Day

Event Type

Tags

Location

Virtual Access

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

4:00 pm EST

The State of Machine Learning

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 4:00 pm EST View Replay

An artificial intelligence does not necessarily have to think like a human being. How do current AIs approach questions of cognition and meaningful analysis? What are other ways that an intelligent AI might perceive and understand the world?

Type: Panel

5:30 pm EST

Future Meat

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 5:30 pm EST View Replay

What does the future hold for carnivorous foodways as factory farming becomes less and less sustainable and more socially unpopular? Is the future cloned meat, vat steaks, cricket burgers, or fungus-based “chicken?” Are we growing past the need to refer to products as meat substitutes? Can we trust the companies which produce them? What are the ethical implications?

Type: Panel

7:00 pm EST

Assistive Technologies

Kress (Virtual), 7:00 pm EST View Replay

The vast majority of the world’s population uses some kind of prosthetic or assistive device, from glasses, to mobility aids, to those jar-opening doohickies. How should they change our conceptions of disability and what using a prosthetic device really means?  What bleeding-edge assistive technologies are out there right now that may seem like science fiction? Do engineers overthink it, and are some technologies impositions. And when is simpler, better?

Type: Panel
Tags: Science

Thursday, December 16, 2021

10:00 am EST

Changing Genes: Can We, Should We?

Blue Room, 10:00 am EST View Replay

CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, has made much greater precision potentially possible in editing the genes of bacteria, viruses, crops, animals, and humans. How far can an organism’s genome be changed? What are the possibilities, ethics, and outcomes of tinkering with genomes, including our own?

Type: Panel

How NASA and Other Space Agencies Use Art

Diplomat Ballroom, 10:00 am EST View Replay

A few years ago, NASA published an amazing series of exoplanet travel posters jointly developed by artists, designers, and scientists. The project exemplified art-centered outreach efforts by NASA and other space agencies. Panelists will discuss these efforts and how they are being used to promote understanding and generate interest in space exploration.

Tags: Art, Science

11:30 am EST

AI in Fiction and Reality

Empire Ballroom, 11:30 am EST *

This panel will discuss the differences between fictional artificial intelligence and the real thing. How are the real dangers of AI different from the ones envisioned in fiction and popular media?

Type: Panel

Balancing Story and Scientific Authenticity

Older (Virtual), 11:30 am EST View Replay

Many readers love real science, or just the appearance of real science, in their science fiction. It is no small challenge to create compelling literature that also triggers a scientific sense of wonder. Panelists discuss how to do it right.

Type: Panel

Science Talk 8 — Quantum Computing

Diplomat Ballroom, 11:30 am EST View Replay

Really Weird Science: An introduction to Real Quantum Computing

Kevin Roche, Advisory Engineer-Scientist, Quantum Ambassador, Qiskit Advocate, IBM Research Almaden

The hype around Quantum Computing makes it hard to tell what is real and what is marketing. Kevin will try to dispel those clouds of uncertainty, starting with an introduction to the weird science that enables this new technology, and demonstrating how you can try out real quantum computers yourself (for free!) on the IBM Quantum Labs website. This presentation is intended for an interested audience with any level of technical background (no fancy mathematics required!)

Tags: Science

1:00 pm EST

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Forum Room, 1:00 pm EST *

After the fight, what shape is your hero in? Can they realistically carry on hero-ing in the next scene, or will they need a recovery scene before jumping back into the fray? What are some good ways to plausibly introduce complications into the healing and medical processes established in your setting to make the hero’s recovery more interesting?

Type: Panel

Logistics of Off-World Disasters

Harris (Virtual), 1:00 pm EST View Replay

Complex logistics are required to respond to mundane natural disasters. How could we handle a natural disaster occurring on another planet or in space? What additional political and diplomatic complications arise when working on an interplanetary scale?

Type: Panel

Science Talk 15 — Low-Cost Space Launches

Diplomat Ballroom, 1:00 pm EST View Replay

Low-Cost Space Launch via SSTO, Pat Bahn

TGV Rockets created a conceptual design for a small single stage to orbit (SSTO) reusable launch vehicle (RLV) that utilized our eutectic fuel blend and an altitude compensating nozzle.

Tags: Science

2:30 pm EST

Urban Planning in the Space Age

Older (Virtual), 2:30 pm EST View Replay

In the colonies of the future, who will be responsible for planning what the city looks like and how it develops? Is this a job for engineers, for the civil service, or someone else? What factors should be considered?

Type: Panel

4:00 pm EST

The Role of New Technology in Preserving History

Diplomat Ballroom, 4:00 pm EST View Replay

Understanding and preserving the past can be a challenge. How have new technologies, including developments in remote sensing and physical preservation, allowed us to study the past in a less destructive manner? Where do digital archives fit in? What about preserving digital media as artifacts?

