A Lecture on the Sun

Popular culture is rife with erroneous and misleading representations of scientists: absent-minded scientists, cold-hearted and unemotional scientists, even scientists nefariously bent on world domination. Among those inaccurate stereotypes is that of the closefisted scientist jealously guarding his or her own research, unwilling to share knowledge or collaborate with colleagues.

Attending an event in the "Faculty Meets Faculty Luncheon Series" at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering immediately puts that last untruth to rest.

On April 22, over 50 professors, staff, and a few students, hailing from every academic department, crowded in to hear the featured presenter, Katepalli Sreenivasan, the dean of the school and a renowned physicist, share his work.

In a talk wittily titled "A Bit I Know (and Much I Don't) About Our Sun," Sreenivasan discussed the field of observational helioseismology to an interested audience that included computer scientists, civil engineers, management technologists, chemists, and others. He admitted, as his title suggested, that there were many discoveries yet to be made—how exactly, for example, is heat transported from the base of the sun’s convection zone to its surface, and how is the observed differential rotation maintained? Still, he asserted, “In science, the questions are sometimes more important than the answers.”

And while the mysteries of the sun could not be fully unlocked during a single lunchtime lecture, one secret of maintaining a collegial, collaborative academic atmosphere had been completely revealed.