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Session 1: Answering Grand Questions Moderator: Charles F. Kennel, University of California, San Diego, and Chair, Space Studies Board Speaker: Roger-Maurice Bonnet, International Space Science Institute, Switzerland Panelists: Miles O’Brien, Television and Internet Journalist Christie Nicholson, Journalist and Online Contributor, Scientific American Session 1 essentially served as a “science keynote” by Roger-Maurice Bonnet, executive director of the International Space Science Institute in Switzerland and the former director of science for the European Space Agency (ESA) and later the French space agency, CNES, to parallel the “communicator” keynote by Miles O’Brien. It also provided an opportunity for Space Studies Board (SSB) chair Charles F. Kennel, distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and director emeritus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, to explain the “Climategate” incident and its impact on climate scientists’ understanding of how to communicate with the public and decision-makers. INTRODUCTION Kennel opened the session by saying that he and Bonnet had agreed that he would begin by saying for both of them that “the science community is in a period of introspection” with regard to how it communicates with the public and decision-makers, and it comes down to “trust and accountability.” He said this stems from scientists in his own field of climate science who thought they had established an effective mechanism to earn trust and accountability through decades of research and to communicate the results of that research to the public and decision-makers. They established “the world’s most elaborate review process,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It met four times over 20 years and received the 2007 Nobel Prize, which convinced them they had achieved their goal of communicating with global decision-makers. In 2009, however, hackers entered the email system of the University of East Anglia in England and released email exchanges among climate scientists that showed them “acting intemperately . . . acting like humans under stress . . . complaining . . . about their inability to solve this problem or that problem,” Kennel said. “To all of us, this seemed like a human response to . . . stress,” but it was publicized and became known as “Climategate.” In addition there was a lapse in fact checking on the part of the secretariat regarding snow melt in the Himalayas. These two issues “produced a profound loss of confidence in the whole process.” Polls by the Pew Trust before and after the event showed that the U.S. public’s belief that climate change was real and the scientists were telling the truth dropped 20 points, according to Kennel, an unprecedented drop in the history of sampling by the Pew Trust on any public issue. That showed “how fragile the trust had been” and the “weaknesses in what the scientists thought was a perfectly wonderful way to communicate.” 11

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“The question of communication, trust, and accountability of science is now front and center in the scientific community,” Kennel said. While Climategate was not the reason the SSB decided to hold this workshop, he noted that it was happening while the workshop was planned. ROGER-MAURICE BONNET Bonnet provided a broad overview of the five “Grand Questions”—what has been learned in the past 50 years of space science research and today’s understanding of what research is needed to continue finding answers to them. Fifty years ago, he said, scientists were interested in discovery, not grand questions. They did not care what they would discover because they knew they would discover something. Discovery was the message they wanted to convey. After 50 years and the use of space-based and ground-based telescopes, astronomy, which in the beginning was a science of the visible, is “more and more a science of the dark.” The power of telescopes has increased this “zone of uncertainty, darkness” where models are used to understand what you do not see. Spacecraft opened a new era in the darkness because we can look at the entire spectrum. We look “at all the lights emitted by the universe. We have observed the whole electromagnetic spectrum for understanding fundamental physical processes, we have discovered new objects, [and] we have discovered gamma rays, x-rays, and black holes . . . astronomy became something new.” Interplanetary spacecraft allow us to look at the universe outside of Earth’s influence and outside of the plane of the ecliptic in which all the planets orbit the Sun. For 18 years, for example, we have observed the Sun and the heliosphere from above. We have discovered “flabbergasting objects” like Io, a moon of Jupiter with active volcanoes, and the icy surface of Europa, which may have an ocean beneath it. We have made “fantastic progress in understanding the universe,” he said. We have also landed on the surface of the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Titan. We have imaged a comet’s nucleus and will land on one of them in 2014. We have explored the heliosphere and are now moving into the interstellar medium with the Voyager spacecraft. But for all of these discoveries, Bonnet commented, the space science community has netted only two Nobel Prizes: Riccardo Giacconi in 2002 for the first detection of an x-ray source in the universe, and John Mather and George Smoot in 2008 for measurements of the cosmic background. He then provided an assessment of the current status of answering the five Grand Questions identified by the workshop organizing committee. Understanding the Universe: How Did It Begin and How Is It Evolving? Calling the universe a “strange machine” and comparing its shape with a trumpet or a “cosmic vuvezela”—a reference to the noisy trumpet popular with soccer fans in South Africa—Bonnet explained that, according to modern day cosmology, the universe began with a Big Bang, expanded, and then decelerated and reaccelerated. Several space missions have observed this, he said, including the Cosmic Background Explorer, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, the Planck observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope. These spacecraft and ground-based instruments have showed, however, that what we see (i.e., visible matter) is only a small part of the universe—5 percent. Dark matter is 25 percent, and dark energy is 70 percent. What are these things? That is what astronomers are trying to answer. We know there is dark matter, although it is difficult to detect because it interacts with nothing. It can be detected by observing the deformation of distant galaxies when they pass through dark matter and their shape is modified. The “mystery” of dark matter will probably be resolved both through astronomy and particle physics using accelerators like CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). 12

