Saturday, March 19, 2005

The meaning of methane, a chip in your brain and COTI

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 – Astrophysicists in recent years have found evidence for a force they call dark energy in observations from the farthest reaches of the universe, billions of light years away. Now researchers have used data from powerful computer models, supported by the Hubble Space Telescope, to find evidence of dark energy right in our own cosmic neighborhood. See article.
.g Abodes – The detection of methane on Mars has generated a lot of speculation about what could possibly be producing it. Is it coming out of active volcanoes? Maybe the methane results from some geologic or chemical process we don't yet understand. Or, since much of the methane on Earth is produced by biology, perhaps the faint whiffs of methane point to the existence of present-day life on Mars. See article.
g Life – Innovative research from the University of Bristol provides the strongest evidence to date that disruptive patterns do indeed protect insects from detection by birds, the predator most likely to have shaped the evolution of protective coloration in insects. See article.
g Intelligence – Our computers get faster every year — so how long will it be before they're as good as the best computer around: the human brain? SETI’s Sunday radio show “Are We Alone?” will discuss how researchers are striving to construct an artificial mind — and whether a chip in your brain might be in your future. Click here for a radio station in your area.
g Message – Here’s why the world's biggest search should reverse its strategy — and why the first signal we hear will probably come from an extremely powerful civilization extremely far away. See article.
g Cosmicus – The pieces are coming together for NASA’s first space shuttle launch in more than two years as engineers prepare to roll the Discovery spacecraft out of its protective Orbiter Processing Facility. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a great educational tool for teaching astrobiology and various principles of science: COTI. COTI is an educational experiment in creation — students design an integrated world, alien life form and culture, and simulate contact with a future human society. One team constructs a solar system, a world and its ecology, an alien life form and its culture, basing each step on the previous one and utilizing the principles of science as a guide to imagination. The other team designs a future human colony, planetary or spacefaring, "creating and evolving" its culture as an exercise in cultural structure, dynamics and adaptation. Through a structured system of progressive revelation, the teams then simulate — and experience — contact between the two cultures in real time, exploring the problems and possibilities involved in inter-cultural encounters. See article.
g Imagining – Be sure to watch the two-hour special “Dragons” Sunday on the Animal Planet cable channel. The show examines the mythology of dragons and looks at what real prehistoric creatures may have served as their inspiration. It starts at 7 p.m. CST. See article.
g Aftermath – What would be the social consequences in case a SETI-project would actually be successful or mankind would be confronted in another way with the existence of an extraterrestrial civilization? See article.

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