Friday, December 17, 2004

Astrobiological-oriented mission tops year's science achievements

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation:
g Stars – Science magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year” rightly went to NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission. The twin rovers provided strong evidence that water once flowed freely on the Red Planet, raising hope that life could have evolved elsewhere in the universe and that at least one world may be more hospitable to colonization. See article.
g Abodes – Four-billion-year-old rocks uncovered in Greenland could provide the earliest evidence of life on Earth. If so, life may start very soon after a planet’s formation. See
Life – Does life need light and oxygen to exist? If we limit ourselves to thinking about carbon-based life, the answer has been “yes” — until now. See
g Intelligence – How long have humans had language? Try 1.6 million years, according to a new paper. See
g Message – For more than 80 years, we’ve been sending radio (and eventually television) transmissions into space, allowing anyone in space to hear war reports from London, “I Love Lucy” reruns and our latest election results. So wouldn’t hearing aliens be as simple as turning on the radio? Here’s why not.
g Cosmicus – Which space exploration missions would you select? I’d advocate dollars for all of them described here. Each one would provide valuable information about the cosmos and our place in it.
g Learning – An excellent collection of books about SETI, including some for elementary and middle school children, appears online here. These would make some great holiday gifts.
g Imagining – An impressive listing of “Star Trek” aliens exists here. Of course, most “Star Trek” aliens either are just humanoid (an unlikely scenario, though the series did explain it away by saying a previous humanoid race “seeded” worlds with their DNA) are incorporeal. Still, the series did offer some intriguing species — most notably the horta, tribble and Species 8472 — merit attention. More later.
g Aftermath – Would should we say to an extraterrestrial? Try the World Wide Web. SETI astronomer Seth Shostak opines.

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