‘Our Wonderful Universe’ and more at the library

There’s something wonderful happening in the Cantwell Room of Saranac Lake’s library over several Tuesday nights (at 7 p.m.). It’s the continuing series, the Enlightenment Lectures, sponsored by Joe Dockery of Dockery Chiropractic. Joe is a curious guy who loves to learn and is known for giving back to his community. His latest public gift is one of wonder and knowledge offered from some entertaining and informative speakers.

Perhaps you missed, like me, the first presentation, “What Makes Us Human,” given by SUNY Plattsburgh anthropology and archeology professor Dr. Gillian Crane-Kramer a few weeks ago. I’m curious about the Human Genome Project and brain chemistry, and so, too, were 60 attendees in the library that night, but Hurricane Irma meant a “damage control” trip to central Florida to help my elderly parents. I’m back now. My name is David Gardner, and I am the next of four remaining speakers coming up at the Enlightenment Lectures.

Are you curious about how you got here? Join us this Tuesday night for a wild ride titled “Our Wonderful Universe.” The universe is a strange, strange place, my friends, but don’t fall into the trap of limited thinking that we are separate from the universe. You are more CONNECTED than that. It’s not that you are in the universe but rather, the universe is in you.

Here are a few of the topics we will be exploring:

¯ Atoms and their origins — sometimes stars explode. (You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.)

¯ Einstein’s three mistakes — originally he didn’t believe in the big bang. Who (or what) changed his mind?

¯ Then there’s the majesty and mystery of gravity. Discover that gravity is not really a force at all; it is something far, far stranger. In fact, if you were located in a special room at the center of the Earth, you would oddly float like an astronaut, feeling no gravity at all.

Many Americans are captivated by recent discoveries of alien planets around distant stars. People should get excited. Our next big space telescope, the James Webb, will be so powerful that it could see the light refracted through the atmospheres of some planets. The exciting part is that living things alter the chemistry of a planet’s atmosphere (our own abundance of oxygen comes thanks to living plants), and our new telescopes will actually be able to tell what atoms and molecules are present. This is how we will discover alien life in the universe; we will see it from a distance.

The science is simple and straightforward and even entertaining. Come this Tuesday to hear how the accidental discovery of helium on our own sun would spark the technique used to find other life in the universe. “Are we alone?” is an eternal question. The answer could very well be “no,” and the proof could come in your lifetime. We will also discuss the discovery of water and the possibility of life (powered by internal volcanic heat) swimming in the oceans underneath the ice of certain moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

I hope that you’re curious because it gets even stranger. The universe is revealing her secrets. Time travel is not just Hollywood fiction; it’s real. A minute on a distant GPS satellite is not the same length as a minute here on Earth. Einstein predicted that, and he was right. Sure, we can measure and see that the universe is expanding, but what is it expanding into? What’s beyond the edge of the universe? Scientists have a strange and interesting answer.

Wander on down to the library this Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., and many secrets will be revealed. But then make plans for some future Tuesdays as well. In two weeks on Oct. 24, join Bruce Rowe from North Country Community College for his presentation, “Mythology and Our Need to Understand.”

Then on Nov. 7 it’s a real treat as we welcome the Adirondacks’ own Dr. Curt Stager, celebrated educator and author (Carnegie Foundation New York State Professor of the Year 2013) from Paul Smith’s for his presentation, “Global Warming and Climate Change.” This growing problem is affecting lives and businesses everywhere, including the North Country. Too many times, politicians dodge the climate question by saying, “I’m not a scientist.” Well, now you can hear from a real scientist about real data. Put your politics aside, and get to the root of the problem. Learn the science underlying the behavior of molecules in our own atmosphere from someone with both deep and current knowledge on the subject. Dr. Stager will also be discussing what science has to say concerning solutions.

And two weeks later, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, it’s the final presentation from Joe Dockery, D.C., himself, titled, “Basics of Human Health and Wellness.” Joe will also tackle tough topics like “health care vs. disease management” and possible solutions toward our current health care crisis.

So do yourself a favor; make some time certain Tuesday evenings to get out of the house and get down to the library for some interesting information from some interesting North Country folks doing what they do best — talking passionately about topics near and dear to their hearts. Not every Adirondack town has a Joe Dockery in it, but Saranac Lake does. Take advantage of his curiosity, his generosity and his proximity. The Enlightenment Lectures are for everybody. Bring your own curiosity to the Cantwell Room, and you will be rewarded.

David Gardner lives in Tupper Lake and is a Clarkson graduate, former Army officer and science teacher of physics, astronomy, meteorology and geology. He is the author of “Whispers from the Stone Age: a Wild Ride through Nature and Human History” and his upcoming second book, “Secrets Revealed: a Curious Journey through Mystery, Discovery, Wonder and Wisdom.”