American University of Beirut

AUB on the moon! Revisiting a full year of multidisciplinary activities

​The American University of Beirut commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 manned moon landing with a series of multidisciplinary and interdepartmental activities around the Moon throughout 2019.  This AUB year-long lunar festival of interdepartmental events was entitled: “al-Qamar bi-MOON" (meaning, for non-Arabic speakers, “the moon obliges").  

The contributions in selenography, astronomy, and optics, within the Arabic and Islamicate history of science, were presented in stimulating keynotes and public lectures by Prof. George Saliba (History Department) and Prof. Nader El-Bizri (Civilization Studies and Philosophy).

A semester-long architectural design studio, entitled as “Lunatopia," consisted of projects that focused on designing a lunar human settlement.  The studio was coordinated by Prof. Karim Najjar at the Department of Architecture, and it included a public lecture by Dr. Barbara Imhof, who is a space architectural-engineering technologist, from LIQUIFER Systems Group, renowned for designing Moon-colony prototypes through contracts with the European Space Agency.

Additional events included a public talk in socio-culture and politics, about the mood at AUB of the students in 1968-1969 at the eve of Apollo 11 manned moon landing in a conversation down memory-lane with Dr. Fawwaz Traboulsi (Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies). 

Our Levantine relationship with the moon was also celebrated via folkloric songs and poetical lyrics in partnership with the Zaki Nassif Program for Music, as directed by Prof. Nabil Nassif (Mathematics Department) and set in an evening festival at Zaki Nassif's home (turned into a local museum) in the town of Mashgharah.  The evening was launched with a popularized and interactive presentation about the moon by Prof. Jihad Touma (Physics Department), which was a sequel to his talk at the AUB University for Seniors.  This was then followed by lunar sightings of the full moon as it rose in a splendid aurora from behind the Jabal al-Shaykh heights in the south-eastern mountainous chain of the Lebanon. 

Furthermore, a three-day astrophysics workshop at AUB gathered planetary scientists, geophysicists, and dynamicists (Profs. Stevenson (GPS, Caltech, USA), Wisdom (EAPS, MIT, USA), Morbidelli (Laboratoire Lagrange, Observatoire de la Côte D'Azur, Nice, France) who have contributed profoundly to the exploration of the solar and exo-planetary systems.  Also featured were the most recent and exciting studies on the moon-forming scenarios (Profs. Lock (GPS, Caltech, USA) and Stewart), and the review of Lunar Magnetism (Profs. Garrick-Bethell (Department of Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)), and on tidal evolution studies (Profs. Cuk (SETI Institute, USA) and Wisdom), and concluding with Prof. Alessandro Morbidelli's public lecture, as part of the Carol Bellamy Seminar series in Natural Sciences.

This year-long multi-faceted lunar festival culminated with the “The Afro-Tarab Pairings Project" by the Tarek Yamani TRIO through a piano performance that blended Arabic-influenced classics with Afro-American jazz.

May the pull of the Moon inspire what lifts our earthly abode to loftier dreams in the human endeavor!  


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