Public Event Speakers (Click here for speakers bios)
Oct. 12, 2008 - Morning

From the Language of Heaven to the Rationale of Matter
Tsung-Dao Lee, Columbia University

The Impact of Modern Telescope Development on Astronomy
Riccardo Giacconi, Johns Hopkins University

Searching for Other Earths and Life in the Universe
Geoff Marcy, University of California, Berkeley

Conference Speakers
Oct. 13, 14 and 15, 2008

Talks are in approximate order of presentation and will be 30 minutes long, with 10 additional minutes for questions. A detailed program with presentation times, additional speakers, Young Scholars competition speakers, meal and break times will be posted at a later date. Titles of the talks may undergo slight changes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

  1. Impact of Telescopes on our Knowledge of the Universe
    • Gary Hinshaw, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
      The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation - A Unique Window on the Early Universe
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The cosmic microwave background radiation is the remnant heat from the Big Bang. It provides us with a unique probe of conditions in the early universe, long before any organized structures had yet formed. The anisotropy in the brightness of the radiation yields important clues about primordial structure and additionally provides a wealth of information about the physics of the early universe. Within the framework of inflationary dark matter models, observations of the anisotropy on sub-degree angular scales reveals the signatures of acoustic oscillations of the photon-baryon fluid at a redshift of ~1100.
      Data from the first five years of operation of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite provide detailed full-sky maps of the cosmic microwave background temperature and polarization anisotropy. Together, the data provide a wealth of cosmological information, including the age of the universe, the epoch when the first stars formed, and the overall composition of baryonic matter, dark matter, and dark energy. The results also provide constraints on the period of inflationary expansion in the very first moments of time.
      WMAP, part of NASA's Explorer program, was launched on June 30, 2001. The WMAP satellite was produced in a partnership between the Goddard Space Flight Center and Princeton University. The WMAP team also includes researchers at the Johns Hopkins University; the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics; University of Texas; Oxford University; University of Chicago; Brown University; University of British Columbia; and University of California, Los Angeles.

    • Simon White, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching
      The Development of Large Scale Structure in the Universe
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The microwave background provides us with an image of the Universe when it was only 400,000 years old. It was almost smooth, with no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no people, indeed, no elements heavier than lithium. I will describe how gravity caused today's complex astronomical world to emerge from this simple beginning, focusing on the roles played by dark matter and dark energy in shaping what we see around us. I will also discuss how future telescopes will test the critical aspects of this now standard, but inherently implausible, paradigm for the growth of cosmic structure.

    • Naoki Yoshida, IPMU, University of Tokyo
      The First Stars
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The first generation of stars appeared very early in the history of the Universe. These stars are thought to be the first sources of light, and also the first sources of heavy elements such as carbon, oxygen, and iron. The first stars terminate the cosmic Dark Ages, set the scene for later galaxy formation, and ultimately enable the emergence of life. I present the results from recent theoretical studies on the formation of the first stars within the framework of the standard cosmology. These theories predict that tiny density fluctuations left over from the Big Bang drive the formation of cosmic primordial stars when the age of the universe was less than a few million years. I show results from state-of-the-art computer simulations of primordial star formation. Finally, I will discuss prospects for future observations of the first stars exploiting ground-based and spaceborne telescopes.

    • Xiaowei Liu, Peking University
      The Dark Secrets of Gaseous Nebulae - a Brief History of Nebular Spectroscopy
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Emission line nebulae are widely used to obtain elemental abundances in our own Galaxy and beyond. Recent progress in observational techniques, atomic data and highperformance computation has enabled reliable measurements of lines as faint as one millionth of H beta, including weak optical recombination lines (ORLs) from abundant heavy elements (C, N, O, Ne, Mg) and collisional excited lines (CELs) from rare elements, such as fluorine and s- and r-process elements. This allows us to address some of the long-standing problems in nebular astrophysics as well as opening up new windows of opportunity.
      In this talk, I will give a brief review of the development of the theory of photoionized gaseous nebulae, highlighting some of the key events. I will then present some recent development of deep spectroscopy of planetary nebulae (PNe) and H II regions, concentrating on observations of faint heavy element ORLs. It is shown that there is strong evidence that nebulae contain a previously unknown component of cold (about 1,000 K), high-metallicity gas, probably in the form of H-deficient inclusions embedded in the warm (about 10,000 K) diffuse nebula of "normal (i.e. near solar ) composition". The cold component of plasma emits essentially all the observed fluxes of heavy element ORLs, but is too cool to excite any significant optical and ultraviolet CELs and thus invisible via the latter. The existence of such a cold plasma component in PNe and probably also in H II regions, not predicted by the current theory of stellar evolution, provides a natural solution to the long-standing dichotomy between nebular plasma diagnostics and abundance determinations using CELs on the one hand and ORLs on the other, a discrepancy that is ubiquitously observed in Galactic and extragalactic PNe as well as H II regions.

