Sunday, November 05, 2006

Extrasolar pale blue dot, dolphin hind legs and increasing public understanding of science

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 - A recent photo from the Cassini spacecraft shows the mighty planet Saturn, but if you look very closely between its rings, you'll see a faint pinprick of light. That tiny dot is Earth, bustling with life as we know it. One of the fundamental goals of astrobiology is to find another "pale blue dot" like Earth in a planetary system beyond our own. But if scientists ever do acquire such a photo, how will they know if anybody is home? See article.
g Life - Japanese researchers said a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land. See
g Cosmicus - We are entering a new century, one in which our competitiveness as a nation and improvements in quality of life both depend to an increasing extent on public understanding of science, health, and technology. Yet the communication skills we bring to bear on increasing public understanding were developed half-a-century ago, in a world of Cold-War intrigue and telegraphs, radio transmitters and hot-press printing machines. Its as though we were watching "The Flintstones" to learn how to build the future of "The Jetsons." See Note: Though this opinion piece is from 1999, it’s still very relevant.