Skip to main content

Past Lectures

Silicon Valley Lecture Series

Past List of Lectures - 2000-2021

Videos of lectures (beginning with the February 2013 lecture) are available on the SVAL YouTube channel.

New! Select Podcasts from previous lectures now available.


2020-2021 Online Lectures

 May 26, 2021 - Dr. Adam Frank of the University of Rochester; ”A Little Talk About Aliens: Techno-signatures and the New Science of Life in the Universe” 

April 28, 2021 - Dr. Janna Levin of Barnard College on her new book "Black Hole Survival Guide"

March 10, 2021 - Dr. Elinor Gates of Lick Observatory:  ”Lick Observatory During Pandemics. 1918 and 2020”

February 3, 2021 - Dr. John Mather, Nobel-prize winner and the Senior Project Scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope: ”Cosmic Instability: How a Smooth Early Universe Grew into Everyone You Know.”

November 11, 2020 -  Dr. Michael Brown of Caltech:  ”Planet 9 from Outer Space: Searching for a Distant Planet in our Solar System”

October 14, 2020 - Dr. Tom Shutt, of the Kavli Institute at Stanford University: ”The Hunt for Dark Matter in the Universe: New Experiments”.

2019-2020 Lectures

March 4, 2020 - Dr. Phil Marshall of SLAC and Stanford: Vera Rubin Observatory (formerly known as LSST): The Most Comprehensive Survey of the Sky Ever Undertaken (Note: this event was canceled due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place, March 2020.)

January 22, 2020 - Dr. Eliot Quataert, of the University of California, Berkeley: ”What Does a Black Hole Look Like: How We Got our First Picture”

November 13, 2019  - Prof. Courtney Dressing, of UC Berkeley: ”Meet the Neighbors: Planetary Systems Orbiting Nearby Stars”.

October 16, 2019 - Dr. Jeff Moore, of NASA Ames Research Center: ”Encounter with Ultima Thule: The Most Distant Object Humanity Has Ever Explored”.

2018-2019 Lectures

May 15, 2019: - Dr. Ross Beyer (SETI Institute): Charon, Pluto’s Companion: What We’re Learning from New Horizons

April 10, 2019 - Dr. Kevin Hand (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab): Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System

February 27, 2019 - Dr. Penelope Boston (NASA Ames Research Center): The Planets Under our Feet: Caves from Earth to Mars and Beyond

January 23, 2019 - Dr. Alex Filippenko (UC Berkeley): Black Holes, Exploding Stars, and the Runaway Universe: A Life in Science

November 14, 2018 - Dr. Brian Keating (University of California, San Diego): Cosmology and Ambition: Losing the Nobel Prize

October 3, 2018: Dr. Claire Max (University of California Observatories): A Sharper Image: Seeing Colliding Galaxies with Adaptive Optics

2017-2018 Lectures

May 15, 2018 - Dr. Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute) and Dr. David Grinspoon (Planetary Science Institute): Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

April 18, 2018 - Dr. Michael Busch (SETI Institute): Rubble Piles in the Sky: The Science, Exploration, and Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids

February 28, 2018 - Dr. Ashwin Vasavada (JPL): When Mars Was Like Earth: Five Years of Exploration with the Curiosity Rover

January 24, 2018 - Prof. Eliot Quataert (UC Berkeley): Colliding Neutron Stars, Gravity Waves, and the Origin of the Heavy Elements

November 8, 2017 - Dr. Natalie Batalha (NASA, Kepler Mission Project Scientist): A Planet for Goldilocks: Kepler & the Search for Living Worlds

October 11, 2017 - Dr. Jill Tarter (SETI Institute): Will the 21st Century be the Time We Discover Life Beyond Earth?

2016-2017 Lectures

March 15, 2017: Dan Werthimer (University of California, Berkeley): Is Anyone Out There: The $100 million Breakthrough: Listen Project

February 15, 2017: Dr. Chris Impey (University of Arizona): Beyond: Our Future in Space

May 24, 2017: Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College): The ‘All-American’ Eclipse of the Sun this August

January 25, 2017: Dr. Andrea Ghez (University of California, Los Angeles): The Monster Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

November 2, 2016: Dr. Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State University): Space-time Symphony: Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes

October 12, 2016: Dr. Seth Shostak (SETI Institute): The Science and Non-science of Star Wars

2015-2016 Lectures

May 11, 2016: Dr. Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University): Finding a New Earth: Exoplanets and the Habitable Zone

