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Dubai has Potential to become ‘City of the Future’ by Fostering Culture of Discovery, Affirms Neil deGrasse Tyson at WGS 2016

08 February 2016


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·        Session attended by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid

·        Government R&D spends produce seminal scientific thought with long term impact on technology

·        UAE Mars Mission 2021 to produce ‘Gateway Science’ that could lead technology innovation for decades

·        EXPO 2020 to serve as springboard for cultural movement to ignite minds of new generations and instill ‘science pride’

Dubai-UAE: The most fertile times in the history of civilizations come from a culture of discovery, which was prevalent in the Arab world for centuries over a thousand years ago during the Golden Age of Islam, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

His comments were made at an inspiring talk titled ‘Science of Today: Technology of Tomorrow’, on the inaugural morning of the fourth World Government Summit (WGS 2016). The session was attended by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

“Science pride and scientific literacy pushed the Arab world to make several significant innovations in the fields of astronomy, algebra, navigation and math. Over two thirds of all stars have Arabic names and the words algebra, algorithm find their origins in the Arabic word al-jabr. If the region had sustained this pace of discovery, it would’ve produced Nobel Laureates every year,” said deGrasse Tyson.

During the session, the astrophysicist enumerated several examples of technological advances that are rooted in scientific discoveries made over the past century and promoted a culture for pure exploration as the foundation of modern day innovation.

He drew parallels between the United States in 1960s, which was termed the ‘Time of Technological Hope’ and present day United Arab Emirates (UAE). Similarities begin with the two nations being at the cusp of launching important space missions, for which the backbone is scientific discoveries that lead to technological innovation.

deGrasse Tyson highlighted the technology in modern medicine and smartphones, which are rooted in the US space programme, ranging from miniaturization of electronics and GPS to the internet, MRI and laser technology. He cited the UAE’s 2021 Mars mission - al-Amal – that is expected to influence the nation’s scientific literacy and serve as a catalyst in bringing about scientific breakthroughs.

He compared the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and its impact that brought science into the forefront of culture across the US to the potential that EXPO 2020 holds for bringing science to the mainstream in the Arab world, reaffirming Dubai’s role as the City of the Future that everyone imagined they would live in, in the 1960s.

Drawing the connection between government and science, he stated that science is an endless frontier, a never-ending journey and its power and potency knows no bounds in its ability to serve governments. He cited examples of the formation of prominent scientific agencies such as NIH, CERN and NASA, which are backed by governments from across the world.

deGrasse Tyson also highlighted the role that recognition plays in motivating scientists and encouraging young minds to foster curiosity, scientific pride and a culture for exploration.

Acknowledging the role of the private sector in promoting scientific research and development (R&D), he commended multinationals such as Google, Facebook and Apple, which make significant contributions towards research that focuses on technology innovations for the immediate future.

He concluded that in contrast, governments need to prioritize budgets for research and development, led by the purpose of pure exploration with a view to fueling scientific advancement that has long-term ramifications for the progress of civilizations, without the need to produce immediate results.

The World Government Summit has convened over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries. The summit has lined up more than 70 topics for discussion through keynote speakers and major interactive sessions, drawing the participation of world leaders, ministers, decision makers, CEOs, innovators, officials, experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and university students. A number of initiatives, reports and studies are also set to be launched during the summit and throughout the year. WGS 2016 runs from February 8 – 10 at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.