Monday, December 25, 2006

Life on Titan, no contact for at least 15 years and how first contact would affect our future views

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 Life - Astrobiology Magazine organized a debate about alien life at the Astrobiology Science Conference last March. In part six of this seven-part series, panelists discuss questions such as whether viruses are alive, and if there could be life on Saturn’s moon Titan. See article.
g Message - Stelio Montebugnoli, the director of the radiotelescope installations at Medicina (close to Bologna, Italy), predicts we probably won’t make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization for at least 15 more years. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Who Can Live Here?” Students explore the limits of life on Earth to extend their beliefs about life to include its possibility on other worlds. See
g Imagining - Book alert: Get thee to a used bookstore if you haven’t read “Life Signs: The Biology of Star Trek,” by Susan and Robert Jenkins. The Jenkinses focus on the biological logic (or illogic) behind the alien ecologies in Star Trek — the original TV series and all of its sequels and movie spinoffs. The best parts are the biological bloopers, even though only a fan will truly appreciate them. For instance, how did the Klingons evolve forehead ridges between the original and the new series ... and why do all the planets look like California? The science in the book helps the authors hypothesize about how humanoid life might have evolved throughout the universe (panspermia revisited). They offer simple evolutionary theories to explain the various head shapes and behaviors of fictional alien species. See
g Aftermath - As we begin the new millennium, large elements of both the scientific and lay communities are sensitive to the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. Whereas it is sensible to be cautious as to when unmistakable evidence of ETI will be acquired, some searchers expect this discovery to occur in the near future. From the perspective of our descendants 1,000 years hence, initial contact will be part of history and their attention will be directed somewhere else. At that time, any difficulties or dislocations that occurred during first contact will be long past. Interacting with other civilizations will be no more unusual than interacting with human colonies that will be sprinkled throughout our solar system. A thousand years from now people will be quite different than they are today. Human interaction with ETI could account for only some of these differences. See