When I signed up for the Prof. Brian P. Schmidt's talk, which was part of the "5th ASEAN Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace", I was expecting a deep insight into the mind responsible for showing that the universe is expanding faster rather than slowing down, fundamentally changing our view of the universe.
How the 2011 Nobel Laureate for Physics who explores supernovas and the final frontier will talk about peace? It was an intriguing approach to such a fundamental topic that I had to hear what he had to say.
Titled "Science: Humanity's universal bridge", Prof. Brain began on a simple note.
Pointing towards the Pleiades, an open star cluster observed by many civilisations through human history. Despite being isolated by time and geography, the Pleiades were often referred to as the six sisters by cilivsations such as the Australian Aborigines, the Mayians, the Aztecs, the Chinese and more - the stars had unknowingly connected them.
This simple point brought the entire audience into a common understanding, a signal that I took as "the ride has begun".
Prof. Brain went on and expanded the topic of stars to the universe, and civilisations to the world we live in today. Which was then further expanded to science and peace.
These were 2 big fundamental topics, and Prof. Brain glides us comfortably to it, in fact, he was elegant in that approach.
It was then, through the perspective that he had brought us to, does much of the topics connect.
He injected questions such as "What is Reality?" and "Why do we Do Science?" and provided simple answers such as "Because it is interesting!" being the answer to the latter question.
The true value of the speech came from the stories delivered through those simple answers, like how the pursuit of science had more than doubled the average lifespan of a person from 32 in the times of Paleolithic to us in 2010 and how that pursuit spark international collaborations that would rarely be seen in other avenues such as politics or business. (A great number of Iranian scientists collaborates with Australian scientists.)
It was science where barrier hindering progress in almost all aspects were broken down for the betterment of humanity. As different as cultures and language may be, Science, like music, transcends that barrier - It is a universal bridge for humanity.
The final piece to his speech, a graph that clearly shows that as a country's population becomes smarter and more civilised, the fertility rate of that country slows.
A message that while we may worry about humanity overcrowding the planet, the pursuit of knowledge could be the answer to that problem. As we continue to learn and peek into our curiosities, our global population growth will become stable, getting closer to the magic number of 2.33 children per woman, achieving global sub-replacement fertility.
And as the global population increasingly enjoys and partakes in the pursuit of knowledge, humanity will finally speak with a universal language.
How we got to where we are today was due to the nature of knowledge, its ability to transcend geography, disciplines and even time itself.
The message had been delivered and it was well received.
Using history, modern politics, the scientific method, the universe, statistics and a casual humorous tone, Prof. Brain should me how one could use his areas of expertise to deliver the intended message.
While I may have learned something new about the history of science and the way we can achieve peace, my greatest takeaway from Prof. Brain's speech was his use of storytelling to deliver a message.
He showed me that we could present ideas like everything was related, because they are, even in a scientific sense.
It made me think back to speeches that I had heard before - those that truly connected with the audience and delivered their intended message.
And then it became clear, their success was not simply due to their expertise in that subject matter or because they had a good voice.
While those are factors contributing to it, the main factor was their ability to tell a story and convey their feelings and beliefs, to use it as a tool to bring the audience together, set them in the right perspective to bring them on a journey with maximum clarity.
And with that, here's a belated but sincere thank you for your speech, Prof. Brain. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The 5th ASEAN Bridges event in Singapore is still ongoing. There are still 2 more talks left in this year's schedule. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei's talk on "Global Equity and Security" and Prof. Ada E. Yonath's talk on "From Basic Science to Advanced Medicine - Molecules of life and their impact on modern biomedical research".
You may click on the links to bring OKJ Discoveries' new calendar function, where you can also find the link to register for the talk.
Keep an open mind, be inspired and enjoy the journey.