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Presentations of Monday, October 6, 2014

Trottier Symposium 2014

5:30-7:30 pm
Centre Mont Royal, 1000 Sherbrooke Street West (corner Mansfield)

These presentations have been recorded and are available as a webcast.

JILL TARTER: “Searching for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence—How Can We Do It? What If We Succeed? Why Should you care?”

The "I" in SETI stands for intelligence, even though we have no good definition of that noun, nor any means of remotely sensing it. What SETI has been doing for the past half-century is attempting to use the tools of the astronomers to detect evidence of some other civilization's technology. Technology is our proxy for intelligence. What have we been looking for? What should we be looking for? Most of the 170+ published searches have been looking for some form of signals from ETI; either accidentally or deliberately broadcast. The 9-dimensional volume of phase space that might need to be searched to find those signals is huge, and we've hardly begun to make a dent in it. However, there is exponential growth in multiple technologies that are needed for conducting the searches so the potential for accelerating the searching has been, and continues to be, extraordinary. Should any of our attempts produce indisputable evidence of distant technologies, the world would certainly change, but not everyone agrees on exactly how. The physicist Phillip Morrison has called SETI "the archeology of the future"; any information embedded in a detected signal would tell us about 'their' past (because of the finite speed of light and the large distances traveled between the stars), but it would also tell us that we can have a long future. A successful detection requires that technology (if it exists at all beyond Earth) be long-lived in order for us and 'them' to be coeval in the 10 billion year history of our galaxy. If 'they' can survive an unstable technological adolescent phase (something that characterizes us today) and evolve to become an old technology, then we know that we can do so too. This isn't about extraterrestrial salvation; it's about learning that problems are solvable and being motivated to find the solutions!

JIM BELL: “Postcards from Mars: Using Rovers to Search for Evidence of Life on the Red Planet”

In the past decade, NASA has successfully landed three rovers on Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity, in some of the most ambitious missions of robotic exploration ever attempted. Professor Jim Bell from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University is the President of The Planetary Society and one of the leading scientists in charge of the color camera systems on these rovers. Since 2004, he has had an amazing front row seat for the photographic and geologic adventures of these sophisticated exploring robots. In this presentation, Prof. Bell will share his favorite images and stories from "inside" mission operations, and describe the major scientific findings made by Spirit for its six year adventure, by Opportunity during its more than 10 year (and going!) mission, and by Curiosity during its first 2 years of exploration on Mars. He will share the latest stories, photos, and scientific results from Mars, and will discuss plans for the future exploration of the Red Planet — including the new Mars-2020 rover and its role in future human exploration — by NASA and other space agencies.

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