Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto saved, spectrometry in SETI and face time with Earth

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 Stars - The latest photo from the Hubble Space Telescope, presented at the 2006 General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Prague this week, shows a star forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This sharp image reveals a large number of low-mass infant stars coexisting with young massive stars. See
g Abodes - The tally of planets in our solar system would jump instantly to a dozen under a highly controversial new definition proposed by the International Astronomical Union. See http://
g Life - Researchers have came up with a way to tease out the cause of environmental changes in where invasive species have taken hold. Cattails, they found in northern Michigan wetlands, alter the environment in ways that hinder native species but benefit the invaders. See
g Intelligence - The same chemical in the body that is targeted by the drug Viagra also helps our brains "boot up" in the morning so we can process sights, sound, touch and other sensory information. The discovery could lead to a better understanding of major brain disorders, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. See
g Message - The spectral approach is a universal tool of both astronomical observations and SETI. Furthermore, it has a clear physical meaning – a spectrometer finds the energy distribution of photons, in human sensing it is color and pitch. Under the hypothesis on identity of physical laws in our part of universe, it may be proposed that spectrometry also are using by those aliens, who know radio and lead their own SETI, too. See
g Cosmicus - Given the promise of privately built spaceships routinely skyrocketing from spaceports around the globe, rubbernecking customers will be afforded exceptional looks at Mother Earth and deep space. For some, it’s flat out thrill. There’s also the magic of microgravity as keepsake moments. And handheld photographs taken out windows can freeze-frame your personal space trek for later show-and-tell parties. But by all accounts, face time with Earth from space is a bonding experience. See
g Learning - There’s a neat set of online activities, primarily for older teens or young adults, about communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence at It helps students learn about SETI while they send one another messages then decode them, as if they were alien civilizations on distant worlds.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Hal Clement’s novel, “Needle,” published by Doubleday in 1951.
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? These are the questions which motivate this article’s title: "Minds and Millennia: The Psychology of Interstellar Communication." See http://web.