Monday, October 31, 2005

When positronium collides, quadruple Pluto system and alternatives to carbon-based life

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 - What happens when two atoms, each made up of an electron and its antimatter counterpart, called the positron, collide with each other? UC Riverside physicists are able to see for the first time in the laboratory that these atoms, which are called positronium atoms and are unstable by nature, become even more unstable after the collision. The positronium atoms are seen to destroy one another, turning into gamma rays, a powerful type of electromagnetic radiation. See article.
g Abodes - A team of astronomers at Southwest Research Institute and other institutions has discovered that Pluto has two previously unseen moons. Ground-based observers discovered Pluto's only previously known moon, Charon, in 1978. The planet itself was discovered in 1930 and orbits about 4 billion miles from the Sun in the heart of the Kuiper Belt. By virtue of its location in the Kuiper Belt, planet Pluto is also considered a Kuiper Belt object. The newfound satellites make Pluto a "quadruple" system. See article.
g Life - All life on this planet is carbon-based. Carbon atoms readily form a strong bond between themselves and a range of other atoms, most importantly hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, but it is the strength of the carbon-carbon bond that is most significant. This allows carbon atoms to be linked together in chains and rings, building up an unimaginably vast range of compounds. Oxygen and nitrogen, in contrast, too readily form the diatomic molecules (O2 and N2) to form chains. Fluorine, chlorine and the other halogens, and hydrogen are monovalent, so cannot form chains. The noble gases are inert. So what alternatives are there? See article.
g Intelligence - While changing sex from female to male, the highly social bluebanded goby becomes more aggressive. At the same time, the conversion of testosterone to estrogen slows in the brain, but is unaffected in the changing gonads, according to a Center for Behavioral Neuroscience study in the current on-line edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The finding, which suggests the initial stages of sex change in fish are regulated in the brain, could help better explain the biological basis of human sexual identity. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Scour your used bookstore shelves for "Life Beyond Earth," by Timothy Ferris. Rock-solid science writer Ferris has covered this ground before. In the two-hour PBS documentary that he wrote and narrated - which shares the title, text, and many of the images of this generously illustrated book - Ferris tackles two age-old questions about the potentially universal nature of life: Are we alone, and, if not, is anybody listening? See reviews.
g Cosmicus - While recognizing that many of the driving forces behind human space flight are social and political, rather than narrowly scientific, it seems clear that science has been, and will continue to be, a major beneficiary of having people in space. What, after all, is the alternative? We can either stay at home, sending a few robot spacecraft to our neighboring planets, and continuing to gaze at the more distant universe across light years of empty space, or we can get ourselves out among the planets and, eventually, the stars. In which alternative future would we learn the most about this universe and our place within it? See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat essay: "Our blunder: Clinging to unbelievable beliefs." See essay.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: John Huntington’s "Discriminating Among Friends: The Social Dynamics of the Friendly Aliens," in "Aliens: The Anthropology of Science Fiction," George E. Slusser, ed., 1987). It includes a discussion of Weinbaum's classic short story "Martian Odyssey."
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: "We would be foolish and negligent if we did not try to anticipate such reactions (of first contact) and make careful preparations." — Albert Harrison

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Terrestrial Planet Finder, natural selection shaping human evolution and first contact by 2100

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 - Quote of the Day: "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." — Blaise Pascal
g Abodes -The Terrestrial Planet Finder mission will have the technology to look for signs of life in the light reflected or emitted by planets orbiting nearby stars. But nobody knows exactly what signals life would emit. Clues from studies of Earth's early atmosphere are guiding the mission's technology development. See article.
g Life - The discovery of millions of ancient, ultra-tiny microbes 3,000 meters deep in a Greenland glacier suggests that similar hardy species may live in ice elsewhere in the solar system, researchers say. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Intelligence - A recent genomics study by Cornell scientists that analyzed the genes of 39 humans and one chimpanzee offers strong evidence that natural selection has shaped human evolution. See article.
g Message - Britain’s Astronomer Royal says we’ll likely know if intelligent aliens exist by the end of this century. See article.
g Cosmicus - Until recently, warp drive was only associated with science fiction, but in 1994 Miguel Alcubierre presented a paper which theoretically described a physical mechanism where a spaceship could be propelled by a method similar to what is described in science fiction books. The most interesting aspect about Alcubierre's method was the fact that it was entirely based on known physics, on the theory of general relativity, and his proposal included a warp metric. Alcubierre's paper can be considered a scientific landmark in the sense that it effectively opened the way for discussing warp drive propulsion in physical terms, since from that moment on warp drive was no longer only a fiction, but also became a scientific issue. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat essay: a tribute to Mt. Wilson's 60-Inch Telescope in Los Angeles.
g Imagining - Never-seen-before footage released to the 'IoS' reveals the extraordinary discarded prologue to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." See footage.
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book "The SETI Factor," by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.


