Science Programming and Guests

Please welcome our #FarpointCon2020 science program track guests. Please bookmark this page, follow us on Facebook (Farpoint Convention) and Twitter (@FarpointCon) to receive updates as they are published. Questions and suggestions can be sent to
Terry Street
Dr. Ariel Vitali
Dr. Willie Yee

We have some wonderful programs planned for the #FarpointCon 2020 Science track! Have a look at some of the highlights below, and check out the full track schedule here, in your program book at the con, or at our interactive online app:

Is There Life on Mars?
We have a rare lecture with a question and answer session that’s a vanishing opportunity.  Dr. Patricia Straat was a  co-experimenter who collaborated on the design of a Mars life detection experiment on the Viking Lander that went to Mars in 1976.  She will present the results of that experiment. The observed and measured details are certain, but their interpretation and the implications, i.e. the question of whether or not life was actually detected, has been controversial for 44 years!  Here’s your chance to hear the details, ask questions of a knowledgeable designer and eye-witness, and then decide for yourself.

Is There Life Outside of Earth?
We have set up a mini-series Saturday morning around Dr. Straat’s presentation.  This mini-series grapples with one of the great questions of our time – is there life out there?  Locating and recognizing life is not as cut and dried as you might think, so the mini-series starts at 10 AM Saturday Morning with The Small, Sparse, Sluggish, and Strange — the Challenge of Looking for Life on Other Planets by Dr. Jay Nadeau.  In it, she examines the difficulty of finding and recognizing life on other worlds.  At 11 AM is your opportunity to hear Dr. Straat present Is There Life on Mars? The 1976 Viking Test Results.  Since Dr Straat was a co-designer of the experiment that may have detected life, you will get the inside scoop and the insights of the original designers and an eye-witness as she discusses both the evidence and a conclusion that has been controversial ever since.  Be sure to bring your questions! Finally, at 11 AM is Likely Hosts for Life in the Solar System, presented by Dr. Inge Heyer, in which she talks about environments on planets and moons in the Solar system that we think could well host life, albeit not necessarily life as we know it.  So spend the morning with us and prepare to be amazed!

Practical Cypersecurity – Advice for the Digital Era
Mr Steve Lesnik does Cybersecurity for a living and is a member of (ISC)2. This group has a community service component, and indeed community service is Steve’s goal here – provide advice to parents on how to protect their children and equipment in the face of threats from super hackers and evil people on the Internet.  If you are a parent, this lecture is a must-see! Be in Salon B at 5 PM Friday to hear Safe and Secure Online – A Cybersecurity Presentation for Parents

Experimental Science Track Programming
In the science track, we like to try out something new and different every year.  This year, our experiment should be a lot of fun and involves our favorite group of musically inclined scientists, The Chromatics!  Even better, this experiment is their idea.  They’re enthusiastic! Doubtless, you already know that they are all serious scientists who work at NASA during weekdays, but they love making music in their spare time.  In fact, they make some of the best A Capella music around, and it is all about science. They set themselves a great goal – promote science education with their music.  

What happens if we do both education and music together? No, it’s not a science opera (but that’s an interesting idea); instead, two of the group will present serious science lectures with The Chromatics providing musical support of the points being made.  Here’s what that’s all about:

  • Dr. Padi Boyd will present Strange New Worlds-the latest discoveries of planets around other stars at 1 PM Saturday
  • Dr. Scott Rohrbach will present JWST and WFIRST: NASA’s future large observatories at 5 PM Saturday

So  listen to their lectures and that fabulous A Capella harmony, and then let us know how well this worked for you.   If you like it enough, we might try it again.

Driving Starships
And speaking of fun, Dr. Ariel Vitali and his confederate, Mr. Terry Street, will compare and contrast the means of moving starships through three fictional universes – Star Trek, the Honorverse, and The Expanse with their presentation, Starship Propulsion from Three Fictional Universes: the Real, the Plausible, the Impossible.  As you might guess, the presentation will look at the propulsion systems in terms of what fits with known, solid science, what looks like plausible extensions to science we know, and what looks like fantasy.  This is a more participatory presentation than our others, so come on in and make some noise! Ask your questions, make your comments, and contribute your insights. After all, no one is an expert in fictional science!  The bigger the peanut gallery, the better this works. We hope to see you there.

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