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, June 28 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

The Evolution and Explosion of Massive Stars

Tuguldur Sukhbold
UC Santa Cruz
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 12 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Large Hadron Collider, Stage 2: the search for new particles and forces

Michael Peskin
Stanford University

In 2010, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the laboratory CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, began its exploration of physics at distances 10,000 smaller than an atomic nucleus. The first data-taking period of the LHC ran from 2010 to 2013, colliding protons at energies of 7 and 8 TeV (trillion electron volts). Many novel observations were made, including the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson. However, the most fundamental questions that motivated the LHC remain unanswered. The second data-taking period of the LHC began last summer, at the higher energy of 13 TeV. Results from the first batch of higher-energy data have already shifted the landscape, with more powerful exclusion of some hypotheses and tantalizing hints supporting others. The results from the next batch of data are highly anticipated; they will be announced in early August. In this talk, I will review the search for new basic interactions in nature and the experimental methods that the LHC brings to this question. I will describe the implications of the first data at 13 TeV and preview some of the results that might appear later this summer.

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

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

Exoplanets: Under a Microscope, and Through a Wide-field Lens

Sarah Ballard

Abstract: The Solar System furnishes the most familiar planetary architecture: many planets, orbiting nearly coplanar to one another. We can examine the composition and atmospheres of the Solar System planets in detail, even occasionally in situ. Studies of planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets), in contrast, only begin to approach the precision of humanity's knowledge of Earth five hundred years ago. I will describe a two-pronged approach to the study of exoplanets. One approach involves time-intensive investigations of individual planets to eke out bulk density or single molecules in the planetary atmosphere. Another involves studies of the ensemble properties of planetary systems, and addresses the question of a "typical" planetary system in the Milky Way. In an era with thousands of exoplanet discoveries in hand and thousands more to follow in short order, a judicious combination of these approaches is emerging. I'll showcase some of my own detailed findings of other worlds (placing Earth in context), in addition to wider-field studies of typical planet occurrence and formation. I'll close with an opportunity, using an existing data set, to make inroads into the singular question driving much of exoplanetary science: the detectability of signatures of life.

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