Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Space sports, ‘The First Manned Mission to Mars’ and exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact

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 - Although astronomers have been looking at the stars for thousands of years, they never paid much attention to the stuff between the stars. What could there be between the stars? Is it completely empty? The answer is simple: No! There is a lot of interesting material between the stars. See article.
g Abodes - The Moon's surface cooled and solidified to make its current gray and white face more than 4.5 billion years ago, say researchers who have applied new dating techniques to rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts. See article.
g Life - How life began. This problem really permeates much of humankind, societies and cultures past and present. Some have evoked a supreme being to explain the origin of life; others look to the scientific method to provide answers. Regardless of the position, there have been at least two extremely exciting discoveries or reports that really change the nature of the game. The first one is the discovery of planets around nearby stars. There are other solar systems in space. That's very important. The other discovery is the possibility that life existed on Mars. See article. For related stories, see “Just Keeps Going and Going...” and “The Rovers That Just Won't Stop”.
g Intelligence - For decades it has been believed that the first peoples to populate North and South America crossed over from Siberia by way of the Bering Strait on a land-ice bridge. However, a new study examining the largest collection of South American skulls ever assembled suggests that a different population may have crossed the bridge to the New World 3,000 years before those Siberians. See article.
g Message - There are several scientific lines of thought on extra-terrestrial life. Several of the most common are mentioned in this summer's movie Contact, based on a book by E.T. life guru Carl Sagan. See article.
g Cosmicus - Given the growth of passenger space travel, space sports of one type or another are likely. If so, could orbiting stadiums be far behind? See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “The First Manned Mission to Mars”. In this activity, students plan that trip.
g Imagining - There’s a neat Web site, Sector 001, that reviews the appearance of dozens of “Star Trek” aliens. It also includes some speculations about each one, particularly why so many are humanoid.
g Aftermath - Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence depends as much upon social support for the project as upon appropriate engineering design and upon the actual existence of a nearby extrasolar civilization. The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors that influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased. Linked to the most idealistic goals of the space program, notably interplanetary colonization, enthusiasm for CETI is little affected by attitudes toward technology or militarism. Few sciences or scholarly fields encourage CETI, with the exceptions of anthropology and astronomy. Support is somewhat greater among men than among women, but the sex difference is far less than in attitudes toward space flight in general. Evangelical Protestantism, represented by the "Born Again" movement, strongly discourages support for CETI. Just as exobiology begins with an understanding of terrestrial biology, exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact can be achieved should begin with serious sociological study of factors operating on our own world. See article.

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