Thursday, June 15, 2006

New Horizons test, technological manifestations of an intelligent species and an extraterrestrial’s legal rights

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Massive star supernovae have been major "dust factories" ever since the first generations of stars formed several hundred million years after the Big Bang, according to an international study published in Science Express. See
g Abodes - It's a small object with big news for the New Horizons team: The first spacecraft to Pluto tested its tracking and imaging capabilities this week on asteroid 2002 JF56, a relatively tiny space rock orbiting in the asteroid belt. See
g Life - In a paper soon to be published in the journal Astrobiology, Pascale Ehrenfreund and colleagues suggest that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organic molecules found throughout space, may have been important multi-taskers in the origin of life on Earth. See
g Intelligence - Using a revolutionary imaging process, a new study is revealing that wrinkles aren't the only cue the human eye looks for to evaluate age. Scientists at the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology (Austria) and the Department for Sociobiology/Anthropology at the University of Goettingen (Germany), have shown that facial skin color distribution, or tone, can add, or subtract, as much as 20 years to a woman's age. See
g Message - What technological manifestations would make an advanced extraterrestrial civilization detectable? See Note: This paper was written in 1992.
g Cosmicus - In the not-too-distant future, a handful of humans fortunate enough to have secured a place in a crowded spacecraft may become galactic refugees trying to find a habitable planet among the billions of stars in the Milky Way. There may be no turning back, for dear Earth could already have been consumed in hellish fires resulting from the environmental damage of human activity. After billions of years, planet Earth will have finally come to a flaming end, devastated either by a doomsday asteroid or shaken by nuclear explosions rending its surface. See
g Learning - Eighteen middle school and high school U.S. science teachers will soon depart for Alaska for a Mars exploration and polar science research experience. See
g Imagining - Book alert: In our current cultural fascination with the idea of alien beings from other worlds, most of it hokey at best and just plain wrong at worst, there is a definite need for some popular-level literature which helps to sort the rational wheat from the pseudoscience and Hollywood chaff. SETI scientist Seth Shostak wrote such a book, “Sharing the Universe,” in 1998. Shostak gives a comprehensive and most readable survey of what we do (and especially do not) know about life beyond the planet Earth, and how we are going about searching for our fellow inhabitants of the universe. See
g Aftermath - When an alien lands on the White House lawn, who should greet him (her? it?): Someone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service or someone from the Fish and Wildlife Commission? What legal rights would an extraterrestrial have? See Note: This article is from 1977, but the issue has been thought about very little.