Thursday, December 23, 2004

SETI: 'We'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within 20 years'

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars – Tucson scientists are racing to build the world’s largest telescopes. Ten times more powerful than current scopes, the devices are expected to usher the world into astronomy’s next age. See article.
g Abodes – Recent volcanic and glacial activity on Mars could establish conditions that support life there. See article.
g Life – For a good editorial exposing the flaws of the “intelligent design” crowd, click here. The editorial appeared in Men’s News Daily.
g Intelligence – Scientists have decoded chromosome 16 in the Human Genome Project. See article.
g Message – SETI scientists today predicted, “We'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within 20 years.” See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA has selected six proposals to provide instrumentation and associated exploration/science measurement investigations for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the first spacecraft to be built as part of the Vision for Space Exploration. See article.
g Learning – We've lost something by not having to rise at the crack of dawn to get a head start on the farm chores. We no longer witness the sky's slow shift from indigo to blue as the rising sun lifts night's shadows from the Earth. This holiday season, introduce a child to astronomy with the gift of a telescope. See my column, published last June just before Venus’ transit, about the importance of looking to the skies.
g Imagining – A short entry today on the early “Star Trek” alien Balok (click here and then on “The real Balok”): Creatively speaking, this alien was a disappointment compared to the previously presented Alfa 117 canine and salt vampire. Balok only possesses two real visual differences from humans: He’s shorter and possesses more child-like features (teeth and facial). As to the first trait, of height, Balok may come from a planet with heavier gravity than Earth. Or perhaps there was shorter grass on the savanna (his hominid frame indicates a primate-styled path to intelligence), so height actually may be an evolutionary disadvantage on his world. Possibly his planet is slightly cooler, as that would encourage stockier traits, though the shapes of his nostrils don’t indicate his kind regularly breathes cold air, nor does the Enterprise crew note or physically show that they’re on a cold ship. As to the second trait, of child-like features, presumably it holds some evolutionary advantage (after all, adults even in smaller mammals appear much more angular in their faces than their infants), though not enough hints were provided to offer speculation. Any ideas out there?
g Aftermath – Given the plethora of New Age/UFOlogy Web sites about alien contact, it’s refreshing to find one that’s serious. Try the “extraterrestrial intelligence, implications following first contact” entry at astrobiologist David Darling’s site “The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight”. It includes some links and a mini reference list.

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