FUTURE CON 2019-04-17T13:23:44+00:00


Smithsonian magazine and Awesome Con are proud to bring back Future Con to Awesome Con! Future Con highlights the intersection of science, technology, and science fiction inside D.C.’s largest pop culture event! Future Con is part of Awesome Con, and an Awesome Con badge will get you access to Future Con’s guests, booths, and events.




Booth Number
National Science Foundation1413
Monkey Minion Press 1411
Max Brooks 1407
IEEE – USA 1405
National Geographic 1403
Ask A Scientist 1510
Svaha 1504
Darwin and Wallace: A Nature and Fossil Store 1502
NASA Goddard Space and Flight Center 1511
APS Physics 1511
Alexandria Library 1507
Chop Shop 1505
NASA Aeronautics 1503
Selective Service Systems 1610
Nova Labs 1606
NASA Planetary Missions 1602
Explore Mars1613
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum1611
Central Intellgience Agency1603
American Association for the Advancement of Science1710


Room 144


1:00 PM – 1:45 PM
Putting the Pop Culture in STEM Education
Pop culture and STEM are two great tastes that taste great together and when blended just right, allow us to both imagine and create a better future. So why not make sure they complement rather than antagonize one another in education? Come on over and learn about how pop culture can be infused into a STEM classroom, informal STEM ed, and anywhere STEM is being presented to the public. We’ll be talking about the hows, whys and both good and bad examples of mixing pop culture with STEM! If you are an educator, plan to learn about how you can use pop culture in your classroom lessons. If you love pop culture and STEM, plan to geek out among your fellow nerds.

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM
Science Fiction to Fact: The Voyage of Biometrics
Biometrics used to be the stuff of science fiction, very cool and futuristic. But NOW The Future is here and you don’t have to be Tom Cruise in the “Minority Report” to use biometric technology. Every day we open our smartphones and laptops with our face or fingerprint. Airports use it, banks use it, casinos use it, kids and grandmas are using Biometrics technology. IBIA experts will discuss the facts about Biometrics, where it has come from, where it is going and how it will change the way we live.

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM
Captain Marvel Doesn’t Fly Alone
Captain Marvel may be a superhero pilot, but today’s aerospace technology can take pilots from the heavens to the cosmos to superheroes. Pilots don’t fly alone. Like the Avengers, our aviators have a team of partners to back them up and take them to the next level. Learn how the dedicated scientists and engineers at Lockheed Martin make aircraft and spacecraft fit for real-world superheroes.

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM
The Search for Life in the Universe
There are a handful of fundamental questions that remain to be answered. The answers to these questions, besides generating more questions, have the power to change every element of society, our belief systems, and our sense of who we are. Among these sits the question “Are we alone?”. Is the Earth the only life-sustaining planet in the universe? Is extraterrestrial life possible? Is it probable? Could it be intelligent? The information needed to answer these questions span the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, and, of course, astronomy.

In this panel discussion, we will explore the current state of knowledge surrounding extraterrestrial life and habitability, and what it may suggest about the possibilities for life beyond Earth. We will discuss potential life-sustaining environments within the solar system and look further out at extrasolar planets and planetary systems.

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM
The Science of Voltron: Legendary Defender
Come along, Paladins! The Voltron: Legendary Defender series has come to a close, so it’s time to explore some of the best science in the series. We’ll learn about wormholes, crystals, gluon fields, and much more while we discuss how much the series got right (and a few things they got wrong). Kids of all ages are welcome!

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM
Robots in Space: Science, Exploration, and the Search for Life
Robots can make things happen in space that we never thought possible before. We currently find ourselves in an era of “one and done” spacecraft with no way of fixing or refueling the vast majority of satellites in space. In an average year, several billion dollars’ worth of satellites are retired when their fuel supply is exhausted, or when repairable issues render them inoperable. But modern day robotics are poised to change this paradigm forever.

That’s where NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) comes in. SSPD is developing the technologies necessary to make refueling, repairing, and upgrading satellites possible. These technologies go beyond satellite servicing and have crosscutting applications to a variety of pursuits. From extending satellites’ lifespans, thereby prolonging their ability to conduct science and aid us in our daily lives, to refueling and repairing spacecraft on journeys to distant locations, to assembling giant life-finding telescopes, robotics are paving the way to the future of space.

