Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of 8 May 2018

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
San Francisco, 8 May 2018, 7pm
c/o University of San Francisco
Fromm Hall - Maraschi Room
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi and Tami Spector

The LASERs are a national program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. See the program for the whole series.

Leonardo ISAST and USF invite you to a meeting of the Leonardo Art/Science community. The event is free and open to everybody. Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking.
See below for location and agenda.
Email me if you want to be added to the mailing list for the LASERs.
See also...

Program (the order of the speakers might change):
  • 7:00-7:25: Deneb Karentz (USF/Biology) on "Considerations of Antarctic Ozone Depletion" What is expected for the future of our ozone layer? ... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50: Neeraj Sonalkar (Stanford/ Design) on "What improvised theater, jazz and design thinking have in common" Design thinking has a lot in common with the improvisational mindset practiced through improvisational theater or jazz... Read more
  • 7:50-8:10: BREAK. Before or after the break, anyone in the audience currently working within the intersections of art and science will have 30 seconds to share their work. Please present your work as a teaser so that those who are interested can seek you out during social time following the event.
  • 8:10-8:35: Mauro Ffortissimo (Media Artist, Poet and Piano Deconstructor) on "What is a Piano?" A multidisciplinary creative process and ... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00: Karen Ande (Documentary Photographer) on "Witness - A photographic chronicle of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and its impact on orphaned children" Can photography act as a stimulus for social change? ... Read more
  • Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Karen Ande is a social documentary and portrait photographer based in San Francisco, California. In 2002 she began chronicling the AIDS epidemic and its effects on children in sub-Saharan Africa. Her work took her from rural villages to city slums in Kenya and Rwanda, where she photographed people who daily face the challenges of AIDS and its impact on those they know and love. This work culminated in the award-winning 2010 book with journalist Ruthann Richter: Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. Since then she has turned her attention to projects closer to home, partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics on publicizing childhood hunger in the USA. Her work--"Who's Hungry? You Can't Tell by Looking"-- was part of a campaign that resulted in the AAP recommending that all US pediatricians screen routinely for childhood hunger.
  • Mauro Ffortissimo was born in Argentina in 1962, and emigrated to the USA in 1981. He has been living, working and making art in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area since that time. Trained in classical piano, self-taught in painting and sculpting, he has worked in multiple media’s including, sheet metal and, most prominently: de-constructed piano assemblages. Mauro has pioneered the “Piano Liberado”; bypassing the keyboard and playing directly on the strings to liberate the instrument from the traditional constraints of the 12-tone scale. He is a co-founder of the music/arts organization Sunset Piano.— a live performance company that takes pianos and places them into unexpected naturalistic and urban outdoor spaces. For three years running he has co produced a major summertime piano installation in the San Francisco Botanical Garden called Flower Piano. His work is the subject of the documentary film "Twelve Pianos" by Storyfarm's Dean Mermell, highlighting Mauro's work. The film premiered as the closing film at Green Film Festival in SF’s Castro theater and will soon be available online. Mauro also writes poetry and hosts a poetry and music salon at Specs Bar in North Beach, the second Wednesday of each month.
  • Deneb Karentz is a professor of Biology and Environmental Science at University of San Francisco. Karentz became involved in Antarctic research in 1986 as a volunteer on a field team studying the photophysiology of springtime phytoplankton in McMurdo Sound. Karentz's research focuses on the ultraviolet photobiology of marine organisms: identifying strategies for protection from UV exposure and understanding mechanisms for repair of UV-induced damage. Her work has contributed to investigations of the ecological implications of Antarctic ozone depletion. Over the past 30 years, she has made the trip to Antarctica over 20 times. From 1986 - 2018 her research has been conducted at Palmer and McMurdo Stations, and aboard several research cruises in the Bellingshausen Sea and the Ross Sea. Since 1994 she has also been an instructor for the NSF advanced international integrative biology course taught at McMurdo Station and Palmer Station for early career scientists from across the world. She served for two years as the associate program manager for the Biology and Medicine Program at the U.S. National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. She has served as a U.S. representative to the Group on Life Sciences for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, and is currently the second US delegate to SCAR. She is also (since 2011) a private sector advisor for the US delegation to the Committee on Environmental Protection under the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • Piero Scaruffi is a cultural historian who has lectured in three continents and published several books on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, the latest one being "The Nature of Consciousness" (2006). He pioneered Internet applications in the early 1980s and the use of the World-Wide Web for cultural purposes in the mid 1990s. His poetry has been awarded several national prizes in Italy and the USA. His latest book of poems and meditations is "Synthesis" (2009). As a music historian, he has published ten books, the latest ones being "A History of Rock and Dance Music" (2009) and "A History of Jazz Music" (2007). His latest book of history is "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011). The first volume of his free ebook "A Visual History of the Visual Arts" appeared in 2012. His latest book is "Intelligence is not Artificial" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature. He founded the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) in 2008 and the Life Art Science Tech (LAST) festival in 2014. Since 2015 he has been commuting between California and China, where several of his books have been translated.
  • Neeraj Sonalkar is Research Associate at Stanford's Center for Design Research. The question that motivates his research is: how do engineering design team co-create new product possibilities? His research is focused on investigating how team behavior influences the generation and propagation of ideas into products. The Human Innovation Engineering group at the Center for Design Research conducts empirical and field research oriented towards acceleration of radical innovation by teams, organizations and regional ecosystems. We study and model how humans innovate both at the interpersonal interaction level and at the broader level of an organization or a regional innovation ecosystem such as the Silicon Valley. This research furthers our understanding of innovation as the outcome of an integrated system spanning individual mindset, interpersonal interaction dynamics, and the underlying physical, institutional, financial and knowledge infrastructure.

