SETIcon II Underway; Public Discussion of Space Exploration, Science, and Technology

The second full day of SETIcon II gets underway today at 9:30 a.m., at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, with a slate of science, technology, and space exploration presentations by some of the field’s leading researchers, as well as authors, artists, and former astronauts.

“The first day of SETIcon II completely exceeded our expectations. More than 800 people gathered to share their work, to learn about the future of space travel and to catch of glimpse of what distant planets are like, and how we’ll get there in the future.” said Edna DeVore, Acting CEO of the SETI Institute. “SETIcon is our way of funding the institute’s science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) outreach efforts to get today’s youth interested in STEM careers. Researchers at the SETI Institute are able to bring complex concepts, like astrobiology, planet hunting, and infrared astronomy, to the general public and get them enthused about what we’re doing now, and how our people can be a part of this exciting science in the future.”

Today’s public program covers topics that are fun, challenging to researchers and space travel enthusiasts alike, and asks questions that will need to be answered as humans explore our solar system and beyond. One of the first panels in the morning asks: “Do Any Exoplanets Have Intelligent Occupants?” Moderated by the SETI Institute’s Director for SETI research Gerry Harp, panelists include Jon Jenkins (known for his planet hunting research with the Kepler Space Telescope), former SETI Director of Research and Bernard Oliver Chair Jill Tarter, astronomer Margaret Turnbull, an authority on planet habitability, and “SETI@home” project co-founder Dan Wertheimer.

Other panels include:

• “TNG and Battlestar Galactica: How Does Science Get Into a Television Screenplay?” – with science consultant and screen writer Andre Bormanis (Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise), Marc Okrand (developer of the Klingon language and coached the actors using it in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), and science advisor to numerous TV and movie productions Kevin Grazier. Panel moderator: 
planetary scientist Adrian Brown.

• “Humans vs. Robots: Who Should Explore Space?” – Bob Richards, planetary scientist and former astronaut Tom Jones, planetary geologist Cynthia Phillips, amatuer astronomer and actor Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate Atlantis); moderator: SETI Institute senior scientist Dale Andersen

• “ET Biology: How Often Does Hollywood Get It Right?” – A line of of SETI Institute researchers fill this panel: Oana Marcu, research biologist at the Institute’s Carl Sagan Center, senior astronomer, author, and radio host Seth Shostak, and senior research scientist Margaret Race; moderator:
 Edna DeVore, SETI Institute acting CEO.

• “The Kepler Mission: Revolutionizing Astronomy for the 21st Century” – SETI Institute physicist Doug Caldwell, Yale University Professor of Astronomy Debra Fischer, Analysis Lead for the Kepler Mission Jon Jenkins of the SETI Institute, and director of the Kepler Mission Guest Observer Office Martin Still; moderated by 
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Education and Outreach Manager Dana Backman.

For the brunch break, Astronomer Andrew Fraknoi will interview SETI pioneer Dr. Frank Drake. Topics for discussion include Drake’s career, Project Ozma – the first modern SETI search – the Drake Equation, and the search for messages from other civilizations.

For more informations on Sunday’s other talks, visit:

Honoring a Legend: Jill Tarter

SETIcon II wrapped up its first full day of seminars, talks, and interviews with an evening gala in honor of Jill Tarter and her 35 years of leadership at the SETI Institute. Tarter was the model for Jodie Foster’s character in the novel and movie Contact by Carl Sagan. Tarter was also the driving force behind the construction of the Allen Telescope Array, a recently developed instrument able to increase both the speed and the spectral search range of the SETI Institute’s hunt for radio signals.

More than 300 guests heard from Tarter, and were then serenaded by celebrated recording artist Sheldon Reynolds, a star with the band Earth, Wind, and Fire, who sang his hit “Shining Star,” among others. The evening wrapped up with dancinc to the tunes of the Ames Jazz Band.

Earlier during the day’s program, noted scientists Seth Shostak, Andrew Fraknoi, Leonard Mlodinow, and David Morrison addressed the many end of the world myths in a panel discussion titled, “Cosmophobia: Doomsday 2012 and Other Science Fiction.” The world is not going to end on December 21, 2012, as predicted by the Mayan calendar and in a sci-fi movie on the same topic. Yet, polls of public opinion find that a significant portion of Americans believe this myth—they are comsmophobic.

There were more than two dozen panel discussions and one-on-one interviews with leading scientists and authors throughout the day, including Mary Roach, author of ‘Packing for Mars’ and historian of science, Richard Rhodes, who spoke about the continuing threat of nuclear winter that would result from atomic warfare. Rhodes’ Pulitzer-prize winning, 25th anniverasry edition of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” was just released.

Planning your visit

SETIcon II concludes today with a full-day of presenations, interviews, and panel discussions. The complete list of presenters is at the SETIcon II website. Event tickets will be available at the door, at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, 5101 Great America Parkway, in Santa Clara across from Great America.

For much more information, visit:

Accredited journalists wanting to attend SETIcon can sign up for complimentary press registration with Curtis Sparrer at



Research Thrust: 

About SETI Institute

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies.  The Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.