Join SSPD engineers as they walk you through the revolutionary missions NASA is developing to advance satellite servicing and space robotics, and the amazing new opportunities they present.

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Science of Aquaman
This panel will discuss the actual science behind Aquaman’s powers. He can communicate with marine life, is adapted to live and thrive in harsh underwater environments and has superhuman strength. All these abilities, including being able to “talk to fish,” as Batman would say, are rooted in science. Come learn about the incredible adaptations that allow life to thrive in the extremes of the deep ocean, the methods scientists use to study the undersea landscape, and the bio-inspired technologies being developed that could allow a human to effectively take on the abilities of Aquaman.

8:00 PM – 8:45 PM
New Discoveries from the Invisible Universe!
Famous in film, TV, and pop culture, iconic observatories like the VLA (Very Large Array), Arecibo, and the amazing new ALMA telescope in Chile are reshaping our understanding of the Universe — especially the parts invisible to our eyes. Come learn about the latest discoveries from the invisible universe, like planet and star formation, the chemistry of life across the galaxy, and the power of distant starbursting galaxies.

9:00 PM – 9:45 PM
Sex & the Sealife (or Blue Chicca-Woo-Woo Planet)
The panel comprises a bunch of nerdy marine biologists who will be discussing some of the bizarre behaviors of marine species, in particular, details about marine reproductive behavior that would make even Aquaman blush.


11:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Star Wars and Star Trek Science Tag-Team Fight
Four scientists, two biologists, and two physicists argue for the supremacy of their chosen fandom’s science. Four scientists enter! Four leave! (Because this isn’t a bat’leth or lightsaber duel.) The format is each scientist presents a few examples of exceptionally good or bad science from their (or their opponent’s) fandom and discusses in some detail, and the audience is then invited to comment or ask questions.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM
Peering into the James Webb Space Telescope
Explaining the science, engineering, and technologies behind NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Launching in 2021, Webb will observe the universe in infrared light, and will be ~100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM
There and Back Again: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Mission
Launched on September 8, 2016 (the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Star Trek), the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission is now conducting operations at near-Earth asteroid Bennu, from which it will collect a surface sample and return it to Earth for detailed study. OSIRIS-REx seeks to answer the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the Sun and planets.

The OSIRIS-REx team members will discuss how, despite navigational complexity, they have been successfully guiding the spacecraft through scientific discoveries, even breaking planetary records. Navigation and maneuver experts will describe how they reached Bennu and then placed the spacecraft in orbit around the asteroid. Project scientists will describe the remarkable scientific details that have already come back from Bennu, including the detection of water bound to the surface minerals.

Join OSIRIS-REx on this adventure!


2:00 PM – 2:45 PM
A Conversation with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Commercial Space Leaders
NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, will join space leaders to discuss exciting new developments at NASA and in the space industry.

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM
Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding
Witches and wizards can do many forms of magic. They can easily break the rules of physics by changing shape and size, creating energy and teleporting on a whim. One of the things they cannot do with magic is create witches or wizards. The use of magic is an inherited genetic trait. Here we describe some aspects of the Wizarding gene, explain where Muggle-borns and squibs come from and explain why you didn’t get an owl on your 11th birthday.

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM
The Higgs Boson and Dark Matter
We’ve found evidence for the Higgs boson, completing the Standard Model! But the existence of dark matter suggests that there’s physics beyond the Standard Model. How did we find the Higgs boson, and how might it be connected to dark matter?

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM
Astronomy 101 Through Science Fiction
Welcome to Astronomy 101! Always wanted to learn astronomy? Science Fiction fan? Dr. Erin Macdonald will take us through the first semester of astronomy with hardly any math and a whole lot of science fiction references. We’ll blaze through the science of planets, the solar system, and stars at warp speed; come ready to learn!

