Sunday, 16 March 2014

Grace and the Secret Key to the Universe: Imagination

Hello Everyone, 

For the Big Bang of National Science and Engineering Week (14-23 March 2014), the University of Aberdeen hosted an out-of-this-world talk by Lucy Hawking. Titled Imagination, Extravagant Freaks and Great Cosmic Journeys, the audience were transported across the galaxy to a place where anything was possible- the planet of imagination.
Stephen Hawking's sculpture in Madame Tussauds
Photo cutesy of Marlene Simoes

Now I know that was filled with all sorts of horrible clich├ęs, but I just needed to get them out of my system.  I could have done so many more. But truly, now I will talk a little more seriously about listening to Lucy Hawking.

The author of George and the Secret Key to the Universe series was a personable and welcoming talk host. She took the children in the audience, because that is who the intended audience was, the children, and inspired them to think in new ways and to try new things, just because they can.

She introduced children to the wonders of space, and what can happen with a little imagination. Isaac Newton could never have discovered gravity, Charles Darwin could not have thought of the Theory of Evolution, and Watson and Crick could not have found the double helix of DNA, were just some of the examples given to the children. The idea that without knowledge without imagination is just data, imagination without knowledge is just fantasy, but with imagination the possibilities are boundless.

Travelling through space is easy nowadays with our advances in technology, but what about time travel? This was disproved with an anecdote about her father, Stephen Hawking. He hosted a party for time travellers, with the theory that if time travel is invented, people would travel back in time to be ‘time tourists’, and would visit his party. Nobody turned up. Make of this what you will, either we are not interesting enough to visit when we host a party for them, or we never manage it.
My Signed Copy of George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt

Just before the conclusion of the talk, a recording of Stephen Hawking talking was played to the children. However, the robotic recording that would normally send children who were too young to understand much about his illness into fits of giggles, produced nothing but awed silence. Why? Lucy Hawking before playing it gave a moving speech to the children explaining the true wonder of what they were hearing. A voice that was lost from illness is being brought back by a computer. Technology is remarkable that we are able to do this now: give people who cannot speak back their voice. It is this that should inspire the children the most.
Me with Lucy Hawking after the talk

The evening was rounded off with a little girl in the audience asking: ‘What are black holes made of?’ Smiling, it was answered quite simply, ‘well it is nothing pulling in everything around it. So it’s made of all things that fell in.’ When asked what area of science captures the imagination of children, the answer was: ‘black holes, space travel and aliens’. Well then everybody, that’s the secret. Get Writing Everyone. All you need are these three things, and a little imagination.