Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Search for Life Beyond Earth

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., Dr. Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on: Will the 21st Century be the Time We Discover Life Beyond Earth? in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College.

Dr. Tarter is a pioneer leading the effort to search for signals from civilizations among the stars. The 21st century will be the century of biology on our planet.  Dr. Tarter believes that this idea will be extended beyond the surface of our world and that we may soon have the first opportunity to study biology that developed on other worlds. The techniques we will need are different, depending on whether we are searching for microbes or mathematicians, but both are within reach.

Dr. Jill Tarter holds the Bernard Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute, serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, is President Emeritus of the Board of the California Academy of Sciences and continues to make groundbreaking contributions to the worlds of science, education, and the arts. Jodie Foster portrayed a fictionalized version of Dr. Tarter in the film Contact.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Parking lots 1 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, 94022
(650) 949-7360

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
7:00 pm
Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

Campus Map (PDF) — Smithwick Theater, 1000

Northern California Regional Botball Tournament

botballMiddle and high school aged students in the Bay Area pit their home-made autonomous robots (no remote controls allowed) against each other in the Northern California BotBall tournament Saturday, April 16, 2016. Students use science, engineering, technology, math, and writing skills to design, build, program and document robots in a hands-on project.

The robot’s actions are based on information from the sensors, combined with the computer program (C, C++, and Java) written by the students in advance. Botball robots are completely autonomous and rely on this computer programming to start, stop, and maneuver on the game board.

The free to watch tournament begins 10:00 am and is held at the NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field.

Tournament Event Schedule:
• 8:00 am- Registration / Open Practice
• 10:00 am – Seeding Rounds Begin
• 1:00 pm – Lunch Break
• 5:30 pm – Awards Presentation Begins

Northern California Botball Tournament 2016
NASA Ames Research Center
N152 Conference Building, Moffett Field

Saturday, April 16, 2016
10:00 am
Admission: Free

Getting there — Go on the US 101 freeway to the Moffett Field exit, then:
Show your drivers license to the guard at the gate, and say you are attending the Botball Tournament in the NASA Conference Center, N152.
You can get a map at the visitor’s control, or just drive straight, down Clark Rd to just before the Shuttle model, turn right on Wescoat Rd, then in a couple blocks, turn right on McCord Ave, and in one block, stay right at the ‘Y’ (note sign to N152) to Dailey Rd for another block and you’ll see N152 on the right. The parking is on the left, across the street.

Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope

Astronomer Michael Bicay, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss Lifting the Cosmic Veil: A Decade of Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.
Admission is free and the public is invited.

The Universe is continually radiating information to Earth, sending signals in wide-spectrum of light. However, not all of these messages reach the ground. Because our planet’s atmosphere blocks most radiation coming in from space.

The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 to study the cool universe with waves that are invisible to the human eye. It was designed to probe the birth and youth of stars and planetary disks, and to observe some of the most distant objects in the universe.

However, Spitzer’s mission has since changed—the study of planets orbiting other stars. Dr. Bicay will describe the long road leading to Spitzer’s launch, and present highlights from the mission’s remarkable first decade of discovery.

The planned mission period was to be 2 and a half years with a pre-launch expectation that the mission could extend to five or slightly more years until the onboard liquid helium supply was exhausted in 2009. Without liquid helium to cool the telescope to the very low temperatures needed to operate, most of the instruments are no longer usable. However, the two shortest-wavelength modules of the Infrared Array Camera are still operable with the same sensitivity as before the cryogen was exhausted, and will continue to be used in the Spitzer Warm Mission.

Spitzer has been put to work studying exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) by modifying its hardware. This included doubling its stability by modifying its heating cycle, finding a new use for the camera, and analyzing the sensor at a sub-pixel level. In its “warm” mission, the spacecraft’s passive cooling system keeps the sensors at minus 407 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr. Bicay is the director of science at the NASA Ames Research Center, leading more than 400 scientists and technical staff conducting research in space, earth and biological science. He holds a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University and his research interests include the properties and contents of galaxies and galaxy clusters, as well as the large-scale structure in the universe.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos, California 94022

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3.00 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

STEM Lecture – Inventing Future Entrepreneurs

Michelle Khine, Ph.D., will discuss Inventing Future Entrepreneurs, particularly the growing need to cultivate “homegrown” science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) student innovators. The lecture also features opening remarks from Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla Motors.

