In the past few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider.
They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky - Carl Sagan, astrophysicist and astronomer (1934-1996).
The words of the late Carl Sagan seemed particularly relevant in recent weeks as we celebrated Australia's success in gaining a large part of the $2 billion international radio telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array, and just a week later later watched the ‘transit of Venus' which will not be seen for another 105 years.
Australia's success in the SKA project should not be under-estimated. It has the potential to inspire a nation, excite future generations of scientists and ignite collaborations.
At an international level, the SKA project - the world's biggest radio telescope - will ensure Australia's ability to generate new knowledge of global significance. At a State level, Western Australia will add new cutting edge science to its portfolio of globally competitive resources; and at a university level, UWA will continue to expand its reputation as a world leader in radio astronomy with UWA staff taking a leading role in the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research - a collaboration between our University and Curtin.
The SKA project will be a magnet for many of the world's top scientists and researchers in fields such as astronomy, computer science, engineering, geology, environmental management and renewable energy. Many technical and support staff will also find employment and the project will attract business and industry worldwide to WA .
This is science which will extend our knowledge from the beginnings of our universe and at the same time develop technologies and processes which will be of practical benefit to industry, business and the wider community.
The decision also continues Australia's proud scientific tradition. Whatever other traits have distinguished us, we have been an innovative country rich in, and enriched by, scientific imagination.
Innovation and science have advanced our health, our prosperity and our public life ... they have made us better at world affairs, and a better nation as a whole.
The SKA will ensure new generations of bright young minds share in the excitement and potential of science in general and astronomy in particular.
That enthusiasm was on show last week when students joined the WA Governor and other dignitaries to view the Transit of Venus through a solar telescope at the Gingin Gravity Discovery Centre next to the UWA Gravity Wave observatory, north of Perth.
The next transit is more than a century off. It is impossible to imagine what humankind will know of the Universe by then. But we can be sure that our University, through our affiliations in projects such as the SKA, will have played enormous roles in relaying that knowledge.
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