TEDxBinghamton to talk “God particle,” zombies, Artificial Intelligence

Series of talks by tech and science experts set for February 24

Whether it’s artificial intelligence or dating in America, the God particle or the “death” of the zombie, Binghamton University’s third annual TEDx is bringing an expert to cover it — this year seeking to delve into everything from great scientific breakthroughs to fascinating breakdowns of our day-to-day lives.

Daniel O'Connor/Staff Photographer Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger speaks during the spring 2012 TEDx talks held in the Anderson Center.

Eight speakers will present at this year’s “Sex, Tech & Rock ‘n’ Roll” TEDx event, which will take place at 1 p.m. on Feb. 24 in the Osterhout Concert Theater. The event is part of TED — Technology, Entertainment, Design — a nonprofit organization that licenses to groups interested in holding TEDx events in their communities.

TED talks are typically 20 minutes long and feature topics related to science, technology or culture.

Among this year’s headliners is David Ferrucci, award-winning IBM researcher, who will discuss his role in creating the Watson artificial intelligence, and how it revolutionized the field of AI.

With the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, Kyle Cranmer, an New York University professor and physicist, will dissect the significance of the God particle and his work on the Large Hadron Collider.

And professor John Boyer from Virginia Tech will argue that people need to look back to the Homo habilis, an ancestor to the Homo sapiens, to adapt in a changing world.

Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, will present on dark matter, explaining just what it is and what we still don’t know.

TEDxBinghamton will also highlight several unorthodox topics related to media and culture.

Alexander Macris, general manager of “The Escapist” online magazine, will examine the “dumbing down” of media and all forms of art.

Professor Daniel Drezner from Tufts University will argue against the use of zombies as a metaphor, claiming the sub-genre has reached its limit.

Tackling the issues of dating in America, Justin Garcia, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Binghamton University alumnus, will discuss the evolution of relationships.

Joshua Harker, famous American artist, will use his art to demonstrate what he considers the “third Industrial Revolution” and its effects on society.

Leonard Simmons, executive director of TEDxBinghamton and a senior double-majoring in philosophy, politics and law and political science, acquired the license from TED for Binghamton TEDx two years ago.

Simmons said the talks bring intellectual topics into a refreshing and exciting setting.

“TEDx offers students a chance to see true leaders in their fields, in a way that is much different from your usual academic lecture,” Simmons said in an email. “These speakers bring their best to these short talks, and offer inspiring stories about what made them engage in their professions in the first place.”

Jonathan Prosperi, senior director of TEDxBinghamton and a senior double-majoring in philosophy and philosophy, politics and law, considers the event to be in the same vein as formal education.

“What we are trying to do in miniature [is] what many universities hope to do on a macro scale: get together compelling educators with an audience of interested individuals, for the mutual benefit of learning something from one another,” Prosperi wrote in an email.

Prosperi said he is particularly excited to hear Thaller’s presentation on dark energy.

“Michelle has also been a personal source of inspiration for me,” Prosperi said. “As a kid, and even into my adulthood, I have been fascinated with the furthest outer reaches of space and what is at the very end-of-the-end, so to speak.”

The event is sponsored by multiple organizations and offices on campus, including the Office of the President, the Harpur College Dean’s Office, the Student Association Programming Board and the Philosophy of Science Club. The event’s budget is around $25,000, according to Simmons.

Vincent Asaro, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said he was excited to see both Macris and Ferrucci at the event.

“As someone who really enjoys video games, I’m very interested to hear Alex’s opinion on the gaming industry,” Asaro said. “As for Ferrucci, I really would like to hear a bit about the history of one of the researchers who worked on the Watson project. Artificial intelligence is something that was only still an idea when I was growing up, and now they have managed to make it a reality.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance in the Tillman Lobby from noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 12, 13, 19 and 20, online or at the door.