Exploring the limitless universe at TEDxVienna

When you hear the word “Unlimited“, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? The Universe. Planets, stars, galaxies make up for the most complex and extremely difficult to study structure ever and so far humans have been able to scratch only at the surface of its immensity. Studying, understanding and talking about the universe’s limitlessness is the task of science giants that always bring along beautiful side-stories.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell and her pulsars

Perhaps one of the first experiences that determined Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burner to push limits, and not necessarily her own, was when her science class of 12-years olds was asked to split in two: girls had to go to the domestic science room and boys to the science lab. Imagine how well that worked out considering that she is currently the President of the British Institute of Physics, Visiting Professor at Oxford, has been studying almost every wave spectrum in astronomy including x-ray and infrared astronomy, developed and calibrated a 1-10 million electron volt gamma-ray telescope and made it into the history of astronomy with her discovery of pulsars – a highly magnetised spinning star made up of neutrons, for which her supervisor won the Nobel Prize. And these are only a few of her accomplishments despite all the obstacles she’s encountered by reaching into a world of science driven by men who “stamped and whistled and called and banged the desk” when a female walked into a lecture theatre and working towards getting rid of physics’ male-dominant reputation.

Although she’s one of the pioneers in breaking the boundaries of our biased perception of physicists from a men-in-white-coats-only lab to a family and women friendly environment, her previous TED talk showed that this fight is not yet won. There are still many countries where the number of women working in science is very limited. Her second life-long fight of discovering the universe is still an ongoing project of hers: “Also, in addition to observing X-rays, infrared and radio, there is the behaviour of space and time itself, which I think we are close to a direct detection of. It will give us a whole new way of looking at the universe.

Neil Ibata, the Milky Way Kid

Speaking of star-gazing experts breaking the limits of our knowledge of the universe, another one will step on the stage of TEDxVienna this year. French published author and astrophysicist featured in the Nature magazine (the second most important science magazine in the world) and piano scholar, Neil Ibata discovered in June 2013 that there are 27 dwarf galaxies orbiting Andromeda in a co-ordinated way and not randomly, as theories predicted. Excellent, but not extraordinary, you might say. But what if we tell you that Neil Ibata is actually a 15-years old high-school student from France.

While most of us were busy with 15 figuring out how to ask our high-school sweethearts out on a date or break our friends’ records in computer games, Neil Ibata kept himself busy with figuring out a way of increasing the percentage of knowledge (96% at this moment) we have about the universe. After being asked by his father for some technical assistance (similar to when our moms ask us how to make a Facebook account) in his research work at the Strasbourg astronomical observatory in France, he did a bit more than that and is now credited with a discovery of galactic significance.

Explore the universe’s limitlessness and the outstanding stories behind the life and work of two star-gazing astrophysics experts Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Niel Ibata, the new Einstein, as he’s been often called. Join us on November 2nd at the fourth annual TEDxVienna conference, UnlimiTED.


Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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