Type: Panel

5:30 pm EST

Science Talk 4: Climate Change

Diplomat Ballroom, 5:30 pm EST View Replay

Climate Change Science, Mitigation, & Adaptation — Ted Weber

This presentation will describe the physics behind the greenhouse effect and how it is increasing temperatures and changing the climate. Then I’ll discuss methods to reduce future warming and damage, and how to adapt to warming that’s already occurring. Mitigation strategies include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pulling them out of the atmosphere, and reflecting excess heat into space. Adaptation strategies include resistance, resilience, and transformation.

Feeding the sparrowhawk while the sky breathes fire — Claire McCague

In 2020, fossil-fuel CO2 emissions temporarily dropped by 5-7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane both rose. While optimists insist we can and must invent a pathway to rapidly decrease emissions, pragmatists point at the gap between emission reduction targets and the historic pace of global energy transitions. The greenhouse gas problem is a complicated hot mess. What are we going to do about it?

Tags: Science

Scientific Discoveries

Kress (Virtual), 5:30 pm EST View Replay

This panel features five-minute presentations by scientists about discoveries in their field that sound like science fiction but are real.

Type: Panel
Tags: Science

7:00 pm EST

Science Talk 7: Neural Networks and AI

Diplomat Ballroom, 7:00 pm EST *

Artificial Intelligence: Past, Present, Futures — John Ashmead

From neural nets and genetic algorithms to facial recognition and deep fakes, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere today. What exactly do we mean by AI? How did AI get where it is today? What role will it play in our lives? What are the benefits and risks of AI? And when will we have real AI?

Neural network attack vectors — Avani Wildani

Neural networks in the brain are sparsely connected, composed of components with an over 50% failure rate, and still amazingly consistent in their high-level behavior over time. We are building models of biologically plausible neural networks to help explain how the brain can protect against a malicious adversary while keeping networks tiny, low power, and easily trained. Using parameters taken from the somatosensory cortex, we have built a prototype simulator to show the relationships between connectivity and severity of possible attacks.

Tags: Science

8:30 pm EST

International Space Programs

Diplomat Ballroom, 8:30 pm EST View Replay

Americans may not hear much about it, but there’s a thriving culture of space exploration and science outside of the United States. Come hear about some of the notable missions, developments, and discoveries of 2020 and 2021.

Friday, December 17, 2021

11:30 am EST

Science Talk 12: The James Webb Space Telescope

Diplomat Ballroom, 11:30 am EST View Replay

Introduction to the James Webb Space Telescope, Scott Rohrbach

The James Webb Space Telescope will launch during DisCon III, on December 18, 2021. Scott will give us an overview of this new telescope’s capabilities as well as the plans the astronomical community has for exploring exoplanets, far-away galaxies, and numerous other astronomical phenomena.

Tags: Science

1:00 pm EST

Nobody Looks Like Themselves Anymore

Thomas (Virtual), 1:00 pm EST *

What are the cultural and social boons and banes that might come from a growing technological ability to change your physical appearance? What are the implications for identity? For fashion? How might governments, science fictional or otherwise, react to developments in body alterations and/or consciousness if less tied to a single physical form?  Will we all experience the benefits and banes equally?

Type: Panel

Science Talk 3: Galileo and the Science Deniers

Harris (Virtual), 1:00 pm EST *

Mario Livio

A fresh biography of Galileo Galilei which puts his scientific discoveries in context. Disturbed by rampant science denial in America that has only intensified in recent years, I researched the life, ideas, and actions of this brilliant man who encountered similar challenges centuries ago. The result is a fascinating biography filled with lessons relevant for today—whether with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. I will discuss a few of these topics in this talk. My book GALILEO and the Science Deniers was selected by The Washington Post as one of the best books of 2020.

The Softer Side of Science Fiction

Blue Room, 1:00 pm EST *

What is “social science fiction?” How have authors used ideas from “soft” sciences like sociology, anthropology, and linguistics to craft convincing future scenarios, telling fascinating stories while shedding light on current human problems?

Type: Panel

2:30 pm EST

Planetary Defense at NASA

Diplomat Ballroom, 2:30 pm EST View Replay

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) leads efforts to find and track near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets that can come near Earth—and to address the asteroid impact hazard. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), targeted for launch in late November, is NASA’s first test mission of an asteroid deflection technique. Join panelists from the PDCO and DART teams to learn more about planetary defense at NASA and DART’s epic journey to the Didymos binary asteroid system.

Type: Panel
Tags: Science

5:30 pm EST

Science Talk 6: Dinosaurs and Genomes

Diplomat Ballroom, 5:30 pm EST View Replay

What’s New in the World of Dinosaurs? — Tom Holtz

Their age might long be over, but new information is discovered about the dinosaurs every year. Paleontologist Thomas Holtz discusses the latest discoveries about dinosaurs, and what they mean for our understanding of these magnificent animals.

