Seekers of alien life converge for MV group's SETI convention | August 13, 2010 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - August 13, 2010

Seekers of alien life converge for MV group's SETI convention

by Daniel DeBolt

A first-of-its kind convention this weekend is hosted by Mountain View's SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which aims to appeal to the masses with a little help from the science fiction world.

SETIcon lands in Santa Clara's Hyatt Regency Friday. Scientists will talk about the latest in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and related topics. SETI, founded in 1985, has never held such a conference before, said Seth Shostak, SETI senior astronomer, KMVT volunteer and radio host. He said SETIcon will be heavier on actual science than other conventions, like Comic-Con, but just as fun.

Speakers include Mike Brown, the scientist who demoted Pluto to non-planet status, best-selling author Mary Roach, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, Isaac Asimov's daughter Robyn and Tim Russ from the Star Trek Voyager TV show.

In a SETI members-only event Friday night, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart will present his film "Rhythms of the Universe," an audio-visual presentation described as a "sonic wonder, from the Big Bang onwards through galaxy and star formation up until modern time."

Topics discussed by panels throughout the weekend include "Why Are There No Tourists from Other Worlds?" and "Which Came First — The Science or the Science Fiction?"

To be honored at a banquet Saturday night is Frank Drake, who discovered the famous Drake equation and founded SETI as a field of science. Shostak called Drake the biggest luminary in the SETI field still accessible by the public. Drake first began listening to the stars for signs of intelligent life 50 years ago and continues to work in the Mountain View SETI offices today.

Among Drake's numerous accomplishments, which include directing the famous Aracebo observatory in Puerto Rico, he worked with the late Carl Sagan to create the aluminum plaques attached to pioneer spacecraft in the early 1970s designed to provide a message to intelligent life outside of the earth's solar system.

Shostak said SETI expects upwards of a 1,000 people "from all over the place." Unfortunately for SETI, those visitors are probably still limited to those from planet earth.

The event could have been held in Mountain View, Shostak admits, but as many have complained over the years, there is no conference center here.

SETI is a collection of over 100 privately funded scientists working away in a Mountain View office building, with some of them listening for signs of alien life in radio waves from space. That was recently made easier with the installation of SETI's new Allen Telescope Array, a set of dish antennas near Redding.

In other SETI news, the non-profit operation will soon be moving from its North Whisman Road location to larger, more permanent home in Mountain View at 189 Bernardo Avenue, Shostak said.

For more information and a schedule visit Tickets start at $20 for a day pass.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields