Wednesday, December 15, 2021
5:30 pm EST
Thursday, December 16, 2021
10:00 am EST
A few years ago, NASA published an amazing series of exoplanet travel posters jointly developed by artists, designers, and scientists. The project exemplified art-centered outreach efforts by NASA and other space agencies. Panelists will discuss these efforts and how they are being used to promote understanding and generate interest in space exploration.
11:30 am EST
Really Weird Science: An introduction to Real Quantum Computing
Kevin Roche, Advisory Engineer-Scientist, Quantum Ambassador, Qiskit Advocate, IBM Research Almaden
The hype around Quantum Computing makes it hard to tell what is real and what is marketing. Kevin will try to dispel those clouds of uncertainty, starting with an introduction to the weird science that enables this new technology, and demonstrating how you can try out real quantum computers yourself (for free!) on the IBM Quantum Labs website. This presentation is intended for an interested audience with any level of technical background (no fancy mathematics required!)
1:00 pm EST
Bespoke shoemaker SunnyJim Morgan takes you on a tour of what’s on your feet. Ever wondered what makes an Oxford different from a derby? How high heels are made? Are elves involved? We’ll cover that, as well as some history of shoes and shoemaking, the parts of a shoe, methods of construction, materials used, and a few of the places you can go to learn more.
5:30 pm EST
The Nommo Award, presented by The African Speculative Fiction Society, recognizes works of speculative fiction by Africans, defined as “sf, fantasy, stories of magic and traditional belief, alternative histories, horror and strange stuff that might not fit in anywhere else.” Awards are given in categories for novel, novella, short story, and graphic novel. Four winners will discuss their work and read excerpts in prerecorded presentations. The master of ceremonies is Sheree Renée Thomas.
Climate Change Science, Mitigation, & Adaptation — Ted Weber
This presentation will describe the physics behind the greenhouse effect and how it is increasing temperatures and changing the climate. Then I’ll discuss methods to reduce future warming and damage, and how to adapt to warming that’s already occurring. Mitigation strategies include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pulling them out of the atmosphere, and reflecting excess heat into space. Adaptation strategies include resistance, resilience, and transformation.
Feeding the sparrowhawk while the sky breathes fire — Claire McCague
In 2020, fossil-fuel CO2 emissions temporarily dropped by 5-7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane both rose. While optimists insist we can and must invent a pathway to rapidly decrease emissions, pragmatists point at the gap between emission reduction targets and the historic pace of global energy transitions. The greenhouse gas problem is a complicated hot mess. What are we going to do about it?
7:00 pm EST
Artificial Intelligence: Past, Present, Futures — John Ashmead
From neural nets and genetic algorithms to facial recognition and deep fakes, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere today. What exactly do we mean by AI? How did AI get where it is today? What role will it play in our lives? What are the benefits and risks of AI? And when will we have real AI?
Neural network attack vectors — Avani Wildani
Neural networks in the brain are sparsely connected, composed of components with an over 50% failure rate, and still amazingly consistent in their high-level behavior over time. We are building models of biologically plausible neural networks to help explain how the brain can protect against a malicious adversary while keeping networks tiny, low power, and easily trained. Using parameters taken from the somatosensory cortex, we have built a prototype simulator to show the relationships between connectivity and severity of possible attacks.
8:30 pm EST
Friday, December 17, 2021
10:00 am EST
Two academic talks:
Hirotaka Osawa: SF Prototyping for Business Innovation
SF prototyping is a business thinking method for utilizing science fiction narrative for making innovative ideas when considering the design of future societies. The method is getting famous in the US, China, and Japan. We compared it with conventional scenario planning in 9 groups, and the results were analyzed by 14 business experts with Mitsubishi Research Institute. The results suggest that the SF prototyping approach is more provocative and fun than the scenario planning approach.
Jesper Stage: Do Androids Dream of Taking Your Job?
In the past, technological breakthroughs have often led to job losses in individual economic sectors, but average wages have usually gone up and overall employment has generally increased as well. Might things be different in the future? What might artificial intelligence and robots mean for the labor market? This talk will look at some of the real-world economics of the impacts of technological change on the labor market and compare with how we see this depicted in science fiction.
11:30 am EST
Got a book coming out? Got a project you want people to know about? Are you an expert in something? Then you need to get your voice heard in the media! It’s not as scary as you might think it is, but good prep, a little research and some training can turn you into the kind of source reporters will want to speak to again and again. And each time, they’ll mention your book, or your craft, or your business, or your project! Randee Dawn is a veteran entertainment journalist for outlets including Variety, the LA Times and Today.com, and she’ll show you in this special interactive workshop how to be the one fielding the questions … and the one with all the answers.
