Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Terraforming, laser pulses and micro spacecraft

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 – Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison once said that the most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. See article.
g Abodes – Say the word “terraforming” amid a gathering of space enthusiasts, and it’s a bit like upending your beer mug in an Australian pub. It means you’re ready to duke it out with anybody in the joint. And the fight usually breaks out along these lines: One team sees the quest to replicate the biosphere of Earth on other planets as a moral imperative, an inevitable destiny or both. Others — equally passionate — recoil at such pretension, proclaiming with surety that humans have no right to interfere with nature as writ large upon the face of other worlds. Both viewpoints are, of course, so fraught with self-defeating conflicts as to be, well, flat out wrong. See article.
g Life – USDA Forest Service research suggests that a decline in the abundance of freshwater mussels about 1,000 years ago may have been caused by Native Americans’ large-scale cultivation of maize. See article.
g Intelligence – Archaeologists have returned to a dig near the Colorado-Kansas border for a third summer, but this year's work has taken on new importance. Radiocarbon dating results completed in February showed that mammoth and prehistoric camel bones found at a rural site near Kanorado, about a mile from the Colorado border, dated back to 12,200 years ago. That would mean people who once camped at the site might have arrived in the Great Plains 700 years before historians previously thought. See article.
g Message – In 2001, California astronomers broadened the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with a new experiment to look for powerful light pulses beamed our way from other star systems. Scientists from the University of California's Lick Observatory, the SETI Institute, UC-Santa Cruz, and UC-Berkeley used the Lick Observatory's 40-inch Nickel Telescope with a new pulse-detection system capable of finding laser beacons from civilizations many light-years distant. Unlike other optical SETI searches, this new experiment is largely immune to false alarms that slow the reconnaissance of target stars. See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif., are preparing to flight test “micro spacecraft” as early as next year. The first versions would be attached to larger space vehicles as “black box” flight recorders to provide an independent monitor of conditions as standard-sized craft attempt to land on other planets. See article.
g Learning – For those new to astrobiology, here’s a nice basic primer on “the science of star life”.
g Imagining – Could alien life evolve on the nearest Sun-like star, Tau Ceti, as is suspected it will in many science fiction tales? See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Aftermath – With humanity now on the verge of being capable to leave its home world, Earth, scientists have begun to wrestle with the consequences of this next great journey; of the social impact humanity will have upon discovering life elsewhere, be it fossil, bacterial or an intelligent civilization. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.

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