Monday, May 29, 2006

Guth’s calculation, expanding bubble of electromagnetic radiation and ‘Life on Other Planets’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Even now, almost 30 years later, Alan Guth can remember that night in his rented off-campus house in Menlo Park, Calif., when he first made the calculation that changed his life. See article.
g Abodes - A number of hypotheses have been used to explain how free oxygen first accumulated in Earth's atmosphere some 2.4 billion years ago, but a full understanding has proven elusive. Now a new model offers plausible scenarios for how oxygen came to dominate the atmosphere, and why it took at least 300 million years after bacterial photosynthesis started producing oxygen in large quantities. See
g Life - For many, computer networks are an indispensable infrastructure that interconnects people, places and organizations. But increasingly they are beginning to creak as their complexity grows. Biological systems through years of evolution can offer clues on how to cope, as a research project has demonstrated. See
g Intelligence - Scientists have deciphered the DNA of the chimpanzee, the closest living relative of humankind, and made comprehensive comparisons with the human genetic blueprint. It's a step toward finding a biological answer to a key question: What makes us human? See
. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Message - The Earth is at the center of an expanding bubble of electromagnetic radiation. The bubble, expanding at the speed of light, contains all of the man-made electromagnetic transmissions of the earth - radio, TV, radar and so on. In theory, an alien civilization could receive these signals, and form their opinion about the earth by analyzing them. To most people, it is quite discouraging to think that some alien civilization would form their opinion of Earth based upon our situation comedies. Upon a slightly deeper analysis, the conventional wisdom says, “Aliens might detect our TV signals, but at least they can't form their opinion of our civilization from our TV transmissions. Decoding the transmission is so much harder than detecting it that we don't need to worry about this.” But an editor of the book “SETI 2020” argues that this view considerably underestimates the technologies that aliens might employ. By looking at likely technical improvements - better receivers and feeds, bigger antenna, signal processing, and perhaps stellar focusing, any civilization that can detect our radiations might well be able to decode it as well. Thus aliens can form their impression of Earth from “I Love Lucy.” See
g Cosmicus - In recent years "teamwork" and "team-building" have been catchphrases of the workplace environment. For most people, however, worrying about getting along with their co-workers and working together for the common good may occupy only a small amount of their time. But what if you and your co-workers were confined to a small space, together for 24 hours a day in an inherently dangerous workplace, and unable to get away from each other because you were orbiting more than 350 kilometers above Earth? See
. Note: This article is fron 2001.
g Learning - Here’s a great resource for middle school science teachers; “Life on Other Planets in the Solar System.” See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Rendezvous with Rama,” published by Harcourt Brace in 1973.
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.