Those in the know are already getting ready for the start of Comic-Con, the 40-year-old annual San Diego convention that began as a comic book gathering but has transformed into a showcase for anything even slightly nerdy. (“Nerdy” has recently included phenomena such as popular video games, the Transformers movies, and — for some reason — Paris Hilton.) But fun as it will presumably be, and as much as I’d like to go sometime, I’m actually more interested in another “con” about a month away.
SETIcon, “the first-ever public convention focused on the search for life in the universe in science fact and science fiction,” will take place August 13–15 in Santa Clara, California. Hosted by the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), this con will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of SETI research, the 80th birthday of SETI champion and equation-devisor Frank Drake, and the 25th anniversary of the institute itself.
Just reading over the list of guest speakers is enough to whet the appetite of anyone interested in astrobiology, or even just space science. Frank Drake himself will be there, as well as “Pluto killer” Michael Brown, real-life Contact heroine Jill Tarter, and other scientist superstars like Alex Filippenko, Seth Shostak, and Debra Fischer. And if pure science isn’t your thing, you could still enjoy the likes of sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer and Star Trek: Voyager actor Tim Russ, among other space celebrities.
In addition to the talks and panels, there’s also a Rock Band party featuring “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait (and the eponymous video game involving ersatz instruments) and an auction featuring, among other things, signed copies of Frank Drake’s Is Anyone Out There? and Carl Sagan’s Contact. SETIcon also promises “a few surprises,” so who knows what other excitement might be in store?If any of this sounds good to you, or you find yourself recognizing all these names, you may want to consider a trip to California next month. It won’t have the throngs of dressed-up fanboys and squealing fangirls of Comic-Con, and you might just learn something cool, too.