Saturday, January 06, 2007

New branches on tree of life, Active SETI and the Drake Equation

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 - Less can be more, at least with regard to how genes organize themselves into an entire ecosystem. Two new studies reveal how genes maintain control and don't run wild in a single organism, and then how few genes it may take to predict new branches on the tree of life. See
. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Message - Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI." See
g Cosmicus - The next time you reset the smoke detector in your home, take a minute to imagine it as part of your own spacecraft's caution and warning system. Because before they saved lives on Earth, that's where smoke detectors were found on spacecraft designed and built by NASA. See Note: This article is from 2005.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: “The Drake Equation.” Students estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy by first estimating the number of craters on the Moon and then by performing estimates of multiple-variable systems culminating in the use of the Drake Equation. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story "Loophole," appearing in the April 1946 issue of Astounding.
g Aftermath - With humanity now on the verge of being capable to leave its home world, Earth, scientists have begun to wrestle with the consequences of this next great journey; of the social impact humanity will undergo upon discovering life elsewhere, be it fossil, bacterial or an intelligent civilization. See
. Note: This article is from 1999.