Don York, Prof.
This program aims to support bold, innovative research and catalyze breakthrough discoveries on Big Questions in astronomy and cosmology through a worldwide Request-for-Proposal (RFP) grants program, with a concurrent essay contest for high school and college students to inspire them with the wonders of the Universe and encourage them to be enthusiastic about the science. The four main themes of the program are: 1. What was the earliest state of the universe? 2. Is our observable universe unique or is it part of much larger multiverse? 3. What is the origin of the complexity in the universe? 4. Are we alone in the universe? Or, are there other life and intelligence out there? Approximately 15 grant awards and 16 essay prizes will be made. The winners will be honored and given an opportunity to present their work at a two-day conference to be held on Oct. 12-13, 2012, featuring world-leading figures whose work closely relates to the four themes of the competitions. The program is timed to take advantage of the occasions to celebrate Sir John's birth (100 years), the awarding of the Templeton Prize (40 years) and the founding of the John Templeton Foundation (25 years) in 2012. In addition, there will be a closing meeting in June 2014 on the work of the research grant winners. The products of the program will be about 30 publications on the origin of the Big Bang, the multiverse, intelligent life elsewhere, and the complexity and continuing creativity of the Universe. Based on the target goals of supporting original, ground-breaking research, considered risky and not fundable through normal channels, we expect a number of ground-breaking ideas that have traction to arise from the two-year research grants. The long term impact will be a fuller recognition among scientists and the public of the boundaries that constrain scientific knowledge as well as cultivation of a motivated cadre of the next generation of scientists to pursue the Big Questions of the future.