Monday, November 27, 2006

Inside gas giants, SETI’s history and linguistic issues of communicating with aliens

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 - What is inside the gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn? While one might expect that astronomers would know the answer to this question, the field remains an active area for speculation. A new theory claims the core of Jupiter may be made of carbon-rich tar. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Message - Want to get a sense of SETI’s history and varying projects? Jodrell Bank Observatory offers an easy to follow yet informative primer.
g Learning - There may be numerous intelligent civilizations on planets throughout our galaxy. That's the hypothesis driving SETI research. We seek evidence of extraterrestrial technology using optical and radio telescopes to search for signals that emanate from other civilized worlds. These places are far, far away. But, when discussing the search with school children, they often simply ask, "Why don't we just go there?" This can be a teachable moment. See
. Note: This article is from Dec. 2003.
g Imagining - Science fiction authors produce a lot of very strange critters. In the desperate dash to be different, many go way overboard to invent fantastic, outlandish species unlike anything anyone has ever seen. It’s an admirable expression of their artistic abilities, but there’s an inherent problem: they almost always lose the reader along the way. Sure, it sounds ultra-cool to have a whole herd of 80-foot quasi-limbed orb-stasis beings, but unless you draw me a picture of these things, the reader often has no idea what you’re talking about. However, if you write that your alien has four wings, 10 eyes and looks a little like a kangaroo, the reader is right there with you. Most readers need at least something familiar to draw on for their imagination, or they get lost. See
g Aftermath - Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See