Aug 13

Sun and Culture at ND

This sundial outside Jordan Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame is a great example of what STEM culture can be. Here Joseph Peterka from Marian High School in Mishawaka explains on a lunch break the operation of the sundial to a group of teachers gathered for a LIGO e-Lab workshop. Everything about this sundial–its size, beautiful construction and artistry, annotation, and prominent placement in front of Jordan Hall of Science–communicates almost at a glance that there is something wonderful here: a craft of observation of the heavens and construction of supporting instrumentation, developed over millenia. It is a fascinating, wondrous, awe-inspiring experience to come into fuller relationship with this history, appreciating it with some depth. But grasping this history deeply enough to see its wonders isn’t trivial; it can be overlooked, tuned out, ignored, even resisted. What authentic culture can do is make what will stand up as wonderful on the deepest of exploration, seem to be wonderful at first glance. A rich culture is an invitation into a tradition that delivers on its promises. That’s just what this sundial accomplishes in front of Jordan Hall. It draws our attention to the beauty, the craftsmanship, the wonder of astronomy, and points beyond itself, inviting further exploration. Joseph’s explanation to other science teachers was natural, easy, elicited and supported by the craftsmanship evident in the instrument. Beauty, eh!