Program Participants


Our CONTACT 2018 speakers are listed below.
Speakers, topics and abstract links will be added
as they become available.

Nora Bateson

Topic: "The Bateson Legacy: Identity in Complexity"
Bio: Nora Bateson, president, International Bateson Institute, is an Author, lecturer, and filmmaker.
Nora is a thought leader on complex systems and daughter of Gregory Bateson, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20thCentury. She grew up living and breathing a systemic perspective, it is embodied within her. She brings art and science together and a true felt sense for a systems approach. Author of Small Arcs of Larger Circles, (2016) a core text of the Harvard Innovation Lab. Director of award winning film An Ecology of Mind.



Penelope J. Boston

Topic: "Chasing the Elusive, a Lifetime on the Hunt."
Bio: Dr. Penelope Boston is Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NASA Ames Research Center, CA). From 2002-2016, she served as Associate Director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (Carlsbad, NM) and Professor and Chair of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Dept. at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, NM). Research areas include geomicrobiology and astrobiology in extreme environments (especially caves and mines, hot and cold deserts, high latitudes and altitudes); geological processes creating caves on other planets and moons; human life support issues in space and planetary environments; and use of robotics and other technologies to assist exploration and advance science in extreme Earth and extraterrestrial environments. She holds a PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Boston received the 2010 Science Award from the National Speleological Society, and the Caving Legend Award from the Ft. Stanton Cave Study Project/Bureau of Land Management.


Harry A. Butowsky

Topic: "NASA-NPS partnerships"
Bio: Dr. Harry A. Butowsky retired in 2012 from the National Park Service in Washington D.C. where he worked as an historian, and manager of the National Park Service History e-Library web site. From 1981 to 1990, Dr. Butowsky completed several National Park Service reports and theme studies on the American Space Program and the history of American Astronomy including: Man in Space Recon Survey,1981; National Historic Landmark Nomination for Cape Canaveral AFS, 1982; Man in Space NHL Theme Study; Astronomy and Astrophysics NHL Theme Study, 1989. Dr. Butowsky also published articles about the American Space program in the NPS Cultural Resources Management Bulletinand Space World magazine. After his retirement Dr. Butowsky created www.npshistory.com, which has 25,000 articles and receives 50,000 visitors a month. Dr. Butowsky currently teaches History of World Wars I and II at George Mason University.


Nathalie A. Cabrol

Topic: "From Habitability to Life: The Changing Nature of Planetary and Space Exploration."
Bio: Nathalie is the Director of SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center where she spearheads a new multidisciplinary roadmap to bridge astrobiology and SETI. She has a background in planetary and environmental sciences, and astrobiology. Her research focuses on the exploration of habitability and life beyond Earth.

She counts over 470 peer-reviewed publications and proceedings of professional conferences, and is the author of three books, and 10 chapters of books on the subject of planetary science and exploration, astrobiology, and terrestrial extreme environments.

Nathalie is the recipient of NASA and other research awards. She is a Carey Fellow (Wings Worldquest Women of Discovery - Air and Space, 2007), and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 2016. She was honored to present the Sagan Lecture at AGU in December 2016. She has given over 400 public lectures on the subjects of planetary science, exploration, and the search for life beyond Earth. Nathalie holds the world record for woman diving at altitude (scuba and free diving).



William J. Clancey

Topic: "The Okeanos Explorer: How robotically mediated field science beneath the sea compares to roving on Mars."
Bio: William J. Clancey is a computer scientist whose research relates cognitive and social science in the study of work practices and the design of agent systems. He received a PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University and Mathematical Sciences BA at Rice University. He has developed artificial intelligence applications for medicine, education, robotics, and spaceflight systems. At the Institute for Research on Learning (1987-1997), he co-developed ethnographic methods for studying and modeling work systems. At NASA Ames Research Center, as Chief Scientist of Human-Centered Computing, Intelligent Systems Division (1998-2013), he led projects with Johnson Space Center, notably automating file management between Mission Control and the International Space Station, which received the JSC Exceptional Software Award. His studies relating people and technology include numerous field science expeditions ranging from the Mars analog research in the Canadian High Arctic to a robotic oceanography expedition in Polynesia. He is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, Association for Psychological Science, Association for Advancement of AI, and the National Academy of Inventors. His book, Working on Mars: Voyages of Scientific Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers, received the AIAA 2014 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award.


