TAU President Zvi Galil Speech at Dan David Award Ceremony Monday, May 18, 2009
Remarks by the Chairman of the International Board, Tel Aviv, May 18, 2009
Past, present, future. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. We use these concepts incessantly, unthinkingly almost. They are embedded in the very grammatical structure of the language in which we formulate our thoughts.
This conventional model presents a number of difficult philosophical problems, and seems difficult to reconcile with currently accepted scientific theories such as the theory of relativity. Physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety — a timescape, analogous to a landscape — with all past and future events located there together. In the tripartite framework of the Dan David prize, we honor both the conventional and the scientific views of time and explore their significance for human endeavor. We do so by seizing on the characteristics that each temporal category has from our limited, subjective human perspective.
The past is — to us — immutable, though our record of it is not. Our knowledge of the past is limited by the fading of the markers of the present's passing. The blurring of memory, the silencing of oral traditions, the gradual effacing of physical remnants such as buildings, cities, continents, even solar systems ... We honor today three scientists, Paolo de Bernadis, Andrew Lange and Paul Richards, who made the ultimate attempt to know the past — the history of the Universe — and who provided the first undisputed evidence that the Universe has a flat geometry, as expected from an early epoch of vast expansion, known as cosmic inflation.
The present is where we reside, where we act, it is our point of leverage and direct influence. We honor Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for his morally courageous leadership in helping to forge peace, his brokering the agreement between the Unionists and Republicans in Northern Ireland and his instituting the policy that resolved the crisis in Kosovo, and his ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.
The future is, to us, unknowable. It accrues to itself our projected hopes, our fears. We affect the future today, but it is our descendants who inhabit it. Medical Research is today's investment in a better future, relieved of fear and much human misery. Prof. Gallo's research into the importance of retroviruses in human disease, and the development of a test for the human immunodeficiency virus contributed to improving global public health, in the present, and for future generations to come.
Past, Present, Future — we need to understand the past, to act in the present, to achieve a better future.