11. August 2023

Fascination of the unknown: black holes and the limits of our knowledge Fascination of the unknown: black holes and the limits of our knowledge

Dialogue event on the MS Wissenschaft

Black holes still pose many questions and inspire creativity in science, philosophy and literature. But interest is not only great among experts: More than 100 audience members came to the public discussion "Dialogue on Deck: Black Holes and the Limits of Space and Time," where experts from various disciplines explored the nature of space and time and the limits of our knowledge. The event took place on the exhibition ship MS Wissenschaft as part of the Science Year 2023 "Our Universe" and was organized by a transdisciplinary team from the University of Bonn.

Prof. Bertoldi welcomes the audience and the discussants
Prof. Bertoldi welcomes the audience and the discussants © Natascha Buhl/Uni Bonn
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"We are quite overwhelmed that so many people have found their way to join us on board of the MS Wissenschaft," said astrophysicist and initiator of the Bonn contribution, Prof. Dr. Frank Bertoldi of the Argelander Institute for Astronomy and member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) Matter, in his welcoming speech. He then handed over to the evening's moderator, Dr. Suzanna Randall, also an astrophysicist and astronaut in training (European Southern Observatory). She first provided vivid insights into the topic and its research history, and then led into the panel discussion: "The universe tempts us to also discuss it from philosophical and theological perspectives."

Discussion across disciplinary boundaries

The different disciplinary perspectives on the closely interwoven scientific, epistemological and theological aspects were discussed by the invited panelists. Dr. Sandra Unruh (Argelander Institute for Astronomy, University of Bonn), as an astrophysicist, gave insights into the current state of research: "Black holes are ubiquitous in the universe and we have a solid understanding of their effect on their environment. However, the inside of a black hole remains - currently - a mystery."

Theologian Dr. Frank Vogelsang (Protestant Academy of the Rhineland) also shed light on the unknown about black holes "There is an object where we come to a limit and where we have to rethink our own world view. As a theologian, I naturally ask myself what this says about God. In any case, we are existentially interested in the phenomena, as you can see by how many people are here today!"

And philosopher Em. Prof. Dr. Andreas Bartels (University of Bonn) led over to the concepts of space and time: "We have reason to rethink our concepts of space and time. This is a conceptual voyage of discovery that philosophers love to undertake."

Active participation of the audience

Time and again, the audience present had the opportunity to actively participate in the dialogue, answer live digital polls and ask the experts individual questions. The lively interest of the audience was also shown at the end of the discussion round: Many attendees accepted the invitation to continue the conversation in a relaxed atmosphere and get-together.

Engaging in dialogue

"The "Dialogue on Deck" format particularly promotes scientific dialogue with society, which we also support through the Transfer Center enaCom of the University of Bonn," explained Dr. Florentin J. Schmidt, innovation scout at enaCom and co-organizer of the event. Dr. Brigit Westernströer, manager of TRA Matter, and Johanna Tix, manager of TRA Individuals, Institutions and Societies, who were also involved in the organization, said: "In addition to the dialogue between science and the public, the lively discussion between different experts - like we listened to today from astrophysics, theology and philosophy - is very inspiring for all involved."

The exhibition ship continues to sail until the end of the year

The MS Wissenschaft stopped in Bonn at the beginning of August and will continue to sail through Germany until the end of the year. The University of Bonn is also represented in the traveling exhibition of the floating science center. The Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn, together with the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Building Blocks of Matter and Fundamental Interactions (TRA Matter)" and the Transfer Center enaCom, as well as other partner institutions, have created an exhibit for it. Under the motto "Tracking the Universe," the interactive exhibit conveys what makes the transdisciplinary exploration of the universe so diverse and fascinating and invites students to join in the exploration. More information at www.faszination.uni-bonn.de.

The Science Year

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with Wissenschaft im Dialog (WiD), has been organizing the Science Years since 2000. The aim of the years is to get people more interested in science and to promote social dialog about research: https://www.wissenschaftsjahr.de/2023/

Panelists - Dr. Randall, em. Prof. Bartels, Dr. Unruh, Dr. Vogelsang (f.l.t.r.) © Natascha Buhl/Uni Bonn
Audience during the dialogue
Audience during the dialogue © Natascha Buhl/Uni Bonn
Entry to the ship MS Wissenschaft
Entry to the ship MS Wissenschaft © Natascha Buhl/Uni Bonn
Team of organisers and panelists
Team of organisers and panelists © Natascha Buhl/Uni Bonn

You would like to be represented with your research on the MS Wissenschaft next year or realize your own project in the field of science dialogue? Then simply get in touch with your contact person from the Transfer Center enaCom. They will help you with applications and activities, e.g. in the context of the Science Year 2024, which will be dedicated to the topic of "Freedom".

Dr. Florentin J. Schmidt
Innovation Scout
T. +49 228 73-6504

Tracking the universe

Check out the website of the organizing team to learn more about the University of Bonn exhibit:


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