Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pre-life molecules, can aliens find us and aftereffects of first contact

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 - Evidence of atomic nitrogen in interstellar gas clouds suggests that pre-life molecules may be present in comets, a discovery that gives a clue about the early conditions that gave rise to life. The finding also substantially changes the understanding of chemistry in space. See
g Life - Baby bats babble just like newborn human babes, a new study finds. See
g Intelligence - Social scientists and biophysical ecologists are finding that environmental surroundings may play a significant role in human social interaction, serving either as a social lubricant as in the first case, or as a barrier. See
g Message - Can aliens find us? With a really nice pair of binoculars, the Great Wall of China (not to mention less romantic constructions, such as interstate highways) does become visible from orbit. Any curious aliens that made it to within a few hundred miles of Earth would have no trouble seeing the artifacts of our civilization. They would know, without doubt, that technologically competent beings roamed our world. But how visible are we to aliens that are farther away? See html. Here’s the follow-up to the article from 2003: html.
g Cosmicus - NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said the U.S. space agency would begin a formal assessment in 2007 of potential approaches for sending humans to Mars, but that he did not foresee astronauts embarking on a journey to the red planet for another 20 years or longer. See
. For related story, see “Waiting for Martian Spring” at http://
g Learning - Book alert for children: In "Looking for Life in the Universe," author Ellen Jackson and photographer Nic Bishop introduce readers to astrobiologist Jill Tarter and her thrilling, rigorous and awe-inspiring work in the field of SETI. See http://www./.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Gordon R. Dickson’s novel “The Alien Way” (published by Bantam, 1965).
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See
. Note: This article is from 2003.