Introduction to the James Webb Space Telescope, Scott Rohrbach
The James Webb Space Telescope will launch during DisCon III, on December 18, 2021. Scott will give us an overview of this new telescope’s capabilities as well as the plans the astronomical community has for exploring exoplanets, far-away galaxies, and numerous other astronomical phenomena.
1:00 pm EST
A fresh biography of Galileo Galilei which puts his scientific discoveries in context. Disturbed by rampant science denial in America that has only intensified in recent years, I researched the life, ideas, and actions of this brilliant man who encountered similar challenges centuries ago. The result is a fascinating biography filled with lessons relevant for today—whether with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. I will discuss a few of these topics in this talk. My book GALILEO and the Science Deniers was selected by The Washington Post as one of the best books of 2020.
2:30 pm EST
We are honored to host DisCon III Special Guest Sheree Renée Thomas, winner of the 2001 and the 2005 World Fantasy Award for Year’s Best Anthology in conversation with Danian Darrell Jerry: writer, and teacher of literature and composition at the University of Memphis.
5:30 pm EST
What’s New in the World of Dinosaurs? — Tom Holtz
Their age might long be over, but new information is discovered about the dinosaurs every year. Paleontologist Thomas Holtz discusses the latest discoveries about dinosaurs, and what they mean for our understanding of these magnificent animals.
Navigating the Genome: The Final Frontier — Doug Dluzen, Chris Dardick
Gene editing technology is no stranger to fiction, often serving as a vehicle to envision sometimes wonderful, sometimes dystopian, futures. This talk with highlight the latest breakthroughs of human genome editing capabilities, including its usage in medicine, disease control, and information storage. Examples from famous works for fiction will guide a discussion on common misconceptions, the ethics of shaping our own evolution, and the practicality of gene editing for space travel.
Three academic talks:
Emad El-Din Aysha: Sufi Science Fiction
Sufism has been deployed many times in genre works, not least SF. Sufism however is lacking in Arabic and Islamic science fiction. The situation is changing as Arab SF authors, old and young, brave this fledging subgenre. The downside is commercialization and commodification of Sufism and Islam.
Ahmad Al-Mahdi: Law, Economics and Arabic Science Fiction
World-building involves translation. There is futurespeak but also the way a world is introduced via motifs and tropes the audience can recognize, a process of familiarization analogues to translation. Linguistic translation of a work of science fiction involves another layer, a shift from one cultural-historical set of experiences to another.
Simone Pettine: The Birth of Science Fiction in Italy
This paper will discuss the first sf novel published in Italy, by Dino Buzzati in 1960: Il grande ritratto. Using the strategies of textual criticism, the proposal therefore aims to make a point of the influences that led to the drafting of Il grande ritratto of Dino Buzzati, as well as the themes that it left as a starting point for posterity.
10:00 pm EST
The Internet of Power, Pat Bahn
As the fossil energy economy begins to exceed climatological reserves and a climate emergency is occurring, the potential for a new era of smart energy production can expand. Renewables driven by subsurface, surface energy allows the growth of non-variable cost structures in power generation. An era of SuperPower will produce the energy needed for true interplanetary economies.
Mars or Bust?, Katie Mack;
There’s been plenty of talk about sending humans to Mars, but how feasible is it, really? What limits our ability to live on Mars right now, and what technology needs to be developed to get us there? I’ll summarize all the thorny issues of interplanetary travel and habitation, and why we might (or might not) soon be leaving footprints in the Martian dust.
Exploring Titan, Geoffrey Landis.
Titan, Saturn’s moon, is the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere and bodies of liquid on the surface. But on Titan, the liquid is not water, but hydrocarbons— lakes of liquid methane and ethane. This talk will discuss why Titan is important and give details on some proposals for possible future missions to Titan.
Saturday, December 18, 2021
1:00 pm EST
Two academic talks:
Bradford Lyau: Robert A. Heinlein: Radical Moderate and the Enlightenment
Analyzing Robert A. Heinlein in light of recent revisions of the Enlightenment and studies analyzing Heinlein works. The different, often conflicting ideological slants used to describe Heinlein’s politics could be explained in part by this analysis. I will use Jonathan Israel’s recent studies of the Enlightenment as the basis of this era’s recent revisions.
Annie Sheng: Taste and Longing in Asian SF
Humans transform identities and histories through relationships with food in imagined futures. I draw from anthropological analysis and Asian SF stories to examine how people make meaning of their lives through food. An example is machinery, corporeality, and the desire for taste present in futures featuring humanity and the synthetic in Xia Jia, Indrapramit Das and Isabel Yap’s works. From noodle stalls to fruits of the homeland, sensory-rich scenes of food are layered with analytical meaning.