Inquisitive teens (age 16 and older), their parents and community members are invited Friday, March 14, 7:00 p.m. in Room 5015 at the Foothill campus in Los Altos Hills. Tickets are $8, general admission; $5, Foothill students with OwlCard.

The U.S. is ranked 52nd in STEM education. With a continual decline in Americans pursuing advanced education in STEM fields (fewer than 67 percent of engineers earning Ph.D.s in the U.S. are not U.S. citizens), there is an undeniable need to foster and culture homegrown innovators. The low retention rate of student interest in STEM at the K–12 level has been identified as a major factor in this crisis.

Dr. Khine is currently an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at UC Irvine.

Parking in Lots 5 and 6 only is free for ticket-holders.

Space is limited. Purchase tickets here.

Foothill College
Lecture Hall Room 5015

Los Altos Hills

From 280 take the El Monte exit and head west. Enter Foothill College on the right and follow the campus loop.

Exploding Stars, Black Holes & Lick Observatory

Astronomer Alex Filippenko, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, will discuss Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes and the Crisis at Lick Observatory, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, February 26, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

Dr. Filippenko, Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley, is a world-renowned expert on some of the most dramatic fields in astronomy, including exploding stars, black holes and cosmology. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This discovery, based in part on work done by him at Lick Observatory and elsewhere. Voted the “Best Professor” on the Berkeley campus a record nine times.

The first remote mountaintop observatory in the world, Lick Observatory has a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars; the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies.

Located on the summit of 4,200′ Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Filippenko was involved in the development of a 0.8-meter robotic telescope at Lick Observatory (KAIT, the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope) that obtains data automatically, every clear night. With KAIT, they have found over 300 supernovae in the past five years.

The UC Berkeley Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016–2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this Bay Area institution. The lecture includes what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

(650) 949-7888

R. Buckminster Fuller brings a creative mind to The SJ Rep

"R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE!"

My review of R. Buckminster Fuller is way late, but let’s be honest here, it’s because this amazing show just might have been too smart for me.  I didn’t understand every word Fuller said, and I can’t comprehend some of the concepts he was talking about, but I do know it was one certifiably entertaining show.

Let me clarify: I didn’t sit there stupidly wondering what was going on.  The show is profoundly interesting.  I often found my mind wandering while Fuller was talking, but I was just thinking more carefully about something he had said earlier.

Rick Lombardo is taking a risk by bringing R. Buckminster Fuller to the Rep because I don’t think the show is for everyone, but with great risk often comes great theatre.  This is not your typical show, and the show is not for your typical audience.  On the other hand, it may bring in a new audience to the theatre, which is always a good thing.

R. Buckminster Fuller was the science/philosophy/architecture/social science teacher you wish you had.  He was likely a genius, and not only ahead of his time, but ahead of our time as well.  His genius comes with a hypo-eccentricity, which perhaps made it difficult for people to take his ideas seriously, or at least see them to fruition.

I went into this one man show not really sure who Fuller was, only knowing that he had something to do with inventing the geodesic dome.  My mind is currently so crammed full of theatre shows, independant films, and trying to finish a stack of fat library books that I had a very difficult time trying to drum up interest in a show about science. But I have faith in Rick Lombardo, so I went in with the knowledge that Lombardo was likely going to knock my socks off.

I will say that instead, Ron Campbell knocked my socks off with his portrayal of the amazing Fuller.  Campbell is charming and engaging and makes this show more than a science lesson.  As Fuller, he tells the story of his difficult childhood, and explains how his brain works and how he came up with a lot of his ideas.  He was an amazing man, and the show is cerebral and enjoyable.  What better place to hold this forward-thinking show than in the heart of Silicon Valley? Our town was built by forward thinkers, on ideas that were ahead of their time, and concepts that most people could not comprehend.

Let’s not waste any more time here and get this published so you can buy your tickets.

R. Buckminster Fuller
Through February 23
The San Jose Repertory Theatre


Black Widow Stars That Consume & Destroy Their Partners

Astronomer Roger Romani, Ph.D., of Stanford University, will discuss Black Widow Stars That Consume and Destroy Their Partners, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, January 22, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Romani is an astrophysicist interested in neutron stars, black holes and other relativistic, high energy sources —where density, gravitational field and, often, magnetic field reach their maximum measured values.

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has revealed a violent high-energy universe full of stellar explosions, black hole jets, and pulsing stars. Dr. Romani will describe the quest to discover the true nature of the most puzzling of these gamma-ray sources. Several turn out to be a star corpse called a ‘black widow’ pulsar.  When a massive star dies, it leaves a collapsed remnant called a neutron star. When a star corpse has a companion star, it can be reanimated by material from the companion.  The revived corpse then begins to vaporize its mate.