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Dark energy is one of the “great questions that scientists want to discover an answer to,” he continued. He wondered, however, if we were “interpreting physics in a too restricted way . . . we [may be trying] to invent something that may not exist.” Some scientists are challenging the idea of dark energy, including Petr Hořava at the University of California, Berkeley, who is postulating that the theory of relativity did not work at the time of the Big Bang. If true, that could explain dark energy, Bonnet said, but much research remains to be done. Two proposed spacecraft missions—NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope and ESA’s Euclid—would focus on this research. Are We Alone? Although there was much excitement in 1996 about the martian meteorite ALH 84001, which some believed held evidence of past life on Mars, scientists have since concluded “that we can’t conclude” what it shows, Bonnet said. Nevertheless, one of the best ways to look for other life in the solar system is by studying Mars rocks, either on Mars itself or by returning samples to Earth. Many exoplanets have been discovered from space by the European Corot mission and by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and other instruments, although we cannot yet directly observe Earth-sized planets, even though scientists believe there could be billions of them in our galaxy. Bonnet asked: Should we try to intercept signals from hypothetical civilizations that might be living on those planets?. He said that he does not trust that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) will ever succeed and went on to explain why. If one condenses the 4.5-billion-year age of Earth into 24 hours, the 3 million years of human evolution corresponds to 57.3 seconds, he said. Referring to that 57.3 seconds, he then pointed out that human intelligence, and thus the ability to communicate, is only 2 seconds of that history, and some question whether humanity will survive another 2 seconds (which is the topic of his talk in Session 5). If it is the same on other planets around other stars, their two seconds of communication ability would have to correspond with ours in order for us to find each other, and that assumes we both would be using the same frequencies. That is why Bonnet does not believe SETI will be successful, even though it is likely there are other civilizations. Bringing religion into the discussion, he said that the question of other life is also a religious and social issue with which scientists must solve “to the benefit or not of the church.” Understanding the Solar System: How Did It Begin and How Is It Evolving? Scientists are still trying to understand how solar systems form, including ours, Bonnet said. Our solar system is very diverse in terms of the sizes of objects and their characteristics. The Moon is an excellent object for understanding our solar system—it is the history book of the solar system. Mars is another “fascinating” object because of the possibility of life. Obtaining samples from Mars and other planets—including Venus (a mission that ESA has studied in the past)—is critical to understanding our own solar system. We can study the formation of other solar systems by looking at the stars, especially with instruments like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, ESA’s Herschel mission, and NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Asteroids also play an important role in solar system evolution and need to be studied, especially since some may impact Earth. 13

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The Earth: Will It Remain a Hospitable Home for Humanity in the Future? The Earth is an extremely complex planet—a solid planet, a liquid planet, an icy planet, and an inhabited planet, Bonnet explained. The atmosphere is thin but dramatically important for life. Will Earth remain a hospitable home? he asked. This is the topic of Session 5. What Could the Future Hold for Humans in Space? Bonnet commented that crews aboard the International Space Station (ISS) spend most of their time “repairing the toilets.” They “fight for survivability” and do a “little science.” Astronauts themselves are mostly satisfied when they can prove they are doing something useful for humanity. That was the case with the Hubble Space Telescope, which was repaired and upgraded by human crews. On the ISS, more attention should be placed on using it for education, in his view: “You cannot teach a classroom with robots,” he said. “The astronauts . . . can teach the public like a teacher teaches a classroom.” As to whether space can be an “escape route for humanity when Earth is uninhabitable,” Bonnet thinks not. He discussed this is more detail in Session 5. Conclusion Bonnet concluded by saying that space is an essential element of our survival. We have entered an era of globalization, and satellites are by their nature global, and international cooperation is critical to ensure “that all elements of the essential space network are at the disposal of all humans.” Most of the Grand Questions will find answers through continuous progress in our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature, he believes. “Uncertainty and progress have always characterized science,” and scientists must admit this, he argued. The Grand Questions offer an arena for educating the public in the value of rigorous scientific reasoning, leading to more discoveries but also skepticism, because the more we discover the more we realize we did not exactly understand what we thought we understood. “Discoveries and skepticism are an integral part of scientific progress,” he concluded. PANEL DISCUSSION Miles O’Brien, the journalist who gave the keynote address, and Christie Nicholson, journalist and online contributor for Scientific American, joined Bonnet and Kennel for the panel discussion. Nicholson explained that her specialty is the Web where many can speak to many, not one to many, which is what traditional communications has allowed. The tactics of storytelling, which date back to cave drawings, remain effective in the Internet era, however, she said. Telling stories is a narrative art and when they involve human drama “you have a slam dunk almost every time,” she said. A New York Times article in February 2010 that looked at the most emailed stories showed they had one thing in common—they all inspired awe, and science can do that, in her view. Kennel asked Nicholson and O’Brien about how to tell “the story” when what is exciting is what we cannot see—like dark energy and dark matter. Nicholson replied that scientists should and do “use a lot of metaphors.” O’Brien agreed and said that what he took away from Bonnet’s lecture was that Bonnet said the universe looked like a vuvezela. He observed that scientists are reluctant to “trumpet” themselves and that they “have to get over that” because the process of learning about dark matter, for example, is fascinating. “It’s a detective story that needs a good gumshoe,” and scientists should not be shy to make contact with people who can help them tell the story in that manner. 14

