Home » All Sections » Ready to live on Mars? Colonization is topic of interdisciplinary panel March 9

Ready to live on Mars? Colonization is topic of interdisciplinary panel March 9

Just as faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences were debating topics last fall for their upcoming interdisciplinary panel discussion, billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk was taking the stage at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, to reveal his plans for colonizing Mars.

In an instant, they had their theme: “The Final Frontier: Exploration and Colonization.” The 7th annual event is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9, in Terry Concert Hall, and is free to the public.

Dr. Lee Ann Clements

“The idea of exploration and colonization was immediately seized upon by pretty much everyone in the room,” said Associate Provost Dr. Lee Ann Clements, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The initial ideas were centered on space exploration and potential colonization, but we quickly began discussing biological, historical, social, political and technical issues as well.”

Speakers and their topics are:

Dr. Craig Buettinger, Professor of History, “Grass Conflict”

Dr. Nathan Rousseau, Professor of Sociology, “Worldly Values: Big and Small”

Dr. Julie Brannon, Professor of English, “Star Trek, Cultural Encounters, and the Power of Storytelling”

Dr. Emre Selvi, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, “Technological Challenges of Space Colonization”

The idea of colonization is complex, with many moving parts and potential outcomes, so the discussion should be very eye-opening, Clements said.

“For example, exotic and invasive species change the ecology, but spread of species is part of their success. Is this always for the better?” she said. “Star Trek and the ‘Prime Directive’ of not influencing the societies of native peoples is part of the discussion, especially since it is impossible to observe a culture without influencing it … and by the way, the crew of the Enterprise was never successful at sticking with the Prime Directive.”

Watch the SpaceX video below:

In addition to the discussion, other activities are associated with the event:

  • The College of Arts & Sciences is sponsoring an essay contest for its Journal of Research Across the Disciplines, with the theme of exploration and colonization. The winner will receive a $100 prize. Those interested should submit their essays at www.ju.edu/jrad.
  • A free screening of the film “Interstellar” starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway will be at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 2, in the River House.
  • Four student choreographers under the direction of Dance and Theater Division Chair Brian Palmer are creating a montage related to the panel topic, to be presented from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. in the Phillips Fines Arts Hall in the lobby. Alex Willemin, Assistant Professor of Film & Media Art, has assigned students to create film montages of the dance presentations, and they will be debuted the night of the panel discussion.
  • Lily Kuonen, Assistant Professor of Film & Media Art, is guiding students in her Introductory and Intermediate Painting course as they speak with panel speakers and create visual interpretations in both acrylic and oil on canvas of some of the ideas to be discussed at the event. Their work will be displayed in the lobby of Terry Concert Hall for the event.

For more information, visit http://www.ju.edu/coas, or contact Suzy Foxwell at sfoxwel@ju.edu or (904) 256-7100.


Dr. Julie Brannon:  Star Trek, Cultural Encounters, and the Power of Storytelling

Star Trek has often functioned as an allegory for our cultural moment, and offers an ultimately hopeful vision of the future where we can find peaceful ways to exist in an incredibly diverse galaxy. In this talk I explore the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 episode, “Darmok,” and its relation to Transformational Conflict Resolution; when we encounter an Other whose very language is incomprehensible to us, how do we communicate? This episode exemplifies the connections between conflict resolution and storytelling, and like the vision of the Star Trek universe itself offers us hope for the future.

Dr. Craig Buettinger:  “Grass Conflict”

Native inhabitants lost ground when the English colonized eastern North America in the 1600s. This was true not only for peoples, but grasses as well. Old World bluegrasses and white clovers took possession of the land from New World grasses. Why were the colonizers at ground level so successful? This discussion from American history introduces the issue of colonization’s ecological aspects.

Dr. Nathan Rousseau: “Worldly Values: Big and Small”

What might the discovery of intelligent life on another planet reveal about us as human beings on earth?

Dr. Emre Selvi: “Technological Challenges of Space Colonization”

Space technology has been rapidly developing since the mid-20th century; however, we still need further advancements to be able to colonize our solar system. Long and expensive travels, harsh space/planet environments and creating self-sufficient colonies are some of the major challenges we are faced with. Many scientists and engineers have been working on providing safe, reliable and economical solutions to make this dream come true. There are technological challenges in space colonization and new developments in the field.