Friday, February 04, 2005

Terraforming Mars and social skills in robots

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 – If all goes well with a technical study approved by NASA for this year, an innovative telescope should be orbiting Earth by the end of the decade and taking the first focused high-energy X-ray pictures of matter falling into black holes and shooting out of exploding stars. See article.
g Abodes – Injecting synthetic "super" greenhouse gases into the Martian atmosphere could raise the planet's temperature enough to melt its polar ice caps and create conditions suitable for sustaining biological life. In fact, a team of researchers suggests that introducing global warming on the red planet may be the best approach for warming the planet's frozen landscape and turning it into a habitable world. See article.
g Life – How a flock of birds or school of fish may go in a single direction without having a permanent leader is a mystery of social organization. But adding a mechanized component to the question raises the possibility of social robots that lack much in the way of social skills or leadership qualities. See article
g Message – Estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization is a multi-dimensional challenge. The answer, according to two scientists at the Hungarian Astronomical Association, is less like an equation and more like a matrix. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus – Yes, it’s being developed: Magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or MagBeam propulsion, could cut the time required for long journeys around the solar system from years to weeks. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

g Intelligence – You wouldn't know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals. In a new book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles. See article.
g Imagining – Here’s the indispensable book on science fiction aliens: “Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials: Great Aliens from Science Fiction Literature”. Having been out a few years now, it may not be on your local bookstore’s shelves.

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