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A Bold Look

Star Trek actor  JG Hertzler will be at the Northeast Trek Convention this weekend at the Radisson in Albany.

ALBANY, NY (Nov. 2, 2016) – The departments of Physics and Computer Science will be well represented this weekend in the “Final Frontier.”

The Northeast Trek Convention, set for Nov. 11-13 at the Raddison Hotel on Wolf Road in Albany, will include actors from the science fiction franchise’s 50-year history, as well as several UAlbany faculty offering fun and educational talks on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to time travel.

Professors Kevin Knuth and Matthew Szydagis of the Department of Physics oversaw the selection of speakers from the University to present at the convention. Knuth has given scientific lectures at meetings of the Northeast Fans Association Star Trek Meetup, a weekly gathering of Star Trek fans in Albany organized by Jerry Silber, who is also the primary organizer of the Northeast Trek Convention.

“Jerry has long held the philosophy that education is important,” said Knuth. “And to this end, he has for the last several years recruited scientists from the Capital District — UAlbany, RPI, Union, etc. — to give scientific lectures to his meet-up group.”

Silber felt that it was important to carry on this tradition of education for the Northeast Trek Convention, and asked Knuth and Szydagis to help him recruit prominent local scientists to give presentations on topics relevant to science fiction and Star Trek fans. As several members of the Department of Physics were already involved in community education and outreach programs, they make up a significant portion of the convention’s speaker list.

Knuth and Szydagis themselves will be giving lectures at the convention. Knuth’s lecture will focus on interstellar travel, pulling from his career of research on topics like exoplanet characterization and automated planetary exploration at institutions like the NASA Ames Research Center. Szydagis’s lecture will explore time travel, particularly possibility of traveling backwards in time. Szydagis describes this as “just for fun” lecture, based less on his current research into dark matter and more on the interests of Star Trek fans.

“Kirk alone violated the temporal prime directive at least three to four times I can think of off the top of my head,” said Szydagis.

Also speaking will be Vivek Jain, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and a member of the ATLAS collaboration studying the characteristics of the elusive Higgs Boson particle. Jain’s lecture will focus on experimental particle physics, pulling from his experience working with physicists at the Large Hadron Collider. His goal for the lecture is to give a broad overview of the current field of study that will be understandable for a general audience.

George Berg, associate professor and chairman of UAlbany’s Computer Science Department, is the only University faculty member outside of the physics department giving a lecture at the convention. Berg’s presentation will explore artificial intelligence, particularly how the current advances in AI compare to the visions of the original Star Trek series from 1966.

“AI was only about 10 years along at the time of the series,” said Berg. “I think it would be entertaining and engaging to see what the show's vision was, and use that to see where we are headed today.”

Other speakers and topics will include Oleg Lunin on black holes; Philip Goyal on classical and quantum computers, and Alexander Khmaladze on Raman spectroscopy.

For tickets and a full schedule of speakers and guests, including Star Trek cast members and scientists from across the Capital Region, visit the Northeast Trek Convention’s website.

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