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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sunless ecosystem, disease in human evolution and life in Venus’ atmosphere

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 - Here’s a neat online guide, The Electronic Sky, to common stars visible from Earth: article.
g Abodes - A JPL scientist and his team are preparing to bring to the study of extrasolar planets what George Lucas brought to "Star Wars": the prequel. See article.
g Life - Biologists always thought life required the Sun's energy, until they found an ecosystem that thrives in complete darkness. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Intelligence - Genetic researchers have made substantial advances in understanding the root causes of common diseases and the history of human evolution, according to a series of reports published in scientific journals this week. See article.
g Message - Quote of the Day: "It is difficult to think of another enterprise which holds as much promise for the future of humanity." — Carl Sagan
g Cosmicus - Within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, is it possible to modify a space-time in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed? According to this technical paper, the answer is "yes".
g Learning - Although polls show about half of Americans still don't recognize the expression "Intelligent Design," the background and meaning of it are focal points of a landmark First Amendment case now unfolding in Pennsylvania's capital. See article.
g Imagining - A scientist at Washington State University says the first extraterrestrial life we find is likely to be single-celled organisms surviving on a moon of Saturn, or in the atmosphere of Venus. See article.
g Aftermath - While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See article.


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Friday, October 28, 2005

Feeding black holes, Einstein’s inbox and creationism in backward Kansas

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 - Near-infrared images of the active galaxy NGC 1097, obtained with the NACO adaptive optics instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, disclose with unprecedented detail a complex central network of filamentary structure spiraling down to the center of the galaxy. These observations provide astronomers with new insights on how super-massive black holes lurking inside galaxies get fed. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers using the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope in 2001 made the first direct detection and chemical analysis of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. Their unique observations show it is possible to measure the chemical makeup of extra-solar planetary atmospheres - and potentially to search for chemical markers of life far beyond Earth. See article.
g Life - Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks is the author of many books, including "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and "Uncle Tungsten". In this first of a two-part essay on astrobiology, Dr. Sacks discusses his early fascination with the possibility of life on other worlds and the beginnings of life on Earth. See article. In Part II, Dr. Sacks muses on the possibility of life on other worlds.
g Intelligence - A new study finds that the correspondence of Albert Einstein, as well as that of Charles Darwin, followed patterns similar to modern email communication. See article.
g Message - Here’s something neat: A site about Project Target, or the Telescope Antenna Researching Galactic Extraterrestrial Transmissions, from Hay River Radio, which boldly proclaims that such signals indeed exist! See article.
g Cosmicus - Today the Red Planet is dry and barren, but what about tomorrow? New data suggest that the long story of water on Mars isn't over yet. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Learning - Two national groups say the state of Kansas can't use their copyrighted material in proposed science standards that critics contend promote creationism. See article.
g Imagining - Quote of the Day: "We need a dreamworld in order to discover the features of the real world we think we inhabit." — Paul Feyerabend
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article.


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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Discovery of exoplanets, emergence of photosynthesis and science under assault

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 - Nowadays, much of the universe's matter seems to be organized, as stars, solar systems, galaxies, and galaxy clusters are familiar sights of the local universe. However this was not always the case. See article.
g Abodes - Here’s a neat Web site to keep up on the discovery of exoplanets: ExoPlanets.org.
g Life - When did photosynthesis emerge on Earth? See article.
g Intelligence - A wealth of sleep research has regularly produced baffling paradoxes and conflicting lines of evidence about the uses, role and need for sleep. If sleep is primarily about providing mental rest, why do people's brains remain so active during sleep, as research in recent decades has found? See article.
g Message - Just how does SETI work? Here’s a good primer for those looking to get a basic overview.
g Cosmicus - Mars Society founder, Robert Zubrin, talks about how to terraform the red planet. His engineer's eye reveals his robust plans for not just getting to a new home, but also how to build one from scratch. See article. Note: This article is from 2004. For related stories, see "Magnetic Mars"; "The Changing Face of Mars"; and "Sprit’s Trail".
g Learning - A bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence among scientists, and some senior academics warn that science itself is under assault. See article.
g Imagining - Quote of the Day: "Nowhere in space will we rest our eyes upon the familiar shapes of trees and plants, or any of the animals that share our world. Whatsoever life we meet will be as strange and alien as the nightmare creatures of the ocean abyss, or of the insect empire whose horrors are normally hidden from us by their microscopic scale." — Sir Arthur C. Clarke
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

