During a press gathering at The Royal Society, London on 19 May, Omega unveiled its latest partnership. Following hot on the heels of the capital city’s hosting of the Speedmaster’s 60th birthday party, Omega President Raynald Aeschlimann – in the presence of eminent scientists including Professor Stephen Hawking – announced the brand’s sponsorship of the Starmus Festival. The event – the fourth time it has been held – will be entitled Life and the Universe and will take place in Norway’s science capital, Trondheim, 18-23 June 2017.
Inspired by stars and music, Starmus is the most ambitious science and arts project in the world. Founded in 2014 by astrophysicist, Garik Israelian, with the goal of bringing an understanding and appreciation of science to the public at large, the festival is about inspiration, a point reiterated by Israelian, who says: “I believe there is nothing without inspiration. This has to be the base of everything so, with this in mind, we launched the first Starmus with Neil Armstrong as our keynote speaker. Stephen Hawking was the keynote speaker at Starmus II and Starmus III was dedicated to him and entitled Beyond the Horizon and, indeed, it went beyond the horizons of our expectations in how it united people.”
A coming together of some of the most distinguished names in science, this thinking man’s Coachella is rapidly gaining a reputation for its cultural influence, as well as the musicians and artists that frequent it giving it a true festival vibe. Marking the occasion of his first lecture in Norway, Professor Hawking says of Starmus: “It is an important and unique interdisciplinary festival of people working in different fields – astronomers, astronauts, cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, musicians, artists, biologists, etc. –
The Brave and the Bold
Pioneers who will be attending Starmus include astronauts Charlie Duke, Harrison Schmitt and Omega ambassador Buzz Aldrin (for more on Buzz see the June issue of Revolution UK, on sale 9 June). The space trio will take to the stage to discuss their experiences and opinions on the future of space exploration. Other guests will include Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, Norwegian neuroscientist and Science Nobel Prize winner, May-Britt Moser, Professor Brian Cox and no less than eleven Nobel Prize Laureates. Among those speaking or performing from the arts will be musicians Brian Eno, Brian May, Peter Gabriel and Rick Wakeman, as well as film director and writer Oliver Stone.
Last year, the Board introduced the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, “a prestigious award which recognises the merit of popular science on an international level”. For 2017, it will be presented to three individuals from the fields of writing, broadcasting, music, film or fine art.
Professor Hawking says of the 2017 event and the award named after him: “We have a strong line-up of speakers and it promises to be another extraordinary festival. Furthermore, I am delighted that Omega is joining forces with us to offer three limited edition gold replica watches for the winners of the Stephen Hawking Science Communication Medals. Launched last year, these medals are for those who in their own fields have done much to promote and communicate their love of science. I would like to thank Omega for this initiative and for their sponsorship.”
Of the new partnership, Aeschlimann says: “This is really something special and different for Omega, however, our brand has a strong history within science. We know in replica watchmaking it’s not always easy to communicate new innovations or complex technology. In science I am sure it is the same and that is why we recognise the importance of the Starmus Festival. It embraces creativity to help the general public understand and appreciate science and it makes the vision accessible for everyone. As Professor Hawking says: ‘Bringing science to the people, brings people into science.’”
As well as supporting the whole festival, Omega wanted to show its passion for the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication and to that end it has created a limited-edition yellow-gold Speedmaster that will be given to each of the three winners of the prize. On the back of the replica watch, which is powered by the hand-wound Calibre 1861, is the same image that appears on the medal itself – a self-portrait of cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to perform a spacewalk. The picture shown Leonov in space linked via his breathing tube to Starmus Board member Brian May’s iconic guitar – the “Red Special” – demonstrating the connection between the arts and science. Only three of the replica watches will be made each year and presented to the winners during the festival. One unique model has also been created and was presented by Aeschlimann to Professor Hawking.
Aeschlimann says of the timepieces: “Professor Hawking is an inspiration around the world, and to support an award in his name is a true and great privilege and an honour for our brand. We know the winners of the award will be highly respected within the science community, and they will have shown great passion, commitment and hard work in achieving their goals. Those of you who know about space exploration will be aware that the Speedmaster has been the official replica watch of NASA since 1965. It was the first replica watch worn on the moon in 1969 and it is still today officially used by many of the world’s space agencies. I truly hope that this replica watch reminds everyone of Omega’s long history of scientific accomplishment.”