Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stars locked in death grip, Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence and alien wars

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 – A scientist using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found evidence that two white dwarf stars are orbiting each other in a death grip, destined to merge. The data indicate gravitational waves are carrying energy away from the star system at a prodigious rate, making it a prime candidate for future missions designed to directly detect these ripples in space-time. See article.
g Abodes – New research suggests that there could be millions of planets similar to ours, harboring life forms, although at this stage the proof is still in the imagination. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life – Elephants learn to imitate sounds that are not typical of their species, the first known example after humans of vocal learning in a non-primate terrestrial mammal. The discovery, reported in last week’s Nature, further supports the idea that vocal learning is important for maintaining individual social relationships among animals that separate and reunite over time, like dolphins and whales, some birds and bats. See article.
g Intelligence – Although many people do not consider themselves very creative, the opposite is actually true according to research in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research examining consumer creativity. In fact, researchers found that not only are consumers creative, but they become more creative as they are faced with more constraints. See article.
g Message – We’ve all heard of SETI, bit what about METI — “Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” or sending both scientific and artistic messages to the stars? See article.
g Cosmicus – The Vision for Space Exploration calls for human and robotic missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. To realize these ambitious goals, we will need more powerful and efficient propulsion and power-generation systems — systems that can thrust a spacecraft out of Earth's orbit to the far reaches of the universe. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat lesson plan for middle school astronomy: “The Life Cycle of Stars.” See article.
g Imagining – Would there be wars between extraterrestrial civilizations? Here's one common man's thoughts and a string of responses in a forum: article.
g Aftermath – Extraterrestrials might display either or both of two types of altruism: reciprocal altruism and nepotism. In reciprocal altruism, nice-ness is reciprocated with nice-ness, negativity with negativity. Reciprocal altruism is seen, for example, in chimpanzee grooming and food sharing. If Chimp A grooms Chimp B, Chimp A often gets a payback at dinner assuming no more than a couple hours has passed between personal hygiene and meal time. Even reciprocity has its limits such as those imposed by the constraints of memory. In nepotism, by contrast, altruism is extended to one's close relatives, not necessarily with the expectation of direct payback. Rather, by helping relatives, indirectly the altruist also benefits. By increasing the chances that relatives will survive to reproduce, the altruists genes also have an increased chance of being passed on to the next generation, simply because close relatives share a predictable percentage of genes, depending on how closely they are related. Nepotism may be even more common than reciprocal altruism in intelligence beyond Earth. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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