Monday, December 18, 2006

Clues for life elsewhere, creating icy deep-space comets and announce the historic receipt of an alien signal

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 - At the Astrobiology Science Conference last March, Astrobiology Magazine organized a debate about alien life. Using Peter Ward’s book “Life As We Do Not Know It” as a launching pad, the participants debated everything from how to define “life” to what kind of strange aliens we can expect to find in our explorations. In part four of this seven-part series, Pascale Ehrenfreund peeks into the heart of the universe to find clues for life elsewhere. See article.
g Abodes - Contrary to a popular scientific notion, there was enough mixing in the early solar system to transport material from the sun's sizzling neighborhood and deposit it in icy deep-space comets. It might have been like a gentle eddy in a stream or more like an artillery blast, but evidence from the Stardust mission shows that material from the sun's vicinity traveled to the edge of the solar system, beyond Pluto, as the planets were born. See
g Message - Searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are about to expand into new realms, thanks to new advances in technology — and new thinking. See
g Learning - What is an astrobiologist, and can you become one? See
g Imagining - Designing aliens and alien cultures is easy. It can even be profitable. Look at ET or the barroom scene in “Star Wars.” Nothing to it. Tack some funny appendages on a basically human form, paint the creature an unusual but not unappealing color, and go. Simple, right? Designing aliens and their cultures rigorously, though, building their worlds according to scientific rules, carefully and logically extrapolating extraterrestrial evolution and cultural development, creating an alien species that is believable and self-consistent, that's a different matter. That's hard. See http://www.
. Note: This article is from 1992.
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book “The SETI Factor,” by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See Note: This article is from 2003.