SETI Institute Weekly Colloquium

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1065 La Avenida St, Mountain View CA 
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FREE and open to the public. Tuesdays, noon to 1pm

Tuesday, May 31 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Sniffing Alien Atmospheres: Exoplanet spectrophotometry

Daniel Angerhausen
Goddard Spaceflight Center

Dr. Angerhausen will give a short introduction to the science of extrasolar planets, in particular the technique of transit, eclipse and phasecurve spectro-photometry.  He will describe his various projects in this emerging field using state of the art spectroscopic and photometric instruments on the largest ground based telescopes, the 'flying telescope' SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) and the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes.

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 07 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Quantum mechanics at the macroscopic scale

Mark Kasevich
Stanford University

Quantum mechanics is a foundation of physics, chemistry and materials science.  Still, there is an ongoing debate about the emergence of the classical, macroscopic world from the well-understood microscopic world of quantum mechanics.  We contribute to this discourse by demonstrating quantum superposition of massive particles at the distance (0.5 m) and time scales (2 s) of everyday life, thereby advancing the state-of-the-art of atom de Broglie wave interferometry by nearly two orders of magnitude [1].   In addition to testing a central tenet of quantum mechanics, we pave the way for new precision tests of gravity, including the possible observation of gravitational waves and tests of the equivalence principle.   In related experimental work, we demonstrate that entangled clusters of approximately 1000 atoms can be used to achieve 10-fold improvement in the sensitivity of quantum sensors based on atomic transitions; the levels of performance achieved could not have been realized with any competing (non-entangled) method [2].

[1] Kovachy, et al., Nature 528, 530 (2015).

[2] Hosten, et al., Nature 529, 505 (2016).

 Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 14 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Evolution of the Solar System Inferred from Sm-Nd Isotopic Studies

Lars Borg
Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Dr. Borg has recently conducted high precision SmNd isotopic analyses of a suite of 11 Martian basaltic meteorites in order to better constrain the age of planetary core formation on Mars. Dr. Borg will show how these data can be used to evaluate the merits and disadvantages of various mathematical approaches that have been employed in previous isotopic work on Martian core formation.

Dr. Borg will explain how Late accretional heating of Mars could either be associated with protracted accretion occurring at a quasi-steady state or alternatively be associated with a late giant impact. If this scenario is correct, then accretion of Mars-sized bodies takes up to 60 Ma and is likely to be contemporaneous with planetary core formation.

Dr. Borg will explain how this further challenges the concept that isotopic equilibrium is attained during primordial evolution of planets, and may help to account for geochemical evidence implying addition of material into planetary interiors after core formation was completed.

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 21 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

QUEST! The Search for Life Beyond Earth and Science of the SETI Institute

CEO, SETI Institute
Bill Diamond

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 28 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

The Evolution and Explosion of Massive Stars

UC Santa Cruz
Tuguldur Sukhbold
Massive stars (at least ~8 solar masses) play an essential role to the evolution of the universe. They lose energy in radiation and neutrinos as they evolve, to create elements necessary to life and to stir the interstellar medium. Upon their death, they experience a dynamical instability that often creates spectacular explosions, which are the birth cries of exotic compact remnants - neutron stars and black holes.

The field of evolution and explosion of massive stars has progressed tremendously in the past half-century, yet there are still many issues remain at large. In this talk, soon to be Dr. Sukhbold will provide a generic overview of the problem and will discuss recent developments on surveying the explosion outcomes of massive stars (nucleosynthesis, remnants, light curves) through 1-dimensional calculations

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, July 19 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Lunar Flashlight: Illuminating Volatile Deposits at the Lunar South Pole

Barbara Cohen
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Until very recently, the Moon was considered to be essentially anhydrous. Early analysis of rock and soil samples returned by the Apollo missions suggested they lacked any hydrous mineral phases or water-bearing weathering products. However, in the last decade, advances in laboratory and remote sensing work have fundamentally altered our understanding of water on the Moon. We now know water exists in several different forms on and within the Moon, each form of water telling us about a different part of lunar history. I’ll review the discoveries of water on the Moon, what they mean, and how we will use the Lunar Flashlight cubesat mission to map water for future use by human explorers.
Dr. Barbara Cohen is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center interested in geochronology and geochemistry of planetary samples from the Moon, Mars and asteroids. She is a Principal Investigator on multiple NASA research projects, leads the MSFC Noble Gas Research Laboratory (MNGRL), is a member of the Mars Exploration Rover mission team still operating the Opportunity rover, and is the principal investigator for Lunar Flashlight, a lunar cubesat mission that will be launched to the Moon in 2018.

Eventbrite - The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Tuesday, July 26 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Bringing Nuclear Power to Mars

Frank H. Shu
University Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
Establishing a lunar base is probably a wise first first step to colonizing Mars, and colonizing Mars will be a giant leap forward for humankind to travel to the stars.  We begin our discussion by noting that the bare minimum for sustaining life on the Moon exists in the water brought by comets to the bottoms of some lunar craters.  Electrolysis of this dirty water can produce clean oxygen (and hydrogen) for the lunar base, A reliable source of primary energy is needed for such tasks, but anywhere on the surface of the Moon, there is no sunlight two weeks out of four, and no wind whatsoever.  Nuclear power is the default option, just as is the case of naval submarines where the crews need to live and work in closed environments submerged under the water of the ocean for months at a time.  However, the light water reactors of naval submarines are not a good choice for environments that lack large bodies of water, and we  argue, as first realized by a former NASA Engineer, Kirk Sorensen, that molten salt reactors, of the type invented by Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, are much better suited for a lunar base, or for that matter, a Mars colony.
Dr. Shu will then discuss his patented design for the best possible two-fluid molten-salt breeder-reactor (2F-MSBR) that one could build, using thorium that can be mined locally without requiring shipments from mother Earth.  He will close by considering two spin-off applications: 
(1) saving civilization on Earth from the worst ravages of climate change by scaled-up 2F-MSBRs;
(2) using the fission fragments of related nuclear fission reactions for ion-propulsion that produces rockets two to three orders of magnitude faster than achievable with chemical rockets, making possible, perhaps, a first generation of starships.

Eventbrite - The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Tuesday, August 09 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Frontiers in Artifact SETI: Waste Heat, Alien Megastructures & Tabbys Star

Jason Wright
Penn State University

In 1960 two seminal papers in SETI were published, providing two visions for SETI. Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison’s proposed detecting deliberate radio signals ("communication SETI"), while Freeman Dyson ("artifact SETI"), proposed detecting the inevitable effects of massive energy supplies and artifacts on their surroundings. While communication SETI has now had several career-long practitioners, artifact SETI has, until recently, not been a vibrant field of study.

The launch of the Kepler and WISE satellites have greatly renewed interest in the field, however, and the recent Breakthrough Listen Initiative has provided new motivation for finding good targets for communication SETI.  Dr. Wright will discuss the progress of the Ĝ Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations with Large Energy Supplies, including its justification and motivation, waste heat search strategy and first results, and the framework for a search for megastructures via transit light curves. The last of these led to the identification of KIC 8462852 (a.k.a. "Tabby's Star") as a  candidate ETI host.  This star, discovered by Boyajian and the Zooniverse Planet Hunters, exhibits several apparently unique and so-far unexplained photometric properties, and continues to confound natural explanation.

Eventbrite - The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Tuesday, October 04 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

A Novel Approach to OSETI

Microsoft and SETI Institute
Eliot Gillum

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto