From the January 2015 issue

Jeff Hester: Life and the Universe

The renowned astrophysicist discusses his iconic Hubble "Pillars of Creation" image, knowledge in the age of the Internet, changes in scientific thinking, and much more.
By | Published: January 23, 2015 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Jeff Hester
Courtesy Jeff Hester; podcast music provided by Getty Images

Astrophysicist Jeff Hester is an esteemed professor emeritus at Arizona State University. Among his many accolades, he was a key member of the team that restored the flawed Hubble Space Telescope to greatness, a researcher well-known for his work on pulsars, supernovae, and the birth of stars systems, and the principle author of the widely used educational text 21st Century Astronomy.

In this hourlong interview with Editor David J. Eicher, Hester relives the plight of Hubble and its phoenix-like rise from the ashes with his “Pillars of Creation” image. The two then go on to discuss how much — yet how little — we as humans know about the universe and everything in it, from the Big Bang to the cosmic distance scale [26:47]. Halfway through the conversation, Hester acknowledges that the only thing we can rely on is change and, with that, the challenges of getting people to think scientifically [33:36]. Finally, he and Eicher conclude their conversation pondering how life began on Earth and the evolutionary algorithms needed for it to spring up elsewhere [47:22].

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