Universe, science and curiosity

(some thoughts on the occasion of the celebration of the Zois scientific achievement awards, november 2023)

Curiosity is the foundation of scientific answers to some deep, cosmic questions: when the universe was formed, when the first stars started to shine, how many planets around other stars are similar to Earth and how we put ourselves at risk by our ignorance of the climate crisis. Still, a recent survey on the national radio has shown that many do not know even a single meaning of the word Jupiter. So they are not curious, they know nothing about astronomy, Roman gods, they never read a children book on Piki Jakob written by Kajetan Kovič, they do not read Asterix. In old times people with a lack of curiosity perished in Nature, but the fate may be similar even now. If you are not curious about the interest rate when negotiating a loan you will be ruined financially, possibly even your identity could be stolen. So curiosity simply pays off: from day-to-day decisions by an individual to fighting the climate crisis by the society. But. first and foremost, curiosity brings the joy of understanding more.

The kind of state we want to live in

(some thoughts on the occasion of a national celebration of 30 years of Slovenia, Kongresni trg, 24. junij 2022, complete recording here)

Relative equality is an important value in Slovenia. Politics means serving to the polis, i.e. the state and society, so it needs to take care of empowering everybody and stop diverting this responsibility to charities. Our existing public education is promoting mutual respect and transition to a society where a minimal salary should be an exception, not a rule. Pandemics showed us that public health system is the only one we can count on, it alone was demonstrating how to replace individualism with benefits to the entire society and how to offer help to the needy, whoever they are. The next challenge is the climate crisis, where we all need to contribute with timely decisions, and with responsible acts towards people and nature. Just so as to avoid of having one civilisation less in the universe.

On Science and Society

(some thoughts on the occasion of the Zois award for scientific achievement, december 2021)

Science is a passion for searching for mistakes and shortcomings in explanations. Only ideas that survive many challenges slowly start to be considered worthy ones. We are not reaching perfection, but we understand more.

The passion of science is also a discussion with the general audience, which values good explanations: humans are curious beings, and this keeps driving our advances over millennia.

Unfortunately, this is not true for everybody: low covid vaccination rates show that many think only of themselves, and even this seems to be too much for them. They are like reckless drivers who enjoy speeding, ignoring the consequences for themselves and others on the road.

Similarly, egoism mirrors in ever delayed responses to the climate crisis. The current head of the Slovenian government and president of the republic led the governments that decided to build the huge Slovenian coal power plant TEŠ 6 a decade ago. So they are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. But rulers deny the concepts of resignation or morale.

Science knows no borders. If humans dispersed evenly over all seas and land, your nearest neighbour would be just 250 meters away. Still, we destroy our environment as if there were nobody anywhere. If we do not limit ourselves substantially, life on Earth will survive, but humans will not exist anymore.

Similar ideas were presented in more detail at the presentation of the most important research achievements of the University of Ljubljana in the year 2015. Video of the event is available here. Climate crisis was discussed at the round table Decarbonisation of Slovenia, February 2020.

Background: Gaia sky in colour, © DPAC, Gaia, ESA.