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Branicki: Astronomy shows us how unique the Earth is

04.08.2017 Space

Astronomical knowledge shows us how unique the Earth and life on Earth is, thereby influencing our worldview, told PAP astronomy populariser Andrzej Branicki. His book "W stronę nieba. Interaktywna szkoła astronomii" ("Towards the Sky. An Interactive School of Astronomy") has just been published.

"Astronomical knowledge shows us how unique the Earth and life on Earth is" - Branicki said in an interview with PAP. "This awareness has a profound impact on our worldview".


Branicki noted that astronomical objects and processes are a fundamental part of our environment. Thanks to them, life has appeared on Earth. They decide on the cycle of the day and night, the seasons, the state of the Earth at any moment. "In my opinion, one of the most important reasons why it is important to promote astronomical knowledge is its worldview indispensability" - argued Branicki.


"The amount and quality of this knowledge has a profound effect on our thinking about ourselves, our planet, and the world" - explained the astronomer. "Commonness od even elementary knowledge gives a rational hope for a good future for the Earth: awareness of how unique our planet is invites us to respect it and pass our inheritance on to the next generations in the best possible condition".


The problem, however, is the level of astronomical knowledge in society. "Astronomy is in the school curriculum, but in the real world, it's completely neglected" - said Branicki. "I've heard astronomers complaining about how bad the situation of astronomy is in schools, but somehow I've never heard what's obvious to me. It depends largely on astronomers how astronomy is presented at schools, because they teach astronomy to future teachers of the subject physics and astronomy". This thought is behind Andrzej Branicki's decision to devote his professional life to spreading knowledge of astronomy.


His latest book, "W stronę nieba. Interaktywna szkoła astronomii" ("Towards the Sky. An Interactive School of Astronomy"), is addressed to readers of all ages. "Although initially my intention was to write a book for school children, this book is for anyone who wants to refresh their astronomical knowledge, put it on a foundation" - said Branicki. "Thanks to this, the reader will be able to critically approach the media reports about new discoveries and astronomical hypotheses - very attractive, very impressive but always demanding basic knowledge".


"Exactly these spectacular but hypothetical theories - string theory, parallel universes, other dimensions - are now very enthusiastically accepted by young people. At present, the popularisation of astronomy is dominated by the trend to dazzle with the epic quality of the extraordinary world that surrounds the Earth: how great it all is, how distant, how amazing. The problem is that at best such a narrative provides the reader with information that is out of context and deprived of physical basis. The collection of such information, however extensive, is not knowledge" - said Branicki.


The author noted, however, that his gripe was not so much with that trend in popularising astronomy, but with the fact that it was dominant. "My previous book was already written in opposition to this trend. The new book is a continuation" - said Branicki. "It has what I lack in this dominant trend, and to which I have tried to convince the reader: systematized, elementary basics of astronomical knowledge".


In his latest book, the author has introduced a very big change: all phenomena are explained without the use of mathematical formulas. "According to publishers, mathematics is what scares the readers of popular science books. Without even being aware of it, I tried to sneak in a few sines and cosines - but even that was too much. Fortunately, in most cases, I managed to replace them with drawings" - he said.


Andrzej Branicki is an academic teacher, initiator and organizer of the Astronomical Observatory at the University of Bialystok. In 2015, he received the Prof. Włodzimierz Zonn medal for his contribution to the popularisation of astronomy. In addition, he is also the author of the books "Obserwacje i pomiary astronomiczne dla studentów, uczniów i miłośników astronomii" ("Observations and Astronomical Measurements for Students, School Children and Astronomy Enthusiasts") and "Na własne oczy" ("With Your Own Eyes").


The book "W stronę nieba. Interaktywna szkoła astronomii" was published by the PWN Publishing House. PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland of the Polish Press Agency is its media sponsor. More information about the book (in Polish) can be found at: https://wstronenieba.pwn.pl/ https://ksiegarnia.pwn.pl/W-STRONE-NIEBA.-Interaktywna-szkola-astronomii,710004848,p.html


PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Katarzyna Florencka


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