Milagro Middle School has been invited to participate in a unique interdisciplinary and intercultural exploration of the universe as part of the Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival. (I=)UNIVERSE is a STEMarts Lab production in collaboration with multiple departments at SFPS, including Art, Science, Technology, and Native American Student Services. Under the guidance of artist/educator Agnes Chavez, these four departments are working with Milagro Middle School teachers and leadership to offer an intensive, hands-on workshop that includes digital technology, particle physics, and Native-Western science connections. Experts in all of these fields will serve as contributing scientists, artists, and storytellers throughout the project. The project includes a 2-week workshop with 60 students from Milagro’s new STEAM program led by Megan Avina and Grace Mayer with visits from Dr. Nicole Lloyd-Ronning, LANL astrophysicist, Shane Wood, Quarknet staff/ particle physics instructor, Steve Tamayo, Lakota artist/cultural specialist, as well as virtual visits from Geneva with Dr. Steven Goldfarb, CERN physicist and from Austria with Tagtool founder/artist, Markus Dorninger.

(I=)UNIVERSE culminates with the following student performances:

  • Innovation EXPO: Full STEAM ahead! A re-imagined and innovative take on the traditional school science fair. Santa Fe Convention Center. February 13, 2020, 5:30pm-7:30pm. Student projections start at dark.
  • Santa Fe Institute Interplanetary Festival. August 20,21,22. Tipi installation at the Railyard. Students live painting performance start at dark.


Workshop Sponsors: SFPS, Thornburg Investment Management, Quarknet, ATLAS@CERN

IPFestival Performance Sponsors: SFI’s Miller Omega Program, LANL Foundation, Jennifer & Bryan Murphy

“The Messengers”, is a CosmOpera for voice, fixed media (single channel video, two-channel audio, Plexiglas), and cosmic rays (2019) – The Messengers are cosmic rays. They come to us from the cloud of possible futures. They pass through its messaging system and bring to us voicemails of the future.

La Jetée is a 1962 French science fiction featurette directed by Chris Marker and associated with the Left Bank artistic movement. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel.

This special screening will be live-scored by Rob Schwimmer (a.k.a Carlos Antenna), previous InterPlanetary performer, who has played for Simon & Garfunkel, Bobby McFerrin, the Boston Pops and more. He will be performing Theremin, Piano, and Hakan Continuum for this event.

Started in 2016, 72 Hours of Science is an SFI tradition that challenges postdoctoral researchers to produce an interdisciplinary publication in three days. In November of 2019, 14 SFI postdocs withdrew to an isolated research location to accomplish, in just 72 hours, a monumental task — decoding the first complex communication from an alien civilization.* For this event, we sit down with some of the SFI postdocs to discuss their experience over that 72 hours, and what happens when speculation fuels research…a novel inversion of science fiction, which typically takes a scientific principle or innovation, and follows it to its logical conclusion. What happens when fiction comes first?

For the benefit of humanity, the aliens managed to divert their spacecraft for enough time to transmit a scientific treatise on a fundamental difference between their complex biology and ours. They were responding to images on the Golden Record, which launched aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, engraved with a cosmic introduction to Earth and its inhabitants. Among the record’s 115 encoded images were multiple depictions of the two-parent system of reproductive biology.

“The aliens were totally shocked by these images, because in their world children are conceived and raised by three parents instead of two,” says Albert Kao, an Omidyar Fellow and Baird Scholar. “For scientists who study complex, living systems, it brings up all kinds of interesting questions about why three-parent systems would arise and what that might imply for the evolution of everything from molecular mechanisms to social institutions.”

With combined expertise in biology, evolution, information theory, mathematics, physics, philosophy, archaeology, cognitive science, and economics, the postdocs were uniquely qualified to receive and interpret the wide-ranging alien treatise. In three days and with little sleep, they documented biological consequences of tri-parental reproduction at multiple levels — the braid-like combining of the aliens’ chromosomes, the size differentiation between their gametes, the coordination of “mating events” among three sexes, and the cultural implications of their family structures.

