Starship Century

May 21 - 22 at UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute, Atkinson Hall Auditorium

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Is this the century we begin to build starships? Why go to the Stars? Can we? Should We?

Starship Century is a symposium coordinated by the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in collaboration with Gregory and James
Benford, presenting ideas from their anthology of science and science

  • Scientists address the challenges and opportunities for our long‐term
    future in space, with possibilities envisioned by: Freeman Dyson, Paul
    Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin.
  • Science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Allen Steele, Joe Haldeman,
    Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis and David Brin discuss the implications
    that these trajectories of exploration might have upon our development as
    individuals and as a civilization.



9:00 AM Opening Remarks James Benford
Gregory Benford
Sheldon Brown
9:20 AM Starships and the Fates of Humankind Peter Schwartz
10:05 PM Noah's Ark Eggs and Warm-Blooded Plants Freeman Dyson
10:50 AM On the Way to Starflight: Economics of Interstellar Breakout Robert Zubrin
11:35 AM Thinking Big Neal Stephenson
12:20 PM Lunch

New Space

1:30 PM Developing Near Space Patti Grace Smith
2:15 PM The Nuclear Rocket: Workhorse of the Solar System Geoffrey Landis
3:00 PM The Coming Interplanetary Economy Chris Lewicki
4:00 PM Panel: The Future Of New Space
moderated by TBA
Freeman Dyson
Neal Stephenson
Allen Steele
Geoffrey Landis
5:30 PM Starship Century Book Signing And Reception
6:00-8:00PM Dessert Reception: “Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Seuss Room alcove, Geisel Library, UC San Diego


Getting to the Stars
9:00 AM Starship Concepts Adam Crowl
9:45 AM Sailships James Benford
10:30 AM Exotic Paths to the Stars John Cramer
11:15 AM Starship Destinations Ian Crawford
12:15 PM Lunch
1:30 AM Can We Survive Alien Biospheres? Paul Davies
2:15 PM Becoming Galactic Jon Lomberg
3:00 PM Panel: Getting To The Target Stars
moderated by Jill Tarter
Ian Crawford
Robert Zubrin
Geoffrey Landis
Adam Crowl
4:00 PM Fiction Writers Panel: Envisioning The Starship Era
moderated by Gregory Benford
Joe Haldeman
David Brin
Larry Niven
Vernor Vinge
Jon Lomberg
5:00 PM Closing Remarks James Benford
Gregory Benford
Sheldon Brown
5:30 P.M Writers Book Signing


Gregory Benford

Gregory Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, working in astrophysics and plasma physics. A Fellow of the American Physical Society, his fiction has won many awards, including the Nebula Award for his novel Timescape.

James Benford

James Benford is President of Microwave Sciences, which deals with high power microwave systems from conceptual designs to hardware. Over the past 45 years of scientific research he has written 145 scientific papers and 6 books on physics topics, including the textbook, High Power Microwaves, now in its 2nd edition. His current scientific interest is electromagnetic power beaming for space propulsion. In earlier decades, he was active in science fiction fandom, and wrote science fiction in the 1970's.

David Brin

David Brin is a scientist, tech speaker/consultant, and author. His new novel about our survival in the near future is Existence. A film by Kevin Costner was based on The Postman. His 16 novels, including NY Times Bestsellers and Hugo Award winners, have been translated into more than twenty languages. Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and the world wide web. David appears frequently on shows such as Nova and The Universe and Life After People, speaking about science and future trends. His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.

Sheldon Brown

Sheldon Brown is the Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. He is a professor of Visual Arts, Site Director of the NSF Center for Hybrid Multicore Productivity Research (CHMPR), Co-PI and Artist-in-Residence of Calit2 and former director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA). Brown's work combines computer science research with vanguard cultural production. The outcomes of his work are exhibited in art and science museums, technology conferences and public art commissions around the world.

John Cramer

John G. Cramer is a Professor Emeritus in the Physics Department of the University of Washington. He received a PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics from Rice University in 1961. He has co-authored around 250 research papers, was Director of the UW Nuclear Physics Laboratory, and is presently a member of the External Science Council of NASA's NIAC organization, which funds innovative space- related investigations. At the UW, he continues to pursue a cutting-edge quantum optics experiment that tests whether quantum nonlocality and entanglement can be used for communication. He works part-time as a professional writer, with two science fiction novels (Twistor and Einstein's Bridge) to his credit, and a regular bi-monthly science column published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine.

