Saturday, August 05, 2006

Star swallowed whole, space signals at Pi GHz and unfounded skepticism about SETI

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 - Long before the Bible's tale of Jonah being swallowed by a whale, a small wannabe star emerged intact after being engulfed by a neighboring giant star, scientists say. See
g Abodes - For the first time, scientists have found regions of the earth's crust which are stretching apart to form new sea floor; their findings are published in Nature (27 July). Most new ocean floor is made when undersea volcanic activity splits the crust and molten rock fills the gaps. However some new ocean floor develops when rock stretches along gently inclined tectonic faults called detachment faults. See
g Life - For male nightingales, the key to scoring with the ladies is to cut their opponents off. Male songbirds often compete for mates through singing contests. The dominant ones usually start singing before an opponent finishes his song, signaling aggression that female birds sometimes find attractive. See
g Intelligence - Giving up your regular late-night snack may be hard, and not just because it’s a routine. The habit may genetically change an area of the brain to expect the food at that time, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered. See
g Message - Is there any good reason to look for intelligently generated extraterrestrial emissions in the spectrum at Pi GHz or 3.141...GHz. See
g Cosmicus - Six aquanauts will rise from the deep today after nearly a week stationed on the ocean floor testing spacesuit concepts for future Moon and Mars missions. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom resource courtesy of NASA: “Life on Earth … and Elsewhere?” This booklet contains 5 classroom activities for grades 5-10 spanning topics from "Defining Life," to "Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life." See http://www.erg.pdf/.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C, Clarke’s “The Sentinel,” in which a man’s discovery leads to the signalling of an extraterrestrial civilization.
g Aftermath - Here’s an intriguing essay that discusses what might happen if we do too little to contact extraterrestrials; as the authors argue, “…skepticism regarding SETI is at best unfounded and at worst can seriously damage the long-term prospects of humanity. If ETIs exist, no matter whether friendly or adversarial (or even beyond such simple distinctions), they are relevant for our future. To neglect this is contraryy to the basic tenets of transhumanism. To appreciate this, it is only sufficient to imagine the consequences of SETI success for any aspect of transhumanist interests, and then to affirm that such a success can only be achieved without trying if they come to us, which would obviously mean that we are hopelessly lagging in the race for galactic colonization.” See