Thursday, April 20, 2017

The USEfulness of USEless Knowledge

Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, gave a presentation on his short, yet provocative book about why “useless” science often leads to humanity’s greatest technological breakthroughs. The brief book, The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, includes Abraham Flexner’s timeless 1939 essay alongside a new companion essay by Robbert Dijkgraaf in which he shows that Flexner’s defense of the value of “the unobstructed pursuit of useless knowledge” may be even more relevant today than it was in the early twentieth century.  Robbert Dijkgraaf explained how basic research has led to major transformations in the past century and clarified why it is an essential precondition of innovation and the first step in social and cultural change. He made a strong case that society can achieve deeper understanding and practical progress today and tomorrow only by truly valuing and substantially funding the curiosity-driven “pursuit of useless knowledge” in both the sciences and the humanities.  
A forty-year tightening of funding for scientific research has meant that resources are increasingly directed toward applied or practical outcomes, with the intent of creating products of immediate value. In such a scenario, it makes sense to focus on the most identifiable and urgent problems, right? Actually, it doesn’t. In his classic essay, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge,” Abraham Flexner (1866-1959), founding director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the man who helped bring Albert Einstein to the United States, describes a great paradox of scientific research. The search for answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for applications, often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary technological breakthroughs. In short, no quantum mechanics, no computer chips.
Robbert Dijkgraaf, a mathematical physicist who specializes in string theory, is director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. A distinguished public policy adviser and passionate advocate for science and the arts, he is also the co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, a global alliance of science academies.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Springtime in Paris

Before Sinatra did it "My Way," Claude François did it "Comme d' Habitude" and Charles Trenet took a dip in "La Mer" long before Bobby Darin ventured "Beyond the Sea." Musical guest, Fleur Seule, treated us to a repertoire of American standards actually inspired by French songs.

The event was held at the Princeton Club and offered Salon members a view into one of NY’s exclusive university clubs. With over 200 programs a year, the Club delivers a plethora of delightful and informative experiences. We took over 4 tables and some of us even ventured out onto the dance floor and reaped the benefits of a helpful and fun lesson by Eddie & Sui.

Through it all, Fleur Seule, fronted by the lovely Allyson Briggs, transported us to Paris' left bank.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Reduction in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Nobel prize-winning scientist, Eric Kandel, discussed his recent book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging The Two Cultures. Prof. Kandel has a unique perspective on the topic, given his remarkable scientific career as well as his deep interest in art.  He demonstrated how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning.  He illustrated how reductionism – the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components – has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths.

Kandel drew on his Noble Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals. He demonstrated through bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive functions how science can explore the complexities of human perception and help us to perceive, appreciate, and understand great works of art. At the heart of the book is an elegant elucidation of the contribution of reductionism to the evolution of modern art and its role in a monumental shift in artistic perspective.

While it may all sound quite complex on paper, Prof. Kandel spoke clearly and used well-known works of art to illustrate his point for all to understand. 10 lucky members of the Salon were able to join this standing room only private lecture at NY's Princeton Club.

Eric R. Kandel is University Professor and Kavli Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University.  He is director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and co-director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia.  In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Puccini In Love

The NY Arts & Sciences Salon was happy to share an evening in Bryant Park for opera al fresco. NY City opera treated us to arias from 3 of Puccini's most beloved works, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, and Tosca.

In addition to the music, we enjoyed a tasty dîner en plein air and even snuck in some prosecco.

photo credit: John Gladitsch

photo credit: Jennifer Thomas

photo credit: Jennifer Thomas

photo credit: Jennifer Thomas

photo credit: Jennifer Thomas

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hemingway's Paris

Elizabeth Kemble, founder of Travellati Tours, gave an illustrated talk on "Hemingway's Paris" at an authentic French bistro, La Bonne Soupe. Liz shared the places that the author frequented in Paris, such as La Closerie des Lilas, the café in which he wrote his masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises. She revealed the famous people with which he associated, such as Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and showed us examples of works by the painters that he credits as having influenced his prose style.
War-hero, raconteur, bon-vivant, gourmand, keen observer and acclaimed author, Hemingway detailed his extraordinary life in his memoir,  A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964. Liz brought this story to life with anecdotes and photos chronicling his time in Paris, his inspirations as well as those he influenced in turn.

