Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Annual Public Lecture on Cosmic Physics

Schrödinger Lecture Theatre, Trinity College

13 November 2014

Good evening,

Welcome everybody to Trinity for this public lecture on this exciting topic: Cosmic Rays: a Century of Adventure and Mysteries

Every second year, the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies holds a public lecture in Trinity - with lectures in UCD on alternate years. The Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies has three constituent schools – in Celtic Studies, Theoretical Physics and Cosmic Physics. If those three seem like an unusual mix, they harken back to the dual interests of the Institute’s founder, Éamon de Valera, who was Taoiseach and President for decades. In many ways he a divisive figure – as are most major political figures. But equally, in some of his actions he has proved a uniting, inspirational, figure, and nowhere more so than in his founding of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, which was modelled on an institute in Princeton.

At the time the Institute was founded in 1940, Ireland did not enjoy significant wealth and some criticised De Valera for using scarce resources for what they saw as an esoteric and unnecessary initiative. But De Valera understood the importance of promoting cutting edge science research. Indeed, he created an institute prestigious enough to attract the Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger to Ireland.

Schrödinger helped establish this institute as a world-class research centre, and in 1943 he gave a public lecture entitled “What is Life?”. This has claims to being one of the most significant lectures ever delivered in our capital city: it featured in Time magazine and was cited by Doctors Crick and Watson as an inspiration for their unravelling of the structure of DNA.

This theatre, which we’re in, is named after Schrödinger, which makes it an apt venue for tonight’s lecture.

Now in many ways De Valera and Schrödinger weren’t well matched. But when it’s a question of quality and excellence, you do what it takes because excellence breeds excellence, and leaves an enduring legacy. The Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies is now a key Irish research institute and has developed the vision of its founders.

It plays a crucial role in disseminating science knowledge to the public, and it has partnered with other institutions, including Trinity, on important initiatives. Three weeks ago it was announced as one of the partners in the forthcoming Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, or iCrag. Professor Luke Drury here, who is Director of the Institute’s School of Cosmic Physics, is currently the chair of the European Space Agency’s working group on astronomy.

It is, of course, a most auspicious day for the European Space Agency – yesterday the team in charge of the Rosetta mission made history when they landed a robotic spacecraft on a comet.

Tonight’s talk is given by an international luminary in his field, Professor Etienne Parizot from Université Paris 7. He has a special connection with the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies because he was a post doctoral researcher there for two years, until 2000, working under Professor Luke Drury on the European TMR network in Astro-Plasma Physics.

Since then he has become a noted science commentator. His TED talk on the 4 dimensions went viral in France. He is a member of the Pierre Auger Observatory, which has transformed our view of cosmic rays. He is currently making the case for sending a successor space mission JEM-EUSO to observe from the Japanese Experimental Module on the International Space Station.

In tonight’s talk, he’ll explain the need for such a mission – and he’ll also be outlining the historical development of the field of cosmic rays. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Etienne Parizot.

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