This page contains answers to many frequently asked questions about the Sputnik Observatory website. For a pictorial overview of the tools and features of the website, please visit using this site. If you have a question that's not answered here, please email .

How do I become a member?

The Sputnik Observatory website is free of charge, and it is not necessary to become a member to begin exploring. However, becoming a member provides greater access, including the ability to save, annotate and publish Paths, and to enter your bio into our People database.

If you would like to become a member of the Sputnik Observatory, visit and click "Register". You can also find the login link on the top-right corner of the navigation bar on every page. Please enter your email address and choose a password. Once you submit your registration, you will receive an email with instructions explaining how to activate your account.

This website is provided as a public service to promote the exploration of contemporary ideas. You are encouraged to participate in this exploration, annotate when you want, contribute thoughts and suggest new thinkers to interview and add to our knowledgebase.

All we ask is that you respect that the ideas and information provided is under a Creative Commons license which allows you to download, embed and share ideas that interest you, but may not be copied or reproduced for commercial purposes.

When creating your profile, please note that any personal information you enter will be available to the public who visit the website. We ask that each member therefore respect the privacy of others. Likewise, Sputnik Observatory respects your privacy, and will never sell your data to any third party.

More information on our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy is located on the bottom of every page.


I forgot my password!

If you forget your password, go to, click "Login" in the top-right corner, and then click the "Forgot password" link to initiate the recovery process.


I can't see the website!

To view the Sputnik Observatory website, you must have the latest version of Flash installed, and you must have Javascript enabled.


My browser is crashing!

The speed and agility of the Sputnik Observatory website may vary due to your computer's processing power. In some cases, extensive use of the website might cause your browser to crash. This is due to memory management issues inside the Flash player. If you experience browser crashes, we suggest pressing "Refresh" in your browser intermittently (every 5-10 minutes or so), which will reset your browser's memory usage. This will maintain the current page your are viewing, but will reset and clear the “My Path” area, and any text that you may have entered into the “Comments" section.


Where should I start?

Our homepage features a variety of ways to begin exploring and finding what interests you. For a visual tutorial of the tools and features of the Sputnik Observatory website, please visit using this site.

Where to begin? We suggest the Z-A Themes. Every time you visit the Sputnik Observatory homepage, a random Theme will be featured. You can select a letter from Z-A on the "Featured Themes" title bar. You can also select “Themes” from the navigation bar, which will allow you to browse themes in a number of different ways. Or you can quickly view all of our Themes using our Index. Each Theme has an editorial description, related Conversations, Paths created using the Theme, and a list of related Themes. Our Blog also features more information and cultural commentary on the Themes.

Another way to start is to browse through Conversations. Conversations, which cumulatively connote a Theme, are the videotaped insights of the extraordinary minds featured, and can be searched on the homepage by recently added, most saved and most discussed. As a selected Conversation plays, you will see the name and title of the person featured, the main Theme as well as the current Theme it is associated with, and a line-up of suggested next Conversations connected with the current Theme. Each Conversation can have multiple Themes, which then changes the line-up of suggested next Conversations. Video tools located to the right of every Conversation, where you can add comments; embed a Conversation; save it to your My Obsrvtry area; download audio (MP3), video (MP4) or the transcript (HTML); and share the video with one-click to Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Yahoo Buzz, LinkedIn, MySpace and more.

If you are looking for insightful commentary generated by other members as well as the Sputnik Observatory, Paths may be your first step. Each Conversation you view is tracked in the form of a Path, documented at the bottom of every page. A Path is your footprint in the Observatory, acting as a reference, an archival and a publishing tool. Each circle icon in the Path line represents a Conversation viewed. At any given time during your experience, if you ever want to return to a Conversation you previously viewed, you can look for it in your Path. At the end of each visit with us, you can choose to save, annotate and even publish your Path to the Observatory. You can search Paths on the homepage (featured Path) or through the Z-A navigation tool bar that sorts Paths for you by everyone (including the Public) and those published by Sputnik Observatory.

If you are interested in documentary shorts, then we suggest you view Transmissions. Transmissions are edited from the Conversations of various thinkers, interconnecting their insights to create a provocative viewpoint. Transmissions are embeddable, and available as podcasts as well.

Have your mind set on what you are looking for? Then our Search is the quickest way to provide the relative selection of Conversations, Paths, People, Themes and Transmissions that meet your query. Please keep in mind that our Search is not strictly literal, but rather a contextually-engineered search, so we recommend searching a broader concept rather than a highly specialized topic.


