Drones & Jetpacks Take Center Stage at Futuristic Festival

The Future Is Here Festival will feature experts on robots, drones, human evolution and sci-fi. (Image credit: alphaspirit | Shutterstock)

A slew of sci-fi celebs and all-star scientists will descend on Washington, D.C., this weekend (May 16 to 18) for The Future Is Here, a festival celebrating the technology of tomorrow, science fiction and outer space. 

The event, produced by Smithsonian magazine, features talks on everything from robots to human evolution, as well as a live jetpack demonstration. The cast of speakers includes theoretical physicist Brian Greene, Google innovator Rich DeVaul and "Star Trek" star George Takei.

The theme of this year's festival is Science Meets Science Fiction. The event's name comes from a quote by sci-fi author William Gibson, who said, "The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed." [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Humans, robots and 'Star Trek'

On Saturday, robotics expert Cori Lathan, CEO of Maryland engineering firm AnthroTronix, will speak about the future of human-machine interaction, and Rich DeVaul of Google X, the web giant's secretive lab, which developed Google Glass and driverless cars, will discuss the search for the next big thing.

The day's festivities will also feature Steward Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog and president of The Long Now Foundation, on bringing extinct species back to life using genetics. Smithsonian evolution expert Briana Pobiner will explore the idea that human evolution is over, through her research on human carnivory and cannibalism.

Cosmologist and author Brian Greene, who studies superstring and multiverse theory at Columbia University in New York City, and sci-fi author David Brin, author of the bestselling novel "The Postman," will talk about the meeting of science and sci-fi. George Takei, the actor best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on the TV series "Star Trek," will also speak on Saturday.

The day will conclude with a live human jetpack demonstration and drone flights near the capital's National Mall.

Whiskey and poop transplants

Sunday features a diverse assortment of speakers in collaboration with Nerd Nite, a monthly event in which people give "fun yet informative" presentations in cities around the world.

Laura Lanford, a computer scientist and nerd hobbyist in Chicago, will talk about seeing the face of Christ on a cracker — a phenomenon known as pareidolia — that causes some people to see images or patterns in random, meaningless data.

Nicole Austin, president of the New York State Distillers Guild in Brooklyn, will discuss the secrets of great whiskey and the growing craft-spirits industry in the United States.

Microbiologist Anna Seekatz will plunge into the world of fecal transplants, a fascinating new treatment method — for those who can stomach it.

The events will take place at the Smithsonian museums and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. All-access passes are for sale online for $250.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.