Speaking at the IPS in Beijing

Posted by David Eicher
on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Some of the staff of Amateur Astronomy magazine, China’s largest astronomy publication, meets with Editor Dave Eicher; l. to r., editor and graphic artist Zhang Yi Jie; photographer Su Chen; artist Ma Xiaokun; Dave Eicher; and director Li Jian, Beijing Planetarium, Beijing, China, June 24, 2014 // Credit: David J. Eicher
Tuesday morning, June 24, began with my keynote address to the 350 attendees of the 22nd International Planetarium Society meeting at the Beijing Planetarium in, China. My talk was titled “Does the Universe Really Care About Itself? Communicating Astronomy in the 21st Century,” and it focused on the challenges we have with spreading the truth about science in this age. I examined the trends making it hard for younger people to get into serious subjects like astronomy, influenced more and more as time goes on by fantasy versus reality, a constant stream of TV and other entertainment — much of which misses the important recent  science and distorts reporting the information they do cover — and a lack of awareness of the cosmos around them. I concluded by describing the numerous areas of great importance in astronomy, astrophysics, planetary science, and cosmology in which huge strides have been made over just the past few years.

“Does the universe care about itself?” I finished. “Yes, we born of the cosmos do care. But many more of us on this planet need the realization of where we are and why we are here. It’s a message that can liberate us all and make us a great, forward-moving civilization of the future.

“We need all the firepower we can get. The stakes are high. Knowing and appreciating the universe and how it works is too important to let slip away.

“As a friend of ours once wrote, this world has only one sweet moment set aside for us. That moment is now.”

Following many conversations with attendees, we had lunch, and then I set off for an appointment with Li Jian, director of Amateur Astronomy, China’s biggest astronomy magazine, which is produced at the Beijing Planetarium. I was really touched by meeting the staff, who treated me royally, and we shared much of the afternoon talking astronomy and magazines. The hospitality from Li Jian and his colleagues Zhang Yi Jie, Su Chen, and Ma Xiaokun was really incredible, and we discussed all aspects of what they are doing, the magazine prospering well with a circulation of 30,000. I think it is fair to say that we will be cooperating on some interesting things in the future between the two magazines in the United States and China, set to help the community of astronomy enthusiasts in both countries.

Tuesday night was once again set aside for demonstrations from producers of planetarium shows, and the many films in two different theaters wowed us with spectacular graphics and sequences. Among the companies presenting on this night were Sky-Skan (in conjunction with Sony, with a presentation narrated by Astronomy’s own Martin Ratcliffe), Fulldome.pro, Softmachine, Bella Gaia, Macro and Micro Digital Technology, Spitz, and Ohira Tech.

What a glorious night!

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

Related blogs:
International Planetarium Society meets in Beijing

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