    • Alex Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley
      An Overview of Supernovae and Associated Gamma-Ray Bursts
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      I provide a brief review of all types of supernovae, and the probable link between some gamma-ray bursts and peculiar supernovae. Type Ia supernovae (SNe) arise from the thermonuclear runaway of a carbon-oxygen white dwarf whose mass grows to a value close to the Chandrasekhar limit through accretion from a companion star. Many details are, however, still unknown. The fact that their peak optical luminosities are very high, nearly uniform, and calibratable has made Type Ia SNe enormously useful as distance indicators, and led to the discovery that the Universe is currently undergoing accelerating expansion. Stars having initial masses above about 8 solar masses explode as core-collapse supernovae: Type II (hydrogen rich), IIb (low-mass hydrogen envelope), Ib (no hydrogen; helium outer envelope), and Ic (no hydrogen or helium). Spectropolarimetry shows that asymmetries are important in core-collapse supernovae, but successful explosions are still difficult to reproduce in numerical calculations. There is now ample evidence linking at least some of the long-duration gamma-ray bursts with especially energetic Type Ic supernovae.

    • Ben Moore, University of Zurich
      The Formation and Evolution of Galaxies
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Observations from high redshifts to within our Local Group have revealed the complexity and beauty behind the diverse population of galaxies in the Universe. After a review of the data provided by telescopes over the past 50 years from a theorist’s perspective, I will address several questions of interest, including "how galaxies form?", "is galaxy morphology set by external processes such as environment?", "why are some galaxies red and others blue?" and ultimately address what determines the Hubble sequence of galactic morphologies. The formation and evolution of galaxies is intricately linked to the hierarchical merging of the dark matter haloes that are inferred to exist around every galactic system. This process is most important at early times and strongly affects the visible baryonic components, primarily the stars and gas. Computer simulations have given us a detailed insight into the formation of galactic dark matter halos; however, following the galaxy formation process in detail, including all the appropriate physics of gas and radiation, is still a few years away. Nevertheless, we can still use the vast amount of observational data together with supercomputer calculations to address some of the above questions.

  2. Some Near-Term Challenges in Astronomy
    • Glennys Farrar, New York University
      Ultrahigh Energy Cosmic Rays
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Cosmic Rays were discovered almost a century ago but many mysteries still surround them. The most abundant ones are protons and nuclei accelerated in solar flares, whose energy is barely sufficient to penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. But cosmic rays have been detected with energies more than 10 million times larger than the highest energies achieved by humankind (in the LHC beams). Their speed is 0.999999999999999999999 times the speed of light, at these energies.
      We do not know how Nature can accelerate particles to such incredible energies, but finding out where they are produced is the first step in understanding that.
      The highest energy cosmic rays are very rare -- about one arrives per square kilometer, per century. Thus, detecting them in sufficient numbers to study their properties and determine their sources is a great challenge. As these ultrahigh energy cosmic rays, "UHECRs", go through the atmosphere they collide with the nuclei of air molecules and produce a cascade of particles that culminates in a tremendous shower containing tens of billions of particles. The core of the shower produces fluorescence light that can be seen by a telescope, and the shower has a halo extending many kilometers from the core. The halo can be sampled by an array of suitable detectors spread out over a large area on the ground.
      The recent completion of the Pierre Auger Observatory, which consists of 1600 surface detectors spread over 3000 km^2 and four air fluorescence telescopes, is a major advance in the field. After reviewing a bit of the history, and explaining how these highest energy cosmic rays are detected, some of the important discoveries that have been made so far will be described and a status report on our understanding will be given.

