Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Robotic astrobiologist, bad news for germophiles and alien disinformation

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 Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Abodes - Carnegie Mellon University 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. See article.
g Life - A new way of thinking about the dirt under our feet is sure to dismay germophobes everywhere. Scientists now think Earth's soil contains 100 times more bacteria species than previously thought. See article.
g Intelligence - A study published in the August/October issue of Current Anthropology, reports on new archaeological evidence regarding the identities of human sacrifice victims of the Moche society of Peru. See article.
g Message - Here’s something neat: A site about Project Target, or the Telescope Antenna Researching Galactic Extraterrestrial Transmissions, from Hay River Radio, which boldly proclaims that such signals indeed exist! See article.
g Cosmicus - What is “xenology” and how will our growing understanding of the field send us to the stars? See article. Note: This article, by science fiction writer David Brin, is from the early 1980s.
g Learning - Many Americans, not just scientists, now worry that the teaching of biology will be replaced by religious indoctrination. The spread of fundamentalist Christianity is seen by many to be a force for a renewed far right political agenda, and in particular to be responsible for George W. Bush’s election victory. There is reason to be concerned — consider the recent challenges to teaching evolution in schools. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: Walter Earl Meyers’ “Aliens and linguists: language study and science fiction,” published in 1980 by Athens : University of Georgia Press. It’s a very useful and amusing survey of attempts to communicate with aliens in stories by Tolkein, Anderson, LeGuin, Vance, Asimov, Burroughs and Delany.
g Aftermath Add one more worry to the computerized world of the 21st century. Could a signal from the stars broadcast by an alien intelligence also carry harmful information, in the spirit of a computer virus? Could star folk launch a "disinformation" campaign - one that covers up aspects of their culture? Perhaps they might even mask the "real" intent of dispatching a message to other civilizations scattered throughout the Cosmos. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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