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The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursue a Limitless Future

The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future

Dr. W. Patrick McCray (photo by Brian W Robb)

In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity’s expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society’s future needs could be met using self-replicating nanoscale machines.

These modern utopians predicted that their technologies could transform society as humans mastered the ability to create new worlds, undertook atomic-scale engineering, and, if truly successful, overcame their own biological limits. Patrick McCray traces how these visioneers blended countercultural ideals with hard science, entrepreneurship, libertarianism, and unbridled optimism about the future.

But the visioneers were not immune to failure—or to the lures of profit, celebrity, and hype. O’Neill and Drexler faced difficulty funding their work and overcoming colleagues’ skepticism, and saw their ideas co-opted and transformed by Timothy Leary, the scriptwriters of Star Trek, and many others. Ultimately, both men struggled to overcome stigma and ostracism as they tried to unshackle their visioneering from pejorative labels like “fringe” and “pseudoscience.” The Visioneers provides a balanced look at the successes and pitfalls they encountered, the dangers that can plague exploratory science, and the importance of radical new ideas that inspire us to support cutting-edge research into tomorrow’s technologies.

  • LOCATION: Click HERE for Baxter Lecture Hall instructions.
  • TICKETS: First come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.
  • IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW AHEAD OF TIME:

New Admission Policy

Due to security concerns, Baxter Hall will be locked and the audience will be admitted only through the doors on the South side of the building by the lily ponds. If, for medical reasons, you cannot climb the stairs to the hall on the 2nd floor, someone at the main entrance (located in the middle of the West side of the building) will escort you to the elevator.

AND REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF --- Directions and Parking

From the 210 freeway exit Lake Avenue south, left on Del Mar, right on Michigan, park in the faculty parking lot. For directions on your GPS devices, use this Caltech address: 332 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106. Download a map of Pasadena and the Caltech campus with parking information. Questions? Call us at[masked]-3119. It's a LOT easier to print out the map to find the location of the Baxter Hall and all the parking lots surrounding it.

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RIDESHARE? If you are interested in sharing your ride with someone or getting a ride, USE THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW, please put your location and # of pax if you are driving OR your location if you need a ride. Mapquest gives an indication of what gas will cost from your location to the event (times two for roundtrip).

Dinner (Optional): Join us over burgers and meet fellow members at Burger Continental (http://www.burgercontinentalpasadena.com/) after the lecture. It is located at 535 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena 91101; (626) 792-6634.

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  • Sheri S.

    I'm in Cerritos, would like to get a ride with someone

    January 2, 2013

3 went

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