    • Elliott Bloom, SLAC, Stanford University
      Can we detect dark matter?
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      My title is a bit misleading, though technically accurate. “Detect” in the title means to determine the true nature of dark matter by measuring what it is made of. That dark matter exists is well established and almost uncontroversial at this time. I will quickly review the evidence for dark matter, which is largely based on astronomical observations. In 1933 Zwicky applied the virial theorem to the Coma cluster of galaxies and obtained evidence of unseen mass, thus starting off the debate on what is now called dark matter. Since that time overwhelming evidence has been found using astronomical methods that shows dark matter certainly exists and that it is non-baryonic. Recent observations indicate that the matter of the universe is about 15% baryonic, while 85% is of a type we know essentially nothing about except that it is not baryonic. I will also review the search for the true nature of dark matter. This includes current experiments that may have seen indications for dark matter such as DAMA and PAMELA, as well as the future promise for discovery from the recently launched Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, the Large Hadron collider at CERN, and next generation direct detection experiments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

  1. Some Near-Term Challenges in Astronomy (continued)
    • Mark Sullivan, University of Oxford
      Can we understand dark energy ?
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The nature of Dark Energy is a fundamental mystery of our Universe. Though its existence is unexpected and remarkable, the observational evidence for its presence is now overwhelming, having been confirmed through a series of independent experiments using a wide variety of astrophysical techniques. Dark Energy has emerged as the dominant constituent of the Universe, comprising ~70% of its total energy. However, even a rudimentary theoretical understanding remains a distant goal. There is no single compelling explanation for dark energy's existence or its magnitude despite a wide range of theories being postulated, the sheer variety of which provides a strong motivation for observers to provide a constraining measurement.
      In this talk, I will review the original studies that provided the first direct evidence for dark energy. I will discuss the necessary evolution in telescope and instrument design, as well as in experimental philosophy, that made them possible. I will follow this with a summary of the current state-of-the-art observational constraints gathered over the last ten years. Recognition of the importance of understanding dark energy has led to a series of proposed major experiments planned for the next decade and beyond. These involve both ground-based initiatives and ambitious billion-dollar satellite missions currently being considered by Europe and the USA. I will provide an overview of the many future proposed experiments designed to elucidate its precise nature, and describe the prospects for further understanding.

    • Shuangnan Zhang, Tsinghua University
      Black Hole Hunting WWHWW: Why, What, How, Which and Where ?
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The most beautiful, most well-known and simplest solution of Einstein’s field equations of general relativity is the Schwarzschild black hole. A Schwarzschild black hole is the simplest astrophysical object, since it has only one parameter, i.e., mass. A slightly more complicated object is the Kerr black hole, since it has one additional parameter, i.e., spin. The defining characteristic of a black hole is that all its mass is within its event horizon, or the surface of infinite redshift. It is therefore commonly believed that the definitive proof or unambiguous evidence for a black hole is the detection of a black hole’s horizon. In this talk, I will address the following questions: (1) Is it possible (or how to) detect the event horizon of a black hole, directly or indirectly? (2) How can one define a black hole in the real astrophysical (rather than mathematical) context? (3) Ultimately, what observational facts are required in order to claim definitive detection of black holes? (4) Based upon observational evidence for black holes up to now, can we now claim with confidence that black holes have been detected, and if so, which and where? (5) What future observational facilities are required to further our understanding towards black hole horizons?

  2. Technologies for Future Questions
    • Fred K. Y. Lo, National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      New Technologies for Radio Astronomy
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Advances in astronomy are made possible when new capabilities are made available by technological advances. Radio Astronomy is no exception. I shall present examples of such advances in the past in Radio Astronomy and describe some of the new technologies that are needed for future advances. In particular, the Atacama Large Millimtere/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be discussed.

    • Mike Shao, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      Advanced Optical Techniques
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      With the recent generation of large (8 to10) meter telescopes, the use of adaptive optics (AO) to provide diffraction-limited wavefronts became a standard tool. Astronomers are now working on, and in many cases have completed, technology development on the next generation of devices: multi-conjugate AO, extreme AO, long baseline interferometry and ultra-precise astrometry. The most precise wavefront measurement and control technologies will be applied to space observatories, with sub-angstrom precision to enable micro-arcsec astrometry and very high dynamic range (1010) imaging of planets only a fraction of an arc second away from their parent star.