Jay Cole

Topic: "The Greenbank NHS proposal
Bio: Jay Cole serves as Senior Advisor to the President of West Virginia University (WVU). His scholarly interests include science policy, the history of science, and the impact of science fiction literature on public opinion. Under this broad umbrella, he is particularly interested in the history--and future--of the Green Bank Observatory, a radio astronomy facility located in his home state of West Virginia. In a National Parks Traveler op-ed earlier this year, he proposed the creation of a new radio astronomy national historic park that would include Green Bank, Arecibo, and the Jansky Very Large Array. Cole earned a PhD in Public Policy in Higher Education at the University of Michigan, a MA in Educational Policy and Leadership from The Ohio State University, and a BA in Political Science and History from WVU. He has been a Harry S. Truman Scholar, a Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academies, and a European Union Young Leader Delegate.


Bruce Damer

Topic: "The SHEPHERD concept for sustainable spaceflight & Mars exploration"
Bio: Bruce Damer is a research scientist at UC Santa Cruz, designer of user interfaces and computing technologies since the 1980s, team lead for a decade of spacecraft and mission simulation projects for NASA, curator of the DigiBarn Computer Museum, and frequent speaker on science, space, and general interest topics. He earned his PhD in 2011 at University College Dublin, in Ireland for work on the EvoGrid: An Approach to Computational Origin of Life Endeavours. For more, see his personal site and podcast at: www.damer.com.


Chris Ford

Topic: "A future vision for the public astronomical experience."
Bio: Chris Ford is a leading authority in computer graphics software, photorealistic imaging and the entertainment industry. Recently Business Director at Pixar Animation Studios, Chris previously held key positions at Autodesk as Director of Product Management for all Media & Entertainment software applications, and at
Alias | Wavefront (SGI) as Senior Product Manager for Maya, the worlds leading professional CG digital content creation software. During his terms of leadership, digital media production applications managed by Chris have been awarded three Academy Awards for technological innovation and he is credited in twelve feature films. Chris is also an active amateur astronomer and astrophotographer with a specific interest in explaining the universe through immersive visualization. In 2011, Chris joined the Board of Directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), one of the nations largest 501c3 organizations dedicated to STEM education through the medium of astronomy, and was elected President of the Society in 2016.



Gus Frederick

Topic: "Hungry Dragons: Waiting for the Moon Shadow"
Bio: Gus Frederick is an Instructional Technologist for the Fire and Life Safety Education Branch of the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal. A third-generation Freethinker, he is active in his community of Silverton in a number of areas including serving on the Planning Commission, Historical Society Board and most recently with the creation of the Liberal University Press, publisher of local historical tomes, in honor of the Liberal University of Oregon, the first Free Thought center of higher learning West of the Mississippi, founded in Silverton in 1897.


Jim Funaro

Topic: "CONTACT, The Big Two-Hearted Conference: the Arts and the Sciences"
Bio: Jim Funaro, founder of CONTACT, is professor emeritus in Anthropology at Cabrillo College in California, which has honored him with its highest award for teaching excellence. He has presented more than fifty papers in various professional venues. Publications demonstrating his broad research interests are "Anthropologists as Culture Designers for Offworld Colonies" and "On the Cultural Impact of Extraterrestrial Contact." Jim's personal and professional approach to life combines the sciences and the arts. Besides his graduate degrees in Anthropology (OSU, UC Davis), he holds a BA cum laude in Literature (Denison U) and is a published poet; he won the American Anthropological Association's 1997 prize for poetry with "The Dancing Stones of Callanish."


