Wonderfest honors Sagan's memory by bringing popular issues in science to the general public in a dialogue format that is both entertaining and educational. This year's topics, which range from genetics to computer science to physics, were chosen to address scientific questions for which there are no clear answers. Each topic will be presented in a 90-minute dialogue hosted by eminent scientists from Stanford, the University of California-Santa Cruz and UC-Berkeley, and other institutions. The dialogues are designed to encourage debate and questions from the audience.
Six controversial topics will be debated this year, including ''Where Did the Universe Come From?'' presented by Stanford physicists Savas Dimopoulos and Andrei Linde; ''Do Men and Women Think Differently?'' with psychologists Melissa Adams of UC-Berkeley and Campbell Leaper of UC-Santa Cruz; ''Is Matter Still a Mystery?'' with Nobel physics laureate Martin Perl and chemist John Brauman of Stanford; and ''Are There Natural Limits to the Power of Computers?'' with computer scientist John McCarthy and philosopher Kenneth Taylor of Stanford.
Wonderfest director Tucker Hiatt said the festival is designed to make science accessible by ''presenting provocative science questions in dialogue form - a form which reflects the exciting and contentious way that real scientists work.''
The festival will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the WonderCup Challenge, an event that tests teams of local high school students on their knowledge of basic science. The climax of the competition will occur at 12:30 p.m. with a championship round between the top two teams.