Saturday, June 03, 2006

Goldilocks Zone, messages beamed at Earth and the Thirty Meter Telescope

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Few Catholics and even fewer Americans are aware that Vatican priests man a telescope in Arizona or even that the Catholic Church engages in scientific research. But the priests see themselves bridging the gap between science and religion. In the process, they have emerged as a powerful voice against “creationism” and the theory of “intelligent design,” which holds that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a “designer” who might be called God. See
g Abodes - Some day, scientists hope to find the Holy Grail of planetary astronomy - an Earth-like planet circling another star in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold region known as the "Goldilocks Zone." See
g Life - Something about nature loves a helix, the ubiquitous spiral shape taken on by DNA and many other molecules found in the cells of living creatures. The shape is so useful that, while researching the means of creating self-assembling artificial helices, physicists at the University of Pennsylvania believe that they have come across a plausible mathematical reason for why the helical shape is so common. See Note: This article is from 2005.
g Intelligence - Nearly 3 million years ago, our ancestors had brains about as big as modern chimps. Since then the brain that would become human grew steadily, tripling in size. But this extra cranium capacity may not have resulted in smarter hominids. As far as tool making is concerned, there is little evidence of improvement over much of the period that the brain was growing. Then came the Big Bang of human brain growth. See Note: This article is from 2005.
g Message - Put yourself in the situation of the aliens, out there somewhere in the galaxy. They surmise that Earth looks promising for the emergence of intelligent life one day, but they have no idea when. There would be little point in beaming radio messages in this direction for eons in the vague hope that one day radio technology would be developed here and someone would decide to tune in, says one astrobiologist. See
. Note: this article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - The detailed design for the Thirty Meter Telescope developed by a U.S.-Canadian team is capable of delivering on the full promise of its enormous light-collecting area, according to the findings of an independent panel of experts. See
g Learning - Our future depends on improved science education. See
g Imagining - There’s a set of interesting musings about “characterization and aliens” in science fiction at The point made in the essay is apt: Too many alien species presented in sci-fi are monocultures and lack any individuality. We should presume that if not cultures then certainly individuals of extraterrestrial species will be as diverse as they are in humanity.
g Aftermath - Director, writer, and one of the most memorable fictional explorers of space - William Shatner's Captain Kirk - explains how to go where few have gone before: how extreme explorers might confront the limits of life both terrestrial or beyond. See