‘Hiding in the Mirror,’ PlanetQuest and 3-D moon trips

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 - Like Lewis Carroll's Alice, who steps through the looking glass into a strange world, Lawrence Krauss, Case Western Reserve University professor of physics, began his search for extra dimensional worlds with the Twilight Zone episode, "Little Lost Girl." Krauss explores the fascination both scientists and lay people have with the possibility that there is more out there than meets the eye-in his new book, "Hiding in the Mirror: the Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond." See article.
g Abodes - Here’s a new Web site: PlanetQuest. It’s run by a diverse group of researchers dedicated to the search for new planets and to enabling you to join this great adventure. Their missions is to is to inspire the people of the world with the thrill of individual discovery, a better understanding of our uniquely precious planet, and a wider perspective on our place in the universe. See article.
g Life - Upon learning that all life on Earth is essentially based upon the element carbon, one may be compelled to ask that question: Why couldn’t organic life evolve from a different element? See article.
g Intelligence - Benjamin Franklin wrote in his 1750 Poor Richard's Almanac that "There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self." The problem of achieving accurate self-knowledge hasn't gotten any easier in 250 years; and, as shown in a new research report, there are major real-world consequences to this very human attribute. See article.
g Message - Project Argus, The SETI League's key technical initiative, has been called the most ambitious microwave SETI project ever undertaken without government equipment or funding. When fully operational, it will provide, for the first time ever, continuous monitoring of the entire sky, in all directions in real time. For more, see article.
g Cosmicus - Over and over again, science teachers at a recent convention remarked that their students are always asking about SETI and astronomy. Kids have a keen interest in astronomy, space sciences, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. What's out there? Are we alone? Ironically, this interest is not uniformly reflected in the state science education standards across the USA and these state standards drive textbook content. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Learning - Internet users can now take virtual 3-D trips to nearly anyplace on the moon, thanks to a NASA program first designed to show aerial views of the Earth. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Robert L. Dragon's "Egg" (1980), which describes life on a neutron star.
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: "If we ever establish contact with extraterrestrial life, it will reveal to us our true place in the universe, and with that comes the beginnings of wisdom." — Issac Asimov

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Inside a dark cosmic cloud, ‘Time without End’ and thinking locally for cosmic solutions

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 - Demonstrating the power of a multiwavelength investigation using diverse facilities, astronomers have deciphered the true nature of a mysterious object hiding inside a dark cosmic cloud. They found that the cloud, once thought to be featureless, contains a baby star, or possibly a failed star known as a "brown dwarf," that is still forming within its dusty cocoon. See article.
g Abodes - The discovery of what is now more than 100 planets around stars other than the Sun continues to stimulate tremendous public and media interest. One astronomer believes that this attention is driven not so much by the discovery of the extrasolar planets themselves, but by the prospect of intelligent alien life. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - In September 2004, the Carnegie Institute of Washington conducted a 2-week expedition to Kamchatka, situated in the far eastern portion of Russia. Toporski and Maule characterized the organic geochemistry and microbiology of specific hydrothermal sites in situ, using a suite of molecular biology techniques deployed at each field site to test the levels of ATP, lipids, DNA and various proteins. Kamchatka spans a region of approximately 400 by 1200 kilometers, containing nearly a tenth of all active volcanoes of the world, together with 150 exposed hydrothermal sites. The region represents a modern analogue for hydrothermal ecosystems that have been active throughout most of Earth's history, yet is almost untouched by human influences. Hydrothermal systems are also likely to have existed on the surface of Mars, at least until the atmospheric pressure fell to the point that liquid water was no longer stable at the surface. See article.
g Intelligence - Quote for the Day: "For ’tis a very ridiculous opinion that the common people have got among them, that it is impossible a rational Soul should dwell in any other shape than ours." — Christian Huygens
g Message - Here’s a classic essay by physicist Freeman J. Dyson: "Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe," part of which examines "the problem of communication between two societies separated by a large distance in the open universe." See article. Note: This is article is very technical.
g Cosmicus - Changing a rocky, dry planet into a habitat suggests terraforming on a vast scale. Pumping in greenhouse gases and raising the global temperature would have to begin a centuries-long metamorphosis. A proposal for using subunit greenhouses, or Martian oases, suggests however that thinking locally first may have global implications. See article.
g Learning - Introducing "intelligent design'' to high school students could help the idea gain wider acceptance among mainstream scientists, a sociology professor testified Monday in a landmark federal trial over whether the concept can be mentioned in public school biology classes. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about efforts to communicate with alien? Then be sure to read Fred Hoyle’s "A for Andromeda" (1962). See review.
g Aftermath - In a cross-cultural study conducted several years ago, to scientists looked at the attitudes of college students towards the possibility that extraterrestrial life might exist, and if it does, what it might be like for people to learn that it exists. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.