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM
Superhero and Sci-Fi Science: Ask Us Anything!
The best part of almost any panel at a convention like this? The Q&A! We’re pulling together experts from science as well as pop culture to field your questions that you’ve been dying to ask about what happens when science meets pop culture. Is there something like Wolverine’s healing factor in real life? Will we be overrun by a clone army someday? Why aren’t transporters a thing? Are we living in The Matrix and just don’t know it? Where’s my lightsaber, my laser gun, my flying car, and jetpack? Got more? Bring ‘em on! We’ll be talking about the things that could be real, things that can’t be real and everything in between and teach you how to tell the difference. Bring your questions and your curiosity and get ready for a fast-paced, rollicking good time with science! *no fights, please…

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Understanding (Humanoid) Evolution via Star Trek!
Have you ever wondered why most alien life depicted on Star Trek strongly resembles us, Earthlings? Come explore the possibility of humanoid or other forms of life on other planets with Mohamed Noor, a professor of biology at Duke University, editor-in-chief of the research journal Evolution, and lifelong Trekkie. Drawing on relevant scenes from the series, Noor presents evidence for the existence of a common ancestor for life on Earth and clarifies misconceptions about evolutionary biology. He discusses the science of evolution and how we might use modern evolutionary approaches to understand the origins of extraterrestrial life— if and when such life is found. A major in biology isn’t required to enjoy Noor’s presentation. But you might leave with a greater understanding of evolution, and, perhaps, a greater appreciation for Star Trek. It’s only logical.

8:00 PM – 8:45 PM
Intelligence Super Models: 3D Modeling in the Intelligence Community
Join U.S. Intelligence Community experts on digital and physical 3D modeling who will demonstrate and discuss their experiences impacting national security missions. 3D modelers will exhibit a variety of capabilities utilized by NGA and CIA across the 3D disciplines, including leveraging imagery and geospatial information to visualize human activities that occur on the Earth.

9:00 PM – 9:45 PM
It’s only been 16 years since the Human Genome Project finished (and 22 years since GATTACA). But genetics is now rocketing forward so fast that sci-fi can’t even keep up. Scientists now have CRISPR — a way to edit single letters of a cell’s DNA. They’ve CRISPR’d bacteria, mice, dogs and…babies. Yes. Babies. But how does CRISPR work? How reliable is it? And where should humanity draw the gene-editing line? Just because we COULD get to GATTACA or generate some X-men…should we? This panel will bring together scientists bioethicists, science writers and sci-fi fans to talk about what gene editing is, how it works and what it could learn from science fiction.


11:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Space Food’s Next Step: What You’re Afraid to Ask
Last year, DreamUp’s panelists discussed the future of space gastronomy at Awesome Con. This year, we’re thinking about what comes next. All humans need to eat, digest, and soon thereafter, dispose of their waste. That’s right, we’re talking about space toilets (and what happens to the food in an astronaut’s body before it gets there!). Where waste goes in space is a question asked by children and adults alike, and if they don’t ask it, they’re definitely thinking about it. Our panelists will discuss what happens when an astronaut eats, what differences exist in the digestive process on Earth and in a microgravity environment in space, and what kinds of research experts and citizen-scientists alike are conducting to answer the questions about life in space that you were afraid to ask but dying to know.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM
Should You Really Get Your DNA tested?
More than 15 million Americans have spat into tubes or swabbed the inside of their cheeks to have their DNA tested by companies claiming to be able to uncover your ethnic ancestry, reveal the risk of developing genetic diseases or even recommend a diet, exercise regime or wine based on your genes. But there are side effects to finding out about that secret second cousin. Police even used relatives’ DNA, available for free on the Internet, to track down the Golden State Killer suspect and other rape and murder suspects. People are left with many questions surrounding this technology. How do the tests work? How accurate are they? Just what do you give a company when you give them your DNA? Are the police going to start investigating me (or my family) if I get my DNA tested? We will bring together science journalists and a bioethicist to help answer these burning questions and more.

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM
Small Steps and Giant Leaps: The Past, Present, and Future of NASA’s Exploration of the Moon
50 years ago, NASA sent astronauts to the Moon in the Apollo program. At the time, we knew very little of what we would find there. What was the Moon made of? Would we find life? How did the Moon form? Over the past 50 years, we have gained valuable information about lunar geology and resources. In this session, scientists discuss how current lunar research has built on science from the last 50 years and serves as a foundation for the future of lunar exploration. What will we discover in the next 50 years?