    • Richard Ellis, California Institute of Technology
      Scientific Opportunities with Thirty Meter Class Optical Telescopes
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The current generation of 8-10 meter optical telescopes has transformed our view of the Universe on many scales. Technical progress in the production of segmented primary mirrors and implementation of laser guide-star adaptive optics is encouraging international communities to develop advanced designs for a new generation of 30 meter-class telescopes. These will be the first facilities designed to exploit adaptive optics at the outset. What scientific questions drive the construction of these new facilities and what lessons can be learned from our experiences with earlier facilities? And how will such facilities interact with upcoming space observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope? I will review the scientific aspects of global activities in this exciting area, focusing on the progress being made in the context of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a collaboration between Caltech, the University of California and the Association for Canadian Universities Research in Astronomy.

  3. Intellectual impact of the telescope on society
    • Yilong Huang, National Tsing Hua University
      Impact of Astronomy on Society, the Days Before Telescopes
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The support and the control from the Empire since the founding of the Han dynasty in 206 BC may have provided an important driving force for the institutionalization of astronomy in China. Moreover, the concept of astrology and the structure of calendar that appeared two thousand years ago shaped the subsequent Chinese astronomy up until at least the 17th century. I will use astrology and calendar as two probes to investigate the impact of astronomy on ancient Chinese society. Ancient Chinese believed that sky phenomena were closely related to the society or the ruling class. To show the strong interaction between astrology and society in traditional China, I am going to use two rare sky phenomena as examples: the first is five-planet conjunctions, the most auspicious events in Chinese astrology; the second is the station of Mars in Scorpio, one of the most inauspicious events. We will learn from these examples how astrology was involved in the political struggles in China. Compiling a yearly calendar was one of the most important functions of the Imperial Astronomical Bureau in ancient China. Being an indispensable reference book for daily-life activities, the civil calendar is perhaps the most universally circulated book in China even today. From its content and distribution, we can also learn a great deal about the pattern and the scale on which divination interacted with a society.

    • Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      Early Impact of the Telescope on Society in the West: the First Two Centuries
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Galileo’s first astronomical observations, those of the moon made in December of 1609, helped to overthrow the traditional Aristotelian cosmology. Following in quick succession were further Galilean observations: resolution of the Milky Way into faint stars and discovery of the satellites of Jupiter, phases of Venus, and sunspots. His epoch-making researches with the newly-invented telescope led in the eighteenth century to what in the West is known as the Enlightenment, but his discoveries left unresolved a fundamental cosmological question: Does the Earth move?
      Three telescopically assisted observations of the 1700s helped credential the Copernican heliocentric cosmology: the aberration of starlight, the oblateness of the Earth, and the return of Halley’s Comet. However, the most memorable use of telescopes in the eighteenth century came with the remarkable, groundbreaking researches of William Herschel. With ever-larger telescopes, Herschel essentially established a new field of astronomy, the study of Galactic structure (that is, the threedimensional arrangement of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy).
      With the extension of human senses provided by the telescope, the closed universe of the fifteenth century had truly given way to the vast structures of outer space. In a sense, this was only the beginning of what telescopic astronomy would bring, but the impact was already enormous in changing our concepts of space and time.