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Monday, October 24, 2005

‘Planets for Man,’ earliest flowering plants and brain as time machine

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 - Book Alert: In the course of millions of years the human species has adapted itself to the narrow ranges of temperature and air pressure, the availability of food and water, the chemical and physical components of our earthly environment. Now that the means are at hand for mankind to transcend this environment, the questions arise: Where else in the universe can such physical conditions be found? Does our medium-sized planet, circling a medium-sized star in the outer reaches of a typical spiral galaxy, have a counterpart among the countless heavenly bodies, which surround it? What will men find as they gradually extend the range of their explorations? In speculating on some future consequences of manned space flight, "Planets for Man," by Stephen H. Dole and Isaac Asimov, looks forward to a time when human beings will be able to travel the vast distances to the other stars. It then attempts to determine — on the basis of our present biological and cosmological knowledge — whether there are other worlds where man can survive or where human life may even now be flourishing. See article.
g Abodes - If ET is out there, whether in the form of intelligent beings or much simpler organisms, scientists may soon be hot on its trail. In 1995, astronomers using Doppler detection—a method that scientists have used to reveal Saturn-sized (or larger) planets close to their parent suns, discovered the first planet around another sun-like star. Today, astronomers know of more than 100 candidates for such worlds. See article.
g Life - A team of Stanford geochemists has found evidence that flowering plants may have evolved 250 million years ago — long before the first pollen grain appeared in the fossil record. See article.
g Intelligence - The brain is a "time machine," assert two Duke neuroscientists — and understanding how the brain tracks time is essential to understanding all its functions. See article.
g Message - The assertion that extraterrestrial intelligences do not exist, based on the apparent contradictions inherent in the Fermi Paradox, rests upon an unproven and untenable presumption: That ETI are not now present in the Solar System. The current observational status of the Solar System is insufficient to support the assumption that ETI are not here. Most advanced civilizations also would be either invisible or unrecognizable using current human observational methods, so millions of advanced societies may exist and still not be directly detectable by us. Thus the Fermi Paradox cannot logically be raised as an objection to the existence of ETI until these major observational deficiencies have been corrected. See article.
g Cosmicus - It’s true: NASA has an exobiology division. The Exobiology Branch conducts research in Exobiology seeking to increase our knowledge of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. Answers are sought to questions such as: To what extent did chemical evolution occur in the primitive bodies of the solar system? How did life originate on the Earth, and what role did minerals play? What evidence exists regarding the early interplay between biological and environmental evolution? What do molecular fossils tell us about early microbial evolution? How can the study of contemporary microbes or geochemical samples inform us of past events? The work of the staff in this Branch also provides the conceptual basis and measurement criteria for future spacecraft missions to other solar system bodies such as Mars, Titan, and comets, in search of answers to such fundamental questions in non-terrestrial settings. For NASA’s official exobiology Web page, click here.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: "Planets in a Bottle." The lesson plan involves yeast experiments intended for 2nd through 4th grade students. See lesson.
g Imagining - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Then be sure to read Jack Vance’s "The Gift of Gab" (1955), which involves "talking" with intelligent cephalopods. See review.
g Aftermath - Book alert: "Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications," by Steven J. Dick (ed.), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. Paul C.W. Davies argues that if the universe turns out to be biofriendly (i.e., if given enough time and the right conditions, life will emerge as a matter of course), scientifically savvy thinkers may be compelled to reject atheism and embrace intelligent design theory. The contributors are especially interested in extraterrestrial life: philosopher Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that extraterrestrial intelligence will force Christians to do some hard thinking about original sin, the human soul, and the Incarnation. See article.


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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Habitable zones, sharing the universe and widening the search of extraterrestrial intelligence

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 - What is a star’s "habitable zone"? Here’s a primer.
g Abodes - What are the primary bioindicators for remote sensing of life on a far-away world? A report prepared for future space-borne telescopes that will seek to answer this question, also looks deeper into how to find and confirm these prospective water worlds. See article.
g Life - Book alert: "Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life," by SETI scientist Seth Shostak is definitely worth a read. He builds a careful case for the importance of the institute's work, narrowing the range of the galaxy's possibly life-nurturing stars and imagining what forms non-carbon-based life might take. See reviews.
g Intelligence - Delving ever deeper into the intricate architecture of the brain, researchers at The Salk Institute have now described how two different types of nerve cells, called neurons, work together in tiny sub-networks to pass on just the right amount and the right kind of sensory information. See article.
g Message - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is expanding its array of search strategies. This is a highly appropriate change. Here are seven reasons why widening the array is appropriate. See article.
g Cosmicus - Although there are no direct data on extraterrestrial life, planetary observations and statistical considerations support the possibility of such life. The significance of the questions the "science" of exobiology may answer warrants its active pursuit. These questions range from whether life exists elsewhere to fundamental inquiries in all the sciences. See paper. Note: This paper is from 1964.
g Learning - How are key concepts of astrobiology treated in science fiction? See article. Note: This article is from 2001 and intended to be used as part of a classroom lesson.
g Imagining - Ever wondered how all those traditional space-opera and epic-fantasy races - the pig-faced warriors, the smug bumheads, and all the rest - came up with their wonderfully clich├ęd alien vocabularies? It's not difficult; once you've mastered these basic rules, you'll be able to produce names and phrases just as stereotypical as theirs. See article.
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.


