Our 27th Season on the Mountain
Apr 25: Stepping Out of the Nest
How does research into the search for water and habitable planets, astrobiology, space biology, small satellites, advanced manufacturing, autonomous vehicles and synthetic biology make science fiction into science reality? NASA-Ames scientists have a vision for human flight from our Earthly nest to explore and live in space.
Dr. Jacob Cohen, NASA Ames, Chief Scientist. He provides advice and oversight for research programs and serves as the principal Center advisor in the administration of long term, high risk, and creative/inventive research programs.
May 23: What Wonderful Worlds: Exploring our Solar System
Our knowledge about our own Solar System has increased by leaps and bounds over the past few decades due to a combination of spacecraft missions and technical advancements on ground based telescopes. Why do we explore our Solar System? Review the numerous bodies now known to orbit the Sun, now familiar to us as individual worlds. Learn more about impacts on Jupiter, volcanic activity on Io, and planetary rings.
Dr. Imke de Pater, UC Berkeley, Chair Astronomy Dept. Her research interests include: infrared observations using adaptive optics on the Keck, Gemini and VLT telescopes of e.g., the giant planets, their ring systems, and the satellites Titan and Io. She also continues to observe the giant planets at radio wavelengths using the (recently upgraded) Very Large Array, ALMA, and LOFAR.
Imke de Pater
Jun 20: The Top Tourist Sights of the Solar System
Where Bill Gates’ Great-Granddaughter Will Go on Her Honeymoon? Using spectacular images from space probes and the world’s largest telescopes, explore the most intriguing future “tourist destinations” among the planets and moons in our cosmic neighborhood. Among our stops will be the 4,000-mile lava channel on Venus, the towering Mount Olympus volcano on Mars, the awesome Verona Cliffs on the moon Miranda (,the tallest “lover’s leap” in the solar system), and the recently discovered steam geysers on Saturn’s intriguing moon Enceladus.
Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College, Chair Astronomy Dept. He teaches courses on "astronomy and physics for poets" attended by 900+ students each year. In 2007, he was selected as Professor of the Year for the state of California by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education. He has given more than 400 public lectures on such topics as "What Were the Atoms in Your Body Doing 8 Billion Years Ago?"
Jul 11: Screening of the 1997 classic science fiction film Contact
MOVIE NIGHT: NEW EVENT THIS YEAR
Book by Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Post discussion led by Dr. Carolyn Porco, Science Advisor on the film
Jodie Foster portrays the film’s protagonist, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life and is chosen to make first contact. The film was released on July 11, 1997, grossed $171 million worldwide and won the Hugo Award and received multiple Saturn awards and nominations.
Jul 25: Weighing Galaxies
We live in a galaxy of about a hundred billion stars, the Milky Way. As the sky over Mount Tam darkens, and the stars in the disk of our galactic home come into view, see how we are mapping out where the Dark Matter is, both in our local group of galaxies and further out in the depths of space. Galaxies are much heavier than they look – what could that mean for our understanding of how stars form, and what Dark Matter is?
Dr. Phil Marshall, Kavli Institute, Project Scientist. His main research interest is observational cosmology using gravitational lensing: weighing galaxies, and measuring the expansion rate of the Universe. He is involved in a number of surveys to find new lenses, using both ground-based and space telescopes - including designing the strong lensing science analysis for LSST.
Aug 22: In the Land of Enchantment: A Decade Exploring Saturn
A glistening spaceship, with seven lonely years and billions of miles behind it, glides into orbit around a softly-hued, ringed planet. A flying-saucer shaped machine descends through a hazy atmosphere and lands on the surface of an alien moon. These visions are not a dream but tell of the explorations of the Cassini spacecraft and its Huygens probe in 2004. Come along for the ride, and witness the sights and magic worked by these emissaries from Earth to the enchanting realm of Saturn.
Dr. Carolyn Porco is the leader of the Cassini Imaging Science team and the Director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Her specialty is the study of planetary ring and moon interactions, and the study of the geysers on Enceladus.
Sep 19: A Biological Perspective on the Meaning of Time
Life is a phenomenon that integrates processes ranging from the near instantaneous reactions of photosynthesis to the more stately pace of evolution. How are these processes with radically different time scales creating and maintaining the diversity of life on earth? What are the clocks that nature uses to time them? And how is modern biology being used to alter the natural time scales?
Dr. Lynn Rothschild, NASA AMES, Synthetic Biologist. Her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both on Earth and potentially beyond our planet's boundaries
Oct 17: Prospects and Hunting for Intelligent Life in the Universe
Not one microbe has been found anywhere in the universe, except on Earth, nor have any intelligent civilizations been found. Is our Galaxy teeming with life, as suggested by science fiction, or might intelligent life be rare in the Milky Way Galaxy? New telescopes and techniques can answer these questions.
Dr. Geoff Marcy, UC Berkeley, Professor of Astronomy. Marcy and his research teams are recognized for discovering many extrasolar planets, including 70 out of the first 100 known exoplanets, and also the first planetary system around a Sun-like star, Upsilon Andromedae. Marcy was a co-Investigator on the NASA Kepler mission.