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Posts Tagged ‘Mars’

A Day at Yerkes Observatory: Mars and Astronomical Art

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Yerkes Observatory
Yerkes Observatory,Williams Bay, WI

This Saturday March 16 I will be participating in both a teacher workshop and a public star party at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay WI. This will be my first time visiting Yerkes in a long time. Aside from my duties that day, I hope that I have sufficient time to explore and photograph this landmark observatory.

Packing for Mars Teacher Workshop

Packing for Mars
Packing for Mars

The theme for the teacher workshop I’m taking part in is "Packing for Mars" and uses as its focus the book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton & Company; 2010). If you are a teacher it is not too late to register. Registration includes CPDUs and lunch. A fee of $25 for the workshop will be collected on the day of the workshop.

The segment that I will be leading, What Would You Bring?, actually deals with planning a human mission to Mars. Identifying the resources a mission would need to bring along is a subset of the overall mission planning. Other aspects of mission planning include mission objectives, mission duration, infrastructure, and strategic and tactical implementation issues.

The planned agenda for the day is:

8:30am Coffee and Registration
9:00am Book Discussion: Packing for Mars
10:00am What Would You Bring?
11:00am Discussion with Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars
12:00pm Lunch provided by Stars at Yerkes
1:00pm Packing the Portable Life Support System (PLSS)
2:00pm Building Project
4:15pm Wrap up: final thoughts, additional resources, evaluations and CPDUs

To register, complete the Packing for Mars Teacher Workshop Registration Form.

Yerkes Observatory Public Star Party

In the evening there will be a public star party with, hopefully, clear skies. If you do not know what a star party is, it provides people with the opportunity to observe various astronomical wonders using a telescope. For more information, check out the Wikipedia entry for Star Party. As a part of the star party, I will be giving a highly condensed version of my presentation The Art of Astronomy which looks at the evolution of astronomical art over the years.

The star party begins at 7:00pm and ends at 9:00pm. My presentation is about 30 minutes long and will start at 7:15pm. If you plan on attending the Yerkes Observatory Public Star Party, there is a fee of $5 per person or $15 per family. To help the astronomers get an idea of how many people will be attending, please fill out the
Yerkes Observatory Public Star Party Registration Form.

Yerkes Observatory Information

Location: 373 West Geneva Street, Williams Bay WI 53191
Web Site:
Location on Map: Google Maps

Ad Astra, Jim

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Capricon Science Fiction Convention – Artificial Intelligence

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Capricon Science Fiction Convention
The Capricon Science Fiction Convention: Artificial Intelligence

I am quite looking forward to next week’s Capricon Science Fiction Convention. The theme for this year’s convention is artificial intelligence, which is an area of computer science that I find fascinating. One aspect of artificial intelligence that interests me is the thought of AIs as the creators of art and music. This would represent a significant advance over today’s generative art approach.

Before getting into a discussion of the panels I hope to attend, I’d like to call attention to the panels I will be on.

Riverworlds: The Latest on Mars and Titan
A panel that I’ll be moderating on the finding of features on Mars and Titan that appear to have been produced by fluvial processes. My copanelists will be a pair of friend of mine: Bill Higgins and Jeffrey Liss.
I Shouldn’t Have Blogged That
Sometimes we speak without thinking – which is bad enough but then your only audience is those folks who are within earshot. But with blogging and social media – we all have the opportunity to look like fools to a huge number of family, friends, and strangers alike. Along with Tracy Lunquist, the panel’s moderator, Kathryn Sullivan and I will talk about how to minimize your risks and how to do damage control.

In addition to participating on two panels, the folks at Capricon graciously offered me the opportunity to do a presentation on my digital art.
The title they picked for my presentation is The Art of Jim Plaxco and has the following description:

Explore the visual possibilities of digital art which uses a variety of techniques using computer graphics software, hardware, and both film and digital photography.

I do like that description because my intent is to focus on what it means to work digitally. I’ll cover hardware, software, work flow, and methodologies and will use some of my own art as examples.

As to the panels I hope to attend, those would be:

AI and the CDC
How the Center for Disease Control is using artificial intelligence.
AI Vision: Early AI vs. Current Technology
A historical overview of human imaginings about AI.
AI’s Impact on Religion and Religion’s Impact on AI
The impact of artificial intelligence on religion and the impact of religion on artificial intelligence.
Boundaries Between Science and Pseudoscience
As a skeptic and proponent of fact-based decision making, this could be quite interesting.
Curiosity on Mars Slideshow
A presentation by my friend and fellow JPL Solar System Ambassador Bill Higgins on the Curiosity rover and what it has uncovered on Mars. Note that Curiosity won the 2012 Crunchie For Best Technology Achievement.
Cylons, Cyberman, and Borg, OH MY! AI Destroys!
Ah yes, the dark side of hi tech.
Do AIs Have Rights?
Perhaps a more interesting question is should all AIs be treated equally?
Dystopias and Why We Love Them
I’ve been on a couple of dystopia panels before and wish I had gotten on this one. It’s a topic that has always fascinated me.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? To the Internet! [Is Google Making Us Stupid?]
I guess I better Google this before providing an answer.
It’s All in the Presentation
A panel for artists that discusses various aspects of the art biz.
NASA/JPL Saturn Mission Lecture
A very cool presentation (I’ve seen earlier versions of it) by friend and fellow JPL Solar System Ambassador John Vittallo about the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Non-Traditional Publishing Options
A look at publishing Ebooks, self-publishing, Amazon, etc.
When Does a Computer Become a Robot?
I would think the answer to this is obvious: when it sprouts arms and legs and is able to fetch.
Writing Nonfiction
A panel for folks who are interested in writing nonfiction.

I’ve listed a lot of panels here but have not checked the program schedule for time conflicts and given my luck I’ll probably actually make less than half of them. I also hope to attend at least some of the convention’s art auction on Saturday night. I still have to decide on whether or not I am going to participate in the convention’s art show.

Reference Links

If you’re attending Capricon, I hope that you are able to find the time to catch my presentation The Art of Jim Plaxco.

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