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Eric Chaisson, "Cosmic Evolution and the Arrow of Time"

Cosmic Evolution and the Arrow of Time

Evolution—ascent with change of Nature’s many varied systems—has become a powerful unifying concept throughout the sciences. In its broadest sense, cosmic evolution comprises a holistic explanatory narrative of countless changes within and among organized systems extending from the big bang to humankind. This interdisciplinary scenario has the potential to unite the physical, biological, and social sciences, thereby creating for people of all cultures at the start of the new millennium a consistent, objective, and comprehensive worldview of material reality. The talk will be illustrated with powerful visuals from astronomy, biology, and complexity science.

Speaker: Dr. Eric J. Chaisson is an American astrophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has multiple appointments, most notably at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His major interests are currently twofold: His scientific research addresses an interdisciplinary, thermodynamic study of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena, seeking to understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society. His major goal is to help devise a unifying cosmic-evolutionary worldview of the Universe and our sense of place within it. His educational work engages master teachers and computer animators to create better methods, technological aids, and novel curricula to enthuse teachers and instruct students in all aspects of natural science. He teaches an annual undergraduate course at Harvard on the subject of cosmic evolution, which combines both of these research and educational programs.

The meeting will start at 7:00 with socializing and a few announcements. The program will start at 7:15, after which we will have open discussion with the presenter followed by more socializing. At 9:00 we usually have an open steering committee meeting which anyone is invited to attend.

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  • Mike H.

    This was perhaps the most "out there" lecture I have ever attended. Interesting thoughts on making connections over vast time periods which I'm not sure really exist or are meaningful. And what about time before 0 and what about infinite space rather than this one universe? And are all these phases really synchronous? Why? And the more recent end of the evolutionary phase chart is so Earth oriented (yes, that is where we are, but acknowledging the vastness of time and space feels important to me). Then, the ultimate question seems to be "so what?". To be fair, I have no problem with academic study and theory development. I'm just a skeptic.

    1 · December 6, 2012

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