Aspen Ideas Festival begins |

Aspen Ideas Festival begins

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Did you hear the one about the cancer researcher and the physicist?OK, so, a cancer researcher walks into the Aspen Ideas Festival two summers ago and meets a physicist who suggests that the researcher alter his way of looking at cancer, viewing it as a “complex system.”The cancer researcher takes this to heart, and wins a $420 million grant for further research.True story, said Kitty Boon, vice president of public programs for The Aspen Institute. And that story is, on a grand scale, the essence of what the Institute is trying to accomplish with the Aspen Ideas Festival. The event, entering its sixth year, starts in Aspen Monday and runs through July 11. About 300 leaders in the fields of arts, science, culture, technology, religion, philosophy, business, economics and politics will give presentations designed to explore ideas, spur dialogue and inspire action.Cancer specialist Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Nobel laureate physicist Murray Gell Mann will share their story of how collaboration at the Ideas Festival helped land the grant. They are speaking on “New Approaches to Cancer” as part of the biology track at the festival.The event has been divided into two four-day sessions. The programs from Monday through Thursday are Living Digitally; Race in America; The Century of Biology; and Ideas in Education.Topics to be tackled July 8-11 are The Next Economy: Innovation as Catalyst; Global Health; The Promise of “Play”; and Latin America: Power, Politics, Potential.The schedule is so packed it is mind-boggling. Presentations start early in the morning and run late into the night. Throw a dart at the agenda and you can’t fail to come up with something interesting. On Tuesday, for example, journalist Andrea Mitchell will interview Jane Lubchenco on the “Gulf Oil Crisis: The Collision of Technology and Biology.” Lubchenco is the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Another random gander at the agenda produces a session on Wednesday called, “What Happens to Writing in the Age of the Internet?” It features author Tobias Wolff, playwright John Guare and poet Jane Hirshfield.The full list of speakers and an overview is available at said the Institute’s goal goes beyond inspiring collaboration between leaders and thinkers who are presenters at the forum, such as Agus and Mann. Organizers also want participants to collect ideas that they can apply in their communities.Elliot Gerson, the Institute’s executive vice president of public programs, said in an interview last month that the Ideas Festival, as well as other public forums presented by the Institute in Aspen this summer, are intended to spur action. “We don’t design them as mere intellectual entertainment,” he said.Passes sold out for the Aspen Ideas Festival despite a hefty price: $2,450 for each of the two sessions and $1,225 for students.Individual tickets were offered to a number of public events, ranging from a screening of “Shrek Forever After” in 3D tonight at the new, state-of-art Paepcke Auditorium to a “An Afternoon of Conservation” at 2 p.m. on Thursday with such accomplished “thinkers and doers” as Bill Gates.The full schedule of public events and ticket cost for individual programs is posted at the Ideas Festival website at Tickets can be purchased online at, or by calling

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