Friday, June 16, 2006

Who is Frank Drake, aliens as “the other” and popular opinion on extraterrestrials

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - In “Backyard Astronomy from Mars” carried in the August issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, author Jim Bell details use of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers to carry out nighttime observations. He is an astronomer and planetary scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and is the leader of the Mars Exploration Rover Panoramic Camera team. See
g Abodes - Book alert: The publication in English of a new volume of writings, “Essays on Geochemistry and the Biosphere,” by the great Russian-Ukrainian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky, should be viewed with great interest, and not only by those active in the scientific fields with which these essays deal. It is also to be hoped that the publication is a harbinger of more to come in English from the Vernadsky writings. See
g Life - A butterfly has been reproduced by scientists, revealing for the first time the colorful past of a striking wild species. See
g Intelligence - Human domestication of some animals may have shaped their cognitive abilities. Indeed, dogs respond better to human signals than the more intelligent chimpanzee. See
g Message - For the past few decades, many astronomers (especially those who work on radio wavelength!) have been fascinated with the idea of communicating with intelligent technological civilizations (who have developed radio or laser communication). Among the first leading radio astronomers in this direction was Frank Drake who suggested an empirical relation for estimating the number of such civilizations in our galaxy. See
g Cosmicus - The European Space Agency and the Australian National University have successfully tested a new design of spacecraft ion engine that dramatically improves performance over present thrusters and marks a major step forward in space propulsion capability. See
g Learning - There may be numerous intelligent civilizations on planets throughout our galaxy. That's the hypothesis driving SETI research. We seek evidence of extraterrestrial technology using optical and radio telescopes to search for signals that emanate from other civilized worlds. These places are far, far away. But, when discussing the search with school children, they often simply ask, "Why don't we just go there?" This can be a teachable moment. See
html. Note: This article is from Dec. 2003.
g Imagining - In popular fiction and conspiracy theories, life forms, especially intelligent life forms, that are of extraterrestrial origin, i.e. not coming from the Earth are referred to as alien and collectively as aliens. Prime examples of how aliens are viewed are found in the movies Alien, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Signs, Independence Day, and The War of the Worlds. This usage is clearly anthropocentric: When humans in fictional accounts accomplish interstellar travel and land on a planet elsewhere in the universe, the local inhabitants of these other planets are usually still referred to as "alien," even though they are the native life form and the humans are the intruders. In general they are seen as unfriendly life forms. This may be seen as a reversion to the classic meaning of "alien" as referring to "other," in contrast to "us" in the context of the writer's frame of reference. See
g Aftermath - The good news is that polls continue to show that between one and two-thirds of the public thinks that extraterrestrial life exists. The weird news is that a similar fraction think that some of it is visiting Earth. See