Saturday, August 12, 2006

Planemos, ISS construction plans and ‘Advocating an Immediate Response’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Abodes - Using the European Southern Observatory's telescopes in Chile, astronomers have spotted a seven-Jupiter mass object paired to another 14-Jupiter-mass companion. Instead of orbiting around a star, however, the two planetary mass objects, or "planemos," are circling each other. See
g Life - A University of Washington researcher has devised a way to use the fossil teeth of ancient bison as a tool to reconstruct historic climate and vegetation changes in America's breadbasket, the Great Plains. See
g Intelligence - Humans naturally have the power to remember almost two bits of information per second, or a few hundred megabytes over a lifetime. Compared with a DVD movie, which holds up to 17 gigabytes, that's nothing. See
g Message - Looking for life elsewhere is a tough task for human or robot. The good news is that the scientific skill and tools to search for, detect and inspect extraterrestrial life are advancing rapidly. See
g Cosmicus - When NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis launches toward the International Space Station this month, it will kick off an increasingly complex set of missions to complete the orbital laboratory, agency officials said. See For related “Atlantis crew ready to kick start station assembly” at
g Learning - Researchers need a clear agenda to harness the rapidly evolving potential of the World Wide Web, according to an article in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Science. Calling for the creation of an interdisciplinary “science of the Web,” a group of computer scientists suggests the need for new approaches to tap the full richness of this powerful tool, while ensuring that it develops in a way that benefits society as a whole. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ray Bradbury’s "Here There Be Tygers,” which appeared in the April-May 1953 issue of Amazing magazine.
g Aftermath - Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, "Advocating an Immediate Response." Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See Note: This report is from 1996.