Speech before Contact

Below is the speech given by  Dave Castledine of  the Lincoln Astronomical Society on our Second IOP Physics Movie Night on 18 October 2016. Thank you, Dave!

Thank you Professor Andrei for inviting me to talk about the Lincoln Astronomical Society.

This talk will take about 10 mins, I will mention the LAS in the last quarter.

To be asked to be on the same billing as Hollywood Film stars Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey is quite an honour for me.

Not sure what to talk about so what happened this day and link it to the invited topic.

Where to start?  Wikipedia; the start of many a modern thesis perhaps.  Just rearrange the words and use Microsoft Word synonym function to avoid the plagiarism software checker is my advice to students.

630 years ago today the oldest University in Germany was opened – Heidelberg in 1386.

The university of Lincoln is some 615 years younger – What will Lincoln University be like when it is as old in the year 2630? Lincoln may stretch as far as Nottingham by then.

Not surprisingly the list of Heidelberg Alumni is considerably longer and rather more impressive than Lincoln’s at the moment.  Hopefully there are undergraduate physics, science, mathematics or engineering students in the audience who will really make the University of Lincoln proud in the future. What will the research topics be in the year 2410 for example; exoplanet lifeforms perhaps.

In 1859 Russian Chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was a Heidelberg University researching and writing a book on the workings of the spectroscope.

Mendeleev later research after Heidelberg would ultimately lead him to represent elements known at the time in an organised table form now known as the Mendeleev Periodic Table of elements.

The spectroscope, along with the Microscope and Telescope are perhaps the most important scientific instruments ever invented to discover the workings of the universe.

The spectroscope splits light into a spectrum; early spectroscopes used prisms (example).  The constituent elements of materials can be determined with spectroscopes.

When used in conjunction with a telescope determining the nature of stars, planets, nebulae and galaxies is possible.  Not just star composition but also if they are multiple systems that can not be resolved with a telescope alone.  The life cycles of stars have also been deduced using spectroscopes. Also examined are Super Nova, pulsars and quasars.

I haven’t seen tonight’s film but I know it is based on the noted Astronomer, Astrophysicist and cosmologist Carl Sagen book called contact.  I also do not have Carl Sagen’s perhaps most famous book called Cosmos that was made into the the very popular TV series Cosmos with music by Vangelis in the 1980s.

However I do have a book with Cosmos in the title; The New Cosmos by Albrecht Unsold (1967) published by the Heidelberg Science Library with plenty of spectra produced by spectrographs in them.

In 1959 Carl Sagen was in his penultimate year of his Ph.D on ‘physical studies of planets’.  This was the same year the Lincoln Astronomical Society was formed by a small group of locals with the same interests as Carl Sagen at the very start of space flight.  They built a lecture hall and later an observatory just off Burton road and put on monthly lectures that continue to this day.

I estimate that since 1960 there have been over 600 lectures on the whole spectrum of astronomy, astrophysics cosmology and history.  In the last few years lectures have included, Black Holes, Dark Energy, Astrobiology, The Rosetta Mission, White Dwarf Stars and interstellar Space, Novea, Photography, Meteors, Dark Mater, History of the Telescope, Ancient Astronomy, and even Dinosaurs on the Moon (actually about Astronomy in the Media).  The talks are often given by University Professors and Doctors  from Nottingham, Sheffield, Leicester, York, Leeds and the Open University for example.  Other activities include the Imaging Group that use the Societies 300mm Newtonian Reflector or improve photos taken at their homes.

I would recommend that on the First Tuesday of the month you consider visiting the society for an Astronomical based talk.  If you are a student I would really recommend it because it will be one of the few lectures during the years that you will not be examined on afterwards.

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One thought on “Speech before Contact

  1. Pingback: Physics Film Night – 18/10/2016 – IOP Lincoln Centre

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