“Let us agree that this scientific debate lies at the heart of scientific understanding and as my dear Kepler once said, ’One of the greatest questions you can ask yourself is why are things the way that they are and not otherwise?’ It is a very simple question that a child can understand and with that, it leads us to the spirit of discovery and towards scientific revolution,” said the gold nosed Tycho Brahe of his fellow scientist Johannes Kepler. The two scientists were portrayed by MacLean High School Physics teacher Dean Howarth (Brahe) and fellow Physics teacher Jeff Jones (Kepler) from Mountain View High School. The two put on an interactive debate based upon the histories of the two famous scientists.
The theatrical enactment was just one of the many features of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium’s November weekend titled A Tribute Cosmos. The weekend spanned from Nov. 21-23 and paid homage to the great Carl Sagan, visionary and host of the original television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The series was recently re-made in an updated version (titled A Spacetime Odyssey) by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who is continuing Sagan’s vision of demystifying the natural world and outer space, and increasing interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.
As with all Friends’ weekends, this one was geared towards increasing awareness of STEM. It started on Friday Nov. 21, with screenings of the first two episodes of the original Cosmos series titled; The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean and Journeys in Space and Time. There was also a Carl Sagan look-alike contest.
On Saturday Nov. 22, there was a screening of a third episode from the original series titled Harmony of the Worlds, in which Sagan studied the careers, contributions and important discoveries of the above mentioned scientists Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. The evening was actually hosted Carl Sagan himself who was portrayed by Friends’ board of director and Aerospace Analyst for the Tauri Group, Raphael Perrino. On Sunday Nov. 23, there were screenings of a final episode from the original Cosmos series titled; The Lives of the Stars, and finally the full dome show the Earth, Moon and Sun.
Carl Sagan’s actual scientific accomplishments are too many to discuss in this one article. Arguably his greatest contribution was the popularization of science, and making it more accessible to audiences by presenting it in fun and easily digestible ways. It could also be said that he started today’s movement to increase STEM education for young people in the United States. He also advocated of Scientific and Critical thought. Another nugget which was unknown to me prior to this weekend was that he wrote the book Contact, which served as the basis for the movie starring Jody Foster and Matthew McConaughey.
In addition to understanding the nuts and bolts of STEM fields, another important component is knowledge of the history of the scientist who pioneered them. In addition to discussing the science of the natural world, a major part of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series was spent visiting the times, issues and eras in which scientists lived in.
The Friends will host special events at the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium one weekend every month until the end of the school year where their goal is to spread knowledge of STEM for all age groups, in fun and innovative ways. For more information, visit their website. The theme of December’s weekend will be Science and the Christmas Star.