According to the postdocs, the aliens’ three-parent system confers a distinct evolutionary advantage over a two-parent one. Just as sexual reproduction protects organisms from the harmful mutations that proliferate in asexual species, like dandelions, the three-parent reproductive system adds another layer of protection and genetic diversity, especially on planets bombarded with high radiation, which can cause a high mutation rate.

Exactly why the aliens’ three-parent system came to dominate, as opposed to a 4-, 5-, or n-parent system, might be explained by the coordination costs and social ramifications of searching for multiple mates at once. In their treatise, the authors describe the exponential difficulty of finding a “soul triplet”— a perfect romantic combination in a sea of possibilities.

Other social consequences of the three-parent system include a heightened risk of disease transmission and a societal trend towards a uniform culture. According to Omidyar Fellow David Kinney, such a uniform culture is needed to avoid the cognitive overload caused by trying to juggle the cultures and languages of three parents, nine grandparents, and potentially dozens of partial siblings.

“There are so many social angles to explore in this system,” says sociologist Tamara van der Does, a Program Postdoctoral Fellow. “The number of biological sexes would have ramifications across all aspects of an alien culture, from gender inequality to institutions like marriage and religion. After 72 hours, we were just starting to scratch the surface.”

Omidyar Fellow Tyler Marghetis says imagining a three-parent system “is actually a really great way to gain insight into the origins and implications of our more familiar two-parent system… in the same way that experiencing other cultures can help travelers better understand themselves.”

“There are a lot of interesting questions that can be pursued in this model,” says archaeologist Stefani Crabtree, an ASU-SFI Center Postdoctoral Fellow. “One of the great things about being a postdoc at SFI is that you have expertise in one area, but you also get exposure to other fields that connect to it.”

After 72 hours of intense transcription, the postdocs steeled themselves to record the final transmission in the treatise — the core innovations of alien culture, including “hyperdrive technology, the unified theory of physics, and the meaning of life.”

Unfortunately, this final portion of the transmission did not arrive intact.

*The alien transmission is a fictional premise. Any resemblance to actual species, civilizations, or planets is purely coincidental.


As part of Emergent Engineering Week, we converse with Joerael Numina about his “Mobilize Walls” project, which seeks to out-scale and out-(sm)art Trump’s proposed Mexican/American border wall. He’ll also discuss his piece “Voyager,” commissioned by the Santa Fe Institute for IP2020, and the various complex themes throughout the image.

Cosmos celebrates of humanity’s fascination with the vast expanse beyond Earth’s boundaries. In this group exhibition, six diverse photographers focus on heavenly bodies as a means to convey sublime notions of time, scale, and splendor. Cosmos reminds us how tiny, quick, and precious life is while engaging a fundamental curiosity. Collectively, these works create a place for reverence and wonder. Photo-eye gallery will host extended hours, 10 am to 7 pm for both days of InterPlanetary.

Bryant Austin – Austin’s minimal and atmospheric landscapes are portraits of

the sun while it traverses the sky on a specific day at a specific time.Kate Breakey – Cosmos will feature Orotones leafed in 24kt gold from

Breakey’s Golden Stardust series.
Linda Connor – Rich renderings on printing out paper from California’s Lick

Observatory captured during the late-19th and early-20th Centuries.

Alan Friedman – Friedman crafts striking, high definition images of the sun, what he calls “our neighborhood star.”

Chris McCaw – Using handmade cameras and vintage silver-gelatin paper, McCaw tracks the sun’s movements in his unique solarized prints.

Beth Moon – With star-lit backdrops, Moon’s African tree portraits blend the visible and invisible to reveal something truly magical.

