Knowledge Is Infinite

The Mystery of Space

A conversation with Thomas I. HANSON,Team Lead for NASA's Training Division, Captain Mark KELLY, Astronaut, NASA and Massimo ROBBERTO, PhD, Full Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute

Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center in Collaboration with the Physics and Astronomy Department at Rice University and the Rice Space Institute

"The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of
true art and true science."

-Albert Einstein

The year 2009 has been designated by UNESCO as the International Year of Astronomy. Four hundred years ago Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope out towards space for the first time. This beginning led the human race to extraordinary discoveries. Since Galileo sorted out the "basic facts" of astronomy, our own planetary neighborhood, the Solar System, continues to deliver surprises as we continue to investigate our world through a passion and curiosity for the unknown.

Since the time of Galileo, great scientists and amazing discoveries have led us to a much better understanding of the vastness of the Universe. Astronomers like Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the Milky Way was not the only Galaxy, but one of many, and that the Universe is expanding. With our modern telescopes, we have reached a clearer understanding of its evolution. Thanks especially to NASA's missions and to the instruments NASA has put into space, we are now able to reach deeper than ever before into the distant, and therefore, early universe. We understand more about the formation of the first stars and galaxies, and their evolution.

In all of this, the protagonist of research is not only evident in space or scientific progress but the human being in his unquenched curiosity, in his eternal desire to confront the mysteries and the beauty of his world. This meeting should serve as a platform to discuss the multiple ways in which we as human being, as poets, philosophers, theologians, musicians but also as mothers, care givers, politicians or educators question our existence and our deepest aspirations.

The Scope of the Event

In front of all the extraordinary endeavors that science is exploring today, we cannot help but wonder:

  • Is the earth unique? What are the latest developments in our knowledge of other solar systems? What are the essential elements needed for life to exist and be sustained in other solar systems?
  • What is the Universe made of? How it evolves? How do we change by deepening our understanding of the universe?

What is the reason behind this never ending desire for knowledge? Why are we questioning individuals? Are awe and rationality ultimately allied in the investigation of mysterious phenomena?

About this Event

Date: Friday, October 2, 2009
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Rice University, Auditorium 210
6100 Main, Houston, Texas 77005-1827

About the Speakers

Thomas Hanson
Scientist, Team Lead for NASA's Training Division

Mark Kelly
Astronaut from NASA

Massimo Robberto
Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute Baltimore, MD


Download the Invitation here


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