Navigating the Genome: The Final Frontier — Doug Dluzen, Chris Dardick

Gene editing technology is no stranger to fiction, often serving as a vehicle to envision sometimes wonderful, sometimes dystopian, futures. This talk with highlight the latest breakthroughs of human genome editing capabilities, including its usage in medicine, disease control, and information storage. Examples from famous works for fiction will guide a discussion on common misconceptions, the ethics of shaping our own evolution, and the practicality of gene editing for space travel.

Tags: Science

7:00 pm EST

Artificial Intelligence and Gender

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 7:00 pm EST View Replay

Why do writers bother assigning gender to AIs? Would an AI accept the gender we assign it, and would it bother performing gender the way we often see in fiction? Do we ever see AIs performing masculinity in the same way we seem them performing femininity? Panelists will discuss how various writers have explored the genders of AIs over the years.

Type: Panel

10:00 pm EST

Science Talk 11: Space Exploration

Diplomat Ballroom, 10:00 pm EST View Replay

The Internet of Power, Pat Bahn

As the fossil energy economy begins to exceed climatological reserves and a climate emergency is occurring, the potential for a new era of smart energy production can expand. Renewables driven by subsurface, surface energy allows the growth of non-variable cost structures in power generation. An era of SuperPower will produce the energy needed for true interplanetary economies.

Mars or Bust?, Katie Mack;

There’s been plenty of talk about sending humans to Mars, but how feasible is it, really? What limits our ability to live on Mars right now, and what technology needs to be developed to get us there? I’ll summarize all the thorny issues of interplanetary travel and habitation, and why we might (or might not) soon be leaving footprints in the Martian dust.

Exploring Titan, Geoffrey Landis.

Titan, Saturn’s moon, is the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere and bodies of liquid on the surface. But on Titan, the liquid is not water, but hydrocarbons— lakes of liquid methane and ethane. This talk will discuss why Titan is important and give details on some proposals for possible future missions to Titan.

Tags: Science

Saturday, December 18, 2021

10:00 am EST

Zoom In. Enhance!

Cabinet Room, 10:00 am EST *

Television and film make detectives and forensic scientists into superheroes. But how much can you really tell from a grainy video, fingerbone, or scrap of fabric? How accurate are the super-science labs portrayed in shows like Bones and CSI? Panelists separate the science from the fiction in film, TV, and video game crime procedurals.

Type: Panel

11:30 am EST

Considering Climate Change in Your Worldbuilding

Kress (Virtual), 11:30 am EST View Replay

In 2016, Amitav Ghosh wrote: “Climate change is like death, no one wants to talk about it.” But climate change is an unavoidable fact of the near future, which any novel set in the next century must take into account. Even if your novel is not a story about climate change, changing temperatures and rising sea levels will impact your setting and worldbuilding. Let’s talk about what might happen and how it should be reflected in your work.

Type: Panel

Real Estate in Space

Calvert Room, 11:30 am EST *

Space law is a real, existing field of law, but it’s only beginning to touch on the complexity of property rights in space. The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies is the international treaty that addresses these issues, but current events suggest that we may soon reach the limits of its provisions. What happens when Elon Musk tries to sell you a condo on Mars?

Type: Panel

2:30 pm EST

Looking for the Fountain of Youth

Diplomat Ballroom, 2:30 pm EST View Replay

Speculative fiction stories often feature societies in which a healthy lifespan stretches over multiple centuries. What is the scientific plausibility of such lifespans or life-extending technologies? How is access to longevity likely to be distributed? What impact would artificially-extended lifespans have on culture and the environment?

Type: Panel

Misconceptions about Human Origins and Evolution

Older (Virtual), 2:30 pm EST View Replay

Evolution is the foundational concept of biology. Unfortunately, in the popular imagination and in public discourse (including within science fiction and fantasy media), misconceptions abound regarding what evolution is, how it works, and its implications for human origins, diversity, and identity. In this panel, three biological anthropologists will identify and discuss common misconceptions about human origins and evolution, and invite attendees to share their own questions and perspectives.

Type: Panel

4:00 pm EST

Science Talk 10: Telescopes and Radio Waves

Diplomat Ballroom, 4:00 pm EST View Replay

Black Holes for Fun and Profit — Katie Mack

Our understanding of black holes has increased dramatically, and we’ve discovered entire populations of them that defy our current best astronomical explanations. I’ll give an overview of the science of black holes and an up-to-date summary of what we’ve learned through gravitational waves, observations of the black hole in our own galaxy’s center, and the incredible effort to take a photo of a black hole in another galaxy.

