these decades “soon propagated into social thought” leading to the Enlightenment in the 1720s, Kennel explained.
The 1950s is “when our present scientific age had its beginning,” according to Kennel. It started with the explosion of the first and largest hydrogen bomb test, Mike, in 1952, which demonstrated that humanity now had the capability “to destroy itself.” But the same machines at the Institute of Advanced Studies that did the computations for Mike also did the first weather computations initiating the current age of numerical simulation. Also in 1952, the first paper on the double helix was published. The Space Age began in 1957 with the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and the launch of the first satellite. As part of the IGY, Dave Keeling began his measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, that “began to document the global nature of the human impact on atmospheric chemistry.” Kennel then summarized what has been learned over the past 50 years of space research based on the presentations made by the various scientists at the workshop.
• Cosmology became an observational science and was integrated into a standard model of cosmology that had two important features—a detailed scientific account of the origin, extent and fate of the universe that corresponds with data, and the revelation of how tiny the human presence is on the scale of the universe. At the same time, scientists were working on the standard model of particle physics, which “with some adjustments accounts for every single particle experiment ever made. The difficulty is that the standard model of cosmology and the standard model of particle physics are not in agreement. Very profound…. Resolving the conflict between these two models will, in fact, fructify 20th-century physics in the 21st century and will probably lead to unimaginable 22nd-century applications.”
• The search for extraterrestrial life was turned into a science. The fundamental questions still are What is life? Where is it, or where could it possibly be? and then there’s Fermi’s question, Where are they?
• The basic vocabulary for the structure of life based in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was discovered, and the astrobiology question has, through synthetic biology, motivated the search for alternate vocabularies based on different size alphabets” and raises the question of whether there are non-carbon chemistries “that might … prevail in other environments.”
• The basic picture of our solar system changed, undoing astrology, “the basis of decision-making by kings” that relied on the regular motions of the planets. It is now known that the solar system it is a much more changeable, dynamic place with many small bodies “that may … help us cope with our resource crisis.”
• A multiplicity of worlds around common stars has been discovered, and there is a strategy for finding the worlds that might have life such as ours.
• Humanity was able to look back at Earth from the vantage point of space and see “how tiny our Earth really is.”
Meanwhile, Kennel continued, over the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in communications, which he believes “has the potential, combined with science, … to produce a second Enlightenment” in this century.
The 2010s, then, is the beginning of this second Enlightenment featuring a partnership between science and communications that will be “critically needed in order to cope with the rather stark problems of climate change and sustainability,” he said. During the workshop,
A constant theme was that in the climate area, the scientific community’s honest attempts to communicate have failed. The failure of communication in the other … inspirational areas of space science may have consequences in delaying funding … but the failure in the climate area threatens our entire civilization.