challenge
Forthcoming Community Infrastructure Programs:
Sustainable Cities - Vertical Farming, Biomass Renewable Energy, Pollution Remediation/Recycling, Health Emergency Services, Future Transport, Future Internet
Labs concerning topics in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics + The Arts, Humanities, Global Studies/Cultures.
Colleagues from the Goma Volcano Observatory and students from Cinquantenaire school in the DRC will continue to build and soon deploy our IoT sensor networks there to monitor that potentially devastating volcano, while we work to bring in student and Park reporters for live and pre-recorded presentations from the Big Island of Hawaii. For OPEN’s Community Infrastructure focused STEM Lab assignment, OPEN offers our students the opportunity to share their own Lab work efforts with their peers doing the same experiments. With IoT sensors, students can share the data output from their local sensors to compare and contrast their data and research results with their remote peers, and scientists and experts in that area of study. Student-directed cross-cultural education is alive and well for the 2018-2020 OPEN school years.
Programs include opportunities for training and networking for teachers and staff