La Bonne Soupe is an authentic rustic French bistro in the heart of midtown. We were delighted to feast on tasty delights such as crêpes and quiche. They have some of the best onion soup in all of NYC as well as an assortment of decadent desserts. You can view their website here.
Liz is the founder of Travellati Tours, providing themed, immersive, interactive travel tours for the cultural voyager; and the designer of the tour "Papa's Paris," a one-week stroll through the moveable feast that is Paris; details available at

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Anderson Contemporary Art Tour

The evening consisted of a private art gallery tour & presentation featuring the work of artists Eleanora Kupencow, Riad Miah and Andrei Petrov.

Eleanora Kupencow has received numerous public commissions that have been received with great international acclaim. Most recently her work, Horsing Around the Arrows of Time, was commissioned for NYC's Dag Hammerskjold Plaza. She has shown her work all over the world, including Galerie Pananti in Florence, Italy.

Ms. Kupencow shared with us her relationship to technology and took us through the journey each sculptural piece undergoes from  paper to cardboard to aluminum. She stated: "Without the digital assistance of scanning and the CAD disk and the water-jet machine and powder-coating, I could not proceed."

Now in her 80s, Ms. Kupencow has been creating art since she was a small girl.  According to her artist statement, she credits her family "for allowing me to give myself permission to become an artist. Permission is the first step in risk taking, which is necessary for any creative act, be it in business or in the arts." You can learn more about her work and her philosophy on her website.

Contemporary artist Riad Miah uses mathematical algorithms in the creation of his works, bringing together Science & Art in a very concrete way. His series "Petrie Dish" (not included in this show) mimics what can be observed in bacterial cultures. Heads up to the biologists among us!

Mr. Miah is an educator as well as a fine artist. He has taught at the School of Visual Arts, New York Arts Program, and Parsons The New School for Design, among others. Visit his website for more information.

Andrei Petrov guided us through the fantastical landscapes that made up his works chosen for this show. He invited us to read his paintings, and guests took a lively interest in exploring the colorful worlds he put on display.

After the artists presented their work, gallery owner, Ronni Anderson led us through a tour of additional works exhibited by other artists, including Jamie LeoCaroline Bergonzi, and Valerie Carmet.

The evening was produced by Susan Davis Eley, of Decorating with Fine Art, in cooperation with the Anderson Contemporary Gallery. This was truly a wonderful opportunity for art lovers as well as budding collectors to discover the world of contemporary art.

The NY Arts & Scienes Salon would like to thank Susan and Ronni and the Anderson Contemporary Gallery for making this unique and engaging event possible. Many thanks to John B. Gladitsch for the lovely photos of our event.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A private staged reading of "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore"

NYASS Team member, Daniel Mitura, hosted a partner event featuring a staged reading of the work of playwright Tennessee Williams in a private NYC space. The Salon aimed to create a dialogue between the artists and the audience. Guests were encouraged to stay after for an Open Conversation with the director and actors.
The Tennesee Williams Project Presents

"The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore"

Directed by Ricardo Riethmuller

With the Talents of:
Beverely Wallace*
Betty Hudson*
Jonothon Lyons
Nina Smilow
Tom Lombardo
The Tennessee Williams Project is dedicated to presenting the entire body of work by the American playwright, Tennessee Williams, in readings and staged readings. The project also aims to create a dialogue between the artists and the audience.
The missions of East 3rd Productions is to facilitate art anytime, anywhere, any way, empowering artists to create multidisciplinary work which communicates across social, cultural, and political lines. The company seeks out innovated, intellectual, and exciting work, nurturing the creative impulses of its permanent members, collaborators, and future theater artists.
NYASS Board member, Daniel Mitura, is a producer, actor and playwright.

*Actors appearing courtsey of Actors Equity Association

Thursday, March 31, 2016

"When Jesus Became God."

A faithful crew joined us for our March Salon, "When Jesus became God." NYASS member Bob Benjamin will led us through a historical perspective on the man who became God in Christian belief. 