SITE Santa Fe’s grand re-opening exhibition, Future Shock examines our dynamic and decisive moment in global history and looks to the challenges and possibilities of the future. Future Shock is a large-scale exhibition of works by international artists that articulates the profound impact of the acceleration of technological, social, and structural change upon contemporary life. Future Shock takes its title from Alvin Toffler’s prophetic 1970’s book, in which he describes the exhilaration and consequences of our rapidly advancing world. With Toffler’s predictions and warnings as a backdrop, Future Shock will bring together the work of ten artists whose works imagine a range of visions of our present and future.
The exhibition is comprised of works by 12 international artists, including Dario Robleto, artist in residence at SETI, who is also participating in the Art and Imagined Futures Interplanetary panel. Enjoy his Setlists for the Setting Sun (The Crystal Palace), and Will the Sun Remember at All. Pop into the learning lab to watch the collaborative creation of a time capsule, buried in May, by the Dario, Joanne LeFrak and students from New Mexico School of Arts students.

Life Support Systems at Stake in this exhibition: Complex Time Design, Social and Economic Engineering, Autonomous Ecosystems, Motion and Energy Technology, Art and Imagined Futures.

IRIS merges rhythmic sound, pulsating light, and vibrational resonance, induces bodily experience beyond the boundaries of the intellectual mind.

Engineered by top-tier scientists, creatives, and programmers, the IRIS sensorium hovers at an electric intersection of neuroscience, art, and entertainment. “Three parts neurobiology and one part magic,” says creator Stephen Auger, “each IRIS encounter generates a custom creation of wonder and awe.” Light, color, sound, and story guide each adventurer on a journey unique to their biology, synchronizing their senses and reconnecting them to the magic of forgotten experiences.

Auger invites participants inside a small space where they are introduced to both sound and light frequencies, which induce visualizations of spirals, fractals, waves, radials, zigzags, honeycombs, pinwheels, and “seed” patterns.


In 1819, Jan Purkinje, the father of modern neuroscience, first described the swirling geometric visual patterns brought on by diffuse flickering light as phenomena of perception rather than a supernatural encounter. Profoundly influential experiences are found through all recorded time from cave art, shamanistic trance to Pythagorean geometry. Adepts and seekers have long seeked the night sky, caves, and sacred spaces,  at specific seasonal moments, to elevate shafts and particles of light into visionary encounters. 

When the human visual system encounters specific frequencies of diffuse flickering light, most people experience beautiful swirling colorful geometric patterns. The dynamics of the patterns are related to altered neuronal activity between the thalamus and the visual cortex, but there is still much that is not well understood. The phenomena is an interesting hack, which reveals the inner workings of the human visual system without the need for pharmacological assistance.

The development of IRIS has been made possible with support from Harvard Medical School, MIT, and UC Berkeley. Following its debut at Axle Contemporary, this project will be presented at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada in September 2018.


For those seeking deeper insight into the inner/outer-cosmos experience, Stephen Auger will join Santa Fe Institute Fellows Artemy Kolchinsky, Vanessa Ferdinand, UC Berkeley Chronobiologist Dr. Benjamin Smarr, and Bio-hacker Mikey Sklar for a provocative panel discussion on “Future Evolution of the Brain-body on Earth and Space.” The panel will take place at The Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival on Friday, June 8th at noon.

The IRIS experience is produced by Axle Contemporary and will premier at The Santa Fe Institute‘s InterPlanetary Festival and at the CURRENTS New Media Festival. Learn more about Futurition Santa Fe.

Appointments last about seven minutes.  Appointments can be booked in advance on Axle Contemporary’s website, beginning on May 22. IRIS can accommodate 1–4 people at a time.


Thurs, June 7:  11:00 am–8:30 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure. Part of Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival.

Fri, June 8:      11:00 am–11:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure. Part of Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlantery Festival & CURRENTS.

Sat, June 9:     3:00 pm–11:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure. Part of CURRENTS.

Sun, June 10:   Noon–7:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure. Part of CURRENTS.

Thurs June 14:  4:00 pm–10:00 pm at Meow Wolf.

Fri, June 15:      5:00 pm–8:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure.

Sat, June 16:     5:00 pm–8:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure.

Thurs, June 21:    3:00 pm–8:00 pm at Meow Wolf.

Friday, June 22:   5:00 pm–8:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure.

Sun: June 24:  Noon–5:00 pm in Farmer’s Market shade structure.