Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr., professionally known as LeVar Burton, is an American actor, director, producer and, author. Burton first came to prominence portraying Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley. He is also well known for his role as Lt. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the host of the PBS children’s program Reading Rainbow. In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached him with the role of the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. La Forge is blind, but is granted “sight” through the use of a prosthetic device called a VISOR, which is worn over his eyes. La Forge is the USS Enterprise’s helmsman, and as of the show’s second season, its Chief Engineer. At the time, Burton was considerably better known than Patrick Stewart in the United States, due to the fame he gained from starring in Roots. The Associated Press stated that Burton’s role was essentially the “new Spock.”
Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller) is an American magician, illusionist, comedian, writer, and the frequently silent half of the comedy magic duo Penn & Teller, along with Penn Jillette. He legally changed his name from “Raymond Joseph Teller” to just “Teller”. He is an atheist, debunker, skeptic, and Fellow of the Cato Institute (a libertarian think-tank organization which also lists his partner Penn Jillette as a Fellow). The Cato Institute Association is featured prominently in the Penn and Teller Showtime TV series B*llsh*t!. Teller is a coauthor of the Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper “Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research” from the November 2008 issue. In 2010, Teller wrote Play Dead, a “throwback to the spook shows of the 1930s and ’40s” that ran September 12–24 in Las Vegas before opening Off Broadway in New York. The show stars sideshow performer and magician Todd Robbins.
Henry Rollins is an American spoken word artist, musician, writer, journalist, comedian, publisher, actor, radio DJ, and activist. After performing for the short-lived Washington D.C.-based band State of Alert in 1980, Rollins fronted the California hardcore punk band Black Flag from August 1981 until mid-1986. Following the band’s breakup, Rollins established the record label and publishing company 2.13.61 to release his spoken word albums, as well as forming the Rollins Band, which toured with a number of lineups from 1987 until 2003, and during 2006. Since Black Flag disbanded, Rollins has hosted numerous radio shows, such as Harmony in My Head on Indie 103, and television shows such as The Henry Rollins Show, MTV’s 120 Minutes, and Jackass. He had a recurring dramatic role in the second season of Sons of Anarchy and has also had roles in several films. Rollins has also campaigned for various political causes in the United States, including promoting LGBT rights, World Hunger Relief, and an end to war in particular, and tours overseas with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops.
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie). Some of his books have also been made into live-action and animated films and television shows. Verne is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title sometimes shared with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells.
Matthew White Ridley is an English journalist, author, biologist, and businessman. He has written several science books including the The Red Queen (1994), Genome (2000) and The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010). Ridley has been short-listed twice for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. In 2011, he won the Hayek Prize, which “honors the book published within the past two years that best reflects Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty.” Ridley also gave the Angus Millar Lecture on “scientific heresy” at the RSA in 2011 and his TED.com talk on “when ideas have sex” has been viewed 1.3m times. Ridley was educated at Eton College from 1970–1975 and then went on to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford and completed a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours in zoology and then a Doctor of Philosophy in zoology in 1983. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989 and American editor from 1990 to 1992.
William Seward Burroughs II (also known by his pen name William Lee) was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century.” His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote 18 novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two initially unsuccessful early novels, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions. The reception for Rand’s fiction from literary critics has historically been mixed and polarizing, with extreme opinions both for and against her work commonly being expressed. Nonetheless, she continues to have a popular following, as well as a growing influence among scholars and academics. Rand’s political ideas have been influential among libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.