Starmus Day 6 highlights

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, July 10, 2017

The great Jill Tarter details the current state of SETI research, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

The final day of Starmus IV, Friday, June 23, 2017, began in Trondheim with scattered morning activities in the main hall and around the city. 

Late in the morning the first big talk took place when Yale University cosmologist Priyamvada Natarajan delivered an eloquent lecture on dark matter and its relationship with the cosmological history of the universe. It was well attended and a treat to hear this great mind share her thoughts on cosmology. 

The great Priyamvada Natarajan speaks on cosmology, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

The next talk was truly incredible. Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Edvard Moser, one of the hosts of the Trondheim meeting, delivered a talk about his research on the brain and its positioning system, which lies in the seahorse-shaped organ called the hippocampus. Edvard’s experiments, along with May-Britt Moser and John O’Keefe showed how the brain creates spatial maps to know where in the world we are. It is astonishing research, and I encourage you to watch some of Edvard’s presentations on Youtube to learn more. Edvard was in high spirits and enjoying himself very much, no doubt proud that his involvement, coming to Starmus last year, was what enabled the Festival to occur in Trondheim this time. 

Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Edvard Moser describes his amazing research on the brain, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

Next came another eye-opening talk about the brain, this time from Nobel Prize winning scientist Susumu Tonegawa, who described exactly what we know about human memory in the brain. It was incredible, and thought-provoking, and suggests that cures for such diseases as Alzheimer’s might be in the making in the not-too-distant future. The talk also highlighted how stimulating certain cells can produce memories of things that never happened. Perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall wasn’t all that far off, after all?? !! :)

Nobel Prize winning scientist Susumu Tonegawa describes exactly what we know about memory, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

And then came one of the highlights of the week. Jill Tarter delivered a spectacular address on the state of the SETI program, life in the universe, and the odds of finding it. It was a masterpiece. 

Canadian biologist Paul Hebert then delivered another very alarming talk: in it, he quantified the so-called Sixth Extinction, in which numerous animal species are being wiped out during the last several decades by humans. Virtually all of us who understand how science works know that global warming is a major problem. Fewer people, I think, are aware of the incredible and horrifying rate of the loss of species on Earth, a disaster that is also ongoing. 

Canadian biologist Paul Hebert delivers a stunning assessment of how quickly Earth is losing large numbers of animal species, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

The audience of some 2,500 — and another 18,000 streaming online — was then treated to a nicely personal talk by astronaut Terry Virts, a veteran of shuttle and ISS flights, who reflected on what it means to be human, the view of our planet from space, and what we should be doing as humans to take care of each other and of the planet. It made a lovely way to wrap up the Festival’s final day. 

Astronaut Terry Virts provides a closing address for the fourth Starmus Festival, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

And then truly came the end: Garik Israelian, the Festival‘s founder and director, spoke eloquently about the history of Starmus and joked a bit about the future. There will certainly be a Starmus V. Where and when? Garik needs rest before we figure that out. 

Thanks to all who made Starmus an amazing success this year. It created numerous memories, once again, for the ages. 

A few final words from Starmus founder and director Garik Israelian — and Starmus IV comes to a close! Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 23, 2017.

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