Why Z - A?

Why not?

There are many ways to view information, and we thought, why organize in the expected format when the connections we make with these ideas are anything but ordinary?

We developed the experience of the Sputnik Observatory to nurture an inquisitive, creative way to look through the world of ideas. Z-A navigates you through the various entry points to begin discovery. As we progress, so will our Z-A collection of Conversations, Paths, People, Themes and Transmissions.

Please check back regularly to learn about new Z-A entries in all our features, and for upcoming Sputnik Observatory publications and programs.


What is "My Obsrvtry" and what can I do with it?

Once you login and become a member, you will have access to "My Obsvrtry". My Obsrvtry is your personal space within the Observatory website. It is where you can post relevant information about yourself: a short biography, links to your own website or blog, and a picture (optional, although we do have a fun default picture if you neglect to upload your own). Most importantly, you can save and store comments you have written, Paths created (both published and non-published), and videos you saved. You can also edit your profile and picture at any time, as well as create a new password.

Be mindful of the information you share, as once you become a member, your My Obsrvtry becomes active, included and searchable in the Sputnik Observatory under People.

As the Sputnik Observatory expands our community programs, there will be more features added to every member’s My Obsrvtry. We recommend that you become a member to keep abreast of all our new features and programs.


How are the Thinkers selected?

Thinkers are the people we select, extraordinary minds within the arts, sciences and technology, whose work has transformative potential.

We think of them as the doers, the believers, the dreamers, the renegades, the pioneers, the heretics, the leading edge, the humble geniuses, the notorious, the soaring mavericks.

Gracious with their insights, the Thinkers we feature share exciting new possibilities not only for their respected field, but ultimately for culture at large. A complete list of every featured Thinker can be found in the People section under “Speakers” and in our Index.

Our cultural analysis is an integral part of the selection process, coupled with the expertise of our correspondents, and the recommendations of experts we have interviewed.

We hope to expand the Sputnik Observatory with recommendations from members as well. If you would like to recommend someone to become a featured speaker, please send us your suggestions at .


What is a THEME?

A Theme is a contemporary idea that arises from the interconnection of modern thoughts from extraordinary minds from around the world.

An accumulation of many imaginations, Themes signify the contemporary topics culled from the intersection of expert insights and culture. You will find many of the Themes interconnect and gain new meaning as they link into another Theme or Conversation, opening the door to further interpretation.

Each Theme has a cultural overview (About), provides related Conversations of Thinkers, suggests Paths and Transmissions and other interrelated Themes. The discussions also continue on our Blog.

As our knowledgebase grows, you will see some Themes expand, and new Themes emerge. We plan to document each year the top Z - A Themes that were searched and commented on by our members, and this will become part of our documentation of the ideas that most interested us today. In years to come, we will be able to look back and see the important ideas that shaped our culture.

You can interpret and help re-interpret a Theme simply by annotating a Conversation or creating a Path. Or if you would like to suggest a Theme that interests you, please contact us at .



Conversations are the select, videotaped insights of the extraordinary minds in the arts, sciences and technology. Conversations are part of a larger discussion, an intimate interview between the expert thinker and the Sputnik Observatory.

Featured thinkers have multiple Conversations, each profound insight identified by an overall Theme and/or multiple Themes that it covers. As a selected Conversation plays, you will see the name and title of the person featured, the main Theme and the current Theme it is associated with, and a line-up of other Conversations with the same Theme for suggested viewing. Within any given Conversation there may be multiple Themes, which then changes the line-up of suggested next Conversations.

Each Conversation has video tools where you can post comments, download, embed, enlarge, save and share. The "Download" tool provides options for audio (MP3), video (MP4) or transcript (html). The "Save" feature will prompt you to login, where you can then save the Conversation in your My Obsrvtry area. The "Share" tool provides one-click sharing of videos to Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Yahoo Buzz, LinkedIn, MySpace and more. When embedding, downloading and sharing a Conversation, we ask that you respect our terms.

Our content is in constant development, and periodically we will be posting additional Conversations from featured thinkers as well as adding new expert Thinkers. The homepage will regularly highlight Conversations recently added, as well as the most saved and most discussed.



Transmissions are documentary shorts written and produced by Sputnik Observatory that focus on the compelling questions and complex issues unfolding among leading ideas in the arts, sciences and technologies, centered around an Observatory Theme.

