IF Water: Challenge the Way You Look at Water

Enjoy this guest blog post from IF Water. I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Wayne

Are you willing to challenge the way you look at water?

Water. It’s one of the Earth’s most powerful and precious resources, yet many people in this country rarely think about how fortunate we are to have easy access to a seemingly limitless supply of water. If we are thirsty or need to wash our hands, we turn on the facet and it flows freely. How often do you think about where your water is coming from, or how much you are consuming? Have you ever had to worry about how you’re going to get safe drinking water for your family?

As Founder and CEO of WaterStep, a local non-profit that works to create water solutions and fund water projects all around the world, it is my job to bring awareness to the world water crisis and to rally people to help fight this severe problem. One of the ways we do that is by hosting the IF Water Conference, part of IdeaFestival®, which will be held on Tuesday, September 30th at The Kentucky International Convention Center.

This marks the 3rd year for this event, and the water activists and experts that will participate are going to lead us in some mind bending discussions that will forever change the way we look at water. New this year, students from around the world will be “attending” this event via live streaming, and they’ll even have the opportunity to tweet in questions to the panel of our water experts.

Fabien Cousteau is an oceanographic explorer, conservationist and documentary filmmaker. As the first grandson of Jacques Cousteau, Fabien spent his early years aboard his famous grandfather’s ships. Today, Fabien continues to fulfill his family’s legacy to protect and preserve the planet’s marine habitats. Fabien will share stories from his recent 31-day mission living under the sea, the longest time a human has spent underwater.

Rose George is a Journalist from England who will speak about sanitation issues worldwide. As the author of The Big Necessity, Rose George brings a global perspective to sanitation practices and behavior. Rose will speak about the cultural, bacteriological, and psychological landscape of sanitation throughout the world. 

Pat Mulroy earned her fame as the general manager of the Las Vegas water district, where water usage has decreased over the last two decades, despite continued population growth. Pat Mulroy has led the Southern Nevada Water Authority through one of the worst droughts in the history of the Colorado River region. Pat will share more than 20 years of experience with water conservation in the United States.   

After hearing each of these fascinating presentations, we’ll use creative thinking to explore solutions that could potentially result in saving lives.

As always, the IdeaFestival® invites you to Stay Curious™. At IF Water, we encourage you to take this invitation one step further, and actually become part of the solutions that will change the world. After all, what could possibly be more inspiring than saving someone’s life?

Follow along at #IFWater14.

Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep     

IF Film: Indie Filmmakers Stay Curious

Enjoy this guest blog post from IF Film. I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Wayne

Since the Louisville Film Society was first approached by the mayor of Louisville to join with IdeaFestival and create IF Film, the concept of combining the 6 years of success we have had at our Flyover Film Festival with a brand that challenges its attendees to “stay curious” appealed to both the board and members of the organization. After all, what evokes more thought in filmgoers than story and actor-driven films whose very nature is to buck the establishment and push the boundaries of storytelling? It is independent film that keeps the audience curious. No formula has to be followed for this type of filmmaking since big studios aren’t dictating artists’ every move. Directors, actors and writers are allowed to break rules, trying new methods of getting the story across all while aiming to keep the audience engrossed in the film. We felt that bringing our film festival over to IF and rebranding Flyover as IF Film would continue to attract our local film lovers as well as allow a nighttime programming component that many IdeaFestival attendees will enjoy.

We have selected 13 features and short films from across the globe, many of them winning awards and playing large festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW. The thing that makes the IF Film program different than your normal night out at the movies is that none of these films have been distributed into theatres or on DVD yet. In fact, many have only played select festivals so you will truly be some of the first people to watch, enjoy and stay curious with the films we are screening.

We start off the fest with a Louisvillian turned The Good Wife Hollywood starlet, sprinkle in thought-provoking documentaries and features, host a short film showcase that includes animation, drama and docs from around the world and close out the festival with the premier of Produce at Slugger Field which was shot right here in Louisville, including scenes in the ball park. $5 from every ticket sold for Produce benefits local Down syndrome advocacy agencies.

We have a special discount on tickets and passes for IdeaFestival pass holders and hope you will find our program as varying as we do. There is something for everyone. Check out our teaser of the scheduled films and then reserve your tickets now.

We hope to see you at the movies!

Your Digital Guide to IdeaFestival 2014

Now that IdeaFestival 2014 is almost here I thought a brief guide about how you can follow along would be appropriate.

If you are in the office or onsite with a notebook, keep the web site handy. There you will find the latest information on the agenda, speakers and sponsors.

About the latter, if you see a representative of one of the many organizations that support the festival, please thank them! They help make it all possible.

Point your smartphone browser to for a streamlined experience that includes session times, speakers, sponsors, blog posts and more.

Find the festival on Facebook (please like us!) and Twitter (please follow us!). An open Flickr pool has been created so that all those wonderful images taken during IF14 have a home. If you already have an account search for "IdeaFestival 2014" and join. We welcome your contributions. The pools from 2011, 2012 and 2013 are here, here and here, respectively.

