Larry Kawano will unlock and update popular myths and misconceptions about the universe, or to be more specific, our universe as presenter for the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council’s very popular Idyllwild Speakers Series.
Many know Larry, or more properly, Dr. Kawano — doctorate in cosmology from the University of Chicago, bachelor of science in physics from Cornell University and postgraduate study at CalTech — as a member of the Idyllwild Master Chorale and as a gifted and extraordinarily funny actor in IMC’s summer theater offerings. Larry may seem unassuming but his academic pedigree and wealth of knowledge about all things astronomical and cosmological is very impressive indeed.
Ask him a simple question such as “What was there before the Big Bang?” and he will give you nuanced answers, analogies and explanations that even the most unschooled layperson can grasp. And he’ll do it in a way that leaves you thinking and smiling, informed, intrigued and wanting to know more. “We at Astrocamp are all about fun,” said Kawano, who is curriculum director and science interpretives creator at Idyllwild’s Astrocamp, explaining why he mixes smiles with substance and comedy with cosmology.
“I’ll be discussing six topics covering the span of the universe about which people might have misconceptions: planets, our sun (Sol), black holes, the Milky Way, the Big Bang, and [our] universe. I’ll ask a question of the audience to see what their current perceptions are about that subject and then discuss how, in science, things and concepts are always changing. That’s the nature of things. In science, things are always changing.”
When prodded for an example, using the Big Bang, Kawano answered, “Many think about the Big Bang as an explosion, hence the outward expansion of the universe. But that’s not so.” Come to the presentation to hear his metaphoric explanation comparing the universe to a gigantic dance floor with tiles on the dance floor, too close together with dancers standing on the tiles, and then, over time, the tiles with the dancers begin slowly and inexorably moving farther and farther away from each other. The question is why, what started it, and what preceded it.
Kawano compares the most efficient way to explore space and other star systems and galaxies (using self replicating machines) with the challenge of visiting the unexplored depths of our own planet’s seas (James Cameron’s recent dive makes him the third person to have dived that deep and seen the landscape Cameron described as “very lunar, very desolate.”) “Both space and deep sea exploration are better ways to understand what our home [the Earth] is like,” said Kawano.
Kawano’s presentation, “Astro Mythbusters” will be 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, at Silver Pines Lodge. There will be a wine and cheese reception before his talk. Both are free to the public.