Then everyone had a religious experience by trying the Nutella dessert at our tasty venue, Neapolitan Express!

Over 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, there is increasing division within the Judeo-Christian faith, based in part on nationality and religious origins.  Guests engaged in an interfaith discussion on the evolution of the Nicaean Creed.  How did a small Jewish sect evolve into one of the world’s leading religious movements? What peripheral influences were left in its wake? Can a reconcilition among the various sects ever be possible? 
Bob Benjamin holds a degree in religion with a concentration in biblical studies from Trinity College, Hartford and an MBA from University of New Hampshire. Bob recently completed a 36 year career in the financial services industry as a managing director at JPMorgan Securities without a regulatory issue or a customer complaint. He now coaches teens and young adults in personal empowerment and interviewing skills. Learn more about Breaking Away Career Prep. on his website.
Neapolitan Express is a warm and welcoming place with delicious fare. We got such a positive response the last 2 months about the food that we knew we had to come back!  With over 15 pizzas on the menu, you will definitely find something to tempt your palate!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ain't Misbehavin': a brief history of Swing!

Many thanks to Margaret Batiuchok and Charlie Meade for bringing the history of Swing to life so vividly for us.

As usual, the staff of Neapolitan Express took very good care of us, and the food was delicious. Especially the Nutella dessert! :-)

Save the date for our next event, Thursday, February 25th.

Video credit: Esther Kashkin.

Photo credit: George Candler.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Vico and the World of Metaphor

Thanks to all who joined our intimate group for a look at the thoughts and ideas of Italian philosopher, Giambattista Vico.

Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) was born in Naples. Largely self-taught, he spent most of his professional career as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Naples. He developed important theories on education and language that he detailed in his mature work, La Scienza Nuova (The New Science,) published in 1725.

Neapolitan Express was a wonderful venue, and our authentic pizza was a delicious toast to our topic.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Art Imitates Life Imitates Art

Art and life. At times, it is a blissful marriage. At times, a bloody hell. Yet, as with many creative pursuits, our life experiences often serve to feed the hungry muse. September’s featured readers and performers will tell stories that will explore the blurry line between what is art and what is life: whether it be literary works that have inspired their own stories or whether it is life itself that has fueled their creative works.

Kiley Edgley is a blogger and former professional quiz writer. After growing up in the lush, green Pacific Northwest, she found herself craving concrete and asphalt and is now happily living in Brooklyn. She writes about cultural observations, weird things that happen to her, and general nonsense. Read them at her blog:

Bassey Etim is a journalist and musician from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He lives in Brooklyn and runs the Community Desk at The New York Times. In 2011, Bassey released his debut novel "The God Project," along with a cinematic sound track with the bands Sleep Station and New London Fire. Bassey is currently working with The Times on the open source "Coral" Project with Mozilla and The Washington Post, along with his debut album "Perpetual Motion," which is slated for the fall of 2015.

Thomas R. Pryor’s work has appeared in The New York Times and other periodicals. His memoir, “I Hate the Dallas Cowboys – tales of scrappy New York boyhood,” was published October 2014 (YBK Publishers). His blog: “Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts,” was chosen by The New York Times for their Blog Roll. For five years, Thomas curated a monthly storytelling show, “City Stories: Stoops to Nuts” at the Cornelia Street Café that Time Out Magazine, The New York Daily News and CBS News recommended.

Marie Sabatino has been writing stories since she was a little girl. She has been telling stories all over New York City for the last ten years at venues like the Lit Crawl in Brooklyn and Manhattan, The National Arts Club, Galapagos Art Space, Cornelia Street Café, KGB Bar and the Brooklyn Book Festival. You can find her work in publications such as, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, Word Riot, Freerange Nonfiction, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and in the Mondays are Murder series of Akashic Books, among other places. For the New York Arts and Science Salon, she will be sharing a new piece inspired by the work of Dorothy Parker.  NYASS would like to extend its thanks to Marie for producing this event.

Thank you to Malika & Margaret for the photos and to Alex for hosting us on her rooftop. Thanks to Kambiz & Eric for the wine.

Additional photos provided by Margaret Batiuchiok.