Science Festival Kickoff Party a Whale of a Time

World Science Festival guests underneath a blue whale at the Museum of Natural History.

Nobel laureates, media and “mathemagicians” mingled underneath a massive blue whale, snacking on quesadillas, all in the name of science, at last night’s celebration of the first-ever World Science Festival at the American Museum of Natural History.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York took a moment with the mic to show his support, talking about how the science world has been “under attack” recently. He joked that he started out as a chemistry major but it didn’t take, so he pursued politics instead. Perhaps Eliot Spitzer should start heating up his Bunsen burner…

Saucy scientist photos and more after the jump.

The event, co-sponsored by Credit Suisse, ConEd and media partners ABC News, Scientific American, Scholastic, and Science Channel, kicked off yesterday in New York with an intro by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a day of panel discussions. The five-day effort to shift the public’s perception of science includes 40 events in two-dozen venues across the city, with featured speakers such as Alan Alda, Oliver Sacks, Charlie Rose, Bill Blakemore and a host of renowned journalists, actors, authors, and academics (and a Disney Imagineer!). There were so many distinguished men with glasses and beards it would’ve been impossible to play Guess Who.

As we can’t boast PhD’s or Pulitzers, we didn’t fit in with the rest of the revelers. But it was worth getting carded at the bar to watch behind-the-scenes bioethicists, roboticists, paleontologists and other impressive -ists 50 years our senior party out of the lab.

Event founders and staff spoke about making science “hip and cool,” then turned our attention to the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, parading down the hall’s grand staircase in crimson robes, singing and swaying as guests took a break from their cocktails to clap along. The three-song set (which featured a rockin’ solo by Sister Eunice) was a teaser for Saturday’s “Music and the Brain” event, hosted by neuro-experts Oliver Sacks and Mark Jude Tramo.

NY Senator Chuck Schumer after his speech

Distinguished guests

Shirley Bergin (SVP marketing, Walker Digital Gaming) and Marie Smith (public affairs, ConEd)

Martin Chalfie (chair of biology, Columbia University) and Horst Stormer (physicist, Columbia University)