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Thursday, 19 July 2007

Muslim Scientists and Space Exploration

Muslim scientists are contributing to the field of space exploration, with great strides being made to push back the final frontier. Whether on the ground or in space, these Muslims are helping lay the milestones that will take humanity far beyond the reaches of our home planet Earth.

Join us in this series as we talk with them about their achievements within space programs the world over, and the hopes and dreams they carry for the future of humanity in space.


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"I think some of what we have was essentially shown in a movie, you probably have seen it: Minority Report by Tom Cruise. So now it is a reality."

Right out of science fiction and into science labs, Dr. Ahmed Noor, director of the NASA-funded Center for Advanced Engineering Environments (CAEE) at Old Dominion University, spoke with IslamOnline.net about the technologies of the future being developed at his center.

In addition to the work done by CAEE developing computer technology and tools to make our lives better here on Earth, Noor also talked about his vision for space exploration and human colonization of other planets, his mission to simplify science to the lay and young professional communities, the shortcomings of the Muslim world in developing space sciences, and his role as a Muslim scientist living in the United States to clarify and familiarize the American public with the peaceful and rational nature of Islam.

To listen to the entire interview click here




An Eminent Scholar and William E. Lobeck Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA, he is also adjunct Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, and the Florida Space Research Institute Distinguished Scholar of Advanced Learning Systems. He taught at Stanford University (USA), Cairo University (Egypt), University of Baghdad (Iraq), the University of New South Wales (Australia), George Washington University (USA) and the University of Virginia (USA) before joining Old Dominion University.

Noor is a Fellow of the National Institute of Aerospace and of five professional societies: the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Academy of Mechanics, and the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM). He is a Founding Member of both the International and U.S. Associations of Computational Mechanics, and is a Past President of USACM.

Noor is also a regular contributor to a large number of publications including Aerospace America, The International Journal of Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering, Innovation in Engineering Computational Technology, and Advances in Engineering Software.

Noor spoke to IslamOnline.net from his office in Virginia, USA, on Sunday, June 10, 2007.

Interview Abstracts

On the role of the Center for Advanced Engineering Environments:

"We are looking essentially with our vision at developing very advanced engineering tools, processes, environment, and culture, to enable what we call 'generating insight at the speed of thought' and that is through developing very compelling visualizations, because human mind can assimilate and comprehend visuals much faster than, essentially, reading text."

On the technologies being developed at the center:

"We are combining a variety of tools, as I said, the visualization tools will be very engaging and exciting for the 'digital natives', like we have a touch-light display; you don’t touch the screen but from a distance you essentially rotate your hand and you are interacting with the system .. and you essentially put your hands together [and] move them away, you expand essentially the model or move the hands towards each other without touching the screen [and] you shrink the model."

On the future of space exploration:

"I think the question is, if space exploration is about venturing to new worlds and understanding the universe in ever increasing detail, then we need both robots and humans as key components of an integrated, networked human-robotic exploration system."

On the benefit of space technology:

"[Let me] point out the fact that space technology has made possible many things for us that we are enjoying today: satellite communications, the global positioning system, which have improved among other [things] weather forecasting for us, and essentially space exploration activities [that] are accelerating the advances in robotics technologies, which have many uses on Earth, power technologies, life support systems. They are enhancing our creativity in finding new solutions for many of our Earth-related problems, and essentially are likely to have a major effect on the economy in the near term future as we see it."

On the future of mankind in space:

"Some people are very worried that with the current increase in Earth population, within 100 to 150 years if that trend continues, we will have about 50 billion people on Earth. Earth resources will no support this. So, I think there is essentially some thought, even though there is not much effort in that at the present, but there is some thought about colonization of space."

On the role of Muslim scientists in explaining Islam to the West:

"Many times, when we get our guests in the mosque, we follow the instruction of the Qur’an which says, 'We have not sent a messenger except in the tongue of his people' to communicate with them. What does it mean to us? It means when you are communicating with the American public, meaning informing them about Islam, [we] use the language and the methodology that they appreciate most. What is that? Very advanced technology. We use multimedia presentations with human-like avatars as assistants to the lecturer, and we always use very rational thinking and we tell them [that] Islam does not subscribe to blind faith: you have to think, to ponder, to contemplate to arrive at the truth."

To listen to the entire interview click here


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