April 6, 2016: Dr. Tom Abel (Stanford University): How Things in the Universe Came About and How They Ended Up Within Us

March 2, 2016: Dr. Jeff Moore (NASA Ames Research Center): Report from the Planetary Frontier: The Latest from New Horizons at Pluto

February 3, 2016: Dr. Tori Hoehler (NASA Ames Research Center): Innumerable Globes Like This One: The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

November 11, 2015: Dr. Robert Kirshner (Harvard University): Einstein’s Blunder Undone: The Runaway Universe

October 7, 2015: Dr. Carolyn Porco (Imaging Team Leader for Cassini): In the Land of Enchantment: The Epic Story of the Cassini Mission to Saturn

2014-2015 Lectures

May 6, 2015: Dr. Jeffrey Bennett (University of Colorado): 100 Years of Einstein’s Relativity (And How it Underlies Our Modern Understanding of the Universe)

April 8, 2015: Dr. Marc Rayman (Jet Propulsion Labs): Now Appearing at a Dwarf Planet Near You: NASA’s Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

March 4, 2015: Dr. Ed Lu (Former NASA Astronaut; CEO of the Sentinel Mission): The Sentinel Mission: Finding the Asteroid Headed for Earth

January 28, 2015: Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute): Pluto on the Horizon: Anticipating our First Encounter with the Double Planet

November 12, 2014: Dr. Lloyd Knox (University of California, Davis): Images of the Infant Universe: The Latest Results from the Planck Satellite

October 8th, 2014: Dr. Caleb Scharf (Columbia University):  The Copernicus Complex: Are We Special in the Cosmos?

2013 – 2014 Lectures

May 24, 2014: Dr. Chung-Pei Ma (University of California, Berkeley): Monster Black Holes: What Lurks at the Center of Galaxies?

April 16, 2014: Dr. Michael Bicay (NASA Ames Research Center): Lifting the Cosmic Veil: Highlights from a Decade of the Spitzer Space Telescope

February 26, 2014: Dr. Alex Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley): Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes, and the Crisis at Lick Observatory

January 22, 2014: Dr. Roger Romani (Stanford University): Black Widow Pulsars: The Vengeful Corpses of Stars

November 6, 2013: Dr. David Morrison (SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center): The Chelyabinsk Meteor: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?

October 2, 2013: Dr. Eliot Quataert (University of California, Berkeley): How the Universe Went from Smooth to Lumpy: The Modern Origins Story

2012 – 2013 Lectures

May 15, 2013: Dr. Lori Fenton (SETI Institute): Being a Mars Rover: What Its Like on the Surface of Mars

April 17, 2013: Dr. Gibor Basri (University of California, Berkeley): Free-floating Planets: When Youre Just Too Small to be a Star

March 6, 2013: Dr. Dana Backman (Director of Education & Public Outreach, SOFIA Project, NASA Ames Research Center): Astronomy from the Stratosphere: NASA’s SOFIA Mission

February 6, 2013: Dr. Sandra Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz and University of California Observatories): How Galaxies were Cooked from the Primordial Soup

November 14, 2012: Dr. Roger Blandford (Kavli Institute, Stanford University): Black Holes: The End of Time or a New Beginning?

October 17, 2012: Dr. Natalie Batalha (NASA Ames Res. Ctr.): Finding the Next Earth: The Latest Results from Kepler

2010 – 2011 Lectures

October 20, 2010: Dr. Gregory Laughlin (University of California, Santa Cruz): The Ultimate Fate of the Solar System (and the Music of the Spheres)

November 17, 2010: Dr. Natalie Batalha (San Jose State University): Catching Shadows: Kepler’s Search for New Worlds

January 19, 2011: Dr. Michael Brown (Caltech): How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had it Coming

March 9, 2011: Dr. Chris McKay (NASA Ames Research Center): Saturn’s Moon Titan: A World with Rivers, Lakes, and Possibly Even Life

April 20, 2011: Dr. Thomas Berger (Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab): Our Explosive Sun: New Views of the Nearest Star and the Largest Explosions in the Solar System

May 18, 2011: Dr. Anthony Aguirre (University of California at Santa Cruz): Multiple Universes and Cosmic Inflation: The Quest to Understand Our Universe (and Find Others)

2009 – 2010 Lectures

October 7, 2009: Dr. Paul Kalas (University of California, Berkeley): Hubble Breakthrough: The First Photos of a Planet Orbiting Another Star

November 11, 2009: Dr. Lynn Rothschild (NASA Ames Research Center): Life at the Edge: Life in Extreme Environments on Earth and the Search for Life in the Universe

