William Shatner Opens Smithsonian Magazine’s Future Is Here Festival

The future is this weekend.

“I’m watching the Tesla coil band rehearsal right now,” Smithsonian Magazine editor in chief Michael Caruso tells FishbowlDC earlier this afternoon. “They’re going to do a tribute to Prince and David Bowie with one million volts of electricity. So that will be spectacular.”

The band, ArcAttack, creates performance art by way of fusing science, sound production and a whole lot of visible electricity. It’s just one of a weekend’s worth of events and talks that make up Smithsonian Magazine’s Future is Here Festival, now in its fourth year.

Yes, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk aka William Shatner is headlining, along with X-Files creator Chris Carter, but the festival is more than a sci-fi geekfest, even if the theme is “Science Meets Science Fiction.”

The list of speakers and events hit popular science culture as well as Smithsonian sweet spots. There is an interview Sunday with The Martian producer Aditya Sood and author Andy Weir (the latter via skype). There are two panels on the scientific outlook on what’s really out there: Are We Looking for the Right Extra Terrestrials? and Mapping the Nearby Stars for Habitable Worlds. There’s a look at the changing face of the Internet from Google exec Vinton G. Cerf and, from Céline Cousteau, a window into the endangered lifestyles of Amazonian tribes.

As for what is sparking Caruso’s fancy, “I’m really looking forward to Deadpool director Tim Miller, since I think that movie is awesome, the NIH presentation about the future of dangerous viruses like Zika and Ebola, and the NASA presentation about the virtual reality that the astronauts are using on the International Space Station.

Like we said, something for most everyone.

The full program can be found here. The fun starts this evening, for those fortunate enough to snag tickets to the sold-out festival.