Under Silk Road Skies

I’m doing a disturbing amount of speechifyin’ this month. One of the occasions is tomorrow, and is open to the general public. Have you been to the Natural History Museum’s “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibition yet? I went to have a look a couple of days ago and it is rather nice. I recommend it. There are even live silk worms!

griffith observatory city view at nightI’ve been coorganizing an event as part of their series of lectures that accompanies the event and I am delighted to announce that I have connected two of the most awesome spaces and institutions in the city for this one. The Griffith Observatory will team up with the Natural History Museum for this one, with a lecture and Q+A session, and then (weather permitting) a bit of stargazing in the new gardens! Please spread the word and come along:

Join us for an evening with USC Physics and Astronomy Professor, Dr. Clifford V. Johnson, astronomer and director of Griffith Observatory Dr. E.C. Krupp, and Griffith Observatory curator Dr. Laura Danly.

“Under Silk Road Skies” by Dr. E.C. Krupp and Dr. Laura Danly, with an introduction by Dr. Clifford V. Johnson
Location: Grand Foyer, Natural History Museum
Date: Thursday March 27th 2014

6:30 pm: Doors open, explore Traveling the Silk Road exhibit 7 pm: Lecture
8 pm: Stargazing through telescopes in the Nature Gardens

Admission $10, which includes access to the Traveling the Silk Road exhibition.


Although knowledge of the sun, moon, and stars might have been a comfort along the Silk Road, negotiating the deserts and mountains from Xi’an, China, to Baghdad, in Iraq, did not really require celestial navigation. Nonetheless, relics of ancient astronomy are encountered in tombs, shrines, and medieval observatories on the Silk Road. The silk trade route allowed Greek, Islamic, and Chinese astronomical systems and techniques to mingle, but the real character of this exchange remains unknown. Neither the East nor the West was transformed by the other’s cosmos. We find, however, fetching, distinctive, and unexpected reflections of the sky on the silk highway.
By contrast, astronomy today is driven by the global communication of data and ideas along what was once quaintly called the Information Superhighway. This road is not paved in silk, but the trail of bits and bytes now leads into most homes, and anyone can participate in astronomical discovery. The ability to work with and communicate vast amounts of information has transformed the research environment and resulted in a single, global cosmology.

The program also includes looking through Griffith Observatory telescopes in the Museum’s Nature Gardens to catch the light of some of the same stars that caught the eyes of those who traveled the Silk Road.

More details here:



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