Astronomy Lecture Series: A Scientist Looks at
April 21, 2010
7 to 8:30 p.m.

As part of the 11th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer David Morrison, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center, will present A Scientist Looks at "Doomsday 2012" &
The Rise of Cosmophobia
, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 21, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Many people have heard the rumors through the media, on the Internet, seeing the big-budget movie, or from friends that the world will end in 2012--and that some astronomical event or alignment is to blame. According to some versions, this “doomsday” scenario was predicted by ancient civilizations and we are just waking up to “the truth.” Is there scientific basis to these rumors?

Dr. Morrison runs Ask an Astrobiologist, a Web site through which the public can ask NASA questions about life in the universe, and for the past two years he has found himself overwhelmed by questions on the “2012 doomsday” topic. He has now tracked down many of the stories that gave rise to a new fear of the heavens--what he calls "cosmophobia". At the April 21 lecture, he will discuss the scientific perspective on the chances that we won't be around after 2012. There are lessons here about the way a scientifically unsophisticated segment of the public can be manipulated by hoaxers out to make a buck by frightening people.

Morrison is the director of NASA's Lunar Science Institute and director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life at the SETI Institute. A world-renowned planetary scientist and expert in the field of asteroid impacts, he is the author of more than 155 technical papers and has published a dozen popular books and introductory textbooks. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his scientific and educational work, including the Sagan Medal of the American Astronomical Society for public communication. Dr. Morrison was a founder of the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology, which is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. This multidisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and other bodies in our Solar System, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space. Asteroid 2410 Morrison is named in his honor, but he assures us that it is not one of those that might hit the Earth.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format.

Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 from yellow dispensers in student lots. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access or call (650) 949-7888.
Phone us at: (650) 949-7888
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Special Notice: Admission is free; parking permit required.