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM
The Story and Science of Gravitational Waves
In 2015 our quest to study and explore the universe took a giant leap forward with the discovery of gravitational waves. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration has detected ripples in spacetime from the collision of black holes as well as a neutron star merger that showed up in every spectrum possible. Dr. Erin Macdonald (a former member of LIGO) will discuss the history behind the detection, share some fun stories, and what these discoveries mean for astrophysics going forward.

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM
Supermassive Black Holes: Monsters in the Universe!
Black holes, these enigmatic objects have fascinated us for over 100 years, and we are now tantalizingly close to seeing them directly. Lurking in the centers of almost all galaxies, supermassive black holes are the true monsters in the universe. When they feed on passing gas and stars, they burst to life and power some of the most energetic astrophysical phenomena in the universe. Colliding black holes produce gravitational waves we are just starting to observe, and their extreme environments provide exquisite laboratories for the study of the laws of physics in ways we can’t hope to do on earth. Join moderator Dr. Joe Pesce and a panel of world-class experts as we discuss the facts surrounding these awesome monsters in the universe!

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM
Hidden Worlds: Jupiter and its Moons
Come hear NASA scientists and engineers talk about the secrets hidden inside Jupiter and its awesome moons. We’ll discuss the Juno mission which is currently at Jupiter returning amazing images of Jupiter’s clouds and investigating its mysterious interior and origin. We’ll talk about Jupiter’s planet-sized moons which are thought to possibly have subsurface oceans and the necessary ingredients for life. We’ll talk about NASA’s current plans to send robotic missions to explore these exotic places.

Room 146


12:00 PM – 12:45 PM
Germ Warfare: A Very Graphic History
Join world-renowned author Max Brooks (World War Z) for a conversation about his newly-released graphic novel on the dangers posed by biological agents. Members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense will also be present to discuss the novel and its message about the threat of biological attacks and naturally occurring outbreaks in the 21st century.

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM
Spotlight on Max Brooks
Max Brooks will discuss his exciting career and answer audience questions.


Got a science question? Why not ask the experts?! Stop by the Ask A Scientist Booth (Booth# 1510) in Future Con to have your questions answered!


1:00 PM Annette; Specialties: Strategic Planning, IT, Cybersecurity, Data Lifecycle Management & Services
2:00 PM Dr. Richard Wright
3:00 PM Tovah LaDier – Executive Director of IBIA
Greg Cannon – Director of Biometrics and Standards – HID Global
Jim Loudermilk – Senior Director, Innovation and Customer Solutions – IDEMIA National Security Solutions
Bill Willlis – VP of Biometric Identity – CLEAR
4:00 PM Dr. Bethany Brookshire; Specialties: Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Physiology
5:00 PM Gisselle Hoover; Specialties: RF Signal Processing and 3D Printing
6:00 PM Charles Blue, Science Writer; Specialties: Space and Radio Astronomy; ALMA telescope in Chile, VLA in New Mexico, and Event Horizon Telescope


11:00 AM Dr. Suveen Mathaudhu; Specialties: Materials Properties & Processing
1:00 PM Dr. Eric Spana; Specialties: Genetics, Molecular Developmental and Cell Biology
2:00 PM Matt Brady and Dr. Shari Brady; Specialties: Secondary STEM Education, Using Pop Culture to Teach Science
3:00 PM Dr. Mohamed Noor; Specialties: Genetics and Evolution
5:00 PM Dr. Stephen Granade; Specialties: Physics and Robotics


11:00 AM Andrew; Specialties: Cyber Forensics
12:00 PM Kristine; Specialties: Analysis, Analytic Technology, Search Systems
1:00 PM Dr. Tina Saey; Specialties: Genetics, DNA Testing, CRISPR Gene Editing, Forensic Genetic Genealogy, and Molecular Biology
2:00 PM Dr. Jared Espley; Specialties: Planetary Science, Plasma Physics, Mars, Jupiter, and NASA
3:00 PM Dr. Erin Macdonald; Specialties: Spacetime/General Relativity, Gravitational Waves, Artificial Gravity, Faster-Than-Light Travel
4:00 PM Dr. Joe Pesce; Specialties: Supermassive Black Hole and Active Galactic Nuclei

The future is here! The future is now! The future is Future Con!