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.
More in this Series:
Frontiers Lecture: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning with Marcelo Gleiser and Rebecca Goldstein
November 3, 2014
Renowned theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser acclaimed philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein discuss the limits of knowledge and how much we can actually know of the world.
November 6, 2014
In this talk scientists describe an innovative design for a space-based observatory consisting of a telescope plus “starshade,” to separate the faint specks of planet light from the glare of their parent stars, and begin probing mysteries related to their chemistry, structure, and potential for harboring life.
November 17, 2014
Earthquakes happen frequently—but what causes them? Why are they unpredictable? What do they tell us about Earth's deep interior?
November 25, 2014
Explore planets, extrasolar planets, nearby stars, and the myriad galaxies that populate the universe while we fly through the 3D Digital Universe Atlas.
December 8, 2014
Award-winning author Martin Harwit looks at how our knowledge of the working and evolution of the Universe grew in his new book, In Search of the True Universe — The Tools, Shaping and Cost of Cosmological Thought.
December 15, 2014
Join Hayden astronomers with Steve Beyer, Joe Rao, and Ted Williams for a “sneak peak” at the nebulas and open cluster that will be visible this winter.
December 30, 2014
With the Museum's director of astrovisualization, Carter Emmart as your guide, drift over the blue planet and witness the unparalleled beauty of the most diverse and necessary planetary system that we call home our home planet.