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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Extragalactic Legacy project, toward a cosmic perspective and ‘Sample of the Future’

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 - Spectacular images taken by the Spitzer Wide-area Infrared Extragalactic Legacy project encapsulate one of the primary objectives of the Spitzer mission: to connect the evolution of galaxies from the distant, or early, universe to the nearby, or present day, universe. See article.
g Abodes - A study suggests far more of our solar system may be capable of sustaining basic life than previously thought. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - The discovery of possible microfossils in ALH84001 has generated another round in the debate about life in meteorites and/or comets. The claims that meteorites contain organic structures is as old as the study of meteorites and has led to at least three possible interpretations of the data: 1) organic compounds are of abiotic origin, but could give insight into the origins of life on earth; 2) they are ``fossils'' of life on the meteorite or on its parent body; and 3) meteorites or comets contain living materials. The last is connected to the idea of panspermia, the dispersion of life through the universe, which finds its contemporary expression in the work of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe. The debate, especially furious in the 1960s, has often centered on carbonaceous chondrites, which may contain the materials of the early solar system and/or prebiologic compounds formed in the solar nebula, in interstellar clouds, or on the chondrite's parent body. Scientists have also reported finding organic structures in other types of meteorites, even in iron meteorites. The length of the cycle of debate about organic materials in meteorites or comets appears in to be 25-30 years. See article. Note: This article is from 1996.
g Intelligence - Psychological stress during infancy has been found to cause early impaired memory and a decline in related cognitive abilities, according to a UC Irvine School of Medicine study. The study suggests that the emotional stress associated with parental loss, abuse or neglect may contribute to the type of memory loss during middle-age years that is normally seen in the elderly. See article.
g Message - Humans have debated the best ways to contact our interstellar neighbors for centuries. Here’s an article retracing that history.
g Cosmicus - The intelligence with which we are familiar is limited to specific life forms we know on this planet. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been called a "science without a subject," because by definition it is about something that we have not yet encountered (New Age fantasies notwithstanding!). We are looking for our counterparts somewhere else, but do not have an external perspective from which to grasp even what we ourselves are. Perhaps our concept of intelligence is as geocentric as our concepts of culture and biology, in spite of the drive to abstract intelligence from its roots and infrastructure. In other words, our notions about ET are limited in that we tend to imagine only beings in our image, but also because we lack a general perspective, or theory of intelligence, within which to place that or any other image. In this circumstance speculation cannot advance much further than the science of Aristotle or the medieval scholastics. Yet pondering the "science without a subject" — even when it seems to be stating the obvious — helps at least to organize thought about life and intelligence on this planet, and is a step. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: "Samples of the Future." In this lesson, students learn how the advanced space ships of tomorrow will be crafted from far-out materials that can handle the harsh environment of space. See article.
g Imagining -While science fiction has come a long way from the days of bug-eyed monsters, the genre still hasn't gone far enough in presenting well-conceived alien beings. As a derivative genre, role-playing games have an even poorer record. See article.
g Aftermath - Some of the best discussion of the consequences of alien contact occurs in science fiction. Here’s a novel that ranks among the most important in that dialogue: Arthur C. Clark’s "Songs of a Distant Earth." Look for it at your library or local used bookstore.


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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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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Andromeda up close, second genesis and Gedanken in astrobiology

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 captured a stunning infrared view of Messier 31, the famous spiral galaxy also known as Andromeda. Andromeda is the most-studied galaxy outside our own Milky Way, yet Spitzer's sensitive infrared eyes have detected captivating new features, including bright, aging stars and a spiral arc in the center of the galaxy. See article.
g Abodes - No one knows when life first established a firm foothold on Earth. Ask around in the scientific community, though, and you'll probably hear that the surface of early Earth, before about 3.8 billion years ago, was too hostile an environment for even a lowly microbe to set up shop. The main problem, as the conventional argument goes, was that between around 4.1 and 3.8 billion years ago, comets and asteroids were constantly bombarding Earth. The disastrous effects of these impacts would have rendered the Earth's surface uninhabitable. Not necessarily so, say a team of astrobiologists who are studying the oldest known sedimentary rocks on Earth. See article. Note: This article is from 2000.
g Life - If life originated on Earth, rather than being brought here from somewhere else, the question then arises as to whether life may have arisen more than once. If that is the case, then it is of interest to ask what evidence might exist for such a second genesis of life. See article.
g Intelligence - Scientists digging in a remote Indonesian cave have uncovered a jawbone that they say adds more evidence that a tiny prehistoric Hobbit-like species once existed. See article.
g Message - How many technically advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy? With this essay by Steven Soter, Scientist-in-Residence in the Center for Ancient Studies at New York University, Astrobiology Magazine initiates the first in a series of "Gedanken" or thought, experiments - musings by noted scientists on scientific mysteries in a series of "what if" scenarios. See article.
g Cosmicus - Once hotel companies start to build and operate orbital accommodation, they're going to be endlessly improving it, and competing to build more and more exotic facilities. One of the areas in which they'll compete will be in building zero-G sports centers. Basically, the bigger these are the more interesting the opportunities they'll provide. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat, interactive Web site that shows how gravity works with different solar system configurations. See site.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat site that draws upon the history of science fiction for examples: "Let’s Build an Extraterrestrial".

