Starmus starts with a bang in Tenerife!

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Starmus speakers pose with Stephen Hawking and Garik Israelian, Starmus, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, Day 1, June 27, 2016. // Credit: David J. Eicher
The third Starmus Festival, the unique gathering celebrating astronomy, science, music, and art, got underway in Tenerife, Canary Islands, on Monday, June 27, 2016. Under the direction of Garik Israelian, astronomer and founder of the festival, an all-star cast assembled to discuss the state of the universe along with a crowd of 1,000 attendees. It was an absolutely incredible day, setting a new milestone for the Starmus experience. This year the gathering honors Professor Stephen Hawking, who was in attendance and who will continue to participate in the proceedings during the week to come.

The afternoon’s lectures were mind-blowing for everyone in the audience. Astronomer Jim Al-Khalili chaired the session, which featured an opening talk by Adam Riess on the nature of dark energy and our discovery of the wholesale properties of the cosmos. Riess was one of the discoverers of dark energy and won the Nobel Prize for his work. Brian Greene of Columbia University followed, delivering a fascinating and precise overview of string theory and of the potential for multiverses, much to the crowd’s delight. Bob Wilson went next, and he detailed his discovery, along with Arno Penzias, of the cosmic microwave background, which amounted to confirmation of the Big Bang Theory of the cosmos.

The talks this year are limited to about 20 minutes, which makes the afternoon seem to go quickly. Alf McEwen then followed with an outstanding discussion of the possibilities for life on Mars and Europa as well as an overview of exploration to date. Well known astronomy celebrities Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson then held an informal chat about the state of science and communication that left the audience highly entertained. A special guest then appeared in Anthony McCarten, a very nice fellow who was the producer and screenwriter of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the film based on Stephen Hawking’s life, and he paid a wonderful tribute to Stephen.

The evening commenced with a talk on gravitational wave discoveries by Barry Barish, and then presentations on science fiction writing by Robert Sawyer and a talk on artificial intelligence and the future by Peter Schwartz.

The final three talks were spellbinding. Joel Parker of the SWRI was absolutely terrific in summarizing two missions, New Horizons to Pluto and Rosetta to Comet 69P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko. That left the audience wowed. And then came Steve Balbus talking about why fish left the sea, in an insightful look at evolution on Earth, and a great closing talk by Nobel Prize winning physicist Eric Betzig on telescopes and microscopy. What an incredible range of talks it was!!

And then we all went down to a beach welcome party with wonderful food and drinks and conversations that went straight into the night. Exhausted, we tramped back to the hotel, ready to do it all again on Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

For all images from the trip, visit the Online Reader Galllery.

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