Friday, October 21, 2005

First light, mathematical beacon and the Torino Scale

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 Large Binocular Telescope partners in the United States, Italy and Germany announced that they have achieved "First Light." The LBT will peer deeper into space than ever before, and with ten times the clarity of the Hubble Space Telescope. See article.
g Abodes - Jupiter or Mars-like planets beyond our Solar System may be serious contenders for harboring life, says a British astrophysicist. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - Microorganisms living deep underground on Earth might help us understand prospects for extraterrestrial life. See article.
g Intelligence - A Michigan State University researcher and his colleagues have shown that playing violent video games leads to brain activity pattern that may be characteristic for aggressive thoughts. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, 13 male research participants were observed playing a latest-generation violent video game. Each participant's game play was recorded and content analyzed on a frame-by-frame basis. See article.
g Message - It has become somewhat accepted that an extrasolar contact could be interpreted as a good "artificial" signal if it arose from certain branches of mathematics. If another galactic civilization decided to reach us, they would send a beacon of bleeps akin to the digits of "pi" or only prime numbers, because they would realize that no natural process could mimic them. Renowned author and MacArthur "genius" award winner, Stephen Wolfram, argues for a new kind of science, and argues that the line between "artificial" and "natural" signals is not nearly so clear as first supposed. See article. Note: This article is from March 2004.
g Cosmicus - NASA, ESA and other space agencies are currently facing great difficulties, due to falling public support. The budgets they receive are being cut because politicians don't get many votes for defending them. Basically, people don't like paying taxes. And so, without discussing the details, or whether it's a good or bad thing, we can say that most people in the United States and Europe aren't keen to pay taxes (currently $20 billion/year!) to pay for government space research. In surveys in the United States, NASA is far down the list of peoples' concerns - far below crime, energy and the environment, for example. By contrast, most people, at least in the rich countries, would like to take a trip to space for themselves if it was possible - market research has shown this. However, most people also think they never will, because they believe that space travel is impossible for ordinary people, "...otherwise NASA would already be doing it." See article.
g Learning - The superintendent of a school district that is defending in court its decision to include "intelligent design'' in biology classes, has said that the school board sought legal advice beforehand and never discussed creationism when it adopted the policy. See article.
g Imagining - Could the legendary dragons of Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s famous science fiction novels actually exist? Welcome to the theoretical science of dracogenetics. See article.
g Aftermath - How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

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