Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Building oxygen, a theory of life and private messages sent to aliens

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 - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted the very beginnings of what might become planets around the puniest of celestial orbs - brown dwarfs, or "failed stars." See article.
g Abodes - Oxygen is one of the most important elements on Earth to life, and it comprises a fifth of our atmosphere. It's a volatile element, so it can't exist in large quantities unless something, like life, is continually producing it. The mainstream view is that plants evolved oxygen photosynthesis early on, and then produced large amounts of oxygen. Another view, tested under laboratory conditions, is that when volcanic rocks weather, they release oxygen into the atmosphere. Perhaps it's a combination of these factors that built up our oxygen. See article. Note: This article is from last spring.
g Life - Finding life elsewhere in the universe depends on knowing when you see it, according to Colorado professor Carol Cleland. She gives a view of how life might not need a working definition as much as a theory of life — at least until scientists find a few more exceptions to prove the rules. See article.
g Intelligence - Scientists have found that the site in the brain that controls language in right-handed people shifts with aging - a discovery that might offer hope in the treatment of speech problems resulting from traumatic brain injury or stroke. See article.
g Message - Why wait for SETI to finally establish contact with aliens? A small group of radio and broadcast engineers aren’t. See article.
g Cosmicus - From market research we know that most people would like to stay in orbit for a few days or more. And this stands to reason, if you're paying $20,000 for your trip to orbit! So in order for space tourism to reach its full potential there's going to be a need for orbital accommodation - or space hotels. These will grow through phases, starting with 'lodges' for up to about 100 guests, growing to true hotels of several hundred guests, and eventually to orbiting "theme parks" for many thousands of guests. See article.
g Learning - Have you ever wanted to build your own world? Now you can! Click here. The Web site offers step-by-step information and hundreds of links to help you design your world while providing rubrics to guide projects in PowerPoint and Web page authoring programs.
g Imagining - Book alert: A complaint that I see again and again of science fiction aliens — and I’ve made it myself — is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look similar (not identical) to human beings? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in "The Science of Aliens".
g Aftermath - Here’s a hidden gem about alien contact: the science fiction story "Contact, Incorporated," about a private company that Earth’s government hires to make first contact with extraterrestrials. It’s from 1950 and appears in the seminal classic, "The Classic Book of Science Fiction," edited by Groff Conklin (your library ought to have this volume). Despite being more than a half-century old, it remains an intriguing examination of how to communicate with aliens.

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