I follow International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) tweets, and every once and a while I visit the IYA 2009 website, but sometimes I just stumble over IYA events connected with this amazing global educational initiative commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei.
I stumbled recently, discovering what could be the most interesting astronomy conference of the year: "Astronomy and Civilization," to be held less than two weeks from now in Budapest, Hungary.
The goal of this multidisciplinary conference is to "call attention to the close relationships between astronomy, natural sciences, philosophy, and civilization, and their influence in the shaping of our future. The scientific world picture fixes the important questions and shows how they might be answered. Since the basis of the world picture is the Universe, the scientific world picture is based on astronomy."
World pictures or worldviews, including scientific ones, have long been an interest of mine (several will be the subject of my next post). And so with its major themes concerning relationships between astronomy and civilization, cosmology, astrobiology, philosophy, religion, and art, I have no doubt that next month's program in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe will generate new insights into our personal and cultural interactions with the cosmos. Here are some questions the conference hopes to address:
- Why is astronomy so important for mankind?
- What is the basis of the concept of the Universe? What are the presuppositions of science basic in our present physical world picture?
- What are the important differences between the observed Universe and its physical models? What is the relation between our perceptions and the Universe?
- What is complexity, and how can it be important in the study of the Universe?
- Does quantum mechanics play a non-trivial role in the astrobiological aspects of life?
- What are the most general aspects of life within cosmic conditions? Are there cosmic life forms different from terrestrial ones?
- How can philosophy, religion and art contribute to obtain a more complete concept of the Universe?
- What are the most significant and genuine contributions of astronomy to civilization — and how can it improve the perspectives of mankind?
All of them speak to our fundamental relationship with the Universe. Answering even one in a comprehensive way would be a transforming and rewarding experience. I'm looking forward to learning more about this unusual special event in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, interested readers can find the full program and abstracts here.
Next stop: Worldviews
Banner bus photo credit: Dorothy Delina Porter