This weekend, hundreds of scientists, tech visionaries and industry leaders will flock to the nation's capital for Smithsonian magazine's "Future Is Here" festival, a three-day event that explores research and innovations at the intersection of science and science fiction.
The festival begins tomorrow (April 22) and runs through Sunday (April 24) in Washington, D.C. Attendees will hear lively panel discussions on topics ranging from the future of spaceflight to sci-fi entertainment to transhumanism.
"It's an explosion of creativity — it's really a unique program," said Michael Caruso, editor in chief of Smithsonian magazine, which is hosting the event. "The theme of the whole thing is science meets science fiction. We're clearly in a science fiction world, a world that science fiction authors dreamed up 10 or 20 or 30 years ago." [Science Fact of Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts]
Some of the scheduled speakers include "Star Trek" legend William Shatner; explorers Celine and Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughters of the world-famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau; Chris Carter, creator of the TV show "The X-Files"; Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist for Google and the man widely regarded as the "Father of the Internet."
Now in its fourth year, the annual festival investigates pioneering ideas and projects that push the boundaries of science and technology.
"There are people who already know about parts of the future, and they're already working on these things," Caruso told Live Science. "The real idea behind this festival is to pull together a bunch of these people who are building our future and have them talk about it."
In between talks, festival attendees will be entertained by a band that performs with Tesla coils, essentially creating music through electricity. Marco Tempest, a so-called cybermagician (think, a high-tech Houdini), will blend traditional illusions and magic with multimedia and interactive technology.
The main goal, Caruso said, is to inspire people and spark imaginations. The festival organizers said they expect around 700 people to attend this weekend, and some tickets remain for the three-day festival. Tickets can be purchased online at the Future Is Here website.
"Never before has the distance between imagining something and creating something been so close," Caruso said. "We live in an exciting time."