January 20, 2010: Dr. Seth Shostak (SETI Institute): The Search for Intelligent Life Among the Stars: New Strategies

March 10, 2010: Dr. Helen Quinn (Stanford University): The Many Mysteries of Antimatter

April 21, 2010: Dr. David Morrison (NASA Lunar Science Institute & SETI Institute): A Scientist Looks at ‘Doomsday 2012’ and the Rise of Cosmophobia

May 19, 2010: Dr. Alex Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley): Hearts of Darkness: Black Holes in Space

2008 – 2009 Lectures

October 1, 2008: Dr. Leonard Susskind (Stanford University): The Black Hole Wars: My Battle with Stephen Hawking

November 12, 2008: Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute): Saturn’s Restless Rings: Latest Results from the Cassini Mission

January 21, 2009: Dr. Anthony Colaprete (NASA Ames Research Center): Prospecting for Water on the Moon: The Upcoming LCROSS Mission

March 4, 2009: Dr. Stephen Beckwith (University of California): The Dawn of Creation: The First Two Billion Years

April 22, 2009: Dr. Margaret Race (SETI Institute): Planetary Protection and Hitchhikers in the Solar System: The Danger of Mingling Microbes

May 20, 2009: Dr. Patricia Burchat (Stanford University): The Dark Side of the Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

2007 – 2008 Lectures

October 3, 2007: Dr. David Morrison (NASA Ames Research Center): Taking a Hit: Asteroid Impacts and Evolution

November 13, 2007: Dr. Jeff Moore (NASA Ames Research Center): New Horizons at Jupiter (and Some Saturn News)

Jan. 23, 2008: Dr. Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams (U. of California, Santa Cruz): The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos

Mar. 5, 2008: Dr. Geoff Marcy (U. of California, Berkeley): New Worlds and Yellowstone: How Common are Habitable Planets?

April 23, 2008: Dr. Jill Tarter (SETI Institute): The Allen Telescope Array: The Newest Pitchfork for Exploring the Cosmic Haystack

2006 – 2007 Lectures

Oct. 4, 2006: Dr. Alex Filippenko (U. of California, Berkeley): Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

Nov. 8, 2006: Dr. Dale Cruikshank (NASA Ames): The Planet Pluto: Maligned but Not Forgotten

January 24, 2007: Dr. Bruce Margon (University of California, Santa Cruz): Glimpsing the Edge of the Universe: Results from the Hubble Space Telescope

March 7, 2007: Dr. Janice Voss (NASA Ames Research Center): “A Scientist in Space” and “Searching for Earth-like Planets: NASA’s Kepler Mission”

April 11, 2007: Dr. David Grinspoon (Denver Museum of Nature and Science): Comparing Worlds: Climate Catastrophes in the Solar System

May 23, 2007: Dr. Dana Backman (SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific): A Ringside Seat to the Formation of Planets

2005 – 2006 Lectures

Oct. 5, 2005: Dr. Cynthia Phillips (SETI Institute): Jupiter’s Tantalizing Moon: Water (and Life?) Under the Ice of Europa

Nov. 9, 2005: Dr. Chris McKay (NASA Ames): Revealing Titan: What the Cassini Mission Has Discovered about Saturn’s Giant Moon

Jan. 25, 2006: Dr. Michael Brown (Caltech): Beyond Pluto: The Discovery of the “10th Planet”

Mar. 1, 2006: Dr. Scott Sandford (NASA Ames): Bringing Samples Back: A Stardust and Hayabusa Mission Update

Apr. 26, 2006: Dr. Ron Marzke (SF State U.): News from the Distant Past: How Galaxies Tell Their Stories

May 17, 2006: Dr. Joshua Bloom (U. of California, Berkeley): Giant Cosmic Explosions: The Gamma-Ray Burst Boom

2004 – 2005 Lectures

Oct. 6, 2004: Russell Schweickart (Apollo 9 Astronaut): Asteroid Deflection: Hopes and Fears

Nov. 10, 2004: Dr. Eliot Quataert (U of California, Berkeley): Black Holes: The Science Behind the Science Fiction

Jan. 26, 2005: Dr. Jeff Cuzzi (NASA Ames): Lord of the Rings: Cassini and Saturn

Mar. 2, 2005: Dr. Phil Plait (Sonoma State U): Bad Astronomy in Everyday Life and the Movies

Apr. 20, 2005: Dr. Frank Drake (SETI Institute): Estimating the Chances of Life Out There: The Drake Equation Today

