2005 Amazing Light

Amazing Light:

Visions of Discovery

Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery was a symposium, gala, and edited volume honoring the leadership and vision of physicist and Nobel laureate Charles Hard Townes in his 90th birthday year (2005). The team at Metanexus produced the three-day symposium and gala dinner at the University of California Berkeley.

Over a career spanning almost 70 years, Charles Townes has become renowned as a research leader, scientific advisor, and teacher of many of the 20th century’s most innovative physicists. He has combined first-rate experimental work with development of life-changing technologies that have benefited people everywhere in diverse ways. Also, he is known for exploring many of the most fundamental and challenging aspects of physics in support of the quest for a deep, comprehensive, integrated understanding of the universe. Charles Townes’s leadership beyond science has included considerable concern over ethics and the vital challenges of expanding the powers of science and technology to transform life for great good – and for great ill. He also has been a notable public voice supporting serious, scholarly rigor in advancing the quality of dialog between the different cultural and intellectual worlds of “Science and Religion.”

Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery involved two principal components:

  • a high-level, major international symposium and gala held October 6-8, 2005 at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • the subsequent publication of a scholarly research volume based on further exploration of the symposium themes.

Following Charles Townes’s example, Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery emphasized the role of technological innovations that accelerate scientific creativity and benefit human life. It emphasized the creative edges of the experimental (observational) aspects of physics and cosmology that may lead to new discoveries – and especially to powerful new scientific instruments – that may transform human capabilities to explore physical reality. The goal of developing cutting-edge tools was considered as a basic creative challenge for advancing the scientific quest for a fundamental, integrated understanding of the universe. A pre-eminent example is the fascinating depth and richness of innovation made possible through the study of light so successfully pioneered by Charles Townes.

The program brought together an outstanding, select group of research leaders within physics and cosmology including 18 Nobel laureates. The project incorporated an open global “Young Scholars Competition” for investigators under the age of 40. Semifinalists were invited to the symposium to participate in special sessions. Substantial prizes were awarded to the winners for excellence in conceptualizing and presenting fresh approaches in physics and cosmology.