Third day at Starmus brings historic moments

Posted by David Eicher
on Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stephen Hawking delivers a personal reminiscence, in 'A brief history of mine,' Starmus, Tenerife, June 29, 2016. // Credit: David J. Eicher
OK, this conference, which started out magnificently, becomes dreamily better each day. Some 1,000 people are here on Tenerife for the third Starmus Festival, the unique gathering that celebrates science, music, and art. The speakers this time are truly mind-blowing. We have numerous astronauts, 10 Nobel Prize winners, rock stars, cosmologists, and planetary scientists sharing the latest words on many subfields of our interests. It is truly a meeting like no other.

On Wednesday, June 29, the conference took straight aim at our guest of honor. The great physicist Stephen Hawking began the day by delivering a spectacular personal reminiscence, “A Brief History of Mine,” in which he shared the story of his life and career. It was an incredibly moving moment to be in the audience for this session.

And then an all-star lineup followed Stephen. Keynote speaker Brian Eno, world renowned as a musician and an ardent supporter and student of science, delivered a fascinating address on perception and the meaning and differences between science and the arts. It was eye-opening and spawned a good deal of discussion later in the day.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a former vice president of the World Bank, then described the economic state of the world and the reasons that have led to much trouble — the incredible and historic divide between the few richest people in the world and the rest of us. It was highly illuminating and depressing, and we can only hope that world economies re-balance in the future, as things are really out of hand. (I know — I have a son in college.)

One of my favorite people in the world of astronomy then followed, as Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and one of the great fixtures of British astronomy, delivered a marvelous overview lecture of where we stand with astronomy and cosmology. It was really splendid and left the audience highly entertained.

And then came a surprise that only a few of us knew about a short time ago. MC Hawking, aka Ken Lawrence, gave a great performance overview of “Stephen Hawking’s rap career.” The video and accompanying stage performance, MC Hawking spewing rap lyrics relating to Stephen’s career, was priceless — and it was produced in collusion with Garik Israelian and friends. The audience was stunned and could not have enjoyed it more.

And the day just kept going. Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist, wowed the audience with an insightful talk on telomeres and the role they play in human aging. It was simply amazing. Our good friend Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut and godfather of Asteroid Day, delivered a great and rousing talk on asteroid impact dangers, the politics of avoiding a strike, and a call to action to sign the Asteroid Day declaration. (Please see to get involved!)

Nobel Prize winning physicist David Gross then recounted the challenges that lie ahead for physics. And then we heard a magnificent discussion between Richard Dawkins, such a sensational guy, and astrophysicist Steve Balbus, covering all manner of angles on evolution. As if this all hadn’t been overwhelming, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield then gave a fantastic talk on experiences as an astronaut — truly moving. And the day was capped off by Brian May, one of Starmus’s central figures, legendary Queen guitarist and astrophysicist. Brian spoke about Starmus and also introduced the audience to his new OWL Virtual Reality Kit — an essential for anyone who wants to see the universe in all dimensions. It is really fabulous and will change the way you see stars and planets. For more, see

And then came the gala dinner. But you get the point: by the time the food and wine arrived, we were exhausted, happy, out of our minds with the day’s talks, and ready for another big day tomorrow!!

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

For related blogs see:
   Starmus starts with a bang in Tenerife!
   A spectacular second day at Starmus



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