Saturday, May 20, 2006

Luyten 726-8 AB, exploring Europa via the Arctic and “Perfect Planet”

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Luyten 726-8 AB is the sixth closest system to Sol. Might it support habitable planets? See
g Abodes - If you're looking for life beyond Earth, Jupiter's ice-encased moon, Europa, beckons as one of the solar system's most promising destinations. If you're looking for a possible analog to Europa on Earth, then head for frigid Ellesmere Island above the Arctic Circle. See
g Life - Book alert: “Perfect Planet, Clever Species: How Unique Are We?” by William C. Burger, is a sweeping, fascinating look at the history of life on what might be the rarest of planetary jewels. See
g Intelligence - The complexity of the brain and, more specifically, how nerve cells form billions of contacts when there are fewer than 30,000 human genes is still a scientific mystery. A research team appears to have answered that question. See
g Message - In late 1997, after almost 40 years of operation, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory and its "Big Ear" radio telescope — which picked up the famous “Wow!” signal — ceased operation. The land on which the observatory was sitting (owned by the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio) was sold in 1983 to land developers who later claimed their rights to develop the property. The telescope was destroyed in early 1998. For a Web page memorial to Big Ear, see
g Cosmicus - Plenty of books have been written about living in space, but they tend to concentrate on the past experience of people who have stayed in orbit. These people have nearly all been in the unusual situation of doing scientific research. And they have all undergone extensive selection and training, because going to orbit is so expensive today that it would be very wasteful if they were ill or failed to do some of their planned work. And so they've mostly been very busy all the time. So most books don't say much about how it will be for people to live in space for fun, for example in an orbiting hotel. See
g Learning - The research scientists aren’t the only ones getting excited about astrobiology. This new discipline has tremendous potential for revolutionizing science education. It is rich with exciting content to engage those who generally don’t consider themselves scientifically oriented, and also for opening the ears and minds of adults who may want a new reason to visit their local science center. See Note: This article is from 2000.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Murray Leinster’s short story "Propagandist," published in the Aug. 1947 issue of Astounding.
g Aftermath - If SETI is successful in detecting an extraterrestrial civilization, it will raise the question of whether and how humanity should attempt to communicate with the other civilization. How should that decision be made? What should be the content of such a message? Who should decide? The same questions would apply to proposals that signals be sent in the absence of detection, in the hope that they might be detected by an extraterrestrial civilization. See Note: This paper was presented in October 1995.