Thomas Gangale

Topic: "The Outer Limits of Space Law."
Bio: Thomas Gangale has a bachelor's in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California, a master's in international relations from San Francisco State University, and a doctorate in space law from the University of Nebraska. As a USAF officer, he provided contract and technical management on the Gambit, Hexagon, and Boost Surveillance and Tracking System programs as well as for payloads on STS-4 and STS-39. He is the author of two published books. A new book, tentatively titled How High the Sky: The Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space and Territorial Airspace in International Law, is scheduled for publication in 2018.


Joel Hagen

Topic: "Art and Science, Ghosts Nudging the Mind and Hand."
Bio: Joel Hagen works with NASA processing images from the Opportunity Mars rover. He has worked with science teams on the Pathfinder, MER and Phoenix missions. Joel also designs extra-terrestrial life forms and biomes. His work has appeared on PBS, BBC, NHK in Japan, Discovery and National Geographic channels. Joel is an award-winning artist and animator and one of the founding members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. His paintings have hung in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum and the Gagarin Center in Moscow. Joel is a retired professor and writer in the field of computer graphics and cofounder of CONTACT.


Howard Heard

Topic: "The Engineering of Art: Contact with Ourselves and the Things We Make."
Bio: Howard Heard graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles with a degree in Motion Picture Production and has been a narrative picture editor for 42 years, working on forty-seven feature films. Other post-production credits include Risky Business (1983) and My Favorite Year (1982), and more than fifty hours of prime time episodic television including "St Elsewhere," "Beverly Hills 90210," pilots, miniseries, four documentaries, and other shorts and commercials. As of the present he has served as an Adjunct Professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA for 22 years, and continues to edit films and help friends develop new feature projects.


Jeroen Lapré

Topic: "Maelstrom Revisited"
Bio: With over 13 years of feature film visual effects experience while at Industrial Light & Magic, Jeroen is celebrating his 7th year as Senior Technical Director in the Visualization Studio, at the California Academy of Sciences. The Visualization Studio team works on internally produced dome productions for the visiting public.


Steve McDaniel

Topic: "CHEAP DEEP WIDE & FAST: Thoroughly Canvasing The Solar System for Earth-Like Microbial Life Within a Human Generation."
Bio: Steve McDaniel received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Texas in 1974, a Master of Science in Genetics from Texas A & M University in 1976, his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Texas A & M University in 1985, after which he finalized his technical training as a post-doctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine. He has published numerous scientific works in his areas of expertise. In 1991, he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Houston. He is the managing partner of McDaniel & Associates, P.C. (www.technologylitigators.com.), a law firm he established in 1999, whose attorneys specialize in technology litigation and intellectual property protection.
Steve founded Reactive Surfaces in 2002 and currently serves as that company's Managing Member and Chief Innovation Officer. Reactive Surfaces builds bio-based functionalized coatings and additives. His company was awarded the 2008 American Coatings Award for its innovative technology. He holds numerous patents in the US and elsewhere related to his work on bio-based functional coatings.

Steve is a life-long, avid space enthusiast and amateur astrobiologist. He co-founded Explore Mars, served and commanded missions at simulated Martian desert and arctic habitats for the Mars Society, and served as biologist for the Swedish Polar Expedition team investigating gully formation and microbiology in the Norwegian polar regions. He is a frequent speaker on space-related technology, including presentations at conferences on Mars exploration, SETI and published debates on exo-life detection.

Steve founded Reactive Surfaces in 2002 and currently serves as that company's Managing Member and Chief Innovation Officer. Reactive Surfaces builds bio-based functionalized coatings and additives. His company was awarded the 2008 American Coatings Award for its innovative technology. He holds numerous patents in the US and elsewhere related to his work on bio-based functional coatings.

