Science at Balticon

Balticon takes the term “Science” in its title of being a science fiction and fantasy convention very seriously. Balticon runs a complete track of over 30 hours of science programming featuring world class scientists. Here is the draft schedule for the science track. It is subject to change.

Friday May 24 2019
Homeland Suite
4:00 PM Skeptics
5:00 PM “Vaccinations and prenatal vaccinations” John Skylar
6:00 PM “From Corvus to Keyhole: Shipyards—Past, Present, and Science Fiction” Jim Beall. Shipyards in history (including Rome, Venice, and WWII), present day, and SF treatments.
7:00 PM “The impacts of changing climate and variable weather on U.S. agriculture and research efforts to help ensure adaptation and sustainable production.” Marlen D. Eve, Ph.D., Deputy Administrator Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems USDA Agricultural Research Service
8:00 PM Con opening ceremonies
9:30 – 11:30 PM Meet the Scientists Social (Presidential Suite)

Saturday May 25, 2019
Homeland Suite
9:00 AM “The DART Mission: We’re Knocking an Asteroid Off-Course!” Dr. Timothy Miller, JHU-APL. NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Rendezvous Test) mission is set for launch in 2021 and a rendezvous with asteroid Didymos B in 2022.  DART will be the first test of planetary defense via kinetic deflection.  Dr. Miller will tell us all about DART and also some about NASA’s planetary defense program in general, including contrasts between Hollywood versions of the concept and the soon-to-be real thing.
10:00 AM “Apollo 11: Safely to Earth” Jack Clemons. Drawing from Jack’s time on Apollo, an insider’s view of NASA’s Apollo Moon Program. An account of Jack’s responsibilities as one of the young engineers working on the greatest adventure of our times. Jack will include vintage photographs and anecdotes drawn from his time as a lead engineer supporting the Apollo astronauts during their return flight from the Moon. He’ll also share some little known stories about the technologies and teamwork that made Apollo 11 a success and saved the Apollo 13 mission from near disaster.
11:00 AM “High-energy astrophysics, cosmic gamma-ray bursts and solar gamma-ray flares.” C. Alex Young, Asst Director of Science, Heliosphere, Goddard Space Flight Center
12:00 PM “Prehistoric Mammals!” Ryan Haupt – with color commentary (kibbutzing) Dr. Thomas Holtz
1:00 PM “Synthetic Biology” Ronald Taylor, PhD, High Performance Computing and Informatics Office, NIH, Dr. Jennifer Waller, Anna Kashina, PhD, John Skylar, PhD
2:00 PM “MS Research” Dr. Bibiana Bielekova, NIH
3:00 PM “Data ethics and crunching” Michelle Seibert Appel, U of MD. and Fred Yost, Apple
4:00 PM “Time Dispersion & Quantum Mechanics” John Ashmead. Is time fuzzy? We know from quantum mechanics that space is fuzzy, that particles don’t have a well-defined position in space. And we know from special relativity that time and space are interchangeable. But if they are interchangeable, shouldn’t time be fuzzy as well? Shouldn’t the rules of quantum mechanics apply — along the time dimension? Bohr and Einstein — who disagreed on so much — nevertheless agreed on this. And thanks to recent technical advances in measurements at short, at seriously short and at even shorter than seriously short times, we can now put this to the test! We discuss: How do you get a clock in a box? How do you interfere with time? And when is one slit better than two? Presented for your consideration: the edge of the known: where time and the quantum mechanic meet.

Watertable B/C
5:00 PM “Mummy Facial Reconstructions” Meg Swaney, Egyptian Art & Archaeology, Johns Hopkins University
6:00 PM “Nuclear Jet Engines” Sean Gallagher, Arstechnica
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Songs of Science celebrating Mars and Opportunity Rover, M.C. Gary Ehrlich, with Emily Lewis, James Thorne and friends

Sunday May 26, 2019
Homeland Suite
9:00 AM “Finding signs of life on the surface of inhospitable planets” Dr. Dina Bower, UMCP, CRESST II, Planetary Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry Laboratory, NASA Goddard. Dr. Bower works on methods to investigate mineral samples at microscopic scales for things like current or past life. She recently completed a field trip to Iceland to test field methods that could one day be deployed to Mars or other places.
10:00 AM “Digital Disaster Recovery” Leslie Johnston, Director of Digital Preservation, US National Archives
11:00 AM “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed” Eric Cline, George Washington University
NOON “The Veterinary and Medical Care of Shapeshifters” Karen Purcell, veterinarian, and Suzanne Buck
1:00 PM “Big Cats Rescue and Care, continued”, Suzanne Buck and Karen Purcell
2:00 PM “That’s No Moon… – Detecting the Exoplanets (and Death Stars) of Science Fiction from Home” Noam Izenberg, JHU/APL
3:00 PM “Newly Explored Far Out Ultima Thule plus the Latest Updates for the Oumuamua Interstellar Traveler Story” Carey Lisse

Maryland Ballroom – Main Tent
4:00 PM “The Secret Lives of Crystals: How Minerals and Life Co-Evolved” Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM “Dinosaurs, the Update” Dr. Thomas Holtz, U of MD, CP

Mt. Washington Suite
9:00 PM – 10:30 PM “Industrializing the Solar System with Solar System Economics” Gregory Benford

Monday May 27, 2019
Homeland Suite
9:00 AM “Teasing Out Cause and Effect in Data: How scientists solve difficult problems regarding cause and effect using data” Andy Love
10:00 AM “Thorne’s Solution of the Lambert Problem (time-explicit power series solution for initial orbit determination); continuous-thrust trajectory optimization.” Dr. James Thorne
11:00 AM “Aquatic Dinosaurs, Triassic Krakens, and Miniature Fossil Princesses: Evaluating Fringe and Pseudoscience Ideas in Paleontology” Dr. Thomas Holtz
Noon “Planetary Impacts: Harbingers of Creation and Destruction” Jennifer A. Grier. Impact events are massive explosions powered by tremendous kinetic energy. In spite of this, impacts in the solar system are not only destructive events; impacts are responsible for creation, as well. For example, we suspect the water available to us today may well have been delivered by cometary impacts long in the past. From the origin of the planets, to the advent of life on earth, and through to our current assessments of impact hazards to human civilization, this presentation by a professional planetary scientist will provide a fun, informative, and engaging look at planetary impacts for science fans, writers, and space lovers.
1:00 PM “All of Biology in 60 Minutes or Less” Sam Scheiner, National Science Foundation
2:00 PM “Mars, with updates from all the latest missions” Dr. Inge Heyer
3:00 PM “Toxic Waste Remediation (and science fiction)” Ira P May, Chief, Federal Assessment and Remediation Division, Maryland Department of Environment