SETIcon feels like a curious mix of an AAS annual meeting and a science fiction WorldCon.
Unfortunately, this extends to the concept of the parallel session.
So, it is necessary to pick and choose.
So, “Asteroids: Junkpiles or Resources?” – Yes.
“Hubble 3D” – I really want to see Frank Summers’ rendition, but I’ll get another chance.
And, while I do want to know “When I can buy a ticket to the Moon”, I got the rah-rah spiel
on the impressive progress in commercial space already.
Hence the panel on: “The Next Big Science Revolution” – I gots to know.
As apparently does everyone else. Another “standing room only’ session.
Pierre Schwob is moderating, Alex Filippenko, Scott Hubbard, Nail Jacobstein, and Ariel Waldman discussing. Scott is presumably stuck in traffic on the 101…
Do they mean “Big Science” or “Big Revolution”?
Jacob goes for Big Data and AI. Reasonable extrapolation but with the usual overoptimistic take on strong AI.
Ariel goes for Citizen Science/Open Science; with ultra-cheap access to space as the dream goal. She uses crowd sourced science like GalaxyZoo as an example. She makes good points, but also underestimates the difficulty of doing a lot of science.
From my perspective, for example, she uses Hubble as an instance of where the public could pay an active role, but Hubble had time set aside for public proposals – target suggestions from non-astronomers – and
never received a proposal over many years of providing the opportunity – apparently received a baker’s dozen of good proposal over the few years the program was run [ed].
Regardless, I’d still argue that a common problem with the public doing science is that the layperson tends to think the problem is with concepts, that what is needed is speculation.
Now scientists tend to be innately quite conservative, scientifically, but concepts are cheap, there are a lot of them. What really needs to be done is working out tests of hypotheses, and the associated metrology, measuring stuff.
Having said that, data mining does lend itself well to crowd sourcing. It will be interesting to see how much further it can go. It should also be remembered that Astronomy is one of the sciences which has utilized amateur resources very well, with multiple instances of significant contributions from amateur observers and well organized efforts to encourage involvement.
Alex goes for Dark Matter/Dark Energy. Sure. Bit conservative, but he leverages it to hint that this is a lever point for a fundamental conceptual revolution in science. Again. Poor Ptolemy gets such bad press, epicycles are a great calculable perturbation theory.
What can you say about Dark Energy.
Well, you can spin it into an interesting riff on the multiverse/landscape. And be reminded why Alex always gets the “best prof at Berkeley” award.
Pierre asks how to get public support for whatever comes next.
Good discussion on budgets, involving the public and leveraging enthusiasm for science.
Alex makes a not too subtle plea for dot.com funds, which are in fact emerging in interesting ways.
Very good audience question: “What is the big thing that you are not working on?”
Nail goes for Synthetic Biology – good one.
Ariel goes for Ocean Exploration.
Alex also goes for Synthetic Biology. Then a nod to gravitational radiation detection.
Another good question: “What assumptions are we hoding onto that are wrong”?
Nail goes for pace of discovery – ie we tend to linearly extrapolate and hence underestimate long term change.
Flashback to visiting Bay Area in late ’90s.
Ariel pushed Citizen Science again.
Alex goes back to Dark Matter/Dark Energy and is All Of Physics Wrong?
Back to funding: I am personally getting a little bit bothered by the presumption that we will return to fickle aristocracy as a major source of funding…