Mountain View Voice

News - October 26, 2012

Talking about the end of the world

by Ashley Finden

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the SETI Institute's weekly science radio show, "Big Picture Science," will be hosting a live performance from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View. "Doomsday Live" explores the impending threats facing our world.

As part of the Bay Area Science Festival, the show will be open to the public and explain what is likely and not-so-likely in terms of the type of event that could have a debilitating impact on humanity.

"There's little reason to think that terrestrial catastrophe will strike before Christmas," Seth Shostak, SETI Institute astronomer and Big Picture Science host, said about a certain movie involving an apocalyptic Mayan prophecy.

He said in the next quarter-century the world may be hit by a devastating asteroid or experience a crippling pandemic.

"There are some credible catastrophes facing our world — both from our planet and self-induced," Shostak said.

There will be a handful of expert scientist speaking at the event.

Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, will discuss the physical, economic and political consequences of climate change.

Astronomer Andy Fraknoi from Foothill College said there is no doubt that an asteroid will slam into our planet. But when, and is a big rock an immediate concern? He will also go into other cosmic dangers threatening Earth.

Luke Muehlhauser, the executive director of the Singularity Institute, and Bradley Voytek, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, will address the underlying threat of technology. As humans constantly strive to move forward in developing intelligent technology, will machines have the capacity to become self-aware and independent of computational commands? If they do, would machines work harmoniously with humans or will there be a reverse effect?

Kirsten Gilardi is an epidemiologist who treats wild gorillas as well as monitors global pandemics. She will explain how a spillover from wild animals to humans can cause a killer pandemic.

All of the guests experts will be conversing with Shostak and Molly Bentley, co-host and executive producer of Big Picture Science. The audience will be able to participate.

Even though it is a free event, tseating is limited, so those who are interested in attending should register online at computerhistory.org/events/#doomsday-show.

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