    • Xiaochun Sun, Institute for History of Natural Science, CAS
      Impact of the Telescope on Society in the East (17th and 18th centuries)
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The telescope was introduced into China in early seventeenth century, not long after Galileo made his telescopic observations in 1610. In Europe, Galileo’s discoveries with the telescope provided substantial evidences supporting Copernicanism, shaking the very foundation on which the Roman Catholic authority was built, thus arousing fierce debates over cosmological issues. What kind of impact had telescope on Chinese astronomy and society at large? A comparative perspective is particularly useful in discussing this question.
      Chinese astronomy consisted of two major parts, mathematical astronomy and astrology. A good astronomical system indicated the legitimacy of the imperial rule and symbolized good governance. The telescope was introduced into China when the Ming astronomers were engaged in debating over methods to produce an accurate astronomical system and its associated calendar. Using the telescope to observe the solar and lunar eclipses, Xu Guangqi ??? (1562 - 1633) and his Jesuit collaborators demonstrated that the “Western method” was superior to traditional Chinese methods in calendar-making. Ironically, the Western cosmology legitimatized by telescopic observations in China was not Copernican, but Tychonic.
      Galileo’s major discoveries with the telescope were introduced to the Chinese as early as 1615 by Emmanual Diaz in his Tian wen lue. These discoveries, however, did not stimulate similar enthusiasm and controversy over cosmology as in Europe. In Chinese cosmology there was no clear distinction between celestial and terrestrial substances. Changes and corruptions were just natural and could be observed not only on Earth but also in the heavens. As a matter of fact, some of Galileo’s discoveries had already been observed by the Chinese long before the telescope, for instance, the sunspots. These types of phenomena were considered as omens in the Chinese portent astrology, but not as ground-shaking events. The telescopic observations did inspire some Chinese literati to make new speculations on cosmological issues, but all these occurred within the framework of traditional Chinese cosmology, which was essentially pluralistic and eclectic.
      We do not see the telescope played more important roles in Chinese astronomy than mentioned above. Astronomy was a secret science that was strictly guarded by the imperial government from private learning. More telescopes were brought into China, but they were either locked away in imperial storehouses or presented to dukes and princes as items of curiosity. The telescope also found its use in the military.
      The cases in Japan and Korea were similar to the Chinese case, in the 17th and 18th centuries. The telescope was for the first time brought to Japan in 1613 and to Korea in 1631. But the Japanese and Koreans at that period were too much preoccupied with the Chinese astronomical systems to make substantial astronomical observations with the telescope.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

  1. Big Questions
    • Chas Beichman, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      The Ability to Detect Planets and What We Can Learn
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      A multi-wavelength, multi-technique approach is essential to the detection and characterization of Earth-like planets and life. This quest, which began over 2,500 years ago as philosophical musings by Greek philosophers, is now a vital scientific enterprise with over 300 planets now detected, including a few “Super Earths.” A combination of optical and infrared imaging as well as astrometry is essential to developing a full understanding of other worlds. Astronomers around the world are engaged in a step-bystep approach with ground-based results now playing a vital role through the discovery of planets via radial velocity and transit observations. Space based telescopes are starting to characterize some of these planets through precision measurements of transits and will soon be finding planets directly with the CoRoT* and Kepler missions. With Kepler, JWST and future space missions as well as a new generation of extremely large Telescopes on the ground, the exciting field of exo-planet research will eventually lead to answers to ancient questions about humanity’s place in the Universe. I will take a long view of this field and discuss what might be known to participants of a conference celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the telescope. *Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits.

    • Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      Exoplanet Atmospheres and the Search for Biosignatures
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The big question driving the field of exoplanets is, can we identify a planet that is habitable? Habitable conventionally means a planet with surface liquid water because all life as we know it requires liquid water. In order to additionally identify planets that may be inhabited we must be able to: 1) discover planets with the right temperature to sustain surface liquid water; 2) observe those exoplanet atmospheres and surfaces; and 3) recognize biosignatures. Biosignatures are atmosphere or surface features that are generated by life. I will summarize highlights of exoplanet atmosphere studies from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, focusing on “hot Jupiters” but also describing new results on a hot Neptune and a hot super Earth. While these planets are unlikely to support life, owing to their high surface temperatures, the search for potentially habitable planets is on. I will describe the “fast-track” to habitable worlds— big Earths orbiting close to small stars—and suggest concomitant plausible biosignatures based on Earth-based metabolic byproducts.

    • Paul Davies, Arizona State University
      Life and the Laws of Physics
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The standard models of particle physics and cosmology include over 30 undetermined parameters. If some of these parameters took even slightly different values, life may well be impossible anywhere in the universe. After reviewing some notable examples, I shall discuss the popular multiverse explanation of this weird "fine tuning" and the hidden assumptions that underlie it. I shall conclude with some remarks about ultimate explanations, and the nature of the laws of physics.

    • Renata Kallosh, Stanford University
      Multiverse or Universe?
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      For a long time it was not clear why the observable part of the universe is so homogeneous, and why the same laws of physics operate in all of its different parts. This problem was resolved in the beginning of the 80's with the invention of the inflationary cosmology. However, while explaining the local uniformity of the universe, inflationary theory simultaneously predicted that on a much greater scale the universe must be absolutely non-uniform: the universe is not a single homogeneous expanding balloon but rather an eternally growing fractal consisting of exponentially large balloons producing new balloons with different laws of physics. This cosmic fractal represents a multiverse consisting of many different universes. On the other hand, string theory, which is a best known candidate for the theory of fundamental interactions, predicted that the total number of different laws of physics operating in different parts of the multiverse can be as large as 101000. These developments provided a basis for the anthropic principle in the context of the theory of eternal inflation and the string theory landscape. For a long time, the broad scientific community was quite skeptical with respect to the new paradigm, but recently this attitude changed in a dramatic way, when the string theory combined with the theory of eternal inflation provided the only presently available theoretical interpretation of the recent discovery of dark energy.