Transmissions are edited from Conversations of various featured thinkers, all contributing to a culturally provocative subject. Transmissions are embeddable, and available as podcasts as well.


What is a PATH?

A Path is your footprint through the Observatory, recording every video you select. It also acts as a research and publishing tool, enabling you to record, save and share what you found interesting.

Paths are a fixed feature at the bottom of every page in the Observatory experience, located in a My Path display box. Each Conversation or Transmission video you select, whether you view it entirely or not, becomes a circle icon placed in the exact order you click through. At any given time during your visit, if you ever want to return to a Conversation you previously viewed or highlighted, you can look for it in your Path.

To the right of the My Path display box are tools for viewing the videos you selected: The “<<“ (left arrow) moves backward through your Path lineup; the “>>” (right arrow) lets you go forward. The “CLEAR PATH” feature clears out everything that has been recorded and lets you start over. The “SAVE PATH” button allows you to edit, annotate, save and/or publish your Path, and you must login to do this.

Paths are also a great resource for research. You can edit and add more comments to each Path you save in your My Obsrvtry room, and you can save as many Paths as you like without having to publish them to the Sputnik Observatory.

Paths are an integral part of documenting the shifts in cultural thought. Collectively, the Paths published by the public as well as the Sputnik Observatory will serve to document and archive the ideas and issues that culture found most interesting. Leaving a Path for others to follow is a respectful way to exchange ideas. We invite you to map a Path and annotate your thoughts on the Z-A cultural Themes.


How do I make a PATH?

A Path forms simply by documenting every video you view on the website, building sequentially in the order you view the videos. Paths become a reference (you can use the left arrow and right arrow icons to the right of the Path box to navigate between the videos you have watched) and a means for saving, annotating and publishing what you found interesting.

Whether you are looking to research, learn or share your thoughts on a subject, we offer these suggestions to guide you through the Path making process:


How do I edit a Path?

You may save and/or share a Path anytime during your experience. Choosing this option also allows you to edit which videos you want to keep or delete. Simply select the “SAVE PATH” option to the right of the My Path display box. This will prompt you to login (if you aren’t already) and lead you to the Path room.

The top of the page offers options to Name your Path and provide a Path Description. The Conversations are placed in the same consecutive order that they were selected. Each Conversation displayed provides you with the tool to view a select video ("Play Video in New Window"), delete a Conversation (“Remove Video”) and to add your comments by selecting “Annotate” located beneath each Conversation clip.

If you have viewed more than the number of Conversations shown in the page area, the gray bar above the Conversations slides to show all the videos in your Path.

To save your edited Path for your reference only, click “SAVE PATH,” which will be stored in your My Obsrvtry.


How do I publish a Path to the Sputnik Observatory?

To save and publish your edited Path to the Observatory, check the “Publish Path” box next to “SAVE PATH.” Please be mindful that if you check the “Publish Path to Obsrvtry site” box your annotations per Conversation will be accessible to the public, and will be searchable under “Everyone” in Paths. We encourage you to publish as many Paths as you like, and thank you for your participation in the conversation on contemporary cultural ideas.


How do I delete a Path?

Go to your My Obsrvtry area and select “Paths.” You will see all the Paths you have saved and/or published to the Sputnik Observatory. To the left of each title is the option to “Edit” or “Delete.” Please note that when you choose to “Delete” a Path, it will be removed from both your My Obsrvtry area and the Observatory knowledgebase and cannot be retrieved.


How do I view a published Path?

The arrow to the left of the Path title is what will open a Path for viewing. The first Conversation in the Path will begin to play, and you will see the selected Path appear in the Path box on the bottom of the page. Annotations from the Path author will display to the right of the Conversation playing.

You can choose to continue viewing the Conversations in the Path you have selected by clicking on the next circle icon in the lineup in the Path display box. You have to repeat this to view each Conversation in the selected Path. You also have the ability to view any Conversation within the Path in any order you wish simply by scrolling over the circle icons and clicking on your selection.

When a Path Conversation is playing, you will see the Theme it is related to and suggested other Conversations with the current Theme. If you choose to play one of the other suggested videos, the Path you first selected will remain in the Path display box until you clear it out by selecting “CLEAR PATH.” Clearing the Path display box will enable you to start building your own Path.

If you are interested in learning about a Path’s author and preview a snapshot of the featured Conversations and annotations, select “VIEW PATH” to the right of the Path display box. This will bring you to the Path room, with a link to the author’s My Obsrvtry area in the top left corner. If you want to leave the select Path room and return to what you were viewing you must select the “CLOSE PATH” in the upper right corner.


