Thursday, February 17, 2005

The golden record and recognizing alien intelligence

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 – Cosmic gamma-ray bursts produce more energy in the blink of an eye than the Sun will release in its entire lifetime. These short-lived explosions appear to be the death throes of massive stars, and, many scientists believe, mark the birth of black holes. Testing these ideas has been difficult, however, because the bursts fade so quickly and rapid action is required. See article.
g Abodes – The next decade offers unique chances to do what might be called, comparative planetology. How is the Earth different from its neighbors and why? NASA's associate administrator for the science directorate indicates that to do this hard work, the motivation follows from something bigger than life. See article.
g Life – A 115-million-year-old fossil of a tiny egg-laying mammal thought to be related to the platypus provides compelling evidence of multiple origins of acute hearing in humans and other mammals. See article.
g Intelligence – Two members of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society have discovered an engraving in a cave in the Mendip Hills, Somerset, which may be at least 10,000 years old. See article.
g Message – When the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft were launched in 1977, they each included a gold-plated phonograph record (a "golden record") of natural sounds, greetings in human voices, and a variety of music. The record cover has symbolic instructions that show how to use and understand the record, though scientists still debate whether other civilizations will be able to decipher them. For info on Voyager’s golden record, see article. For an explanation of the record cover diagram, click here. For an interactive module that contains greetings, sounds, and pictures included on the record (requires Flash plug-in), click here.
g Cosmicus – The priority of the space community must be bringing the Moon-Mars focus back to the near-term. The focus must be on programs that proceed in stages, each with its own perceivable goal and associated cost estimates. Because those estimates will be near-term they will be easier for Congress to ascertain and periodically review. See article.
g Learning – Considering yesterday’s news that researchers may have found life still thriving on Mars, it’s a great opportunity (no pun intended) to teach kids a little about our red sister. NASA has a great site with games and activities.

g Imagining – Here’s a neat Web page that asks “What are our chances of actually recognizing an alien intelligence for what it is?” What if ET does not say "Take me to your leader" from an obviously technologically superior spaceship? Will we know if it’s intelligent? It draws in part upon Stanley Weinbaum's famous short story, "A Martian Odyssey”.
g Aftermath – Often the advanced science and technology of alien civilizations is touted as a benefit of contact with alien civilizations. So what type of physics would an advanced, extraterrestrial civilization likely possess? See what theoretical physicist Michio Kaku thinks that civilization might have.

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