Saturday, September 23, 2006

Scrutinizing Mars, looking rather than listening for ET and rockets for Orion

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 - Japan launched an international solar physics satellite into orbit Friday with a trio of powerful instruments that scientists hope can answer key questions about the Sun's magnetic field. See
g Abodes - NASA's newest spacecraft at Mars has completed the challenging half-year task of shaping its orbit to the nearly circular, low-altitude pattern from which it will scrutinize the planet. See
. For related story, see “Faceless Cydonia.”
g Life - Does Greenland give a clue as to whether life was seeded twice: 'stock' cultures surviving one big impact event? “Life Under Bombardment” looks for the evidence of our terrestrial past. See
. Note: This article is from 2000.
g Intelligence - After a long day spent socializing or learning who to flirt with, fruit flies apparently need to sleep longer, shedding light on what sleep may actually do for humans, scientists now find. See
g Message - Should we be looking for extraterrestrial civilizations, rather than just listening for them, as we do in the SETI project? That is the suggestion of a French astronomer, Luc Arnold, in his paper “Transit Lightcurve Signatures of Artificial Objects.” He believes that the transit of large artificial objects in front of a sun could be a used for the emission of attention-getting signals. See
g Cosmicus - With NASA’s announcement that aerospace firm Lockheed Martin will build its shuttle successor Orion, the agency is forging ahead with a test flight plan for the rockets to launch those future vehicles spaceward. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity that teaches students about the potential benefits and costs of space missions. See http://
g Imagining - As long as there has been science, science fiction has existed. The secrets of the universe remain a mystery to us, but that doesn’t stop us from making guesses. An author who writes a science fiction novel tries to base it around the technology and knowledge that we have available to us. Those tidbits of knowledge are then exaggerated to great lengths, and then set into the future, on other planets, in other dimensions in time, or under new variants of scientific law. This process is called extrapolation, and becomes the premise of the story. Here’s a Web page works in reverse, by taking the scientific aspects from classic works of science fiction and explaining how they relate to astrobiology: