Have you been to a SETI Talk? They’re right here in Mountain View, at Microsoft and they’re free. I went to one last week. It was led by Andrew Skemer, an assistant professor from UC Santa Cruz. Here's a link to the talk on SETI's Youtube channel.
Here’s a link to more information about the SETI Institute. And here’s a link to their upcoming talks. It’s fascinating to hear directly from the scientists that are making the discoveries that shape research about the future. And I had just watched The Martian the night before I went to the talk, so I kept thinking about whether or not the exoplants that were being talked about could support human life.
The talks are held in the Galileo Room at Microsoft and it’s very nice. I went to another talk years ago at SETI’s office on Bernardo and they had a DIY peanut butter and jelly sandwich station in the back of the room since the event was at lunchtime. It’s not like that anymore… It’s way classier at Microsoft.
Andy Skemer’s talk was called “Characterizing the Coldest Exoplanets.” He shared with the group his interest in the specialized instruments that help scientists/astronomers talk photos of and study stars and planets in solar systems that are farther away than our own solar system. They’re both physically and chemically complex, which makes them fascinating to study. The main goal of his project is to show directly imaged planets. He was incredibly passionate about his work, and even though I have no experience looking at what he studies, he explained it in a way that I could understand and I really enjoyed it.
There were about 70 people in the Microsoft auditorium for the talk. Afterwards, one could venture into the Microsoft employee store or the cafeteria, which is where I headed. I just got in line where the line was the longest, because I figured that must be the best food. Turned out it was the Indian food section of the cafeteria and I was in line with a bunch of engineers. I had a huge plate full of Indian food for $5.50. What a great deal! I noticed that there were other people eating lunch on the patio who had also attended the SETI talk with me.
As I was driving back to my office I noticed that listening to the SETI Talk had given me a new perspective on my day, since I usually tend to think about the small picture and only focus on what is happening in my immediate area. But by listening to Andy talk about his research and new discoveries that astronomers are finding in other solar systems, it somehow made me feel like I didn’t need to worry about the little things.
The SETI Talks are weekly and free and right here in our community, "the center of technological excellence" according to Andy Skemer. I agree. It doesn’t get any better than this. I love Mountain View.