Morning Lecture Platform
Week One — June 23–29, 2013
Our Elegant Universe
NASA engineer Kobie Boykins introduces Week One of the 2013 CHQ Season
Chautauqua opens its 2013 Season with an exploration into the wonders of the cosmos, our understanding of space and time, and the most basic questions of existence. Columbia University theoretical physicist Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, opens the week and season with an introduction to superstring theory and how it shapes our understanding of the universe. On Tuesday, NASA Ames astrophysicist Natalie Batalha will share findings from the Kepler Mission, where she is mission scientist, and its importance to NASA, the scientific community and humankind. Chautauqua favorite Kobie Boykins, an engineer with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, returns to speak Thursday on the immediate and distant future of unmanned space exploration. Friday’s address features Jennifer Wiseman, director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, and NASA’s senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, who will share the wonder and awe in space, the spiritual and existential questions it inspires and the relationship between science and faith.
Monday–Friday, June 24–28 @ 10:45 a.m.
Monday, June 24
author, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes
and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
professor of mathematics and physics, Columbia University
String theorist Brian Greene is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. A professor in both physics and mathematics at Columbia University, he has been described by The Washington Post as “the single best explainer of abstruse concepts in the world today.”
Greene is the author of several best-selling books, most recently The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. Greene’s The Elegant Universe became an Emmy and Peabody award-winning NOVA special on PBS that he hosted, and The Fabric of the Cosmos was adapted into a four-part NOVA miniseries. His illustrated novella, Icarus at the Edge of Time, retells the Greek myth in a futuristic light. Greene and David Henry Hwang adapted the story to be a film and symphonic performance in collaboration with composer Philip Glass; the world debut was in the spring of 2010.
A co-founder of The World Science Festival, Greene has written for Wired and The New York Times, and has appeared on “Charlie Rose,” “Nightline” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” He has also made cameo appearances in the films “Frequency,” “Maze” and “The Last Mimzy,” and the television show “The Big Bang Theory.” He is a graduate of Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
On social media:
Tuesday, June 25
astrophysicist, NASA Ames Research Center
mission scientist, NASA’s Kepler Mission
Natalie Batalha is an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center and the Mission Scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission. Kepler is designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy for planets orbiting other sun-like stars. With four years of data in hand, Kepler is zeroing in on the answer to the question that drives the mission: are potentially habitable worlds abundant in our galaxy?
Batalha has been involved with the Kepler Mission since the proposal stage and has worked on many different aspects of the science, from studying the stars themselves to understanding the planets they harbor. She led the analysis that yielded the discovery in 2011 of Kepler-10b — the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system.
In 2000, inspired by the growing number of exoplanet discoveries at the time, Batalha came to NASA’s Ames Research Center to join a team that was building a robotic observatory to identify exoplanets using the “transit method” — by detecting the slight dimming effect as they pass across the faces of their host stars. An emerging field at the time, transit photometry is now the method the Kepler Mission uses to search for habitable, Earth-sized planets. Batalha holds a bachelor degree in physics from Berkeley and a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
On social media:
Wednesday, June 26
author, Why Does the World Exist?
Jim Holt is a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, where he has written on string theory, time, infinity, numbers, humor, logic, truth and b.s., among other topics. He also writes regularly for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books.
His bestselling 2012 book Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for general nonfiction and was named one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review; it is being published worldwide in more than a dozen languages. His 2006 book Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes was published in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and in French and Italian translation.
Holt worked at The New Leader magazine in the 1990s, and was named editor in 1997. He was also a longtime New York columnist for Literary Review (London) and a cultural commentator for BBC Radio. He is currently at work on a book about free will, weakness of will, self-knowledge and happiness. Holt received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the University of Virginia, and was a faculty fellow in the philosophy department at Columbia University.
Thursday, June 27
staff mechanical engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
As an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kobie Boykins is on the front line of Mars exploration. He designed the solar arrays that power the Mars exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Landing on Mars on January 25, 2004, Opportunity was designed to survive a mission lasting approximately 90 days. Remarkably, the rover continues to traverse the surface of Mars to this day, sending back valuable scientific data.
Most recently, Boykins was responsible for the design of actuators on Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory, which safely landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. His . His other projects have included work on the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, making measurements by satellite of the Earth’s oceans.
Boykins has served as part of a team of young scientists on a public education tour — dubbed “Marsapalooza” — to raise awareness of the Mars Exploration Project and was featured in the JASON Project Expedition “Mysteries of Earth and Mars,” sharing his passion for space exploration with students and teachers worldwide. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, Boykins previously lectured at Chautauqua in 2009.
Friday, June 28
director, Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science
senior astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
senior project scientist, Hubble Space Telescope
Jennifer Wiseman is a senior astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she serves as the senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope. She previously headed the Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics. She studies star-forming regions of our galaxy using radio, optical and infrared telescopes, with a particular interest in molecular cloud cores, protostars, and outflows.
Wiseman directs the program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has authored several essays addressing the relationship of astronomy and faith, and frequently gives talks on the excitement of scientific discovery. She also has an interest in public science policy and has served as a Congressional Science Fellow of the American Physical Society, working with the staff of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Wiseman grew up on an Arkansas farm enjoying late-night stargazing walks with her parents and pets. She received her bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT, discovering the comet Wiseman-Skiff in 1987, and went on to Harvard, earning a Ph.D. in astronomy. She continued her research as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and as a Hubble Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University.