Thursday, January 08, 2009

Stars by the Sea

The first night of my birthday trip to Hawaii was a glorious tribute to the heavens. It started with a divine meal on the beach serenaded by Nino Kaai's Izzy rendition of Over the Rainbow. Then my friends and I strolled to a torch-lit lecture arranged by the Keck Observatory, where astronomer and author Timothy Ferris -- undeterred by the evening's thick volcanic haze -- guided us through the stars with HD clips from his film Seeing In The Dark.

Professor Ferris' mantle displays more fabulous trophies of achievement than I care to list at this late hour. I will point out only that his contributions will likely outlast those of anyone else in history, as he produced the phonograph containing music, sounds and photos that now hurtles through inter-stellar space aboard the Voyager spacecraft. (Too bad Ferris couldn't include Pogue's MacWorld performance this week, accompanied by Ge Wang on the spacey Ocarina.)

Tonight's lecture kicked off Keck's celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's invention of the refracting telescope. (Gordon Moore and lots of other Big Island immigrants were there to support Keck.) Here are three gems I picked up from Ferris' talk:
"Bringing our model of the universe into better accord with the facts is a pursuit worthy of adults."

"All of human evolution occurred in less time than it takes light to traverse the Andromeda galaxy."

"You couldn't get a murder verdict from a Texas jury on the scanty evidence we have of alien visitation."
Heavens, it's late! Better get to sleep if I'm to catch the voggy sunrise and early tee times...

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