Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Universe’s dimensions, slushball Earth and how to build an alien

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 - Physicists who work with a concept called string theory envision our universe as an eerie place with at least nine spatial dimensions, six of them hidden from us, perhaps curled up in some way so they are undetectable. The big question is why we experience the universe in only three spatial dimensions instead of four, or six, or nine. See article. For related story, see “Our three-brane existence”.
g Abodes - "Snowball Earth" proponents, who say that Earth's oceans were long ago covered by thick ice, explain the survival of life by hypothesizing the existence of small warm spots, or refugia. On the other side, supporters of a "Slushball Earth" say the planet included large areas of thin ice or open ocean, particularly around the equator. See article. For related story, see “More solar output adding to global warming”.
g Life - How can a mathematical equation frame the question of life in the universe? Find out in this previously recorded Webcast with Frank Drake, one of the founders of the SETI Institute, about his famous equation and how it frames the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. Click here and scroll to “Is there life elsewhere?”
g Intelligence - “A sense of where you are” gives clues to how we think as well as what makes a star athlete. See article.
g Message - Just exactly how does SETI work? For a primer, click here.
g Cosmicus - NASA develops new work systems for exploring extraterrestrial bodies and scientific research in space. The work performed during a Space Shuttle flight is the result of a developed work system. The International Space Station will need a new and different work system, not yet fully developed. But when mankind finally goes to Mars, we will need a totally different type of work system. A small group of humans will work together with sophisticated autonomous and semi-autonomous robots. Collaboration between the people on Earth and the people on Mars will be of a different order than what we have been used to. A 40-minute communication delay will change the nature of this collaboration significantly. See article.
g Learning - The NASA-sponsored Astrobiology Magazine recently announced production of its first audio edition, as an international radio version, and as a listed program on all popular Podcast sites. See article.
g Imagining - Many science fiction story lines involve alien life forms. From a literary prospective, aliens often serve as metaphors for something more familiar. From a practical prospective, they make stories more interesting and TV more eye-catching. But what of scientific accuracy? A professor offers his advice about “How to Build an Alien”.
g Aftermath - What would be the affect on humanity following contact with alien life? Portions of a Brookings Institute report offer some insights. See article for either the entire report or the relevant excerpts.

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