CSC/SETI Institute Colloquium Series

Upcoming Lectures

October 2008

Oct. 1

Dr. Jeff Cuzzi (NASA Ames), Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) and Dr. Stuart Pilorz (JPL/SETI Institute)

What's hot in Saturn's Rings?

Dr. Jeff Cuzzi (NASA Ames), Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) and Dr. Stuart Pilorz (JPL/SETI Institute) are outer planets scientists working on the currently ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn. All three are experts on Ring systems, and have used the instruments of Cassini to learn more about the most dazzling Rings in our Solar System. They will address the new information that has come back to us from Cassini, the old questions that have been answered, and the new questions that have arisen in the course of this mission. The panel will tell us what's hot in the icy rings of Saturn.

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Oct. 8

Greg LaughlinGreg Laughlin, UC Santa Cruz

The Galactic Planetary Census

During the past decade, over three hundred planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond the Sun. The catalog of planets is rapidly pushing down to ever-lower masses, and the discovery of potentially habitable planets is likely no more than a year or two away. In this talk, Greg will focus on how the emerging and distinct population of "Super Earth" type planets is giving an advance indication of both the frequency of occurrence and the mechanisms of formation for terrestrial-mass planets in the local galactic neighborhood.

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Oct. 22

dr. shenoyDr. Sachindev Shenoy

MIPSGAL: MIPS/Spitzer Survey of the Galactic Plane

MIPSGAL is a survey of the Galactic plane at 24 and 70 microns using Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS) Space Telescope. This is one of the most sensitive survey in the mid-infrared of our Galactic plane. In this talk, Dr. Shenoy shall describe the science requirements, strategies, and data reduction of the survey program. He will outline some of the science topics that can be explored by the community using his team's data. In particular he will talk about the discovery of over 8000 Debris Disk candidates in the Galactic plane using the MIPSGAL 24 micron point source catalog.


Oct. 29

mullerRichard Muller, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, UC Berkeley

Discovery of Strong Cycles in Fossil Diversity

Richard Muller and his collaborators have recently analyzed the most complete record of marine animal fossils ever compiled, the "Compendium" of Jack Sepkoski, which lists all known fossil marine animal genera back 542 million years. When the fossil diversity (number of distinct genera) is plotted, it shows a very strong 62 Myr cycle. The cycle is particularly evident in the species that endured for relatively short times, as shown in the diagram below (published in Nature, vol 434, 208-210, 10 March 2005).



November 2008

Nov. 5

Don Backer and Jill Tarter

The Allen Telescope Array: A Radio Survey Telescope for the 21st Century

Greg LaughlinJill Tarter will talk about the large survey SETI observing programs to be undertaken by our in-house team over the next decade, the SETI observing projects from external proposers that have been allocated array time during this current observing period, some recently suggested 'far out' SETI observing strategies (not all relating to the ATA), our first thoughts about beginning OpenSETI, our recent successful demonstrations with SonATA0, and our plans for moving forward towards a Software Defined Radio Telescope (SDRT).

backerDon Backer will talk about early science with the ATA, which has focused on transient source searches, broad-band spectra of Active Galactic Nuclei objects (AGNs) and diffuse atomic hydrogen in clusters of galaxies. Exploratory observations of the linear polarization of AGNs have been done in a program that will probe intergalactic magnetic fields. A special transient source program was conducted -- the Fly's Eye -- to look for giant pulses from distant galaxies.


Nov. 12

Greg LaughlinEugene Lally

How Spaceflight Was Born

Lally was involved with the space program from the beginning in the United States starting in 1955, before Sputnik. Eugene worked with key people from Peenemunde and JPL and contributed many pioneering concepts when he was referred to as a Rocket Scientist. Eugene was considered a driving technical force and helped promote spaceflight through many papers delivered at American Rocket Society conventions. Eugene will discuss his personal story of the people and ideas (he worked with) that bought spaceflight out of the cradle and into reality.


Nov. 19

John TraphaganProfessor John Traphagan, Departments of Religious Studies and Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

Some Thoughts from an Anthropologist on Culture, Interstellar Communication, and the Construction of Interstellar Messages

“Culture” represents one of the most widely used, but often misunderstood, concepts when considering the nature of interactions and communications between different, and mutually alien, groups. Dr. Traphagan will discuss ways of conceptualizing culture from an anthropological perspective and apply his approach to thinking about both the process interstellar message creation and the interpretation of any transmission we might receive. He suggests that directions for future thinking on interstellar message construction should involve not only research on the explicit message intended, but direct consideration of the implicit information that is being conveyed along with the explicit message. Rather than only asking the questions, “What does ET mean in a message?” or “What information do we want to convey in a message from us to ET?” we should also be asking, “What are the implicit indicators and forms of information about ET and ourselves that are contained in any message sent or received?” In many respects, focus on how to interpret implicit information may be more important than how to interpret the explicit message, given the potential differences in culture and biology that might exist between ourselves and an extraterrestrial other, as well as the inevitable differences in personal intentions and interpretations that will be fundamental parts of contact on either side.


December 2008

Dec. 3

david hindsonDavid Hinson, SETI Institute

The Weather on Mars

In this talk Dave Hinson will examine the weather on Mars using a combination of radio occultation data and wide-angle images obtained by Mars Global Surveyor during its final year of operation. These complementary observations provide a unique perspective on key atmospheric phenomena such as dust storms and winter weather systems (baroclinic eddies). This investigation is revealing the mechanisms through which eastward-traveling eddies influence both the timing and location of distinctive "flushing" dust storms that occur in the topographic basins of the northern hemisphere.