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Carl Sagan was cited by both Nicholson and O’Brien as being a very successful science communicator even though he was criticized by the science community. Sagan “was successful in reaching the public; the public still adores him,” Nicholson said. Kennel offered that many scientists feel that “great ideas somehow preexist us, they’re out there, and we’re receptacles for receiving them,” but because they know “it wasn’t me,” they are reluctant to take credit for those ideas. Nicholson said, however, that there is “nothing greater than hearing a scientist . . . [who] is passionate. . . . Those are the moments you get quoted. Those are the best moments.” Bonnet raised the challenges facing scientists who are busy writing equations or building complex machines, but agreed they have a duty to work with journalists who can translate the value of the science to the public, although sometimes journalists get it wrong. O’Brien cautioned that public affairs officers sometimes get in the way of effective communication between scientists and journalists. He cited the Mars meteorite ALH 84001 as an example of where the public relations department “got way ahead of the science” and had the “president of the United States saying we found life on Mars and it really wasn’t quite there yet.” Nicholson then asked a key question of Kennel and Bonnet, Who are you trying to communicate with and why? Kennel turned to the audience, filled mostly with scientists, and directly asked that question of them. There was no reply. Kennel went on to cite a colleague who believes the public needs to be better educated so that scientists can communicate with them but thinks any such effort will fail. He wryly noted that the message from the panelists is that there is a new way to communicate now, but many scientists have not mastered the old way. He said that journalists like O’Brien and Nicholson are the ones with the skills to communicate between scientists and the public and asked how scientists can get their help. Nicholson stressed that Twitter is a great way to connect and said she follows many scientists only that way and gets stories through that interaction. O’Brien said that the old pyramid structure of communication is gone, and scientists can take communications into their own hands, although it can be time consuming. AUDIENCE INTERACTION From the audience, SSB member Joan Vernikos challenged Kennel’s suggestion that scientists should not communicate with the public directly but should do so through a media person. She called that a “bad attitude” because scientists are excited about what they are doing and “it’s an energy transfer.” “Scientists . . . need to take responsibility and get liberated from the ropes and chains that our educational construct has developed,” she said. Kennel agreed. Bonnet did, too, but commented that the IPCC scientists did not communicate effectively and would have done better to take advantage of professional communicators; they have done a lot of damage because they did not, in his view. A conversation ensued with another audience member about the relationship between space research and peace on Earth. O’Brien said that some people believe “let’s solve peace on Earth before we go anywhere,” but answering the big questions using space research “enriches us . . . and makes us a better civilization.” Kennel added that “the space program is not going to directly influence peace negotiations,” but the famous photograph Bonnet showed of the “Earth alone in the dark immensity of space has changed the human perception of our place on Earth and has given us the sense that we are all going to have to live together. . . . I share your uncertainty that we may not be able to pull it off” (Figure 2). 15

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FIGURE 2 Earth-rise image by the high-definition television onboard the lunar explorer KAGUYA. SOURCE: Courtesy of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). In another exchange, the question was how NASA can personalize space research if there is no astronaut component to the program. Nicholson said to “people-ize” it because “we do love listening to human stories.” She said that she had enjoyed listening to O’Brien’s story about Veronica McGregor and her Phoenix tweets. She believes a similar approach is being used for the Cassini spacecraft, but those tweets are not as personalized as what McGregor did with Phoenix. 16