Monday, July 18, 2005

Evolving intelligence, good intergalactic neighbors and farming Mars

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 - The European Space Agency’s Markus Landgraf and his colleagues have found the first direct evidence that a bright disc of dust surrounds our Solar System, starting beyond the orbit of Saturn. Remarkably, their discovery gives astronomers a way to determine which other stars in the galaxy are most likely to harbor planets and allows mission planners to draw up a 'short-list' of stars to be observed by future planet-search missions, such as Eddington and Darwin. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Abodes - It was Valentine's Day 1990 when a sleeping eye awoke after nearly nine year's of inactivity, and for a few brief moments, from a distance of nearly 4 billion miles, took its last look at the cosmic neighborhood from whence it came. See article.
g Life - For a good Web site that focuses on the latest advances and thought in evolutionary theory, see Alec’s Evolution Page. It’s part of the Evolution Education Site Ring.
g Intelligence - Since intelligent life took a long time to develop on Earth, some believe it will take just as long on other worlds. Other scientists disagree with this conclusion. They suggest that animal life - or something resembling it - may have developed more rapidly on other worlds. One proponent of this theory is Chris McKay, who wrote the essay, "Time for Intelligence on Other Planets," in order to determine the shortest possible time it would take for intelligence to develop after the origin of life. See article.
g Message - To design an interstellar message, does one have to find ways to communicate that humankind has the potential to be friendly, loving and altruistic toward non-kin individuals or strangers? How to announce our stewardship of the planet as a good neighbor? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Although Mars may once have been warm and wet, the Red Planet today is a frozen wasteland. Most scientists agree, it's highly unlikely that any living creature — even a microbe — could survive for long on the surface of Mars. When the first humans travel there to explore the Red Planet up close, they will have to grow their food in airtight, heated greenhouses. The Martian atmosphere is far too cold and dry for edible plants to grow in the open air. But if humans ever hope to establish long-term colonies on their planetary neighbor, they will no doubt want to find a way to farm outdoors. Imre Friedmann has an idea of how they might take the first step. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Chores on the International Space Station.” Students discover what astronauts do to keep the station running – and who has to take out the trash. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology and cultures? Then be sure to read Lloyd Biggle’s “The Light That Never Was” (1972). See review.
g Aftermath -In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See article.

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