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Older other earths, Allen Telescope Array and how planetary scientists do their job

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 Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed a new generation of stars spawned by a super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This novel mode of star formation may solve several mysteries about these super-massive black holes that reside at the centers of nearly all galaxies. See article.
g Abodes - A study at the University of New South Wales has determined that terrestrial planets, or rocky planets like the Earth, in the universe will on average be 1.8 billion years older than Earth. See article.
g Life - Is it an alien life form? No, just bryozoans — and they’re found in the Connecticut River. See article.
g Intelligence - Dreams can help in coming to terms with major events and in taking difficult decisions in life. This is what Dutch-sponsored researcher Elizabeth Mohkamsing-den Boer concluded after her research into the function of dreams in indigenous Surinamese and Australian tribes. See article.
g Message - The tent looked so big when it was first installed. The vaulted top stands 35 feet above the ground. It is 40 feet wide. The door is almost 30 feet high. It’s gleaming white. In short, it’s a perfect place within which to build the antennas for the Allen Telescope Array. See article.
g Cosmicus - "What is there to do in orbit?" Or, as some of the "real" space industry guys have said "Why would anyone want to go to orbit? There's nothing there - no air, no shops - it's just cold, dark nothing" (except when it's scorching bright nothing, as it were ...) Amazing, isn't it? These guys are in charge of the greatest fun-fair ride in the solar system - and they can't even see it! Luckily most people are much smarter than this, and know that space is a playground of unique things to do, that are impossible on Earth. To keep it simple we can say that the fun of living in orbit boils down to two main ideas - the view, and zero gravity. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of classroom activities that show how planetary scientists do their job. 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 - Here’s an intriguing paper published earlier this year and translated from German for Astrosociology.com: "Futurological Reflections on the Confrontation of Mankind with an Extraterrestrial Civilization." See article.


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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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Monday, October 17, 2005

Black hole’s shadow, extremophiles, and unique cosmic position

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 - At the core of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole that sucks in light, rendering it virtually invisible. But astronomers say they will be able to see the black hole's overall shadow within a few years. See article.
g Abodes - What effect would meteors have on the Earth’s environment? For research on geology, geophysics, and petrology of meteorite impact craters, check this out.
g Life - Here’s a neat Web site courtesy of the Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London. It contains descriptions of various extremophiles including anaerobes, thermophiles, psychrophiles, acidophiles, alkalophiles, halophiles, barophiles and xerophiles. See article. Note: This article is from 1998.
g Intelligence - Consuming fish at least once a week was associated with a 10 percent per year slower rate of cognitive decline in elderly people, according to a new study posted online today from Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The study will be published in the December print edition of the journal. See article.
g Message - The observations that life has a normal tendency to expand into all available space, that advanced technological civilizations should be able to engage with relative ease in interstellar traveling, and that once this threshold is crossed the complete colonization of the entire galaxy will be accomplished in a very short interval relative to the age of the galaxy, lead us to the following dilemma: either the entire galaxy is teeming with intelligent life and hence our solar system must have been colonized hundreds of millions of years ago, or there are no other inhabitants in our solar system and hence most probably neither anywhere else in the galaxy, placing man in a very unique cosmic position. See article.
g Cosmicus - From the financial point of view there are two sides to a business - costs and revenues, supply and demand. Much of the work of the space industry is spent on developing new technology. But there's no point in doing this if there's no economic benefit. No launch vehicle being developed or planned by government space agencies today will pay back their investment - let alone earn a profit - because the demand for launching satellites is tiny. It's time to stop this expensive process and focus on making space activities profitable. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat book for introductory astronomy courses: "Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy." Funded by the National Science Foundation, Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy are designed to help make large lecture-format courses more interactive. Each of the 29 Lecture-Tutorials is presented in a classroom-ready format, challenges students with a series of carefully designed questions that spark classroom discussion, engage students in critical reasoning and requires no equipment. See article.
g Imagining - Could the Pak of Larry Niven's "Ringworld" universe possibly evolve? They've got a homepage to discuss that and other questions about the intriguing fiction alien race. See article.
g Aftermath - How would humans react the day after ET landed? A nationwide survey by the Roper Organization in 1999 found that the following: "...one out of four Americans think most people would "totally freak out and panic" if such evidence were confirmed. See article.


