The Colloquium was to have a specific focus on questions regarding this year’s theme "Science and Technology in the Service of Beauty and Harmony". Dr Visser felt that my work was eminently relevant to those questions.
These colloquia bring together prominent minds from a wide variety of disciplines pertaining to the sciences, the arts and humanities. In previous years themes were Learning for sustainable futures ( South Africa 2011) and In Search of a Home in the Universe ( Egypt 2009) ) Learning in the perspective of complex and long term change ( Canada 2007) . The initial Building the Scientific Mind was in 2005 in the Netherlands during International year of Physics. Previous participants included Nobel laureates such as the physicists Leon Lederman and Carl Wieman, UNESCO’s former Director General and noted molecular bio chemist Federico Mayor.
During Building the Scientific Mind colloquia contributors are encouraged to think beyond the boundaries of their own specific disciplines. The overall goal of these meetings is to improve the conditions of learning, in both formal and informal settings.
Into this transdisciplinary arena on May 27th 2013, I brought Action Sun.
I developed this workshop in order to bring the sun to Earth in real time using simple materials with collaboration from local children and the child within us all. The purpose is to teach people of all ages the features of the sun and to take time to appreciate its wonder.
The Colloquium began with very uplifting rocket launches carried out by Aldino Adra Baskoro, a local teacher. This got everyone in the mood for fun and set a playful atmosphere loose around the grounds of Bosscha Observatory.
A team of people helped carry the 12 foot X 12 foot black tarpaulin for Action Sun out to the grass in front of the magnificent dome. It had been donated by the local military; it was real tarpaulin, heavy and thick, a great canvas for the sun.
Everyone took part in building the suns photosphere, sunspots, chromosphere, and filaments. Children from local schools and orphanages, teachers, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, economists, game builders, educationalists, representatives of UNESCO, UNAWE, astrophysicists, astronomers, theoreticians, rocket builders, mathematicians, and musicians.
Fellow educators from amongst the colloquium cohort were very quick to jump in with gusto to help distribute the paper, glue and other elements to construct what would eventually be a nine foot diameter solar disc.
As it was a cloudy day I took my sun building data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory “The Sun Now” page. Bosscha Observatory had a plasma screen set up inside the dome showing the page so participants could understand where the prominences, sunspots and filaments were during the hour that it took to bring the sun to Earth. They also had some beautiful h alpha telescopes ready for me in case the sun did actually shine on the proceedings.
Sally Roberts from California was the first to say “how can I help?” she became my super hero glue mixer and paper distributor. Vidula Mhaiskar from India took photos for me and also distributed the wonderful educational material supplied by NASA Goddard to support the workshop. With something like 100 people present it was great to have such enthusiastic assistance. Binta Moustapha from Nigeria and Sally Roberts also got busy making the giant filament that graced almost half of the suns disc on that day.
Lovely local children flung paper and paint with great joy and curiosity and soon the sun was glowing from the black canvas on Java soil. I noticed some of the little orphans got paint on their hands; it was a slow motion moment for me in a very action packed hour. They looked at their hands like they had never seen paint before, that image will stay in my mind forever.
It seemed the child in many delegates was very close to the surface and burst out in actions of jollity. I was surrounded by professionals from many disciplines delightfully flinging paper and glue with no inhibitions. Questions were also flying at me about filaments and other solar structures. There was learning and listening magically absorbed while all the time we worked toward finishing our sun in real time. This was easy learning, it was cross cultural and for some it was language less. My sun builders were from 5 to 75 in age, they were bolted together by passion and enjoyment.
When finally our sun was created, I invited everyone to sign their names to the canvas. A few drops of warm Java rain prompted the crowd to carry the sun back into the dome. It remained on display for the rest of the week under the seven ton Carl Zeiss telescope WOW!
During the colloquium a gentle breeze mingled with the call to prayer and often fanned the passion in the room with seamless ease. Inside the observatory pools of beauty were daily being squeezed and teased out of Economics, Philosophy, Trash Anthropology, Maths, Cosmology, Music, Emotions and Football.
Bosscha Observatory was built ninety years ago and has many similarities to Dunsink Observatory in Dublin. I felt very at home there and for the first time felt even more at home amongst this gathering than I had ever felt at conferences or festivals that were solely astronomical in content.
One of the major differences at this observatory compared to Dunsink was the size of the dome and the main telescope. Bosscha’s dome was twenty two meters in diameter, the telescope named “Zeiss” weighted in at seven tons and was eleven meters long. The dome at Dunsink is 9 feet in diameter and the telescope is 18 feet long. The day after Action Sun I had a personal introduction to “Zeiss” from Dhani Herdiwijaya. WOW!!
The floor was mechanised to lift up observers so that objects could be viewed at whatever elevation was required. Massive chains on each side of the floor pulled it up under power generated by ninety year old controls. Everything works perfectly and the observatory handles 60,000 members of the public in its outreach programme annually.
This awesome telescope is double refractor made by Carl Zeiss. The main telescope lenses are 60 cms in diameter. The telescope was specifically designed for double star observing and can observe stars that are much weaker, approximately 100000 times fainter than the stars that can be seen by the naked eye. Focal length is a whopping 1080 cms or 35 .4 feet, the dome of the building has a weight of fifty six tons and is made of two mm thick steel.
One of the joys of being six degrees below the equator for me was seeing Crux for the first time and also seeing Scorpius in its entirety also for the first time. This happened one night when just a small section of the sky was clear over the hotel. Java was still having its rainy season so there were no clear sky nights to observe from this iconic instrument.
You might enjoy my photographs Action Sun,the telescope and the Colloquium in the slide show below.