Monday, May 08, 2006

Supermassive black hole son collision course, planet hunting and brain-skull relationship

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers have detected a pair of supermassive black holes that are closer together than any previously discovered. The two giants are dancing around each other with only about 24-light-years between them and are expected to collide in the very distant future. See
g Abodes - More than 100 planets have been found outside the solar system. Some astronomers think there may be planets around up to half the stars in our galaxy alone — that's 50 billion possible planetary systems. For a series of BBC reports on planet hunting, see
g Life - Paleontologists at the Duke Lemur Center have assembled a new picture of a 35-million-year-old fossil mammal - and they even have added a hint of sound. See
g Intelligence - People usually think of the skull as packaging for the brain and researchers usually investigate them separately, but a team of researchers now thinks that developmentally and evolutionarily that the two are incontrovertibly linked. See
g Message - Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI." See article.
g Cosmicus - Unfortunately existing space law consists mostly of some inter-governmental treaties negotiated during the cold war, which are quite inappropriate for business. As an example, under existing law, governments are liable for damage caused by any launches from their territory. This is quite different from other transport industries, such as shipping and air transport, which are governed mainly by commercial law, and liability for any damage caused by an accident is borne by commercial insurance companies. There's no reason why flights to and from orbit should be different. In the worst case, a passenger launch vehicle carrying 50 people that crashed on a city would cause less damage than an airliner carrying 500 people. See
g Learning - Although exobiology is of widespread interest to high school science students, it is not generally dealt with comprehensively in most textbooks. In addition, teachers often have inadequate resources available to prepare classroom presentations on how life may have begun on Earth and whether these processes might take place elsewhere in the solar system and the universe. Here’s a classroom teaching module suitable for use in both general and advanced high school biology courses: See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Gordon R. Dickson’s short story, "In The Bone," published in the October 1966 edition of Worlds of IF.
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.