Guest blog: Stephen Hawking will be headlining the STARMUS Festival

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The famous theoretical physicist will speak at the conference in Tenerife

“To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit” –
Stephen Hawking  

After a recent visit to Stephen Hawking at his home in Cambridge (United Kingdom), Garik Israelian astrophysicist, founder, and director of the festival STARMUS and researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), said that the renowned British physicist and cosmologist has declared that " he was very much looking forward to attending the Starmus Festival and visiting the island of Tenerife and the Canarian Observatories.” Hawking will deliver the opening speech of the conference during this second edition of the Starmus Festival, which has the theme "Beginnings: The Making of the Modern Cosmos," which will take place at the Abama Golf & Spa Resort in Tenerife (Canary Islands) September 22–27, 2014 .

Hawking will be accompanied by a variety of internationally renowned speakers, including astronauts, cosmonauts, astronomers, cosmologists, chemists, biologists and Nobel Prize winners. The theoretical physicist will also join the round table discussion to be held in the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) at the Observatory of the Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma.

Scientific background
Considered one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein, his work on the origins and structure of the universe, the Big Bang to black holes, has revolutionized the field of cosmology. Moreover, his best-sellers — A Brief History of Time (1988), The Universe in a Nutshell (2001), and The Grand Design (2010) — have helped popularize science and make it accessible to everyone.

A Brief History of Time broke all sales records for books in a way that would have been difficult to predict. By May 1995, it had been in The Sunday Times best-sellers list for 237 weeks, breaking the previous record of 184 weeks, selling 10 million copies in 10 years. This deed was recorded in the 1998 Guinness Book of Records.  

He was diagnosed with ALS a form of Motor Neurone Disease, shortly after his 21st birthday. In spite of being wheelchair bound and dependent on a computerized voice system for communication, he still manages to combine a family life (he has three children and three grandchildren) and his continued research into theoretical physics, together with an extensive program of travel and public lectures. He also still hopes to travel into space one day!

Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. The son of a research biologist and a medical research secretary, his upbringing gave him a strong curiosity about the universe. He was drawn to physics and mathematics as the sciences that offer the most fundamental insights into the world. He studied natural sciences at Oxford University, where he was awarded a first, and then moved to Cambridge to begin a Ph.D. in cosmology.

Professor Hawking has received a dozen honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, medals and decorations, including the Order of the British Empire (1982), The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (1989), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), the highest civilian award in the United States. He is also a member of the Royal Society and the National Academy of Science.

In 1979, he accepted the post of Lucasion Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post once held by Isaac Newton. Stephen Hawking’s voice was used in the song “Keep Talking” on Pink Floyd’s last album “The Division Bell”.

Beginnings the Making of the Modern Cosmos
"I greatly appreciate,” Garik Israelian said, “that Professor Hawking has devoted many hours of his valuable time to contact me and discuss several important issues relating to the conference and Starmus". Hawking, explained that he had heard about the Starmus Festival from his friends Kip Thorne and Brian May. IAC astrophysicist Israelian and he also talked about the last BICEP2 discovery of gravitational waves, among other topics. "I could not believe I was communicating directly with one of the all-time heroes of science: Stephen Hawking" exclaims Israelian.

Besides Hawking, other speakers at Starmus will include Robert Wilson, Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the radiation cosmic microwave background. Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for the discovery of fullerenes (complex carbon chains present in the interstellar medium). The renowned ethnologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, the legendary guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, astronomer Jill Tarter, president of the SETI Institute, and astrophysicist Robert Williams, former president of the International Astronomical Union. More names will be announced soon.

Also speaking will be three Apollo moonwalkers: Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell, Charlie Duke of Apollo 16 and Apollo 17’s Jack Schmitt (the last man to walk on the moon). In addition, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov (the first man to walk in space and commander of Soyuz-Apollo mission) will be joined by four fellow cosmonaut spacewalkers.

Starmus Activities  
The Starmus Festival is open to anyone who has a passion for astronomy, science, the arts, and music, and who has a desire to know more about where we came from and what’s out there.    

Activities at Starmus are not just limited to the talks. There will also be a Teide star party, gala dinner, cocktail reception, space legends tribute, a roundtable discussion in the GTC telescope, sonic universe contest, and tours to visit the observatories in Tenerife and La Palma. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to mingle freely with the scientists, artists, and rock stars and casually talk about the universe and what it all means.  

108’ Roundtable Discussion
A select group of astronauts, astronomers, and scientists, including Stephen Hawking, will sit inside the dome of the GTC at the Observatory of Roque de Los Muchachos to present, analyze, and discuss the latest developments in their respective fields.

It will last 108 minutes, which is the same time as the first ever human space flight by the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961.

Teide Star Party
A party to watch the stars at the foot of Mount Teide at 2,100 meters at the Teide Observatories in Izaña in Tenerife will allow participants to explore the Universe from some of the darkest skies on Earth and exchange their points of view with some great geniuses of science.

Teide is a 3,718m volcano, and participants will witness some incredible deep-sky views from this magical place that appears almost like the lunar landscape.

Teide National Park was recently awarded the title of “Starlight Destination” and “Starlight Reserve” thanks to its clear, dark skies, high altitude, and proximity to the Equator. The certificate was awarded to the UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Starlight Foundation, which aims to preserve clear skies.

Sonic Universe Concert
Starmus 2014 will feature a music concert featuring the keyboardist Rick Wakeman, famous for his work in the rock group Yes, along with the world famous guitarist Brian May from Queen.

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The event is driven by its developer Garik Israelian, an astrophysicist researcher Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) and a scientific advisory board including Dr Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist for the legendary rock band "Queen" and Alexei Leonov, the legendary Russian cosmonaut who made the first space walk in 1965.

The Festival is supported by the Canary Islands Government through PROMOTUR Turismo de Canarias, the Cabildo of Tenerife, Agencia Canaria de Investigación, Innovación y Sociedad de la Información, the Cabildo of La Palma, International Astronomical Union and Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC).

The official media partner is Astronomy Magazine


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