I am an educator - how can I use this content?

Education is at the heart of our purpose, and we kept this in mind when creating the interdisciplinary experience of the Sputnik Observatory.

Our intent is to foster collaborative, multimedia-based associative learning. Accessible online, the Sputnik Observatory allows teachers and their students to browse our landscape of contemporary ideas and leading thinkers in the arts, sciences and technology—fields that are complementary to most lesson plans. It provides a place where you can learn of relative new developments and provocative viewpoints to support topics covered in your lectures.

Because it is accessible online, the Sputnik Observatory provides several ways in which teachers and their students can use the information and contribute their own viewpoints to our collective knowledgebase.

The best way to engage your students in the learning experience is in the creation of a Path. Paths are a tool in which to document, annotate, save, share and publish your viewpoint of the insights you encounter. Paths organically build following your footprint through the Conversations and Transmissions you view during each visit. Everyone has the ability to publish their Path, and it is a great way to encourage discussion and to contribute personal opinions.

If you are looking to augment your lecture or lesson plan, one way is to explore our Themes, which identify contemporary topics culled from the intersection of art, science, technology and culture. Each Theme has an editorial introduction detailed with cultural references, and offers a selection of related expert Conversations, Paths and Transmissions.

You can also explore all of the experts we feature and their subject matter organized under People. Each thinker profile has a biography, links to personal websites, Paths they create and their featured Conversations, identified by the Theme they are discussing.

Our goal is to create interdisciplinary learning tools for public education institutes and educators, and your feedback on this first step would be helpful. Please send us your comments at .


When I search for “apple” I don't get any results!

Well, for one, “apple” is specific and not expansive in meaning :-).

Let us explain: Sputnik Observatory’s Search offers a means of discovery. It is not a linear or verbatim search; rather, it is contextually-engineered search, in which the meaning and associative meanings are metatagged through the lens of cultural analysis and understanding of interdisciplinary learning.

Each Search result is sorted by Conversations, Paths, People, Themes and Transmissions, datamined from the content featured within the Sputnik Observatory. We suggest sorting through the suggested Conversations first, as each video you click to view offers a line-up of suggested other videos relevant to the Theme, thereby organically enhancing your search.

So, using “apple” as an example, think of a broader topic of what you would want to learn or discover about “apple.” For example, could it be “sustainable farming?” Searching “sustainable farming” yields several Conversations and Themes, such as “Muscle Crops,” “Synthetic Biology,” and “Urban Metabolism.”

If you still don’t find what you are looking for, one suggestion would be to first look through the Themes found in the Index or navigation bar, organized Z-A. Each Theme has an editorial explanation, and suggested Conversations, Paths and Transmissions that are connected to the context of the Theme. By starting with a Theme, or using a Theme as a guide to refine your search, your discovery has begun.

Expansion of our search possibilities is a continual process for the Sputnik Observatory as we add more People, Conversations, Themes, Paths and Transmissions each year.


What’s next for the Sputnik Observatory?

The Sputnik Observatory website is our first effort to invite you to participate in the exploration of ideas that will be shaping our tomorrow.

Over time, we will be busy expanding into more live, open, public forums to promote a greater cultural dialogue between thinkers and curious minds of all ages. This will take shape as live events, collaborative programs and interdisciplinary educational tools.

We also plan to publish contemporary books and materials, and produce documentary shorts celebrating the top Z-A Themes searched, annotated and designated by you, our members.

Moreover, we will be searching the globe for the next big dreamer, adding more People, Conversations and ultimately, more Themes and Paths to the Observatory.

If there is anything you would like to suggest, we’d love to hear from you—please write to us at .


How can I contribute?

There are several ways to contribute to the Sputnik Observatory.

One is to submit an original Path, including annotation of your interpretation of the insights gathered. Your Path will be added to the Sputnik Observatory, available for members to view and discuss.

You can provide your opinions of the Conversations viewed by adding your comments, as well as respond to comments by other members on that same Conversation. Or you can join the community discussion around the topics covered in our Blog.

When you post your opinions, you are participating in an open cultural discussion, and we ask that you be thoughtful and respectful in your comments.

If you know of a thinker you would like to recommend to the Observatory, we would be delighted to review your suggestions—please write to us at .

You can help the Observatory fulfill its mission and build our knowledgebase with a monetary donation. No size is too small, and we appreciate every donation as it allows us to keep the site free of charge.