When bright people talk about dark things: retrospective view of Starmus III

  • August 8, 2022
 When bright people talk about dark things: retrospective view of Starmus III

YEREVAN, AUGUST 8, ARMENPRESS. Music and art can bring people closer to science and inspire new scientific discoveries. The world's most prestigious scientists, astronauts and artists gathered again in the Canary Islands in 2016 to discuss mysteries of art and science, astronomy and the Universe, to talk about the future of humanity and new scientific achievements.

Starmus III. "Beyond the horizon. Tribute to Stephen Hawking"

The third Starmus festival was held in 2016, already in the traditional Canary Islands. This year, the science and music festival held from June 27 to July 2 was entitled "Beyond the Horizon. Tribute to Stephen Hawking". The clear proof of the success of the festival in previous years was the constantly growing number of participants. This year's list of speakers was no less remarkable and impressive: theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov who was the first to conduct a spacewalk, the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space Chris Hadfield, Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart, SpaceX senior consultant Garrett Reisman, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, CEO of Kaspersky Lab Eugene Kaspersky, Nobel laureates physicist Roger Penrose, astrophysicists Kip Thorne, Adam Riess, Brian Schmidt and Barry Barish, biochemist Elizabeth Blackburn, neuroscientist Edvard Moser, physicists Robert Wilson, Eric Betzig and David Gross, economist Joseph Stiglitz, and others.

The musical part of the festival was also unique this year, as Starmus III Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, Queen guitarist, astrophysicist Brian May, renowned theater singer Sarah Brightman and others participated in the festival.

The festival was also unique for the fact that this year, for the first time, the award named after Stephen Hawking was awarded within the framework of Starmus, which had been announced in December 2015. This one-of-a-kind medal was awarded to Science Communicators in three categories: Science, Art and Film. The author of Stephen Hawking's image on one side of the medal is cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. Spacewalker musician Brian May and his famous guitar are depicted on the other side of the medal.

Speaking about the medal, Stephen Hawking said, “By engaging with everyone from school children to politicians to pensioners, science communicators put science right at the heart of daily life. Bringing science to the people brings people into science. This matters to me, to you, to the world as a whole. Therefore, I am very pleased to support and honour the work of science communicators”.

The presentation of Stephen Hawking Medal in December, 2015 in London.


Where there is life, there is hope

Stephen Hawking started the lecture “The brief story of my life” in the sidelines of Starmus III with the following words, “I was born on January 8, 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei”. During the lecture seasoned with his characteristic humor, Hawking presented his childhood, university life and everyday life, his first steps into astrophysics and cosmology, as well as the first years of facing the disease. “I began to appreciate everything I have. Where there is life, there is hope."

Hawking presented his hypothesis on the origin of the Universe, black holes and the storage of information in them, expressing the opinion that the future of humanity is outside the planet Earth.

"We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity. I don't think we can survive another 1000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet. That is why I want to encourage public interest in space... It was a glorious time to live and do research in the field of theoretical physics.  The fact that we humans, who ourselves are mere collections of fundamental particles of nature, have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our Universe is a great triumph. Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the Universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed. It's important not to give up”, Hawking concluded.

Hawking displaying a photograph from his student years at Oxford University during his 'My Brief History' speech

The world's greatest discoveries come through trial and error

One of the keynote speakers at Starmus III was Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spent 166 days in space. He was the first Canadian to walk in space, the first Canadian to become the commander of the International Space Station in 2013. Hadfield especially gained popularity for filming his daily routine on the space station and posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Google and Tumblr, providing interesting information about his daily life in weightlessness.

Within the framework of the festival, Hadfield spoke about the missions carried out in space, the importance of astronautics. He stated that space travel is a vital part of humanity’s fundamental desire to explore.

After the speech, Hadfield was asked by a reporter what advice he would give to kids who love science but often find themselves at a dead end in their experiments, to which he answered,

"Any scientist has to accept that things can go wrong all the time. Even Galileo had no idea what he would see when he first looked through the telescope. As a result, he rewrote all of our perceptions of what the Universe is like. The world's greatest discoveries come through trial and error. This is exactly how we learn to walk, talk, use our abilities. You have to learn from mistakes."

During the period on the International Space Station, Hadfield's rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity, among other published photos and videos, became particularly popular, with more than a few tens of millions of views on YouTube. Starmus III participants had the unique opportunity to hear the song performed live on stage by the Canadian astronaut.

When bright people talk about dark things

Physicist Brian Schmidt, who won the Nobel Prize in 2011 discovering with two other scientists that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, gave a lecture under the title "Dark Dark Universe". He noted that for him the power of astrology is that "it allows you to look directly into the past." Schmidt talked about dark matter and dark energy in the Universe. In his speech, he explained how he came to the conclusion that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate by studying explosions of dozens of Type Ia supernova in faraway galaxies.

The photo shows Brian Schmidt at the "Dark, Dark Universe" lecture

He noted that at first they couldn't believe their own data and spent months re-verifying it. Schmidt added that though they don't know what dark energy is, it's clearly everywhere.

Science communicators - Hawking medal winners

Stephen Hawking Medals were presented for the first time on the stage of Starmus III. Physicist Jim Al-Khalili won in the science category for his great contribution to communicating science, and composer Hans Zimmer in the art category for his music for the science fiction film "Interstellar". And the scientific documentary film Particle Fever won in the film category. The winners were chosen by Hawking himself, who, announcing the names of the winners before the start of the festival, noted that the winners made a great contribution to public communication to science.

Jim Al-Khalili, accepting the award,said: "This is the confirmation of that practical research scientists can also become accepted and recognized as successful science communicators. Like Stephen, I feel it is both an obligation and a privilege to share my amazement about how the Universe works and what our role is here with as many people as possible."

“Forget the Oscar. This is the right place” - with these words, Hollywood Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer received his medal on the Starmus stage.

“I've met a lot of scientists who listen to my music while working, and I'm very flattered by that. The only thing that can save us, this planet, which is just a little blue dot, is science. There is no music without science," the composer noted.

Stephen Hawking medal winners on Starmus III stage


26 Starmus III speeches in one book

At the end of the festival, the authors summed up Starmus III with the book titled "Starmus. Beyond the Horizon", which includes 26 speeches dedicated to Hawking, the origin of the Universe, the "big bang" theory, managing the planet Earth and its natural resources and its future. The author of the book's opening statement is Hawking himself.

"Starmus. Beyond the Horizon" book summarizing the 26 speeches of the festival participants.

Read also:

A Look Back At First STARMUS Festival

From rhino with spider legs to secrets of black holes: Looking back at STARMUS II Festival


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