May 18, 2005: Dr. Nathalie Cabral (NASA Ames): The Mars Exploration Rover Mission Result

2003-2004 Lectures

Oct. 8, 2003: Dr. David Des Marais (NASA Ames): Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Nov. 12, 2003: Dr. Alan Dressler (Carnegie Observatories): The Mystery of Black Holes

Feb. 11, 2004: Dr. Eugene Chiang (U. of California, Berkeley): The Search for Planet X: Exploring the Solar System Beyond Neptune

Mar. 3, 2004: Dr. James Kaler (U of Illinois): Extreme Stars: The Strangest Critters in the Stellar Zoo

Apr. 14, 2004: Dr. Claudia Alexander (JPL): A Galileo Wrap-Up: What We Have Learned about Giant Jupiter and Its Marvelous Moons

May 19, 2004: Dr. Yvonne Pendleton (NASA Ames): In the Heat of the Night: Searching for the Heat of Infant Stars, Comets, and the Building Blocks of Life

2002 – 2003 Lectures

October 9, 2002: Dr. Leo Blitz (University of California, Berkeley): The Making of the Milky Way: Survival of the Fittest

Nov. 13th, 2002: Dr. Arno Penzias (recipient of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics): A Personal View of the Big Bang

Jan. 29, 2003: Dr. Gibor Basri (University of California, Berkeley): Failed Stars or Supergiant Planets: A Cosmic Identity Crisis

Mar. 5, 2003: Dr. Seth Shostak (SETI Institute): What Happens After Contact: Responding to a Message from Space

Apr. 23, 2003: Dr. Scott Sandford (NASA Ames): The STARDUST Mission: Bringing Home a Comet

May 21, 2003: Timothy Ferris (journalist, TV producer): Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Astronomers are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril

2001 – 2002 Lectures

October 10, 2001: Dr. Chris Chyba (SETI Institute & Stanford University): Life in the Universe: Is it Just Around the Corner?

November 14, 2001: Dr. Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State University): Exploding Stars, Blazing Galaxies, and Giant Black Holes: The Extreme Universe of Gamma-ray Astronomy

January 23, 2002: Mr. Scott Hubbard (NASA Ames Research Center): Following the Water: The New Program for Mars Exploration

March 6, 2002: Dr. Debra Fischer (University of California, Berkeley): Planets Beyond: The Search for Other Solar Systems

April 10, 2002: Dr. Alexei Filippenko (University of California: Berkeley): Why I Believe in the Big Bang: Evidence about the Origin of the Universe

May 1, 2002: Dr. Gregory Benford (University of California, Irvine): Navigating the Gulf: The Borderline of Science and Fiction

2000 – 2001 Lectures

October 11, 2000: Dr. David Morrison (NASA Ames Research Center): What Killed the Dinosaurs: The Asteroid Threat and What We Can Do About It

November 15, 2000: Dr. Sandra Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz): Images from the Hubble Space Telescope: How they are Changing our Perspective

January 24, 2001: Drs. Peter Ward (University of Washington) & Frank Drake (SETI Inst.): The Rare Earth Hypothesis: Are Good Planets and Life Hard to Find?

March 7, 2001: Dr. Pascal Lee (SETI Institute): Finding Mars on Earth

April 11, 2001: Dr. Greg Laughlin (NASA Ames Research Ctr.): The Ultimate Fate of the Sun and the Solar System

May 2, 2001: Dr. Vera Rubin (Carnegie Institution of Washington): What’s the Matter in the Universe? (A Talk on Dark Matter)

1999 – 2000 Lectures

October 13, 1999: Dr. Geoff Marcy (University of California, Berkeley): Finding New Worlds Around Other Stars.

November 17, 1999: Dr. Jill Tarter (SETI Institute): Making Contact: The Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence.

January 26, 2000: Dr. Alexei Filippenko (U. of California, Berkeley): Einstein’s Biggest Blunder: New Discoveries about Cosmic ‘Antigravity’

March 1, 2000: Drs. Christopher McKay (NASA Ames) and Margaret Race (SETI Institute): Missions to Mars: Exploring the Red Planet

April 12, 2000: Dr. Sallie Baliunas (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics): The Changing Sun and the Climate of the Earth: Why Louis XIV Had Cold Feet

May 3, 2000: Drs. Jeff Cuzzi, Dale Cruikshank, and Jeff Moore (NASA Ames): Cold Hard Worlds at the Edge of the Solar System