Candidate Profile

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Astronomy & Space Science
Science - General
Michael Chriss has spent a lifetime in teaching and popularizing science through public lectures and planetarium programs. He was Professor of Astronomy and Humanities at the College of San Mateo, and its Planetarium Director for most of his career. He received his degrees in astronomy at the University of Arizona with further studies in History of Art and Science at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Oxford University. He has enjoyed acting in little theatre plays, and his one man show “Galileo Tonight!” has been given at many colleges, universities, and the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco.

Michael has traveled extensively in what he calls "an interesting life". His experience includes tour leader for eclipse trips for UC Berkeley and the Morrison Planetarium, archeo-astronomy expeditions, and, since 1985 when Halley's Comet appeared in the skies, he has been a frequent guest lecturer for Royal Viking Line, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, and now, Viking Cruises.

Now he has "come home" to where he started, to the University of Arizona astronomy department, where he is Associate Lecturer, teaching his special course, “Astr.320: The Philosophy and History of Astronomical Thought”.

1. From Grapes to Galaxies: The Scale of the Universe
How big is the universe? And how do we know? Starting with a grape we end up at the edge of all that is and our place in space.

2. How Fast Are You Going When You Are Standing Still?
When you are standing still you really are moving… with all the motions of the universe, from our ship to the Big Bang.

3. Find That Star: An Introduction to the Night Sky
Finding your way around the night sky for people who think that all stars look alike. Star identification for beginners.

4. New Horizons: The Voyage of Columbus
The world in 1492, and the famous voyage that ended with the discovery of a new world.

5. Gods, Graves, and Calendars
In 1519 the mix of religion, time keeping, and cultures spelled the end the Aztec world order when Cortez met Montezuma.

6. Musing on the Millennium: Doomsdays and Calendars
The end of the earth and all that. The repeating predictions of our demise over millennia. Again and again.

7. Longitude: The Watch That Mapped the World
The problem of finding your way at sea opened up the mapping of the world. And it was all done with a watch and a 20,000 pound prize.

8. The Martians Are Coming!
The story of our fear of invasions from Mars. Actually, it is quite the reverse of what later came true.

9. Comets and History
The dread of comets through history. The fascinating tale of how our fear of comets came to be replaced with enchantment.

10. Astronomy and the Muses
A fascinating meandering through the world of the muses of art, music, and love and the science of astronomy.

11. 3 Spanish Artists: Picasso, Dali, Gaudi
This talk explores the 20th century visions and works of three great Spanish artists.

12. Tales from the Dark of the Moon
Everything you wanted to know about tonight’s eclipse, and more.

13. The Great American Eclipse of 2017
This summer’s total eclipse of the sun will be seen by more Americans than ever before. Today’s lecture tells you everything you need to know, and more.

14. The Great American Eclipse of 2017 Rides Again
Were you there when the sun went dark? A look back at the Great Eclipse of 2017 through the eyes of the American society who saw it.

15. Hollywood and the Stars
An affectionate look at the way Hollywood has used and misused astronomy and astronomers to amaze, amuse, and frighten us through the years.

14. What a Difference a Day Makes: The International Dateline
Where does the day begin? Or end? And why!

15. The Search for Utopia
Journeys to Paradise … in history, in our minds, and in reality.

16. The World in a New Light: Gauguin’s Paradise
All about the time when a Parisian stockbroker chucked it all and went to the South Seas.

17. The Voyages of Capt. Cook
The greatest navigator of all and his mapping of the unknown world.

18. The Mutiny on the Bounty
Breadfruit and testosterone, sex and rebellion… this story has it all.

19. Polynesian Navigation
The vastness of the Pacific, an open canoe, a sky full of stars …. and a millennium before Columbus.

20. Wheels on Wheels: the Greek Perfect Heavens
When the ancient Greeks looked into the heavens they saw perfection, and modeled their lives on earth after it.

21. The Crime of Galileo
Galileo, the Pope, and the battle for men’s minds.

22. Eye on the Sky: Two Millennia of Reaching Out to the Stars
Our quest to understand the universe, from ancient Greece to the space age.

23. Under the Southern Cross

24. Astronomy and History

25. The Search for the Year Zero: Hubble’s Universe

26. The Family of the Sun: the Discovery of the Planets

27. Skywatchers of the Ancient World: Archeoastronomy

28. Warped Space-Time: Einstein and the Universe

29. The Clockwork Universe: The Vision of Isaac Newton

30. A Journey to Oz: The Search for Life in the Universe
Enrichment lecturer since 1986: Royal Viking Line (1986-88); Crystal Cruises (1992-2000), HAL. Lecturing for HAL (2013 to present), and now, Viking Cruises. High ratings. Popular astronomy and cruise related topics. Fully illustrated lectures with PowerPoint presentations.


2013: Ft.L - Barcelona/ Nieuw Amsterdam ; Lima – San Diego/ Statendam
2014: Vancouver - Honolulu/ Statendam: ; Barcelona – Ft.L/ Nieuw Amsterdam
2016: Ft.L – Peru - Antarctica - Buenos Aires / Prinsendam
2017: Auckland – San Diego/ Maasdam: ; Venice – Greece - Ft.L/ Prinsendam
2018: Ft.L – Papeete/ Amsterdam; ; San Diego-Lima (rt)/ Maasdam