Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Russia confirms humanist philanthropist as next space tourist

Russia has now confirmed that Hungarian born billionaire Charles Simonyi will become the world's fifth space tourist on April 7th.

The world's next space tourist, Hungarian-born US billionaire Charles Simonyi, will blast off on his journey to the International Space Station on April 7, Russia's space agency said Tuesday. Simonyi will become only the fifth space tourist in the world when he makes the trip the research facility aboard the Russian vessel Soyuz TMA-10.
Charles Simonyi was a computer programmer who made his fortune by getting into Microsoft just before it exploded (his work at Xerox PARC labs probably helped give him an in there).

His most well known philanthropic endeavor is Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science. Here's a snippet from its Manifesto.

The chair is for ‘Public Understanding of Science’, that the holder will be expected to make important contributions to the public understanding of some scientific field rather than study the public’s perception of the same. By ‘public’ we mean the largest possible audience, provided, however, that people who have the power and ability to propagate or oppose the ideas (especially scholars in other sciences and in humanities, engineers, journalists, politicians, professionals, and artists) are not lost in the process. Here it is useful to distinguish between the roles of scholars and popularisers. The university chair is intended for accomplished scholars who have made original contributions to their field, and who are able to grasp the subject, when necessary, at the highest levels of abstraction.

The first and current holder of that chair is none other than Richard Dawkins. So the benefactor who has made all of Dawkins' current work possible is about to get "closer to God."


Charles Simonyi says he wants two books with him up into space (and he dreams of a "space library.")

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