Friday, July 08, 2005

Life in Venus’s clouds, ‘Are we alone in the cosmos?’ and ‘The Alien Way’

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 research group at Cambridge think that the universe might once have been packed full of tiny black holes. See article.
g Abodes - Its surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, and it rains sulphuric acid, but U.S. scientists think there might yet be life on Venus, floating in its sulphurous clouds. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Life - Cornell University's Andrew Bass explains for the first time how the plainfin midshipman fish can hear its own voice and outside sounds at the same time. See article.
g Intelligence - Creationists and intelligent designers often falsely argue there’s no proof of evolution in action. Here’s more evidence showing them wrong: Doctors have become increasingly concerned by the problem of "superbugs" - bacteria that have become resistant to standard antibiotics. It is well known that a high rate of antibiotic prescribing in hospitals contributes to the emergence of drug resistant bacteria. But for some antibiotics, an even more important factor contributing to such emergence, argues a team of researchers in the open access international medical journal PLoS Medicine, is the use of antibiotics in agriculture. See article.
g Message - Never before has so much time and concentrated effort been spent by so many scientists and writers in pursuit of the answer to this fundamental question. In “Are We Alone in the Cosmos? The Search for Alien Contact in the New Millennium,” by Byron Preiss and Ben Bova (editors), major scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence explain their work and reveal their thoughts. Joining them are some of the best speculative thinkers, from Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov to Gregory Benford, who address the major philosophical questions involved. See article.
g Cosmicus - The idea of dispatching a dedicated robotic probe on an interstellar trek has been seriously advocated for nearly 30 years. A recently finished appraisal of how to build such a craft shows that it is within reach - but nonetheless remains a challenging task. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Samples of the Future.” In this exercise, which reinforces creative thinking and the scientific method, kids build their own toy spacecraft from assorted household materials. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Gordon Dickson’s “The Alien Way” (1965). See article.
g Aftermath -Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation - all of it grounded in real science - is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. See article.

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