Steve is a life-long, avid space enthusiast and amateur astrobiologist. He co-founded Explore Mars, served and commanded missions at simulated Martian desert and arctic habitats for the Mars Society, and served as biologist for the Swedish Polar Expedition team investigating gully formation and microbiology in the Norwegian polar regions. He is a frequent speaker on space-related technology, including presentations at conferences on Mars exploration, SETI and published debates on exo-life detection.



Christopher P. McKay

Topic: "Earth As Our Training Ground For The Search For Life Elsewhere."
Bio: Chris McKay is Chief Scientist at the Planetary Systems Branch (Code SST) of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, in Mountain View, California.

He majored in physics at Florida Atlantic University, where he also studied mechanical engineering, graduating in 1975, and received his PhD in astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado in 198His research focuses on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He's also actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human exploration. He's been involved with polar and desert research, traveling to the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the Atacama Desert, the Arctic, and the Namib Desert to conduct research in these Mars-like environments.

Chris has done research on extraterrestrial planetary atmospheres, particularly the atmospheres of Titan and Mars, and on the origin and evolution of life. He is a co-investigator on the Huygens probe, the Mars Phoenix lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory. He also performed field research on extremophiles, in such locations as Death Valley, the Atacama Desert, Axel Heiberg Island, and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica.

He is a member of the board of directors of the Planetary Society, a past member of the board of Directors of CONTACT: Cultures of the Imagination, works with the Mars Society, and has written and spoken on space exploration and terraforming. He is also an adviser for the Microbes Mind Forum.



David P. Miller

Topic: "Driving Around the Moon Using Very Poor Video"
Bio: David P. Miller is the Wilkonson Chair and Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He has appointments in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering programs. He is also serves as the President of KISS Institute for Practical Robotics a Not-For-Profit corporation specializing in STEM activities and coding education. His teaching focuses on coding, robotics and space science.

His research activities center around the application of robot systems and control to improve education, mobility and/or the human experience of controlling mobile devices. In particular: 1. Smart mobility assistance: Intelligent scooters and wheelchairs. Wheelchairs and similar devices that are situationally aware and can assist the user not only in basic mobility, but also in the control of mobility to help achieve common tasks involving positioning, obstacle avoidance, navigation and control of peripheral devices. 2. Mobility training and amplification: Assistive devices to assist in the user development and acquisition of mobility skills and the cognitive skills related to mobility. 3. Interacting with mobile devices through visual, tactile and haptic interfaces such that control feels natural and has improved performance over more traditional vehicle control interfaces. 4. The use of robotics to engage students in the study of autonomy, automation and the creation of software. Dave Miller lives in Norman Oklahoma with his wife, Cathryne Stein, several saltwater reef tanks, and an uncountable number of computers and Legos.



David Morrison

Topic: "A Real Interstellar Visitor"
Bio: David Morrison is a senior scientist at the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Morrison is the former director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute and of the NASA Lunar Science Institute. He is the past Director of Space at NASA Ames. Morrison is credited as the founder of the multi-disciplinary field of astrobiology. Morrison is best known for his work in risk assessment of near Earth objects such as asteroids and comets. Asteroid 2410 Morrison was named in his honor for his work on the subject since 1991. Morrison also known for his "Ask an Astrobiologist" series on NASA's website where he provides answers to questions submitted by the public about a variety of topics from 2012 doomsday hoaxes to planetary habitability to discovery of planets outside our solar system. He has published 12 books and over 150 papers primarily on Planetary Science, Astrobiology and Near Earth Object subjects.