4:00 pm EST
Two academic talks:
Laura Osur: Alt-Histories Against Technological Determinism.
For All Mankind (Apple TV+, 2019-) and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series (2018, 2020) present alternative histories of the space race. Read in conversation with each other and as part of a global debate around ethical technology and the commercialization of space, these two properties argue against the theory of technological determinism and for a more active, nuanced, and gendered discussion of the history and future of technological development.
Jenna N. Hanchey: Africanfuturism as Developmental Rebellion.
I examine how Africanfuturism pushes back against Western visions of development through what Nyerere calls developmental rebellion. Examining the work of Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, Wanuri Kahiu, Suyi Davis Okungbowa, & Tendai Huchu, I trace four ways that Africanfuturism decolonizes development. Africanfuturism: (1) releases radical desire; (2) recreates ecological contexts; (3) uses alien technology in decolonial ways; and (4) limns alternative possibilities for life itself.
Black Holes for Fun and Profit — Katie Mack
Our understanding of black holes has increased dramatically, and we’ve discovered entire populations of them that defy our current best astronomical explanations. I’ll give an overview of the science of black holes and an up-to-date summary of what we’ve learned through gravitational waves, observations of the black hole in our own galaxy’s center, and the incredible effort to take a photo of a black hole in another galaxy.
Spectrum Wars – The Battle for Radio Frequencies — Keith Gremban
Radio frequency (RF) spectrum is a scarce, but infinitely renewable resource. RF spectrum is critical to our 21st century lives – in ways that often conflict with each other. Earth observation satellites are critical to everything from weather forecasting to assessing crop health. The same frequencies are also in demand for telecommunications. We will review the applications that depend on RF spectrum, review the state-of-the-art in managing RF spectrum, and present some of the mechanisms – technical and legal – that are being developed to provide fair access to radio frequencies.
Why is Lt. Uhura’s costume at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture? How did the National Air and Space Museum come to display both the 11-foot studio model of Star Trek‘s Starship Enterprise and a full-size T-70 X-wing vehicle from Star Wars? Join Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, a curator and the chair of the space history department at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for a virtual discussion of their space science fiction holdings.
5:30 pm EST
Exoplanets — Padi Boyd
In 1992 the first planet orbiting a star other than our Sun was discovered. Since then, almost 5000 planets in 3600 systems have been added to our catalogue of exoplanets. We will discuss the latest findings and marvel at the variety (and new types) of worlds that exist.
Exoplanet Worldbuilding in Science Fiction — Emma Johanna Puranen.
Real exoplanets were first discovered in the past few decades, but science fiction authors have been writing about worlds outside our solar system for much longer. How does the diversity of fictional exoplanets compare to real-world discoveries? How are writers influenced by science? We apply data science techniques to a database of fictional exoplanets to investigate how this current era of unprecedented exoplanet discovery has impacted the way writers worldbuild their fictional exoplanets.
7:00 pm EST
Look at the ingredient list of your favorite and ultra-premium ice cream. What is all that stuff, and what does it contribute to what should be a simple concoction of dairy, sugar, flavoring, and air? How does temperature affect the texture of ice cream, and why is ice the absolute last thing you want to notice? We’ll look at the factors involved in making the best homemade ice cream. Whether you are a beginner or not, you’ll learn something that will help you step up your ice cream game.
8:30 pm EST
Mathematical Models of the Spread of Diseases, Opinions, Information, and Misinformation — Mason A. Porter
Social networks have a huge effect on the spread of diseases, memes, opinions, and information in a population. In this presentation, I’ll give an introduction to the mathematical modeling of the spread of both diseases and opinions. I’ll also discuss the importance of these ideas to the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated “infodemics” online.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
10:00 am EST
Contextualizing Physics Innovation and Entrepreneurship connecting Mindset to Skillset — Bahram Roughani, Randy Jones
Physics education faces challenges in student engagement. This can be due to the techno-centric approach in physics education with little or no attention devoted to exploring the relationship between physics concepts and human needs. To enhance engagement we may need to focus on the “why” in order to inspire purpose and passion for learning physics. We will discuss the potential impact of contextualizing Physics in real world application based on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and will present specific examples.
The Quantum Internet: Hype or the Next Step? — John Ashmead
What do we mean by the quantum internet? Why do we need more than just quantum computing? What are quantum cryptography, quantum key distribution, quantum sensors? How are these concepts entangled? What are the advantages of the quantum internet? key problems? Who will get to use it? And do we have just a bunch of interesting technologies that all have quantum in their name or can the whole be more than the sum of its parts?