Presenting the Presenters: “China in Space” by Helen Prislinger and “Oppenheimer” by Jim Lutz (Winter 2024 Forum #1 Summary)

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Helen Prislinger and Jim Lutz.

The forum, held at Tartu on January 17, was one of our favourite events, Presenting the Presenters. As you know, we hold this event once each term to highlight exceptional presentations that have been nominated by a workshop facilitator for these forums.

This forum featured Helen Prislinger, who talked about “China in Space” from the China in the Evolving World workshop, and Jim Lutz, who spoke about “Oppenheimer: on the day the sun rose twice.” He is a member of the Extraordinary Lives workshop on biographies.

Helen opened her presentation with a diagram of Earth’s atmosphere and near space layers above the Earth showing where orbiting objects can be found. She told us that at least 70,000 such objects are up there. China sent up its first satellite in 1970. In the 1990s it collaborated with Russia, but in the 21st century it has forged ahead with its own program, launching a space station in 2011. The Chinese government engages in long-term goals, opening up private enterprises, and aspires to be the world leader in space. A project slated for 2049 is to launch a solar-powered energy collection device that could be a game changer for harnessing the sun’s power. The US has been particularly uncooperative in China’s progress in this field. Helen outlined some of the hazards for humans being in space; radiation and the proliferation of space debris certainly are risks that will be difficult to overcome.

Jim’s presentation on the life of Robert Oppenheimer was particularly timely as many of us have seen the recent film about Oppenheimer. Jim said he enjoyed the film and that it was reasonably accurate. The presentation benefitted from Jim’s considerable research on his topic as exemplified by the many archival pictures. Jim’s sensitive talk about his subject’s character and experiences brought the life and times of Robert Oppenheimer into an illuminating perspective for us.  Some of us have lived long enough to remember the dramatic story of the beginning of the atomic age.

The afternoon ended with a gracious thanks on our behalf by Margaret Prugovecki.

by Linda Tu