Ian Crawford

Ian Crawford is an astronomer turned planetary scientist, and is currently Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is presently also Senior Secretary of the UK Royal Astronomical Society. The main focus of his research is in the area of lunar exploration, including the remote sensing of the lunar surface and the laboratory analysis of lunar samples. Ian also has strong interests in the new science of astrobiology, the study of the astronomical and planetary context of the origin and evolution of life. He is a strong advocate for the renewed human exploration of the Moon, the eventual human exploration of Mars, and the development of a spacefaring infrastructure within the Solar System which will one day make interstellar travel a practical undertaking.

Adam Crowl

Adam Crowl was born in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia in 1970. His first memory of TV is watching the BBC documentary on the "Viking" landings (1976) and (black & white) episodes of "Space 1999" and "Star Trek". At age 9 he learnt of a star-probe named "Daedalus", and was given a little book, "Road to the Stars" by Iain Nicholson, which opened his eyes to serious interstellar travel research. Since then Adam earned a B.Sc at the University of Queensland; raised a family; has retaught himself mathematics & physics while semi-completing an Engineering/Computing degree; written essays on SETI for the late Chris Boyce, on fusion propulsion for "Centauri Dreams, gas-mining Uranus for "Discovery News", and joined "Project Icarus". Currently he is Team Leader for "Project Icarus's" Main Propulsion Module.

Paul Davies

Paul Davies is a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and best-selling author. He is Regents’ Professor and Director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, at Arizona State University, where he is also co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative and Principal Investigator of the Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. His most recent is The Eerie Silence: are we alone in the universe? In 1995 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper meaning of science. He was also awarded the Faraday Prize by The Royal Society, the Kelvin Medal by the UK Institute of Physics, the 2011 Robinson Cosmology Prize, and many book awards, as well as three honorary degrees.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman J. Dyson was born in 1923 in Crowthorne, England. He began his career as a mathematician but then turned to the exciting new developments in physics in the 1940s, particularly the theory of quantized fields. He wrote two papers on the foundations of quantum electrodynamics which have had a lasting influence on many branches of modern physics. He went on to work in condensed-matter physics, statistical mechanics, nuclear engineering, climate studies, astrophysics and biology. Beyond his professional work in physics, he has a keen awareness of the human side of science and of the human consequences of technology. His books for the general public include Disturbing the Universe, Weapons and Hope, Infinite in All Direction, and A Many-colored Glass. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman is the youngest writer to be named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and has earned steady awards over his 43-year career: his novels The Forever War and Forever Peace both made clean sweeps of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and he has won four more Hugos and Nebulas for other novels and shorter works. Three times he’s won the Rhysling Award for best science fiction poem of the year. In 2012 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Joe’s next novel is Work Done For Hire, appearing soon. When he’s not writing or teaching – a professor at M.I.T., he has taught every fall semester since 1983 -- he paints and bicycles and spends as much time as he can out under the stars as an amateur astronomer.

Geoffrey Landis

Geoffrey Landis works for NASA on planetary exploration, interstellar propulsion, solar power and photovoltaics. He holds patents for solar cells and photovoltaic devices. Supported by his scientific background Landis also writes hard science fiction. He has won a Nebula Award, two Hugo Awards, and a Locus Award, as well as two Rhysling Awards for his poetry.

Jon Lomberg

Jon Lomberg is one of the world's leading artists inspired by science. He is an Emmy Award-winning television art director for Cosmos, a muralist for the National Air and Space Museum, and an award winning science reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He designed the astronomical animation for the Warner Brothers film Contact, based on Carl Sagan's novel, named on the 100 Best Movie Openings of all time. In 1977 he was Design Director for NASA's famous Voyager Golden Record, sent beyond the solar system on robot spacecraft. His cover art for that project, predicted to last for over a thousand million years, may be the longest lived piece of human art. His art is on 4 NASA spacecraft now on Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix and Curiosity.

Larry Niven

Larry Niven attended California Institute of Technology and flunked out after discovering a book store jammed with used science fiction magazines. He graduated Washburn University, Kansas, June 1962: BA in Mathematics with a Minor in Psychology and published his first story, “The Coldest Place”, Worlds of If, December 1964. He has written fiction at every length, and speculative articles, speeches for high schools and colleges and conventions, television scripts, political action in support of the conquest of space, graphic novels, and a couple of comic book universes. He has received five Hugos, a Nebula, and two Ditmars.

