Going to the Stars, Riding on a Beam of Light Public Library Lecture

Monday, November 14th, 2016
Going to the Stars, Riding on a Beam of Light
Nesconset, NY Branch of the Smithtown Public Library
148 Smithtown Blvd
Smithtown, NY 11787

Lecture by Professor Thomas Madigan of Astronomy For Change (faculty member in the Earth and Space Sciences Department, Suffolk Community College). The talk will be followed by stargazing, weather permitting.

Currently, human technology is preparing to send ultra-light robots on an unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light to reach our nearest star system neighbor, Alpha Centauri – four light years away.

During his years working in the Swiss Patent Office, Albert Einstein often imagined what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. This thought experiment would come to play a key role in the development of his Special Theory of Relativity. Turning science fiction into science fact, forward-looking Russian investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner has announced the ambitious $100 million “Breakthrough Starshot” project: crafting a fleet of mini-light-sail craft and accelerating them quickly to 20% light speed towards our nearest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri. Yuri wonders about the big questions: “Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighborhood? Can we make the great leap to the stars? And can we think and act together – as one world in the cosmos?”

In this multi-media presentation, Prof. Madigan will discuss this bold and ambitious plan to “boldly go where no one has gone before”, to make Einstein’s thought experiment a reality. Assembling a Blue-ribbon panel that includes such brilliant lights as Stephen Hawking, physicist Freeman Dyson and the widow and partner-in-science of the late Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Yuri Milner has opened up the project to input from the general public.

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