The lecture is free; however, there is a charge of $3 for parking and exact change is appreciated.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills 94022
(650) 949-7888

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
7:00–8:30 p.m.

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Can We Survive?

Astrobiologist and planetary scientist David Morrison, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, will discuss The Meteor That Exploded Over Russia Last Year: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

David Morrison will discuss the Chelyabinsk impact and evaluate ways we might meet the grand challenge to protect our population from space impacts.

Dr. Morrison is the director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute in Mountain View.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills.

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?
Free Astronomy Lecture
Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College
November 06, 2013
7:00 p.m.
(650) 949-7888

Storm Chaser, Sean Casey, Blows into San Jose

Sean Casey and Marcus Gutierrez, stars of new the IMAX film “Tornado Alley” and of the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers,” will appear at The Tech Museum.

Yes, the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) will be there. This custom built tank has wind-resistant flaps and anchor spikes. It can withstand winds up to 190 mph and is fitted with bullet-resistant windows. An onboard camera can capture 360-degrees storm action from the military-style turret.

When: 10 AM – 1 PM
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where: The Tech Museum – 201 S. Market St., San Jose, CA.

Look for the TIV parked in front of the building.

Talk with Casey – get an autograph – take photos.

The Hackworth IMAX® Dome Theater:

“Tornado Alley” the film.
Opens to the public
Saturday, August 20, 2011

Facebook: Meet Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” Sean Casey at The Tech Museum.

Tornado Alley – Official Documentary Trailer 2011 HD on YouTube.

Legacy of Light shines at the SJ Rep

(l to r) Émilie du Châtelet (Rachel Harker) spends time with her lover, Saint-Lambert (Miles Gaston Villanueva)

Legacy of Light contains great characters, new ideas, and multiple themes and plots.  It presents both comedy and tragedy, fictional and non-fictional characters, and keeps you enthralled even during science lectures which actually teach you something.  Moving from France in the 1700s to present day New Jersey, there is a great deal going on during the play, yet it is never complicated or distracting.

(l to r) Millie (Kathryn Tkel) woos Peter (Mike Ryan) and Olivia (Carrie Paff) into choosing her as their surrogate.

This amazing, original story is as fresh and new as the ever present apples in the production.  It was refreshing to see something so completely modern even in scenes that took place 250 years ago.  It’s also a story about both science and love.  So many opposite subjects are tackled here and yet playwright Karen Zacarías successfully ties them all together.  It is absolutely worthy of being awarded “Best New American Play” by the American Theatre Critics Association.

Just some of the questions this play brings up:

What makes a mother?  Do you have to give birth to be a mother, and if you do give birth does that make you a mother?  What if you’re not sure you really want the child you asked a surrogate to carry for you? What if you know you will die in childbirth and thus deprive the world of all the amazing scientific ideas in your head?  Which will make you immortal: your children or your ideas?

Émilie du Châtelet (Rachel Harker) looks on as Voltaire (Robert Yacko) and Saint-Lambert (Miles Gaston Villanueva) duel over her.

There is also a lot of science in this story, and much of it is taught very clearly to the audience. We learned about E=mv², E=mc², the birth of planets, and dark matter.  Well, we learn that we don’t know anything about dark matter at all, but still. I thought the female scientists were very inspiring, especially with all the obstacles they faced as women:  Émilie du Châtelet was not allowed to publish under her own name, but modern day women still have very little chance of winning a Nobel Prize in science.

Millie (Kathryn Tkel) is comforted by Olivia (Carrie Paff)

The six actors in the play are all amazing, and most of them played two characters each.  I was particularly impressed with Kathryn Tkel, who was in the SJ Rep’s Secret Order. I think she does an outstanding job playing young Millie the surrogate mother, as well as a young girl in 18th Century France, and it appears her acting skills have grown considerably this year.  Rachel Harker was marvelous in last month’s The Dresser, and she is marvelous again here as Émilie. And I thought Carrie Paff was most excellent as the awkward scientist Olivia who doubts her mothering capabilities.

My guest and I left the theater with a terrific feeling of having just seen something new, original and fresh.  It was engaging, funny, emotional, and inspirational and we even learned a lot!  I can’t recommend this show enough.

Legacy of Light
March 24 – April 17, 2011
by Karen Zacarias
directed by Kirsten Brandt
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