Monday, January 29, 2007

Beaming high-powered signals into space, Darwin’s Bulldog and ‘How Might Life Evolve on Other Worlds?’

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 - While temperature records dating back thousands of years already exist for certain regions of the United States, like the East Coast and the Northwest, no such record exists for the North American Great Plains. But now, a Baylor University researcher along with a team of scientists has developed a new method to measure temperature fluctuations in the Great Plains, creating a temperature record for that area of the country dating back 12,000 years. It is the first such record for the Great Plains, a region in the central part of North America stretching from southern Canada to north Texas. See
g Intelligence - The founder of the scientific search for extraterrestrial civilizations Frank Drake believed that a minimum of 200 highly developed civilizations were hiding somewhere in our galaxy. See
g Message - Would anyone deliberately beam high-powered signals into space? Can we assume that extraterrestrial societies would broadcast in ways that would mark their location as plainly as a flag on a golf green? See
g Learning - From Astrobiology Magazine, European Edition comes a story of a now legendary meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. On June 30, 1860, Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Huxley, strode into the meeting and faced a large and eager audience. His opponent for the evening was Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford - a fervent public speaker who was nicknamed Soapy Sam for his habit of rubbing his hands together as he sermonized. But Wilberforce was about to meet his match. See
g Imagining - Scientists at the SETI Institute have long considered what life might be like on other worlds. You can join in this quest through a game-like science lesson, "Inventing Life Forms." It’s suitable for inventors of all ages. Using one of a pair of dice, you work through the selection of characteristics for your life form. Then, you apply this data and your imagination to invent a life form and develop a world where your creature could live. Download the instructions for "Inventing Life Forms" from the SETI Institute website. It’s the PDF lesson featured with our teaching guide, "How Might Life Evolve on Other Worlds?"
g Aftermath - How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See