Expo 2020 Dubai: Nobel physics laureate stresses importance of teaching astronomy


Dubai - Professor Brian Schmidt spoke at the Space Business Forum at the world fair, calling the Earth 'finite'


Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 20 Oct 2021, 2:15 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Oct 2021, 2:17 PM

Astronomy education is important because, ultimately, there is no alternate plan for Earth, which is as finite as anything else.

These were the thoughts of Professor Brian Schmidt, 2011 Nobel Laureate for Physics, as he addressed the Space Business Forum at Expo 2020 Dubai.

"The pale blue dot that we live in is not infinite – it is finite. And it's the only thing in the solar system that we are going to easily be able to live," he said.

"So we need to make sure we use what we have well, and that means, ultimately, making sure that every citizen of planet Earth has the education that they deserve…and what a great place to start with astronomy, with space and with physics. This empowering discipline has been with humanity since the dawning of time."

He also reiterated that the discipline has never been as accessible as today, uniting humanity and accessing the tools required to educate the next generation of space mission designers and aerospace engineers.

Giving examples from Australian Aboriginal dreamtime legends, Greek mythology and prehistoric cave paintings, Prof Schmidt, who is also the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian National University, further opined, "The stories of the stars are everyone's stories and indeed they are a common story of humanity that go back to beginnings of our time as a species and it reminds us that we do indeed all come from the same space."

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Online platforms teach space-mission design, aerospace engineering and astronautics

He underlined how teachers can use extensive open online courses to reach millions of students and people in the current times and how individuals can share knowledge and data virtually to find solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Prof Schmidt further said, "On Edex and other platforms, you can learn how to do space-mission design, no matter where you are in the world, get an introduction into aerospace engineering and astronautics and it goes on and on. Almost everything imaginable is available out there."

"Technology gives us the ability to teach and to reach out to the entirety of the Earth's 7.8 billion people. Learning astronomy has been absolutely critical to our understanding of science and the development of science. Learning is the key to being able to use space."

Therefore, he averred this shift towards a new teaching culture in the digital space that should be leveraged to disseminate knowledge to the maximum possible extent.

"Ultimately if we are going to thrive as a species on our planet, we must use all of our resources with great efficiency. So that's not just the Earth, it's space and the added ability to do new things and of course our most important resource – our people."

"So if we are going to able live and prosper on Earth, we are going have to use as much of it as we can efficiently – and that means giving as many people as possible the tools through education to understand space and astronomy, physics, mathematics and all the things that underpin our modern technology", Schmidt added.

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