Saturday, August 13, 2005

Robotic astrobiologist, ‘Aliens and Knowability’ and what to say to ET

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 - With the help of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the most comprehensive structural analysis of our galaxy and have found tantalizing new evidence that the Milky Way is much different from your ordinary spiral galaxy. See article.
g Abodes - Carnegie Mellon researchers and their colleagues from NASA's Ames Research Center, the universities of Tennessee, Arizona and Iowa, as well as Chilean researchers at Universidad Catolica del Norte (Antofagasta) are preparing for the final stage of a three-year project to develop a prototype robotic astrobiologist, a robot that can explore and study life in the driest desert on Earth. The mission runs from Aug. 22 to Oct. 22. See article.
g Life - By the 1950s, scientists were in hot pursuit of the origin of life. Around the world, the scientific community was examining what kind of environment would be needed to allow life to begin. In 1953, Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey, working at the University of Chicago, conducted an experiment, which would change the approach of scientific investigation into the origin of life. See article.
g Intelligence - It's no secret that men and women tend to spend their time on the Internet quite differently. But British researchers suggest it's not just a Web site's subject or function that determines whether it will draw more men or women. The appearance of the site also might play a subtle role. See article.
g Message - By publicly promoting exobiology, Joshua Lederberg almost single-handedly gained a place for biologists in the burgeoning U.S. space program, as well as a share of its ample research funds. He pressed upon NASA the need to include biological science in its mission and research designs, and represented the interests of biologists on the agency's Lunar and Planetary Missions Board between 1960 and 1977. In this role he helped define the scientific objectives for the Mariner Mars missions, launched between 1964 and 1971 to map the planet's surface and study its atmosphere from close-in orbits. Here are his papers.
g Cosmicus - The (un)likelihood of extraterrestrial visitation is probably one of the most debated aspects of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, the answer being an essential component to the validity of the ETH. After all, the assumed unlikeliness of interstellar travel has become the cornerstone of those who resist the ETH as an explanation for UFOs. So, does extraterrestrial visitation necessarily require all sorts of "unlikely" science, or is it possible to accomplish interstellar travel using conventional wisdom? See article.
g Learning - Here’s a module that provides introductory teaching lessons for classroom coverage of astrobiology and the origin of life that is suitable for use in both general and advanced high school biology courses. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: Gregory Benford’s "Aliens and Knowability: A Scientist's Perspective," in “Bridges to Science Fiction” (George E. Slusser, George R. Guffet and Mark Rose, eds., 1980).
g Aftermath - What should we say to an extraterrestrial? Try the World Wide Web. SETI astronomer Seth Shostak opines at article.

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