Gerald D. Nordley

Topic: "Are Dyson Spheres Legal?"
Bio: Gerald David Nordley is an author of fiction (as G. David Nordley) and nonfiction and a consulting astronautical engineer. He lives in Sunnyvale, CA. A retired Air Force officer, he has been involved in spacecraft orbital operations, engineering, and testing as well as research in advanced spacecraft propulsion. As a writer, his main interest is the future of human exploration and settlement of space, and his stories typically focuses on the dramatic aspects of individual lives within the broad sweep of a plausible human future. Gerald is a past Hugo and nebula award nominee as well as a four-time winner of the Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact annual "AnLab" reader's poll. His latest novel is To Climb a Flat Mountain, and the latest book is a collection of stories that take place on this planet, A World Beneath the Stars. See more at his website www.gdnordley.com


Jim Pass

Topic: "
The Human Dimension of Space Exploration"
Bio: Jim Pass received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Southern California in 1991. In 2003, he founded the field of astrosociology. The development of astrosociology as a social-scientific academic field continues to move forward on several fronts. In March of 2011, the 3rd Symposium on Astrosociology took place at the University of Maryland as part of the Space Propulsion, Energy International Forum (SPESIF), though SPESIF has disbanded. From 2003 through 2011, progress occurred mostly in the form of presentations at space and social science conferences. In addition, the introduction of astrosociology took place at the AIAA's Space 2005 conference. From that experience, a core group of individuals led by Dr. Pass developed the Astrosociology Working Group, which later became the Astrosociology Subcommittee.

By May 2008, enough progress existed to justify the creation of the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a mission to develop astrosociology as an academic field and assist others -- especially students -- to participate through education and research. One of the major goals is to move astrosociology into the classroom. As a first step to that end, Dr. Pass taught the first master's level course in astrosociology for the internet-based Kepler Space University in 2010. Another significant achievement occurred in 2011, when the respected journal Astropolitics published a special issue devoted exclusively to astrosociology (January-April, Volume 9, Number 1). Current efforts underway in 2013-2014 include the Astrosociology in the Classroom program, The Journal of Astrosociology, and the Launching Astrosociology textbook.



Douglas Raybeck

Topic: "The Ubiquity of Reciprocity."
Bio: Douglas Raybeck is professor emeritus of anthropology at Hamilton College. He received his PhD in anthropology from Cornell University in 1975. He has published more than 60 papers and six books, four of which were coauthored. Topics have ranged from fieldwork in Kelantan, Malaysia, to psycholinguistics, to study skills, to the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence, and future studies. His most recent book is Looking Down the Road: A Systems Approach to Future Studies. He is widely regarded as a wonderful person.


Kim Stanley Robinson

Topic: "How Science Fiction Works As An Art Form."
Bio: Kim Stanley Robinson is an American writer of speculative science fiction. He has published nineteen novels and numerous short stories but is best known for his award-winning Mars trilogy. Many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural and political themes running through them and often feature scientists as heroes. Robinson has won numerous awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award.


Seth Shostak

Topic: "Great Filters: Why We Don't Have Any Cosmic Company."
Bio: Seth Shostak is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, California. He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University and a doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. For much of his career, Seth conducted radio astronomy research on galaxies, and has published approximately sixty papers in professional journals.

He has also written more than four hundred popular magazine, newspaper and Web articles on various topics in astronomy, technology, film and television. He lectures on astronomy and other subjects at Stanford and other venues in the Bay Area, and for six years was a Distinguished Speaker for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also Chair of the International Academy of Astronautics' SETI Permanent Committee. Every week he hosts the SETI Institute's science radio show, "Big Picture Science."

Seth has written, edited and contributed to a half dozen books. His most recent tome is Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (National Geographic).



Michael Sims

Topic: "Ceres Robotics, and how our effort to make cheap robots for space could change the nature of exploration."
Bio: Michael Sims has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Mathematics and led groups at NASA in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Sims is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Mars Institute and is active in the Mars Exploration Rover mission. He is a long time CONTACT veteran and emeritus member of the CONTACT Board of Directors.