While tweeting the festival, please use the hash tag #IF14 to refer to this year's event - and that goes for you Instagram and Vine users as well. Speaking of hash tags, we always #staycurious.

As in past years, the festival will feature a running commentary on our own Twitter wall in the Kentucky Center, the festival's home. Think of it as an event newsreel. Listed in no particular order below are a number of people who will speak or attend Thrivals and IdeaFestival 2014 who have active Twitter accounts. You may want to follow a few of them.

  • IdeaFestial @ideafestival, of course!
  • Janelle Monae @janellemonae
  • Ellen McGirt @ellmcgirt
  • Renee Blodgett @MagicSauceMedia
  • Kevin Smokler @weegee
  • Cariwyl Hebert @salon97
  • Creative Capital @creativecap
  • WaterStep @waterstep
  • Debbie Millman @debbiemillman
  • Lee Billings @leebillings
  • Claudia Hammond @claudiahammond
  • Jason Felts @IAMJasonFelts
  • Clive Thompson @pomeranian99
  • Stephen Cave @stephenjcave
  • Virginia Postrel @vpostrel
  • Tyler Cowen @tylercowen
  • Creative Capital @creativecap
  • Julia Christensen @juliacjuliac
  • Angie Fenton @angiefenton
  • Darell Hammond @DarellHammond
  • Robert Karimi @RobertFKarimi

See you soon!


Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Creativity Needs "Leaky Mental Filters"

One of the most interesting writers on the psychology of creativity is cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. In a recent article at Scientific American, quoted in part below, he discusses the potential relationship of non-clinical levels of psychopathology to creativity.

[Researchers] have found.. that while on-the-spot, timed creative cognition is associated with the ability to focus attention, real-life creative achievement is associated with the ability to broaden attention and have a 'leaky' mental filter. In other words, perhaps the very same characteristics that may hinder performance on IQ tests and standardized academic tests (e.g., broad attention, impulsivity, daydreaming, and fantasy-proneness) are the very same characteristics that increase the chances of real-life creative achievement. Further research should investigate this intriguing possibility.

While careful to point out that certain mental pathologies shouldn't romanticized for their supposed connection to creativity, Kaufman's point about "leaky" mental filters interests me because it suggests that our brains differ in degree, not kind. Prodigious savant and synesthete Daniel Tammet very quietly made similar points during his IdeaFestival 2010 appearance, parts of which may be watched here.

Elsewhere, Kaufman writes about the link between intelligence and "an openness to experience."

His interest in the subject grew out of difficult childhood. A self-described "late bloomer," he regularly argues for wide range of intelligences in his writing.

The little understood relationship between creativity, intelligence and the brain is certainly a big part of the story of Jason Padgett, who as a young adult was attacked and beaten outside a bar. Severely concussed, he later began to experience crippling social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Like other synesthetes he also noticed that he had begun to see shapes and angles everywhere, and had somehow also gained the ability to intuit the complex mathematics behind natural phenomenon.

Padgett is one of the very few people in the world with acquired savant syndrome. He'll share his story at IdeaFestival 2014.

A limited number of Festival passes and Day passes are available, but you'll need to get one soon.

I hope to see you at IF14!

Stay curious.


Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Selfies at a Cometary Dawn

Comets have secrets to spill.

After a ten year chase, the European spacecraft Rosetta arrived at Comet 67P/C-G early last month, an event live-streamed by the European Space Agency. Having executed a number of maneuvers to gradually bring Rosetta to within miles of the comet, the spacecraft snapped a selfie just this week with its target in the background.

Why are comets interesting? They offer scientists a time capsule, a look at the chemical and mineral composition of material present during the earliest periods of our solar system, a time when our star had accreted a debris disk with a radius of (very) roughly 177 billion miles, but before much of that debris would gravitationally collapse into the planets we recognize today. In contrast with asteroids, comets contain volatiles that sublimate, or pass directly from a solid to a gas without going through a liquid state. That phenomenon is responsible for comets' tails.

Sure, you could examine the comet from afar, and the spacecraft, equipped with sensors to look at the body's spectra from the infrared to ultraviolet, will, but the mission of Rosetta is equal parts cosmogenic sleauthing and Buck Rogers. In November the mother craft will dispatch a smaller companion craft called Philae to the surface of 67P/C-G. The diminutive probe will lash itself to the gravitationally poor body, bore into the depths of the stone and gently begin to relieve, mission managers hope, the streaking comet of its primordial secrets. The findings will be passed to the orbiting Rosetta for transmission to Earth. If all goes well, scientists will get a first hand look at the state of nature billions of years in the past.

I hope you will make plans now to hear Lee Billings at IdeaFestival 2014! Author of the sensational book "Five Billion Years of Solitude," he'll discuss the current understanding of these ancient bodies, the discovery in the last twenty years of hundreds of extrasolar planets and touch, I'm sure, on the very ancient questions of life and its place in the universe that inevitably accompany these finds. You don't want to miss him.

Festival Passes and Day Passes are on sale now. You can find a complete agenda and the speaker line-up on the IdeaFestival web site.

I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival!

Stay curious.


Image credits: Upper right, ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA Lower left, Philae DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

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