    • George Ellis, University of Cape Town
      Why are the laws of Nature as they are? What underlies their existence?
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      The deep issue is what underlies the existence of the laws of nature, which define the possibility space within which the universe and life comes into being. Is the ultimate reason pure chance, probability, necessity, or purpose? Is their nature prescriptive or descriptive? I suggest that at each level of the hierarchy of complexity, universal Platonic principles apply. Impersonal dynamical principles are needed for reliable emergence of complex orders of existence such as life; a mathematical description is a probable outcome. Additionally, a Darwinian type of logic underlies functioning at many levels of complexity. We are entitled to take the nature of the resulting possibility space, supporting consciousness and purposive causation, as evidence concerning the ultimate reasons the basic laws are as they are. The possibility of meaning and ethics has to have been built into the foundations that gave physical existence its structure, suggesting a higher intention is realized through physical reality. The kind of ethics that is compatible with this view is a kenotic (self-emptying) ethic that invokes a respect for the freedom and integrity of others as a basic principle underlying the nature of existence. A layered structure emerges: purpose underlies impersonal laws that underlie the emergence of purpose. Two kinds of causation: intentional and impersonal, which undoubtedly both exist, occur in an intertwined way.

    • Peter Harrison, University of Oxford
      Laws of Nature, Moral Order, and the Intelligibility of the Cosmos
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      This paper traces the origin of the idea of ‘laws of nature’ in the West and highlights some of the connections between conceptions of natural order in the physical realm and conceptions of social order in the human realm. While the idea that nature has an underlying order is very ancient, the formal notion of ‘laws of nature’ first appeared in the West during the seventeenth century. The original inspiration for this idea seems to have been the idea that God was the divine legislator in the moral sphere. This conception of God as the author of moral laws was subsequently taken over into the realm of the sciences, where God was now imagined to have promulgated laws that determined the operations of nature. This history raises a number of questions, four of which will be briefly explored: First, what role did these early modern ideas of cosmic order play in Western exchanges with China, and in particular in the translation of such comparable conceptions as Tine (Heaven)? Second how did the idea of ‘law’ come to be applied to nature, and was this a distinctively Western development? Third, how in the West did questions of cosmic order eventually become disengaged from questions of moral and social order? Fourth, does the history of the idea of ‘laws of nature’ have implications for our present understanding of the idea?

    • Yung Sik Kim, Seoul National University
      Cosmos and Humanity in Traditional Chinese Thought
      Click here to see the Abstract:

      Galileo's announcement of his telescopic observations of heavens caused many problems for Europeans of the time. The results challenged some key Aristotelian distinctions: the celestial vs. the terrestrial, and the natural vs. the artificial. Debates also arose concerning reality vs. mere image, real cause vs. mere effect, the reality of what are experienced by senses, and the belief in the Bible vs. the study of the Book of Nature containing the laws of nature. Yet, none of these would have caused problems in China. The European response to Galileo's telescopic observations highlights some key differences between the two traditional cultures' attitudes to the natural world, and phenomena and objects in it. There was no such sharp distinction in traditional Chinese worldviews between the celestial and the terrestrial worlds, or between natural and artificial things. There was no habit of persistent questioning and doubting the reality of the actual world, the reality of what are perceived by senses. In this paper, I will discuss the basic attitudes of the traditional Chinese to the natural world, and show how these attitudes influenced their views about the relation between man and the world, and between the natural world and morality. I will also examine the "correlative" mode of thinking; traditional Chinese ideas about the cause and effect, and regularities in nature, and their habits of accepting natural phenomena as "natural".

    • Panel discussion
      The Cosmos and Humanity, Owen Gingerich, Moderator
      • Timothy O'Connor, Indiana University
      • Miao Li, The Institute of Theoretical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
      • Yunli Shi, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei
      • Marco Bersanelli, University of Milano

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