Spectrum Wars – The Battle for Radio Frequencies — Keith Gremban

Radio frequency (RF) spectrum is a scarce, but infinitely renewable resource. RF spectrum is critical to our 21st century lives – in ways that often conflict with each other. Earth observation satellites are critical to everything from weather forecasting to assessing crop health. The same frequencies are also in demand for telecommunications. We will review the applications that depend on RF spectrum, review the state-of-the-art in managing RF spectrum, and present some of the mechanisms – technical and legal – that are being developed to provide fair access to radio frequencies.

Tags: Science

Space Science Fiction at the Smithsonian

Kress (Virtual), 4:00 pm EST View Replay

Why is Lt. Uhura’s costume at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture? How did the National Air and Space Museum come to display both the 11-foot studio model of Star Trek‘s Starship Enterprise and a full-size T-70 X-wing vehicle from Star Wars? Join Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, a curator and the chair of the space history department at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for a virtual discussion of their space science fiction holdings.

5:30 pm EST

Science Talk 2: Telescopes and Exoplanets

Diplomat Ballroom, 5:30 pm EST View Replay

Exoplanets — Padi Boyd

In 1992 the first planet orbiting a star other than our Sun was discovered. Since then, almost 5000 planets in 3600 systems have been added to our catalogue of exoplanets. We will discuss the latest findings and marvel at the variety (and new types) of worlds that exist.

Exoplanet Worldbuilding in Science Fiction — Emma Johanna Puranen.

Real exoplanets were first discovered in the past few decades, but science fiction authors have been writing about worlds outside our solar system for much longer. How does the diversity of fictional exoplanets compare to real-world discoveries? How are writers influenced by science? We apply data science techniques to a database of fictional exoplanets to investigate how this current era of unprecedented exoplanet discovery has impacted the way writers worldbuild their fictional exoplanets.

7:00 pm EST

Science Considered as a Helix of Semicold Cones

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 7:00 pm EST View Replay

David Shaw

Look at the ingredient list of your favorite and ultra-premium ice cream. What is all that stuff, and what does it contribute to what should be a simple concoction of dairy, sugar, flavoring, and air? How does temperature affect the texture of ice cream, and why is ice the absolute last thing you want to notice? We’ll look at the factors involved in making the best homemade ice cream. Whether you are a beginner or not, you’ll learn something that will help you step up your ice cream game.

Tags: Science

8:30 pm EST

Science Talk 14 — Mathematical Models

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 8:30 pm EST View Replay

Mathematical Models of the Spread of Diseases, Opinions, Information, and Misinformation — Mason A. Porter

Social networks have a huge effect on the spread of diseases, memes, opinions, and information in a population. In this presentation, I’ll give an introduction to the mathematical modeling of the spread of both diseases and opinions. I’ll also discuss the importance of these ideas to the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated “infodemics” online.

Tags: Science

Sunday, December 19, 2021

8:30 am EST

Are We Keeping Our Homes Too Clean?

Congressional On-Site Viewing (Virtual), 8:30 am EST View Replay

Or, why should you let your kids eat dirt? This panel addresses the necessary microbes in the biomes of our homes and workplaces. How do germs really spread? Does disinfecting our homes with Lysol-type cleansers destroy the helpful bacteria that kill germs? Do plants really clean the air? Why is it important to spend time outside?

Type: Panel
Tags: Science

10:00 am EST

Science Talk 9: Entrepreneurship, Quantum

Diplomat Ballroom, 10:00 am EST View Replay

Contextualizing Physics Innovation and Entrepreneurship connecting Mindset to Skillset — Bahram Roughani, Randy Jones

Physics education faces challenges in student engagement. This can be due to the techno-centric approach in physics education with little or no attention devoted to exploring the relationship between physics concepts and human needs. To enhance engagement we may need to focus on the “why” in order to inspire purpose and passion for learning physics. We will discuss the potential impact of contextualizing Physics in real world application based on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and will present specific examples.

The Quantum Internet:  Hype or the Next Step? — John Ashmead

What do we mean by the quantum internet? Why do we need more than just quantum computing? What are quantum cryptography, quantum key distribution, quantum sensors? How are these concepts entangled? What are the advantages of the quantum internet? key problems? Who will get to use it? And do we have just a bunch of interesting technologies that all have quantum in their name or can the whole be more than the sum of its parts?

Tags: Science

11:30 am EST

Asteroid Mining and the Global Economy

Diplomat Ballroom, 11:30 am EST View Replay

A single medium-sized asteroid can contain more gold and platinum than all of Earth. How do we keep the first giant hunk of space gold from crashing the world’s commodities markets? How might speculative technologies lead to creation of markets for asteroid resources?

Type: Panel
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