During my two-and-a-half years of being your science writer, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing some very interesting people. Without a doubt one of the most interesting people is Dr. Larry Kawano of Astrocamp.
I met Dr. Kawano during a presentation he gave in 2012 on the big bang and the cosmos to a packed audience.
Dr. Kawano earned a bachelor of science in physics from Cornell University and a doctorate in cosmology from the University of Chicago.
So without further ado:
First off, what got you interested in your field of research — cosmology?
I’m a big-picture kind of guy so I suppose taking on the whole enchilada came naturally to me. But specifically, it was a presentation by a cosmologist during a series intended to introduce graduate students to different kinds of research.
Was there any scientist who inspired you growing up and how?
It was really the books of the Life Science and Life Nature libraries that I read as a kid, in particular “Man and Space” by Arthur C. Clarke, “Planets” by Carl Sagan and “The Universe” by David Bergamini.
What is your opinion on the recent discoveries made at the Large Hadron Collider?
Our theory of particle physics had missing pieces which got filled in over the years until last year, when the final piece was discovered at the LHC. [The Higgs boson particle discovery was announced in July 2012.] It was the culmination of a grand vision, like the placement of the final stone in a decades-long construction of a gothic cathedral.
What was your opinion of the new “Cosmos” series?
I actually didn’t see the original series, which is why I thought that “Cosmos” would be all about astronomy. So, I was surprised to see that the series was much more far-ranging, dealing with topics like evolution, physics and geology. I liked the personification of scientists through short animations.
What is the best thing about teaching the universe to kids?
That they are already excited about it. One time I set up a telescope and turned to tell the kids to come over and look. But, a bunch of them were lying on their backs just staring at the night sky. For many kids, just seeing so many stars is a wonder.
How receptive and engaged are Idyllwild residents to learning about the universe?
There are people in town who are truly enthusiastic about learning all they can about the universe. Some come to the lecture series I organize at Astrocamp — these are presentations by researchers and specialists and are open to the public. Others I engage in discussions at periodic gatherings.
What other profession would interest you if you were not a scientist?
That’s hard to say. I think I’m still trying to find my way through life. But I am fascinated by human potential as realized by making the right decisions, the sort of stuff you read about in books about leadership. So, however vague, something in that arena perhaps.
What words of inspiration do you have for anyone interested in becoming a scientist?
The best way is to get it from a real person. There’s nothing like having a real-live person in front of you exuding enthusiasm for, love of and expertise in science. Next best is the right video lesson or TV program or book, as was my case.