Thursday, June 02, 2005

Olivine Mars, radio messages for aliens and the Center for the Study of Life in the Universe

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 – About once a day, a random spot in the sky flashes in gamma rays – the most energetic part of the light spectrum. These so-called gamma ray bursts very briefly shine as bright as a million trillion suns. They have been mysteries ever since they were first detected in 1967 by satellites monitoring the ban on nuclear arms testing. See article.
g Abodes – By using new, high spatial resolution infrared data from NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, scientists have concluded that a region on the surface of Mars known to contain olivine-rich rocks is actually four times larger than previously estimated. See article.
g Life – The answer to the presence of life elsewhere in the universe must come from a judicious application for the scientific method to the collection of data in support of the premise. But is the question open to the scientific method? To some extent yes, a University of Miami biology professor says. See article.
g Intelligence – Sex and romance may seem inextricably linked, but the human brain clearly distinguishes between the two, according to a new study. The upshot: Love is the more powerful emotion. See article. For related story, see “New Love Behavior Spotted in Brain Scan”.
g Message – Both previous radio messages for aliens, Arecibo 1974 and Evpatoria 1999 (see article for details) were the logical ones and represented the binary stream of FM information, which should be arranged into two-dimensional forms to perceive by eye-like sense-organ. And I guess the primary one-dimensional message is more understandable by unfamiliar aliens and the music is the most universal expression of intellectual activity by means of one-channel ear-like radio link. Further, the Theremin instrument is the most preferable for interstellar transmission since Theremin produces quasi-sinusoidal narrow-band signals with continuous phase under performance, which are easier for extraction from noise. Given this, one scientist suggests implementing the First Theremin Concert for Aliens from Arecibo or Evpatoria Radar facility. The Theremin virtuoso Lidia Kavina agrees to give such Concert with appropriate classic and cosmic repertoire either in on-line mode at observatory's concert-hall or off-line Concert in audio studio. The Theremin's signal lies at about (0-10) kHz, and it should be shifted by SSB mixer to radar band and transmitted into space toward any star cluster or Sun-like star. See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA’s new administrator and Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay said Tuesday the space agency will have the necessary funding to implement President Bush's vision to send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars. "We have the money to do good things," said Michael Griffin. See article.
g Learning – We live in an awesome universe, rich in remarkable, complex, phenomena. Every advance in our observing capabilities reveals new and often unpredicted objects, such as other planetary systems, and processes in the universe. Of all these phenomena, the most marvelous, and at the same time of the greatest interest to us as human beings, is life in the universe. How many planets exist which might support life? Indeed, what is required for life to exist? How does life start? How does it evolve, and what fabulous creatures can evolution produce? How often do intelligent creatures appear in the giant tapestry of life? It is exactly these questions, and all of them, which are being addressed by the scientists of the Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. See article.
g Imagining – Think of your favorite alien on TV or in the movies. Do you have the image in mind? I'd bet that your alien is pretty darn smart. However, despite what we see in “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” the author of “The Science of Aliens” doesn't expect intelligence to be an inevitable result of evolution on other worlds.
g Aftermath – If we find other civilizations, what will we say to them? Crafting a message that represents Earth and humanity and can be understood by another life form is no minor endeavor. SETI Institute psychologist Douglas Vakoch has been charged with this formidable task, and has enlisted the help of mathematicians, artists, astronomers and anthropologists. Hear the messages he helped compose and learn about the thinking behind them here.

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