Mars' "Happy Face" crater
On March 4--as the Mars Global Surveyor was locking into the red planet's orbit to begin its mapping mission, and two other spacecraft were hurtling toward Mars on other investigative missions--a multidisciplinary group of scientists, along with teachers, artists, writers, and a theologian, gathered to contemplate the Big Picture. During a long weekend in California's Silicon Valley, an estimated 200 people discussed, listened, and watched as future possibilities and probabilities unfolded in a kaleidoscope of erudite theories, random musings, unbridled concepts, and intriguing artwork from the fields of anthropology, astronomy, biochemistry, genetics, physics, cosmology, linguistics, psychology, planetary science, robotics--and science fiction.

They viewed the Big Picture through many small lenses in a wide range of focuses. The primary theme for CONTACT XVI was using a multidisciplinary approach and imagination in a quest for more knowledge about the universe and its potential extraterrestrial life forms. Although CONTACT...

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