Presented By Garik Israelian
A theoretical physicist at Caltech (USA), Kip Thorne was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech until 2009 and is one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. His first film project, Interstellar, teams him with Steven Spielberg. About 50 physicists have received PhDs at Caltech under Thorne’s personal mentorship. In 1984, he cofounded the LIGO Project to open the gravitational-wave window onto the Universe; LIGO is the largest project ever funded by the NSF. In 1988, Thorne triggered modern research on whether the laws of physics allow backward time travel. In 1973, he co-authored the classic textbook Gravitation with Charles Misner and John Wheeler, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity theory.
Professor Robert Williams, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is President of the International Astronomical Union. (IAU). He is an STScI Distinguished Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Physics and Astronomy Department in Baltimore.
Professor Williams served as Hubble STScI Director from 1993 until 1998, before which he had been Director of Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. He was instigator and leader of the Hubble Deep Field, one of humankind’s deepest, most detailed visible-light views of the Universe. A champion of research and public outreach, Prof. Williams has lectured widely on recent astronomical discoveries and their relation to human understanding. He is an avid runner and cyclist.
Biologist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Professor Szostak was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres. Prof. Szostak has made significant contributions to the field of genetics and is credited with the construction of the world’s first yeast artificial chromosome. Szostak lab focuses on the challenges of understanding the origin of life on Earth and the construction of artificial cellular life in the laboratory. He has received Hans Sigrist and Dr A. H. Heineken prizes, a Lasker award, the United States National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology and the Genetics Society of America Medal.
Director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) research at the SETI Institute in California (USA), Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2004. She was awarded the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology (2001), the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization (2005) and the 2009 TED Prize. Dr Tarter’s astronomical work is illustrated in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact. In the film version of Contact the protagonist, Ellie Arroway, is played by Jodie Foster. Arroway was ‘largely based’ on Tarter’s work. Dr Tarter has spoken around the world and has published dozens of articles about SETI to engage earthlings across the planet in this important search and to encourage young people (especially young women) to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.
Professor Michel Mayor is an astrophysicist at Geneva University (Switzerland). Together with Didier Queloz, in 1995 he discovered the first extrasolar planet, named 51 Pegasi b, orbiting the sunlike star 51 Pegasi. Professor Mayor was awarded the Swiss Marcel Benoist Prize in recognition of his work and its significance for human life. In 2000 he was awarded the Balzan Prize and in 2004 he received the Albert Einstein Medal. In 2005, he was awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy. His team is responsible for finding about half of the exoplanets discovered to date. Michel Mayor is a principal investigator of the HARPS consortium planet search survey, which has discovered a growing population of superearths and Neptune-like small mass planets.
Brian May, CBE, Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University (UK), has published research articles in the field of the solar Zodiacal dust cloud. He is co-author, with Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, of Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe. A lifelong devotee of 3-D imaging, together with art conservator Elena Vidal, he recently published A Village Lost and Found, a book bringing the important work of 19th century stereoscopic photographer T. R. Williams into the 21st Century. Dr May is most widely known as lead guitarist and founding member of the legendary rock band Queen. He has written 22 classic rock hits worldwide - among them the anthemic ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘The Show Must Go On’, ‘I Want It All’, ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ and ‘Save me’. Founder of the action group "SAVE ME" last year, Brian is a passionate campaigner for the welfare of wild animals.
Astrophysicist Sami Solanki is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) and Professor at ETH Zurich and the Technical University of Brunswick. His group’s research is dedicated to understanding the physics of solar magnetism, activity and variability, as well as the Sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate. Professor Solanki is principal investigator of the Sunrise project, which flew a large solar telescope on a stratospheric balloon, and of the PHI instrumentation on ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission. He is also co-investigator for the Virgo instrument on the ESA/NASA mission SOHO, the Secchi instrument on board NASA’s STEREO mission and HMI on board NASA’s SDO mission.
