Saturday, July 02, 2005

Einstein Ring, three classes of SETI and bringing social sciences into the fold

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 - Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, Remi Cabanac and his European colleagues have discovered an amazing cosmic mirage, known to scientists as an Einstein Ring. This cosmic mirage, dubbed FOR J0332-3557, is seen towards the southern constellation Fornax (the Furnace), and is remarkable on at least two counts. First, it is a bright, almost complete Einstein ring. Second, it is the farthest ever found. See article.
g Abodes - You won't want to drink water straight from the ocean anytime soon. But the salt content is on the decline, a sign of potentially worrisome consequences that scientists can't accurately predict. See article. For related story, see "Future Climate Could Be Hotter Than Thought".
g Life - The fossilized skeleton of a small crocodile relative excavated last year at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona throws a wrench into theories of how and where the dinosaurs arose more than 210 million years ago at the end of the Triassic Period. This suggests that the herbivorous ornithischians and the meat-eating theropods, like Tyrannosaurus rex, did not evolve together in the Late Triassic as many paleontologists thought. See article.
g Intelligence - After nearly a decade of court battles, scientists plan to begin studying the 9,300-year-old skeleton known as Kennewick Man next week. See article.
g Message - Since its emergence as a respectable scientific discipline nearly a half century ago, the electro-magnetic Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has been dominated by three classes of practitioners: government agencies, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations surviving on a combination of private contributions and research grants. Recent technological advances have brought a new group of players into the SETI game – dedicated amateurs with a personal passion for achieving interstellar contact. This paper explores the contributions such non-professionals are making to SETI science, in the realms of experimental design, equipment construction, software development, direct observation, sky coverage, signal analysis, and message interpretation. Like the amateur athlete competing in an Olympiad, the amateur "SETIzen" can expect to struggle for survival, absent commercial or institutional sponsorship. This paper shows how grass-roots amateur efforts can nevertheless supplement the accomplishments of the professional SETI community, bringing us all closer to the day of contact. See article.
g Cosmicus - Even a journey of a thousand light years starts with a single step into low Earth orbit. One way to take that step in the next century is on "Highways of Light ." In the near term, we might start with a sled ride on the Maglifter, or by some other advanced propulsion ideas. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Pin the Microbe on the Map.” In this variation of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," students find locations on a world map that match the homes of extreme-loving microbes. Students will also give creative nicknames to real life extremophiles that summarize their characteristics and living environments. See article.
g Imagining - Edgar Rice Burroughs, best remembered as the creator of Tarzan, who also wrote a series of adventure stories set on Mars (known to its natives as "Barsoom"). Published between 1917 and 1948, these ten novels, among the best of which were A Princess of Mars (1917), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), and Swords of Mars (1936), saw hero John Carter encountering a variety of alien-looking but human-acting creatures on a world extrapolated from the Mars of Percival Lowell. Though lightweight in content, and superficial in their portrayal of alien life and intelligence, they nevertheless had a lasting effect on those who read them in their formative years, including, by their own acknowledgment, Ronald Bracewell, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan. Here’s “A Princess of Mars” available online free.
g Aftermath - A wide variety of steps should be taken to help the social sciences increase their visibility, status and contribution within the SETI field. The impact of social scientists will be profound if they contribute fresh ideas about the nature of ETI and how to detect it, bold insights into the variety of human reactions if the search succeeds, and far- sighted scenarios of humanity’s eventual relations with extraterrestrial intelligence. The quality of their thought, the ingenuity of their research designs and the depth of their findings will, in the long run, be particularly significant factors in their contribution to the SETI field. See article.

Read this blogger’s books

No comments: