Sagan Seminars

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Letter of Interest Deadline: March 3, 2017

SAGAN MEETINGS are new for TVIW 2017. Carl Sagan famously employed this format for his 1971 conference at the Byurakan Observatory in old Soviet Armenia, which dealt with the Drake Equation. Sagan solicited short presentations from top scientists (e.g. – Freeman Dyson) on each factor in the Equation, followed by a healthy debate and a drive to consensus.

TVIW 2017 will have three separate 2-hour Sagan Meetings, each dealing with a separate topic. Five 10-minute presentations will be accepted for each Sagan Meeting, after which presenters will sit on a panel to engage in a lively discussion and debate with the general audience. The conversations will be recorded and documented for inclusion into the conference proceeding and possible journal publication.

For TVIW 2017, the topics are:

Day 1 (Wed): In honor of this format’s origins, the first TVIW Sagan Meeting will deal with a variation on the Drake Equation put forth by astronomer Sara Seager. This equation describes the probability of detecting life on alien planets, specifically with a bent toward the detection of biogenic gases in alien atmospheres. This is a considerably less ambitious equation than Drake’s, because it doesn’t attempt to predict the probabilities of alien intelligence, or the behavior of such intelligent lifeforms. It is nevertheless particularly relevant in today’s environment of rapid exoplanet discovery and our impending ability to determine these planet’s atmospheric contents. How likely are we to detect biosignatures in the spectra of exoplanets?

Day 2 (Thurs): Flyby or Deceleration? Can worthwhile science be accomplished by a flyby interstellar mission? Or conversely, can enough worthwhile science be performed by a fully-decelerated interstellar mission to justify increase in cost and time? If BOTH approaches have merit, then what should be the optimal role of each? This has particular relevance in light of recently-published work promoting each.

Day 3 (Fri): Mission Longevity. All the proposed interstellar missions take from 40 years (for a flyby) to 100 years (for a decelerated mission). For most of this time, the vessel is so far from Earth that round-trip communications are measured in years, so the vessel has to be mostly self-sufficient. Voyager has survived for over 30 years thanks to its simplicity alone, with few moving parts. The Daedalus team proposed a pair of autonomous R2D2 robots to maintain the vessel. Firefly relies on redundancy and some on-board repair using 3D printing and a Canada arm. How can a vessel be designed to survive this long? How too can we ensure longevity for the organization here on Earth that manages the mission?

If you would like to share your ideas on one of these topics during the Sagan Meetings, then please submit a short abstract, no more than 400 words, identifying which Sagan Meeting you would like to join, and what your position is on that meeting’s topic.  

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