Address and directions:

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
SF, CA 94117
Fromm Hall - Maraschi Room
2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
Fromm Hall is behind the church, best accessed from Parker Ave.

Extended abstracts

Can photography act as a stimulus for social change? Can it help create a virtual community of spectators who will be aroused by the imagery to take responsibility for issues both close at hand and in distant parts of the globe? In traveling extensively, photographing for NGOs in Kenya, Rwanda, El Salvador, Nepal and the USA, I have compiled a set of images that help create community on a large scale. At a time when our country is retreating into xenophobia, promoting fear and exaggerating differences between people, my work has a different aim. I look closely at the emotions and concerns that bind us, the shared hopes that connect wildly diverse groups of people. This photographic journey will introduce you to the Batwa (forest pygmies) of western Rwanda, the slum dwellers of Nairobi, and the in-country migrants from rural areas of Kenya to large towns. All of these movements take place against the backdrop of AIDS and its impact on families before anti-retroviral drugs were available in Africa. Completing this photographic story, we will examine projects that actually work for the locals — grassroots-based NGOs that create sustainable change in their communities.

The Earth's ozone layer protects life from being exposed to the most harmful wavelengths of sunlight. Although Antarctica is one of the most remote and pristine locations on Earth, it experiences annual springtime ozone depletion events unmatched at any other latitudes. Ground-based monitoring documented the start of the depletion cycles in the late 1970s, and satellite data clearly show that both the areal extent and amount of ozone depleted each year has escalated into the 21st century. The depletion is linked directly to air pollutants released in the northern hemisphere. The Montreal Protocol (1987) is considered to be one of the most successful international agreements for environmental protection, yet Antarctic ozone depletion continues to the present day. Why do such large depletion events occur over the South Pole so far from where ozone-depleting substances are released into the atmosphere? What is expected for the future of our ozone layer? What are the ecosystem impacts locally in Antarctica and globally to Earth's biosphere?

The artist, who has brought pianos to the cliffs of the California coast, the streets of San Francisco, and the botanical gardens of Golden Gate Park, will demonstrate and illustrate a creative process that spans poetry, music, visual arts and sculpture, and that relates to the community.


Design thinking is commonly perceived as a process and a mindset for creative problem solving. This design thinking mindset has a lot in common with the improvisational mindset practiced through improvisational theater or jazz. Using an improvisational lens enables us to go beyond practicing design thinking as process-following, to practicing design thinking as a fluid, interaction-based activity. This has broader implications for how we practice creative teamwork, and the building of innovation ecosystems such as Silicon Valley. Neeraj Sonalkar has a background in mechanical engineering and design thinking. His interest in team creativity took him to improvisation theater and semiotics. Inspired by improvisational theater and the idea of a musical notation, he invented a notation for visualizing the dynamics of design teams. Neeraj is currently heading Human Innovation Engineering Research at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, where he uses improvisation and design thinking to build innovation ecosystems in cities globally.

Photos and videos of this evening