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Greatest minds discuss origins of universe at ASU

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:06

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Lisa Kane

cience, including eight Nobel Laureates, gathered at Arizona State University for the Origins Symposium which took place April 3-6, and culminated in a full day of public lecture and panel discussion on topics such as string theory, evolutionary biology, cosmology, paleoanthropology, genomics and language and cognition. Also discussed were black holes, the Large Hadron Collider, dark matter, extra dimensions, the Higgs boson, supersymmetry, the importance of establishing colonies on the moon as soon as possible and reigniting a love for science in the classroom.


Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at ASU, was partly responsible for organizing the Symposium.


"I'm particularly proud to be here for so many reasons, but one of the reasons is that we have a 3,000 seat auditorium that is essentially sold out for 12 hours of science, and I think that says something about the people of Phoenix," Krauss said.


The public symposium was broken into three sessions, the morning session featured Steven Pinker, Don Johanson and Brian Greene; the afternoon session included Richard Dawkins, Craig Venter and Krauss.

After lunch there was a panel discussion with Nobel Laureates Baruch Blumberg, David Gross, Walter Gilbert, Sheldon Glashow, John Mather and Frank Wilczek.

The evening session began with a magic show from Jason Latimer, World Champion of Magic, followed by another panel on science and culture that featured Hugh Downs, Claudia Dreifus, Lucy Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan.

The evening concluded with a virtual presentation by Steven Hawking, in which his daughter Lucy presented Hawking's slides to his pre-recorded lecture, as he was not able to attend at the last minute because of an illness.


The Origins Symposium was held to kick off a larger Origins Initiative, taking place at ASU.

This initiative is a new interdisciplinary venture that will support university-wide research and new curriculum related to the origins of the universe and humanity.

ASU President Michael Crow's motivation behind this venture was to sponsor something that would renew thoughtful scientific inquiry within all programs of study, from astrophysics to humanities.

The Origins Initiative is headed by Krauss, who also presented on the topic of cosmology at the Symposium provided the following insight.


"Even though we are cosmically insignificant we should really enjoy our brief moment in the sun, when we are lucky enough to have evolved the facilities to explore the universe back to its earliest moments and to its far future. That's what science is all about," Krauss said.


Despite the intricacies of the theories discussed and research debated, the underlying theme of the day indicated that scientific inquiry into the beginnings of the universe was invariably connected to the present human condition and its future.

In an effort to give a definition of science and the role of the scientist in the community, Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "Do whatever it takes to not fool yourself into thinking one thing over another in deducing the nature of the world around you, that's what science is.

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