Kelly Smith

Topic: "Exploring "Extra-Scientific" Issues Surrounding astrobiology and Space Exploration."
Bio: Kelly Smith is a philosopher of science who is also trained as an evolutionary biologist. He holds appointments in both Philosophy and Biological Sciences as well as serving as Lemon Fellow of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University. He also oversees the Ethics and Professionalism curriculum as a faculty member of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Kelly believes deeply in the renaissance idea that humanities and science have valuable insights to offer each other and his research is thus highly interdisciplinary, encompassing ethical issues surrounding the search for life on other planets, the scientific conception of “life”, the relation between science and religion, theoretical issues in biology and complexity, as well as bioethics.


Kelly Smith

Topic: "Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology."
Bio: Kelly Smith is a philosopher of science who is also trained as an evolutionary biologist. He holds appointments in both Philosophy and Biological Sciences as well as serving as Lemon Fellow of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University. He also oversees the Ethics and Professionalism curriculum as a faculty member of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Kelly believes deeply in the renaissance idea that humanities and science have valuable insights to offer each other and his research is thus highly interdisciplinary, encompassing ethical issues surrounding the search for life on other planets, the scientific conception of “life”, the relation between science and religion, theoretical issues in biology and complexity, as well as bioethics.


Robert Tyzzer

Topic: "Metalaw 2018: Current Status in Anthropology and Cultural Futures"
Bio: Bob Tyzzer is a retired Anthropologist who has taught at a number of colleges and universities. He received his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1974, and is the co-author of an introductory textbook in Physical Anthropology. He has also taught High School science in several subjects, and was a staff science educator at Explorit Science Center in Davis, California, where he now lives. He is currently a Board Member of Explorit, and serves as Board Secretary. He was a participant at the first CONTACT Conference in 1983, and currently serves as CONTACT Secretary.


His primary focus in Anthropology has been Genetic Demography, Demographic Anthropology, and the population biology of small human communities in both the past and present. However, as a life-long reader of science fiction, he has also developed and taught courses in Anthropology Through Science Fiction at three universities. These courses reflect a long-standing interest in cultural futures, including the possible course of biocultural evolution in small, isolated future human communities beyond the Earth. His interests in the theoretical and practical applications of Metalaw date to the 1980s.



Michael Waltemathe

Topic: "Extrapolating Historical Data of Societal and Religious Change Toward Space Exploration."
Bio: Michael Waltemathe is senior lecturer in religious education at the department of Protestant Theology at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. He is also the Deputy Chief Executive Officer for International Outreach and Education - Europe for the Astrosociology Research Institute (www.astrosociology.org) Michael's academic interests include the relationship between human space exploration and religion, connections between media, art and religion (esp. video-games and religion) and the science-religion debate and its place in religious education. His latest publications include the monograph "Playing Religion. Appropriate use of computer-games in religious education", Hamburg 2011 (German), and the articles "Bridging Multiple Realities: Religion, Play and Alfred Schutz's Theory of the Life-World", in: Campbell, Grieve (eds.): Playing with Religion in Digital Games, IN, 2014 (in press) and "A Religious Vision for Interstellar Travel?" in ta katoptrizomena 89 - Exotheologie http://www.theomag.de/89/. Dr. Waltemathe also co-authored "Destination 2064", a computer-game for the John Calvin-anniversary in 2009. He is currently working on a project concerning analytical approaches to the science-religion debate in religious education.


Zac Zimmer

Topic: "Alien Remediation."
Bio: Zac Zimmer is an assistant professor of Spanish at Virginia Tech, and faculty affiliate with the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) and Science and Technology in Society (STS). He received his PhD from the Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University. His research explores questions of literature, aesthetics, politics, and technology in Latin America. His current project, tentatively titled First Contact, is a comparative study of Latin American science fiction and narratives of the sixteenth century conquest of the Americas. Previous publications on contemporary Argentine literature, utopia, post-apocalyptic fiction, and the commons have appeared in The Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Latin American Research Review, Chasqui, Modern Language Notes, and Revista Otra Parte.