Friday, August 19, 2005

Freeze-dried microbes, Mars Foundation settlement and

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 - Like archaeologists unearthing a 'lost city', astronomers using the 8-meter Gemini South telescope have revealed that the galaxy NGC 300 has a large, faint extended disk made of ancient stars, enlarging the known diameter of the galaxy by a factor of two or more. See article.
g Abodes - New discoveries about the timing and speed of gigantic, 6,500-foot thick lava flows that poured out of the ground 65 million years ago could shift the blame for killing the dinosaurs. The Deccan Traps of India are one of Earth's largest lava flows ever, with the potential of having wreaked havoc with the climate of the Earth - if they erupted and released climate-changing gases quickly enough. French and Indian geologists have now identified a 2,000-foot thick portion of the lava that may have piled up in as little as 30,000 years - fast enough to have possibly caused a deadly global climate shift. See article.
g Life - Microbes freeze-dried in Antarctica for two decades sprang to life when scientists added water, revealing yet another extreme ecosystem that shows life's incredible resiliency. See article.
g Intelligence - Putative extraterrestrial planets are being discovered at the rate of one a month. A subset of these exist in the liquid water zone and are thus capable of evolving life similar to that with which we are familiar. While perhaps not common, the development of technological civilizations seems possible for some of these worlds. If we are typical, the evolution of technological civilizations proceeds from a condition where physical laws are unknown to a state where the limits imposed by those laws are reached within a few hundred years. These limits (molecular nanotechnology on solar system scales) allow the construction of Dyson shell supercomputers ("Matrioshka Brains''1) with thought capacities a trillion trillion times greater than that of a human brain and longevities measured in billions to trillions of years. Natural selection at stellar and galactic scales would, over time, eliminate any civilizations lacking these prodigious capabilities. We must consider that astronomical observations such as the missing baryonic dark matter and the gravitational microlensing observations may indicate that many such entities exist and that our galaxy is currently a Kardashev Type III civilization. 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 - The Mars Foundation presented plans for a permanent settlement they believe can be built using near-term technologies and resources already available on Mars. See article.
g Learning - A new section of the Journal of Geophysical Research will focus on biogeosciences of the Earth system in the past, present and future and its applicability to planetary studies. See article.
g Imagining - The man behind the Sims and SimCity is about to unleash his latest creation, a game wildly anticipated by the $10 billion gaming industry. Not set for release until next fall, the project has already begun to garner buzz. Called "Spore," it gives "the game of life" new meaning. In short, players begin as a single cell, then evolve, build a civilization and ultimately blast off into space to colonize (or wreak havoc or destroy) other planets. Players have control over the creature from its first breath, advancing the species by adding legs, wings, horns and other body parts. See article.
g Aftermath If and when life is discovered beyond Earth, non-scientific dimensions may strongly influence decisions about the nature andscope of future missions and activities. It is appropriate to encourage international discussion and consideration of the issues prior to an event of such historical significance. See article.

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