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Award-winning sci-fi author to discuss our place in a 'strange universe'


September 17, 2013

How do we fit into a universe that is unveiling itself in new and confounding ways? Might we share the cosmos with other intelligent beings, or are we alone in the vastness of space? Could it even be that the universe is some sort of Matrix-like simulation? And given the bewildering array of weird concepts uncovered by science, can humans find a meaning to existence through a better understanding of our place in the universe?  

These are some of the profound questions that will be addressed by best-selling science fiction author David Brin when he delivers the 2013 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture, 7 p.m., Oct. 1, in Murdoch 101, on ASU's Tempe campus.

The Shoemaker Lecture is an annual event organized by ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science that celebrates the life and work of Arizona-based Gene Shoemaker, a pioneer of cosmic impacts who also helped train the Apollo astronauts.

The title of Brin’s talk is “Humanity’s Place in a Very Strange Universe.”

Brin will reflect on the human compulsion to “make sense of it all,” a desire which used to be satisfied by myths and faith. Today, we use science to probe the nature of the universe. The more we learn about the intelligence of higher animals, the more the uniqueness of human sapience stands out, while new technologies promise to enhance, or replace, our definitions of personhood. Just when we seem ready to encounter alien life, the cosmos suddenly look stark and empty. 

Brin is a world-renowned scientist and author, whose books have been translated into more than 20 languages. His much-acclaimed novels have won multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards.

His latest work of fiction – "Existence" – is set in a world 40 years in the future, when human survival seems to teeter on the brink of disaster.

“Few novelists capture the grand sweep of scientific advance with such perception and accuracy as well as David Brin,” says Paul Davies, director of the Beyond Center and host of the Shoemaker Lecture. “He has an extraordinary ability to raise deep and sometimes uncomfortable issues about human beings and our place in the universe. Be prepared for a mind-expanding and thought-provoking lecture.”

The Shoemaker Lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested. For more information, visit http://beyond.asu.edu/, or call 480-965-3240.