The Physics of Pō and the Pō of Physics at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center



Led by Larry Kimura, associate professor of Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Doug Simons, executive director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the discussion highlighted the intersection of astronomy and Hawaiian culture by examining the first 11 lines of the Kumulipo, a Hawaiian creation chant, and its correlation to the scientific timeline of the universe and its creation.

With more than 2,000 lines of text, the Kumulipo tells of a fathomless source of power (deep darkness) that evolves increasingly into complex life forms. It has been compared to ancient Greek accounts of creation.

“The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center was born from the confluence of parallel trends — the movement to revitalize Hawaiian language and culture and bring it to the forefront here in Hawaii, coupled with the revolution in our understanding of the universe, enabled by the Maunakea observatories,” said Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura, Larry Kimura’s niece, in her introduction at the start of the program.

She said that more than two years ago, businessman John DeFries brought many people together around the concept of naming celestial objects, a project now known as A Hua He Inoa, which allowed community members to look at these astronomical discoveries from Hawaiian and astronomical perspectives.

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