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is Senior Vice President for Global Government Relations and Strategic Planning for In these roles he directs policy and politics throughout the world and manages the organization’s ongoing strategic conversation. Prior to joining Salesforce he was cofounder and chairman of Global Business Network, a partner of the Monitor Group, a family of professional services firms devoted to enhancing client competitiveness. An internationally renowned futurist and business strategist, Peter specializes in scenario planning, working with corporations, governments, and institutions to create alternative perspectives of the future and develop robust strategies for a changing and uncertain world. From 1982 to 1986, Peter headed scenario planning for the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies in London.

Patti Grace Smith

Patti Grace Smith served as Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation for the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, where for eleven years she headed the line of business responsible for licensing, regulating, and promoting the U.S. commercial space transportation industry. She has over 28 years of experience and knowledge of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). During her career at the FAA and DOT, she was instrumental in the growth and change that the U.S. commercial launch industry experienced, facilitating both technological and infrastructure developments and initiating and fostering greater cooperation and partnerships between aviation and space functions in the agency.

Allen Steele

Before becoming a science fiction author, Allen Steele was a journalist who’d worked for newspapers and magazines in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Missouri, and his home state of Tennessee, but SF was his first love, so he instead began producing that which made him want to be a writer in the first place. Since then, Steele has published eighteen novels and nearly a hundred short stories. His work has received numerous awards, including three Hugos, and has been translated worldwide, mainly in languages he can’t read. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Space Frontier Foundation and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. A lifelong space buff, Steele has witnessed numerous space shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center and has flown NASA’s shuttle cockpit simulator at the Johnson Space Center His most recent novel is Apollo’s Outcasts.

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is an author of science and historical fiction as well as various nonfiction pieces, typically on themes relating to science and technology. His upbringing and education were strongly informed by science, engineering, and computers. He was an early participant at Blue Origin (from its inception circa 1999 until late 2006) and at Intellectual Ventures Labs (2007 until circa 2010) and is now active in the Furlong/Fortnight Bureau LLC, a Seattle-based coalition of hackers, makers, geeks, and engineers. He has contributed time and creative content to new media projects including the Foreworld Saga and Hieroglyph, the latter being a collaboration with Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination. (PHOTO CREDIT: C Jan Cobb)

Jill Tarter

Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from UC Berkeley. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She is a Fellow of the AAAS and the California Academy of Sciences, she was named one of the Time 100 in 2004, and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012, and received a TED prize in 2009. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.

Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge is a science fiction author best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, Rainbows End, Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster, as well as for his novel The Peace War and his essay 'The Coming Technological Singularity', in which he argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which 'the human era will be ended,' such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it. He is credited with the first description of 'cyberspace' in his novella 'True Names' that began SF's cyberpunk revolution, and was widely influential in inspiring computer science developments.

Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin is President of Pioneer Astronautics and the founder and President of the Mars Society. Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington. Zubrin is the inventor of several unique concepts for space propulsion and exploration, the author of over 200 published technical and non-technical papers in the field, and was responsible for developing the "Mars Direct" mission planf. He and his work have been subject of much favorable press coverage in The Economist, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the London Times, The Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, Newsweek, and many other publications, and he has appreared on the Discovery Channel, CNN, NPR, and the BBC. He is the holder of eleven US Patents, and has five more pending.

Event Info


Registration is now closed. Streaming link for the event

Date & Location

May 21st & May 22nd, starting from 8:30 am
Atkinson Hall Calit2 Auditorium


Please park in the East Parking Lot P704. You can purchase a day parking pass from the Pay Station in the parking lot. Parking permits are $8 for the day. The Pay Stations accept cash (exact change only) or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express).

Directions to Parking Parking Lot P704: click here

Shuttle Service

Shuttles will be running to transport you from P704 to Atkinson Hall in the morning and from Atkinson Hall to P704 in the evening. The schedule is as follows:

  • May 21st: 7:00 am - 10:00 am & 5:00 pm - 6:35 pm
  • May 22nd: 7:00 am - 10:00 am & 5:00 pm – 6:45 pm

Note: Only board the shuttles that are labeled "Starship Century Symposium." Other shuttles run regularly, but they will take you to different locations on campus.