Students awoke with mixed emotions about the last day of ISS. Some were excited about the last, activity filled day of lectures; while others dreaded saying goodbye to their new friends.
The morning session was filled by a talk from Dr Phil Dooley. He entertained the scholars by showing sounds through dancing flames, creating resonance patterns on a metal plate, and showing the diffraction patterns of a laser. For his grand finale, Phil Dooley cracked a wine glass using only sound at resonance frequency of the wineglass.
The second last lecture, in the morning, was given by Charles Lineweaver, who gave a fascinating talk on our place in the universe. He explained the evolution of our universe, from the big bang, and how we came to exist from the plasma present at the beginning of the universe.
The last lecture was presented by Helen Johnston, who explained the journey a proton might have undergone since the big bang. As protons are the only particles that have all been in existance since the big bang, the stories that could be told would be interesting, and the roles it may have had overtime would be many and varied. Her amazing lecture fascinated all the scholars, with how rare we are as lifeforms in the universe, made up of many billions of lucky protons, and how lucky we are to be here.
After the final lecture had finished, a wrap up session was held in Slade to present the book prizes and thank all the organisers for ISS09. It was clear that all of the scholars had a deep appreciation for the opportunity they had been given, with many rounds of applause resounding around the theatre for all the staff involved.
After a special barbeque dinner, the scholars dressed up for the farewell disco. With a theme of 'Beauty and the Geek', there were some amazing characters dancing to all the songs. A special metion goes to perhaps the two most convincing geeks among the staff, Ryan and Gabriel, who were in character even at dinner. Once the last song had been played, it was time to say a very emotional goodnight to the other scholars, as many wouldn't be able to see each other off in the morning. With emotions heightened, particularly with the official ISS video played on the projector, many of the scholars had already began crying at the thought of leaving such amazing new friends.
Here we sit on a ball of silicate with beating hearts, opposable thumbs and curious minds. How did we get here? How did the evolution of non-living things, such as galaxies, stars and planets, create the ingredients and the conditions for the emergence of life? Which aspects of this evolution are unique to the Earth and which are common in the universe? Are we alone? These cosmobiological questions are sharpened and partially answered by the overview presented here.
Very few things are forever. Molecules re-arrange and remake themselves constantly, in countless chemical reactions; and even atoms can be made and destroyed in the interiors of stars, forging entirely new chemical elements. Only protons are truly unchanging: every proton in every atom in the universe has been there since the very beginning. But over the life of the universe, those protons may have been through many different guises. If one of those protons could tell its story, what a story that would be ...
Well, here is that story.