Hayden Planetarium Programs
Frontiers Lecture: The Copernicus Complex with Caleb Scharf
September 8, 2014
Though the concept of “the universe” suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others—a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. Renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.
As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true—we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances. To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos.
Weaving together cutting-edge science and classic storytelling, historical accounts and speculations on what the future holds, The Copernicus Complex presents a compelling argument for what our true cosmic status is, and proposes a way forwardforinthe ultimate quest: to determine life’s abundance not just across this universe but across all realities.
Scharf will sign copies of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities after the lecture.
Caleb Scharf is the director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center. He writes for The New Yorker, New Scientist, Science, Scientific American, and Nature, among other publications, and has served as a consultant for the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, and The New York Times. Scharf has been a keynote speaker for the American Museum of Natural History and the Rubin Museum of Art, and is the author of Gravity’s Engines. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.
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