'Shooting for the Stars'

Breakthrough Initiatives official to speak about the search for extraterrestrial life at ASU Sept. 20

September 14, 2016

A key player in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life will speak at Arizona State University. Simon “Pete” Worden, who is the chairman for the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and leads the spectacular Breakthrough Initiatives, will give the 2016 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture, 7 p.m., Sept. 20, in the Marston Exploration Theater on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

Worden, formerly the director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, is a recognized expert on space and science issues. He will describe some audacious plans to seek out life beyond Earth in a lecture titled “Shooting for the Stars: The Interstellar Breakthrough Initiatives.” sky at night Breakthrough Initiative official Simon “Pete” Worden will describe some audacious plans to seek out life beyond Earth in a lecture titled “Shooting for the Stars: The Interstellar Breakthrough Initiatives” at ASU Sept. 20. Download Full Image

“Whether or not we are alone in the universe is one of the oldest and biggest of the big questions of existence,” said Paul Davies, director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, which hosts the annual Shoemaker Lecture. “Given the ambitious goals of the Breakthrough Initiatives, we may soon know the answer.”

Announced a year ago, the Breakthrough Initiatives is a program generously funded by the philanthropist Yuri Milner to search for intelligent life outside of Earth. It consists of Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year project to actively search for extraterrestrial communications; Breakthrough Message, to study the ethical implications of sending messages into deep space; and Breakthrough Starshot a proposal to use powerful lasers to propel a fleet of tiny probes to Alpha Centauri, a nearby star system.

A target for Breakthrough Starshot could be a planet called Proxima Centuari b, an Earth-sized exoplanet that resides in the habitable zone of its host star in the Alpha Centauri system. The idea is to develop technology that will allow microchip-sized payloads to be accelerated to 20 percent the speed of light, enabling them to reach Alpha Centauri in about two decades.

“Starshot is an audacious attempt to leapfrog existing space exploration by harnessing several new technologies,” said Davies. “The prospect of human probes reaching the stars within our lifetime is breathtaking.”

Each year, the Beyond Center presents a special award to a leading scientist to honor the life and work of Eugene Shoemaker, who together with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker, pioneered research in the field of asteroid and comet impacts.

The Shoemaker Lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested. For more information, go to http://beyond.asu.edu/, or call 480-965-3240.

Associate Director, Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU 'Hooked' documentary leads to national campaign to combat heroin

September 14, 2016

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is launching a nationwide campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction, in part due to an award-winning documentary produced by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA).

The NAB is teaming up with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit committed to fighting substance use, to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic through on-air public service announcements, special news reports and online initiatives. The campaign builds upon the duPont Award-winning documentary “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” produced by the Cronkite School and the ABA. man in background filming man in foreground ASU graduate Erin Patrick O'Connor conducts an interview for the documentary "Hooked: Tracking Heroin's Hold on Arizona." The documentary, which reached more than 1 million Arizonans, has won numerous awards and has helped to inspire the launch of a nationwide campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction. Download Full Image

The Tuesday press conference in Washington, D.C., included a bipartisan group of members of Congress who spoke in support of the NAB/Partnership for Drug-Free Kids campaign, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who urged people to watch “Hooked.” During the press conference, he said Arizona has experienced a 44 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in the past two years.

“I’m proud of the work of the students at the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, who effectively helped tell the story of addiction with a documentary on heroin use in our state,” McCain said. “The film received national recognition, and with the help of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, reached over 1 million Arizonans.”

In addition to McCain, R-Ariz., the bipartisan group who showed support for the NAB campaign, included Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

During the conference, NAB President Gordon Smith also pointed to “Hooked” as an exemplar in spotlighting the crisis, saying that “it inspired countless viewers and listeners to take action.”

“Hooked” traced the rise of heroin use and its impact on Arizonans through the stories of addicts struggling with sobriety, families grappling for solace, and law enforcement officials battling on the frontlines. The 30-minute documentary aired in January 2015 on all 33 Arizona broadcast television and 93 radio stations in both English and Spanish. It made its national broadcast debut on Link TV in February 2016.

More than 70 students and eight faculty members worked on the project under the direction of Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. The project was part of Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.

“We have been amazed by the impact of this important piece of journalism,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Our students helped spark a nationwide dialogue on this terrible epidemic. We are thrilled the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids are joining us on shining a light on this important issue.”

Art Brooks, president and CEO of the ABA, developed the idea for “Hooked” after learning of the seriousness of the issue and organized the backing of the state’s broadcast industry.

“There is no doubt ‘Hooked’ played a key role in showing what community-minded local broadcasters can accomplish in this present crisis with heroin and opioids,” Brooks said. “The national PSA plan of the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is to reach every American with information about the dangers of addiction that too often leads to overdose and death.”

Since airing, the documentary has received numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, which marked the first time a student project has won the award and just the third time in the 74-year history of the contest that a Phoenix-based news operation has received the honor.

“Hooked” also has received a prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and two of the region’s top professional honors at the Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards: an Emmy in the category of “Societal Concerns – Program/Special” and the Governors’ Award. It also took first place in video storytelling at the Arizona Press Club Awards.

In April, the documentary won the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s President’s Special Award, a top honor from the NAB.

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication