In December 2014, IFF Director Margaret Wertheim was honored to be a speaker at the Edges of Astronomy conference hosted by the Australian Academy of Sciences. Held as part of the Academy’s ongoing series in support of early and mid-career scientists, this unusually eclectic event aimed to locate astronomy within a wider cultural matrix. In addition to reports on the latest developments regarding the Square Kilometer Array (the world’s largest radio astronomy project, currently under construction in the Western Australian desert ), and the importance of Big Data in unravelling the mysteries of the universe, speakers also gave presentations about indigenous cosmology and efforts to encourage aboriginal students to peruse careers in science. Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt – who shared the physics Nobel prize in 2011 for helping to discover that the universe is expanding faster than expected, thus leading to the realization that the cosmos is filled with a mysterious dark energy – was in attendance chairing discussions and inspiring young scientists to dream big. In other sessions astrophysicists Tamara Davis and Luke Barnes speculated about the literal edges of the universe and considered the question of whether or not there may be limits to our cosmological knowledge. All this under the architectural marvel of the Shine Dome, an exquisite example of mid-century techno-futurist architecture that fittingly resembles a spaceship.
The IFF extends thanks to Professor Alan Duffy of Swinburne Institute of Technology, for his elegant chairing of Ms. Wertheim’s session on the importance of science outreach. You can catch Professor Duffy – aka Astroduff (astronomy blogger + tweeter par excellence) here.