A dinner with Tor Norretranders in Stockholm

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I am just back from a very nice dinner with Tor Norretranders in Stockholm. Impressive personality, vast culture. And, most surprising of all, with a deep knowledge of Astronomy. Ok, now you might ask who this guy is, what on earth I am doing in Stockholm, and why you should be interested in knowing this.

Ok, let me give a bit of background. As a consequence of my talk on light pollution and Astronomy in the CIE conference in Vienna, last March, I got invited to give a one hour lecture to the Light Symposium 2010, here in Stockholm. The most surprising thing is that I was the first speaker, talking about darkness in a conference of light. As usual I put up a little show, and explained my Grandma’s Theorem (ask me, if you feel you’d like to know what that is about).

And, do you know what? It was great. I was on the stage together with zoologists, biologists, light designers, architects, and a philosopher of science, Tor Norretranders. Certainly an unusual thing for an astronomer.

Tor’s presentation was stunning. Delivered with a style I had rarely seen. Eloquent and simple at the same time. And I thought I had given the audience a wide perspective… but his talk was, well, vast. Later on I realized why. Tor is mainly a writer, with a very robust scientific background. He has done serious research, published several books, given a number of public lectures, worked for newspapers and TVs. I could hardly compete with this kind of profile. On top of that, he had started off his scientific career with a deep passion for, guess what? Astronomy…

I had never seen him, never heard about him before. But after his talk I immediately felt familiar with him. Somehow his talk had shaken me. I still have to fully grasp why.

Over dinner, in a small, nice Lebanese restaurant, we talked about sciences, issues in cosmology, progenitors of Type Ia Supernovae, the Seveso disaster, life in the universe, Panspermia, extremophiles, and many other entertaining topics of this kind.

Now I am really “fix und fertig” and I need to get some sleep. If I had to summarize what happened today, I could not come up with better words than the following quote from Alan Parsons Project:

There are no answers, only questions, and we’re all strangers to the truth“.

G’d night.

One Response to A dinner with Tor Norretranders in Stockholm

  1. Tor Nørretranders is amazing. He has also written one of the most important books about Intelligence – “The User Illusion”. It is a “must read” for anyone considering a career in AI, and it *must* be read before starting your studies since it provides an antidote against the failing Reductionist AI meme that is propagated at universities worldwide. I use lots of material from the book in my talks (some recorded and available on my video site) and discuss similar issues at http://artificial-intuition.com .

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