Sunday, February 12, 2006

Debris disks, disappearance of Neanderthals and Alien Safari

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Debris disks discovered around two nearby stars look strikingly like the Kuiper Belt in the outer part of our solar system, astronomers said today. See
g Abodes - One of the paradoxes of recent explorations of the Martian surface is that the more we see of the planet, the more it looks like Earth, despite a very big difference: Complex life forms have existed for billions of years on Earth, while Mars never saw life bigger than a microbe, if that. See
g Life - Scientists soon hope to be able to quantify the vocal feeding behavior of the humpback whales in North America’s Chathum Strait as compared to those in Fredrick Sound. Being able to doing so actually will contribute to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. See
g Intelligence - The disappearance of Neanderthals is frequently attributed to competition from modern humans, whose greater intelligence has been widely supposed to make them more efficient as hunters. However, a new study forthcoming in the February issue of Current Anthropology argues that the hunting practices of Neanderthals and early modern humans were largely indistinguishable, a conclusion leading to a different explanation, also based on archaeological data, to explain the disappearance of the Neanderthals. This study has important implications for debates surrounding behavioral evolution and the practices that eventually allowed modern humans like ourselves to displace other closely-related species. See
g Message - Here are some neat scenes of the SETI Institute's new Allen Telescope Array, which is under construction at Hat Creek Radio Observatory and operated by U.C. Berkeley:
. For related story, see “Hello, is there anybody out there?” at (Note: this article is from 2004).
g Cosmicus - NASA is drawing up plans for six new Centennial Challenges as part of the agency’s series of contests that offers cash prizes for technological achievements. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Peter Crowther’s short story "Palindromic," anthologized in “First Contact” (edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff and published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? These are the questions which motivate our title: "Minds and Millennia: The Psychology of Interstellar Communication." See http://web.archive.