Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Supernova remnant, ‘Life Everywhere’ and victory for reason

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 - This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory of a supernova remnant shows X-rays produced by high-energy particles and multimillion degree gas. In 1006 AD, what was thought to be a "new star" suddenly appeared in the sky and over the course of a few days became brighter than the planet Venus. The supernova of 1006 may have been the brightest supernova on record. See article.
g Abodes - Most of the extrasolar planets discovered to date are gas giants like Jupiter, but their orbits are either much closer to their parent stars or are highly eccentric. Planet hunters are on the verge of confirming the discovery of Jupiter-size planets with Jupiter-like orbits. Solar systems that contain these "good" Jupiters may harbor habitable Earth-like planets as well. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Life - Book alert: Are we alone? As the search for extraterrestrial intelligence comes more and more into the mainstream, scientists like David Darling step up to explain what we know and what's possible. His book “Life Everywhere” explores the history and current state of the field called, perhaps unfortunately, astrobiology. Devoted neither to organisms skimming the sun's surface nor to possible signs of intelligence among celebrities - though not explicitly rejecting these phenomena - astrobiology is concerned with the basic questions of life: What is a living organism? Is it common, or likely, elsewhere in the universe? Is it worth trying to communicate across light years? Darling, an astronomer and science journalist, has a knack for explaining complexities and fine details that carries his prose forward where other authors have foundered; the reader is swept up in the enthusiasm of the researchers Darling describes. Writing of the astronomical search for signs of life far off in the galaxy, he captures the thrill of this work. See article.
g Intelligence - As global populations swell, farmers are cultivating more and more land in a desperate bid to keep pace with the ever-intensifying needs of humans. See article.
g Message - Here’s an intriguing paper that argues the famous Fermi Paradox is a logical fallacy. See article. Note: This article is from 1984.
g Cosmicus - At the Astrobiology Science Conference last year, scientists and science fiction writers faced off in front of a packed audience to debate the promise and pitfalls of terraforming Mars. In part 3 of this 7-part series, David Grinspoon says we have an ethical imperative to bring a dead planet to life. See article. And here’s a bonus: A NASA animation of what Mars would look like with water: Animation: Large Areas of Mars Covered by Water (Requires QuickTime or other MPEG player).
g Learning - A victory for reason occurred Tuesday: A federal judge dealt a major setback to backers of the idea that some forms of life are so complex that they must be the product of an intelligent designer. Judge John Jones ruled that it is unconstitutional to teach the concept in public school science classes because it is "a religious view." See article.
g Imagining - What’s the solution to the Drake Equation? Here’s a Web page that includes a calculator, where you can try out your own educated guesses about the answers to each of the questions considered here, and see where your guesses take you.
g Aftermath - A wide variety of steps should be taken to help the social sciences increase their visibility, status and contribution within the SETI field. The impact of social scientists will be profound if they contribute fresh ideas about the nature of ETI and how to detect it, bold insights into the variety of human reactions if the search succeeds, and far- sighted scenarios of humanity’s eventual relations with extraterrestrial intelligence. The quality of their thought, the ingenuity of their research designs and the depth of their findings will, in the long run, be particularly significant factors in their contribution to the SETI field. See article.

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