The Cosmos at T2F 2.0

December 24, 2009 at 7:30 am 3 comments

I was never very good at Physics and Geography. My favourite subjects were Maths, Chemistry, History and English, and because I found these subjects interesting, I was good at them. I think I would have enjoyed Physics and Geography too but for the teachers I had, who were never able to bring the subjects to life for me.

When the announcement was made that the first event at T2F 2.0 would be Science ka Adda: Humans in the Cosmos, I wondered if it would make any sense to me at all. I have always been fascinated by the moon, the stars and the planets but am not too knowledgeable about them (or at least I wasn’t until last night). This being the International Year of Astronomy, the subject of the talk was certainly very relevant.

Salman Hameed, who is an astronomer and Assistant Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities at Hampshire College, Massachusetts, was the speaker.

His passion and enthusiasm for the subject made it come alive for even those of us who were total novices. If he had been my teacher, I would probably have been walking around with a telescope throughout my school and college years.

As Salman took us through a journey of the history of the telescope and how it had changed fundamental perceptions about humanity and its place in the universe, I found myself carried off into the world of planets and stars and the Milky Way.

As Salman highlighted key discoveries, from Galileo and Herschel to the Palomar Observatory and the current Hubble Space Telescope, and explained the imperfections in the universe, and talked about   a universe consisting of hundreds of billions of galaxies, with the earth simply being a speck in the entire scheme of things, it humbled us all.

I was amazed to see how well attended the event was. There were people of all ages from as young as 10 I think to as old as someone in their eighties. It showed the diversity of audiences that T2F and discourses such as these are able to attract, and also perhaps the dearth of such intellectual activity in a city full of people starving for knowledge.

The audience listened with rapt attention to a speaker whose interest in his own subject was obvious as his eyes sparkled when he spoke about the discoveries of Jupiter and Uranus and the earth’s position with relation to the Sun, and the billions of stars that were out there that were not visible to the naked eye. However, what I was not prepared for were the number of relevant and knowledgeable questions that were put to Salman at the end of his talk.

From the youngster who asked about the Hubble telescope being possibly taken down to complicated questions about the position of starts billions of light years away, it showed the calibre or the people who had come to attend the talk. I was totally blown away by the level of interest in the subject.

The discourse continued until suddenly a huge telescope was produced and some of the enthusiasts moved outside with Salman to view the stars and make it all even more real and alive. A brilliant beginning to the new T2F. I hope to attend many more events at the new venue. Hope to see all of you there.

I just noticed that Salman has put up a detailed post regarding the lectures he has given in Pakistan, especially the one he gave at T2F and how it was different from the one he gave at Aga Khan University and the Quaid-e-Azam University. Check it out!

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