Discovery Retreats

By Mark Trodden | July 11, 2011 10:33 am

In my last post I described the workshops and conferences – research travel – that I’ve been on during the first part of the summer. But when I returned from Brazil there was one other science trip I went on before taking a few weeks off. In mid June, Sean, Jennifer, Risa, Janna Levin and I were invited speakers at the first of a new initiative – the Discovery Retreats.

These are the brainchild of John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel and a host of science and education related programming. Taking place at Gateway Canyons Resort (yes, I know, sometimes we’re spoiled), these are several day events at which people come for vacation time in a stunning environment, mixed with lectures, panel discussions, star-gazing, and open discussion events. This inaugural retreat was titled “Secrets of the Universe”, at which Sean (who was organizing the scientific part of the event) gave the introductory overview of cosmology, Janna spoke about black holes, Risa discussed dark matter in the universe, I talked about dark matter and cosmic acceleration, and Jennifer gave a fascinating and fun talk on science and hollywood.

For me, by far the most enjoyable science part of the event was the panel discussion. Janna had left at this point, but we were joined by Nick Sagan, who provided his perspective as a science fiction author. Jennifer moderated this, and had a well thought out sequence of questions that guided us through a set of popular topics. However, it is always interesting to see what topics the audience is most fascinated by, even though they are often the ones you would have suspected. We were led through the nature of the big bang singularity, the ideas of inflation, string theory, the question of whether the universe has an edge, and a bunch of other big issues that frequently arise when one gets into chats about cosmology. We certainly had a great time – I hope the audience did.

One of the more fun non-science events was a tour of John’s extensive car museum at the resort. Here are Janna and I sitting in front of one of the many beautiful exhibits

Mark & Janna at Gateway Auto Museum

In many ways this first retreat was a bit of a dry run, in which we were feeling out the right format and exploring the mix of scheduled and free time. There are going to be more of these events, not just focused on cosmology but on the frontiers of other scientific areas. Hopefully our first attempt wasn’t just fun, but also gave enough feedback that these future attempts work as well as possible.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society, Travel

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Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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