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Roundtable Talk Looks into Outer Space

 Roundtable Talk Looks into Outer Space

11/02/2012 

For those who want to hit the snooze button on the subject of outer space, Brice Smith would ask them to consider a world without smartphones, television sets and geographic information system (GPS) devices.

Smith, an associate professor and chair of the College’s Physics Department, will discuss the topic in “Beyond 2012: A New Space Odyssey,” on Thursday, Nov. 1, during a Community Roundtable at SUNY Cortland.

Smith will speak at 8 a.m. in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room. A question-and-answer session will follow. Refreshments will precede the lecture at 7:45 a.m.

Sponsored by the College President’s Office, the Community Roundtable is free and open to the public.

The talk looks at a topic many miles above sea level but one of significant importance: outer space.

“From the retirement of the space shuttle fleet to the launch by SpaceX of the first commercial space flight to the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, the future of both human and robotic space exploration is changing rapidly and in profound ways,” according to the talk’s abstract.

A world with smartphones, televisions and GPS devices is only possible with outer space, according to Smith. All of them rely on space and satellite reception to operate efficiently and effectively.

The exploration of outer space is more important now than ever before, given its potential for civilians and the military, Smith said.

“I’m going to talk about missile defense because it’s something that still comes up and it’s one of those points that is not as understood as it should be in terms of what it means for the future of space, particularly with respect to the possibility of anti-satellite warfare, which I don’t think gets a lot of attention,” said Smith, who has generated several articles and presentations related to nuclear weapons.

“Mostly, I am going to talk about the civilian roles of space, how NASA’s mission is changing and also where we’re at and what people are thinking about where we should go.”

Smith said he intends to “give people a sense of where we are, the changes likely to happen, and the different visions that people have for what NASA’s next action should be.”

The topic also proves important given the Nov. 6 presidential election. Each candidate has a different plan for space exploration, Smith said. The path that U.S. space exploration takes will depend on the candidate who wins the election, he contends.

Smith joined the College as an assistant professor in 2006 and was promoted to associate professor in 2009. He also served as a visiting faculty member at Cornell University from 2008 to 2012. Prior to coming to SUNY Cortland, he worked at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Md., from 2003 to 2006.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from Washington University in St. Louis and a doctorate in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Community Roundtable series provides programs on diverse intellectual, regional and cultural topics of interest to College faculty, staff and community members. Two more roundtables are scheduled this academic year. They will take place on the first Thursdays of April and May.

Parking in the Park Center lot is open to the public during the roundtables. For more information, contact the President’s Office at (607) 753-5453.