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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Traits of a livable world, carbon alternatives and spacesuit for Mars

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 - A space cloud that is featureless on the outside contains a star about to be born, astronomers found upon closer inspection. See article.
g Abodes - What does it take to make a livable world? A stable orbit, an atmosphere, liquid water, and a climate regulated by plate tectonics. Big moons of giant planets might qualify. See article.
g Life - Swarms of millions of locusts have, since Biblical times and until our very own day, been considered a "plague" of major proportions, with the creatures destroying every growing thing in their path. Until now, it was thought that the directions of these swarms were predominantly directed by prevailing winds. Now, Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists have shown that a physiological trait of these grasshoppers - namely their polarization vision - provides them with a built-in source of "surface analysis." See article.
g Intelligence - From snail to man, one of the hallmarks of the brain is the ease with which behavioral variants are generated - for example, humans can easily walk with different stride lengths or different speeds. By studying how a relatively simple motor network of the marine snail Aplysia produces variants of a particular feeding behavior, researchers have found that the ability to generate a large number of behavioral variants stems from the elegant hierarchical architecture of the brain's motor network. See article.
g Message - Recent advances in wireless computing technology could improve deep-space missions like asteroid research and remote spacecraft operations by changing the way signals are sent from Earth. A new method designed to effectively deliver commands and instructions using hundreds of millions of tiny transmitters linked together could also free the giant satellite dishes currently used to send and receive the long-range information for other applications. A research paper describing the scheme for relatively simple high-power transmitters will be published in the October issue of Radio Science, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. See article.
g Cosmicus - What's it like to walk around on Mars in a space suit? No one knows for sure. But geologist Dean Eppler has come as close as anyone. In this interview, he talks about his experience working in the Mark III experimental suit, as part of this year's Desert RATS field season. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site courtesy of NASA: Timeline of the Universe. It’s a tutorial that follows the 15-billion-year-long history of the universe. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat Web site that examines aliens in science fiction films. While short on studying the evolution of those aliens, it does discuss how these villainous creatures are a manifestation of our own fears, a nice take on the anthropomorphic bias most people possess regarding alien life.
g Aftermath - Putative extraterrestrial planets are being discovered at the rate of one a month. A subset of these exist in the liquid water zone and are thus capable of evolving life similar to that with which we are familiar. While perhaps not common, the development of technological civilizations seems possible for some of these worlds. If we are typical, the evolution of technological civilizations proceeds from a condition where physical laws are unknown to a state where the limits imposed by those laws are reached within a few hundred years. These limits (molecular nanotechnology on solar system scales) allow the construction of Dyson shell supercomputers ("Matrioshka Brains'') with thought capacities a trillion trillion times greater than that of a human brain and longevities measured in billions to trillions of years. Natural selection at stellar and galactic scales would, over time, eliminate any civilizations lacking these prodigious capabilities. We must consider that astronomical observations such as the missing baryonic dark matter and the gravitational microlensing observations may indicate that many such entities exist and that our galaxy is currently a Kardashev Type III civilization. See article.


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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Toxic oceans, tricorder and Astrobiology’s Most Wanted

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 - A new study suggests there may be no such thing as dark matter. See article.
g Abodes - NASA exobiology researchers confirmed Earth's oceans were once rich in sulfides that would prevent advanced life forms, such as fish and mammals, from thriving. A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, working with colleagues from Australia and the United Kingdom, analyzed the fossilized remains of photosynthetic pigments preserved in 1.6 billion-year-old rocks from the McArthur Basin in Northern Australia. They found evidence of photosynthetic bacteria that require sulfides and sunlight to live. See article.
g Life - A 90-million-year-old dinosaur recently discovered in Patagonia demonstrates that dromaeosaurs, carnivorous theropods that include Velociraptor, originated much earlier than previously thought. They originated during the Jurassic, up to 180 million years ago, rather than the Cretaceous. Buitreraptor gonzalezorum's birdlike features - its huge, hollow wishbone; winglike forelimbs; and bird-like pelvis - provide further link dinosaurs to birds. This finding implies that flight may have evolved twice: once in birds and once among this group of Gondwanan dromaeosaurs. See article. For related story, see "Wright Bros. Tapped Dino Collective Unconscious".
g Intelligence - To understand how intelligence develops, we have only one example to study: the development of human intelligence on Earth. Since intelligent life took a long time to develop on Earth, some believe it will take just as long on other worlds. The appearance of evolution seems aimed towards the development of intelligence, but what kinds and with what frequencies? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Message - Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can join a worldwide search for intelligent life in space. Here’s how Seti@home works.
g Cosmicus - Ever since the abrupt demise of the Saturn V rocket system at the end of the Apollo era, engineers and space advocates have dreamed of what they could do with a booster of similar capacity. The recent correct decision by NASA Chief Mike Griffin and his team to go for the largest available booster that can be created at a reasonable cost, will now allow us to make big plans for the first time in 35 years. See article. For a counter argument, see "The Mega-Module Path to Nowhere (Or: How to Eliminate Human Space Flight With an HLV)". For related story, see "Like a Hawk, Robotic Plane Rides Thermals".
g Learning - Here’s a neat article: "Astrobiology’s Most Wanted".
g Imagining - For several years a "game" called COTI has been played, in which the participants design an integrated world, alien life form and culture and simulate contact with a future human society. Here are the results of one of those simulations, in which humanity encounters the Alchemists, sea creatures of a new taxon combining many characteristics found in Earth’s cetaceans, crustaceans and mollusks. See article.
g Aftermath - The (un)likelihood of extraterrestrial visitation is probably one of the most debated aspects of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, the answer being an essential component to the validity of the ETH. After all, the assumed unlikeliness of interstellar travel has become the cornerstone of those who resist the ETH as an explanation for UFOs. So, does extraterrestrial visitation necessarily require all sorts of "unlikely" science, or is it possible to accomplish interstellar travel using conventional wisdom? See article.



Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

Friday, October 14, 2005

Critical meteorites, life in our own solar system and private spaceships

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 - Advanced technologies now available at the National Science Foundation's Dunn Solar Telescope at Sunspot, NM, are revealing striking details inside sunspots and hint at features remaining to be discovered in solar activity. These features hold the key to understanding the magnetic structure of sunspots and can only be seen in ultra high-resolution images such as this one. Magnetism in solar activity is the "dark energy problem" being tackled in solar physics today. See article.
g Abodes - University of Arizona scientists have discovered that meteorites, particularly iron meteorites, may have been critical to the evolution of life on Earth. See article. Please accept my apologies in advance for the Babylonian Web site I found this otherwise scientifically legitimate story on.
g Life - A team of NASA exobiology researchers revealed this week organic chemicals that play a crucial role in the chemistry of life are common in space. See article.
g Intelligence - The first study to systematically mark the onset of "childhood amnesia" found that by the time children are 10, their preschool memories have already faded away. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Is it possible that extraterrestrial life forms exist within the Milky Way? "Extraterrestrials: Where Are They?" edited by Ben Zuckerman and Michael H. Hart, offers a critical analysis by leading experts in a range of sciences, of the plausibility that other intelligent lifeforms do exist. Exploration of the Solar System, and observations with telescopes that probe deep space, have come up empty handed in searches for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Many experts in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry and physics are now arguing that the evidence points to the conclusion that technological civilizations are rare. After ten billion years, and among hundreds of billions of stars, we may well possess the most advanced brains in the Milky Way Galaxy. This second edition contains many new and updated aspects of extraterrestrial research, especially the biological viewpoint of the question.
g Cosmicus - The next generation of human spaceflight is no longer the sole province of governments. Private spaceships transporting passengers first to the edge of space—and ultimately into orbit—are in various stages of design, construction and testing. See article. For related story, see "NASA Issues New Centennial Challenges To Spur Suborbital Rocketry".
g Learning - Here’s a neat book for children: "Draw Alien Fantasies", by Damon J. Reinagle. It offers step-by-step instructions show you basic techniques, inspirational ideas, plus drawing tips and tricks for weird alien heroes, space stations, space ships, and astronauts.
g Imagining - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Michael Bishop’s "Transfigurations" (1979), in which ET converses by changing colors.
g Aftermath Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, "Advocating an Immediate Response." Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See article. Note: This report is from 1996.


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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Indecipherable messages, build your own world big booster rocket

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 - Almost 90 years after Einstein postulated his general theory of relativity - our current theory of gravity - scientists have finally finished collecting the data that will put this theory to an experimental test. For the past 17 months, NASA's Gravity Probe-B satellite has been orbiting the Earth using four ultra-precise gyroscopes, about a million times better than the finest navigational gyroscopes, to generate the data required for this unprecedented test. See article.
g Abodes - A 300-mile-wide patch that outshines everything else on Titan at long infrared wavelengths appears not to be a mountain, a cloud or a geologically active hot spot, University of Arizona scientists and Cassini team members say. See article.
g Life - “Ladies choice” isn’t just a dance routine, it is also a driver of species evolution - and two researchers may have found a reason why. See article.
g Intelligence - The possible evidence for ancient life on Mars has rekindled the age-old debate about life in the universe. Certainly, if life evolved independently on Mars, why not also on just about every suitable planet in the galaxy? But it doesn't necessarily follow that ''advanced'' life, and therefore technological civilizations, are also common. Far from it. See article.
g Message - The chances are there's life out there, but any messages could be thousands of years old and indecipherable. See column. Note: This opinion piece is from May 2005.
g Cosmicus - China took the next bold step in its quest for the high frontier Wednesday when a team of former military pilots blasted into Earth orbit from a desert launch pad to begin five days of intensive experiments and tests that will pave the way for further milestones in space in the coming years. See article.
g Learning - Most teachers believe that students learn better when abstract concepts are taught using concrete materials or examples - but a new study suggests they may be wrong. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” (1970) and the sequel, “Ringworld Engineers” (1980).
g Aftermath - How to predict reactions to receipt of evidence for an otherworldly intelligence? Some scientists argue that any unpredictable outcomes can only be judged against our own history. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future