Keynote speaker, Phil Plait, has devoted his life to communicating science to a broad audience. A particularly interesting post features storms on Saturn. This post combines awe-inspiring images with descriptions that invoke terminology that relate this seemingly disparate event to common experiences on Earth.
Planetary scientists use observations of objects in the Solar Systems to help us better understand the Earth, and vice versa. The same mechanisms creating weather on Saturn are applicable on Earth, but many of the difficulties of studying weather on Earth can be removed. For instance, the storms on Saturn occur far above its surface, which greatly simplifies the computational difficulty of modeling the storm.
We are honored to have Phil Plait as our keynote speaker for “Fact, Fiction and Supposition” this Fall. Best known for his “Bad Astronomy” blog hosted by Discover Magazine, Phil obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia working for Professor Roger Chevalier. While a graduate student, Phil started exploring his ability to write about science for a broad audience. After taking positions at the Space Telescope Science Institute working with instrumentation for the Hubble Space Telescope, Phil currently is a full time writer, promoting science literacy, a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking.
Phil is known for a straight, no-nonsense lecture style that reaches to the heart of an issue. This approach has made him a popular contributor to many National conferences that focus on critical thinking and/or science. For instance, he is a regular panelist for “The Amaz!ing Meeting”, an annual conference to discuss science, skepticism and critical thinking. The conference is sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), for which Phil served as President from 2008 to 2010. The principle focus of the meeting — and much of Phil’s personal work on Bad Astronomy — is taking a critical thinking approach to many of the current topics in the news. The conference not only discusses these topics, but works to reach solutions for educators and other outreach professionals to promote critical thinking at an early age.
Phil perfectly fits the role of the ideal Keynote speaker for the Forum for Interdisciplinary Dialogue (FID) — an individual who promotes constructive discourse between fields, who connects professionals and academics and an individual who can engage a large audience with his message. Phil’s work promotes the very same key ideals as the FID, namely that progress is born through a continued discourse that must reach across many of the common divisions in our ever-connected, yet ever-fragmented modern world. This message speaks to the heart of the accepted speakers for this conference: a devotion to critical inquiry, a dedication to evaluating the “truth” and a drive to bring these messages to as diverse an audience as possible.