AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 112 Astronomy Teaching Through Humanities
Poster, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[112.03] A Very Liquid Heaven: An exhibit exploring the human perception of stars

M. M. Crone (Skidmore College)

This year the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College is showing an exhibit about the human perception of stars, accompanied by a catalog, a speaker series, and an outreach program. The exhibit includes historical documents and atlases as well as work by a variety of artists and scientists. A Very Liquid Heaven opened with a performance of George Crumb's musical piece Makrokosmos III surrounded by original dance, theater, and video art. The title of the exhibit is inspired by Rene Descartes’ 1644 text Principles of Philosophy, where he describes the earth as “surrounded on all sides by a very liquid heaven.” Although Isaac Newton’s laws of mechanics and gravity later discredited his specific hypothesis, in a sense Descartes was correct: astronomy has indeed revealed stars not as hard, fixed objects, but as pulsing plasmas, and interstellar space not as a pure void, but as diffuse clouds of atoms and molecules.

This exhibit is made possible with support from Beverly P. and R. Lawrence St. Clair, the Nathalie Potter Voorhees ’45 Memorial fund, and the Friends of the Tang.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.