Dr Israelian, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (Spain), is the creative director and spiritual father of the STARMUS Festival. In 1999 he led a collaboration reported in the journal Nature that found the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of black holes. His research has led to several high profile discoveries published in Nature and other professional journals on topics such as extrasolar planets, massive stars and black hole binary systems. Dr Israelian has spoken at dozens of professional conferences, including TED Global. He was awarded the 2010 Ambartsumian Prize for Astrophysics, Physics or Mathematics, along with Michel Mayor and Nuno Santos, for the studies of extrasolar planets and their parent stars.
An astrophysicist at the University of Princeton (USA), Professor Burrows is currently the Chair of the National Research Council Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA), the BPA Liaison to the U.S. Decadal Survey Committee, a member of the AURA board and the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Center for Physics. In the past he served as the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), as the co-Chair of the NASA Universe Subcommittee and as the Chair of the Theoretical Astrophysics Program of the University of Arizona. Adam Burrows works on a broad variety of stellar astrophysics problems and puzzles.
Richard Dawkins, ethologist and evolutionary biologist, was the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and a Fellow of New College, Oxford, Retired. His bestselling books include The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and The Ancestor’s Tale. Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award, the 1990. Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, the 1994 Nakayama Prize, the 1997 International Cosmos Prize for Achievement in Human Science, the Kistler Prize in 2001, the Shakespeare Prize in 2005, the 2006 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, and he was named Author of the Year at the 2007 Galaxy British book Awards. His latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, was published in September 2009.
An astrophysicist at the University of California Berkeley (USA), Professor Smoot won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on COBE with John C. Mather that led to the measurement of the anisotropy and blackbody form of the cosmic microwave background radiation. He is a senior scientist at LBL and, since 2010, a professor of physics at the Paris Diderot University, France. In 2003 he was awarded the Einstein Medal. George Smoot is a collaborator in the design of the Supernova/Accelleration Probe (SNAP), a satellite planned to measure the properties of dark energy. He reached the final question, which he correctly answered, becoming the second person (and first male) to win the one million dollar prize. Professor Smoot has spoken at TED and written (with Keay Davidson) Wrinkles in Time, a popular book about cosmology.
Dr Leslie Sage is a senior editor (physical sciences) at the science journal Nature and is based at the Astronomy Department of the University of Maryland (USA). He is also a long-time columnist for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He grew up in the western suburbs of Toronto, Canada, but now lives with his family in Potomac, Maryland. In his spare time, he studies the gas content and star-forming properties of galaxies, and cooks new recipes found by his wife.
Joseph Silk holds the Savilian Chair of Astronomy at the University of Oxford (UK) and is Director of the Beecroft Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Professor Silk has over 500 publications, of which 20 have been published in Nature and 11 in Science. A graduate of Harvard University, Professor Silk has given more than two hundred invited conference lectures, primarily on dark matter, galaxy formation and cosmology. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford.
Sergei Zhukov is Executive Director of the Space Technologies & Telecommunications Cluster of the Skolkovo Foundation and a Member of Russian Academy of Cosmonautics. From Dzhezkazgan, in Kazakhstan (now the landing site for Soyuz landing modules), Zhukov graduated from Bauman Moscow State Technical University and did post-graduate work on gas core nuclear installations for space applications. Since 1990, he has been President of the Moscow Space Club, a non-profit NGO aiming to support national and international space activities. He was instrumental in founding the Russian Space Agency (established in 1992) and has been an active member of Russian Cosmonaut Court since 2003. He has graduated in courses at the Gagarin Space Training Centre and is qualified as a test cosmonaut. He has published two collections of poems and authored several scientific articles.
Rich Goldman is the Vice-president of Corporate Marketing and Strategic Alliances for Synopsys (Mountain View, California), a CEO of Synopsys Armenia and a finalist for the 2010 US Secretary of State ACE Award. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Synopsys Outreach Foundation and of the Synopsys Charitable Foundation for Armenia. Goldman is a Guest Professor at the Chinese Academy of Science and a Commissioner of the Advanced SOC Design Joint Lab Academic Committee there. He is an honorary Professor at Moscow Institute of Electronic Technologies and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Silicon Valley Technical Institute and the board of editors of Economics magazine.