Meet Dr. Piet Hut, astrophysicist at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University, who envisions new ways to understand science and to be aware of the reality of the universe. Part 2/5.
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Male Host: Dr. Piet Hut believes the solution to avoiding a catastrophic impact from an asteroid, lies in a gentler approach. He was inspired by a new type of motor called the plasma engine, which is being developed by NASA in Houston. Dr. Piet Hut: So it is much better to push it out of the way very gently, rather than blowing it up, so that is what we are trying to do. Now, the basics one or two concept started here, behind this, when the astronaut Ed Lu and I are walking here around the pond and in about ten minutes we had the basic concept. Male Host: His achievements in astrophysics resulted in a quite unusual honor; in December 2004 a major asteroid belt was named after him. Dr. Piet Hut: Oh it is nice to have in the celestial body named after me. It was one of the 20,000 or so asteroids that have name, so it's not that special but it's still nice. But then fortunately it will never come closer to us, it is an orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Male Host: Dr. Hut believes that conversational simulations are absolutely essential in astronomy, by developing and discussing a series of questions called ‘what if’s’ scenarios, astronomers can address potential problem areas that maybe millions of mile or light-years away in the physical sense. However, astronomy and astrophysics had an inherent disadvantage in investigating the nature of certain phenomena. Dr. Piet Hut: It is a funny thing because astronomy is the oldest science, in the days of Galileo and Kaplan and Newton. Male Host: The phenomenon of the abstract principles in the motions of the heavenly bodies, preoccupied the Greeks, and before them, the Babylonians, and independently, half a world away, the Mayans are making precise observations of the celestial bodies as well. Dr. Piet Hut: Unlike chemistry and unlike biology and physics itself, astronomers don’t have a laboratory. A chemist can do a laboratory experiment, and physicist can, and biologists can, but astronomers always have to use telescope and cannot change the status themselves. But in the last half century, with the invention of computers, finally astronomers got to have a laboratory. Male Host: Not in a physical sense, but now a kind of laboratory for astronomers does exist in a virtual sense, with the advance of technology, and with the imagination of the human mind, today, rigorous study of the motions of heavenly bodies is possible.

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