Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Newly discovered star clusters, how climate change affected development of life and ‘Transit Lightcurve Signatures of Artificial Objects’

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 - Astronomers have discovered the most distant population of star clusters ever seen, hidden behind one of the nearest such clusters to Earth. At a distance of more than a billion light-years, the newly discovered star clusters provide a unique probe of what similar systems in our own galaxy once looked like. See http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0701/23starclusters/.
g Abodes - New research concerning the transition of the Earth's climate 300 million years ago from an ice age to an ice-free planet has yielded new insights into the processes of climate change. The new findings will also tell us about how Earth's changing climate throughout history has affected the development of life on Earth. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=modload&name=News
g Life - A 7-foot-tall prehistoric bird with a monster-size noggin arrived in North America from South America long before a land bridge connected the two continents, a new study reveals. See http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/070123_terror_bird.html.
g Intelligence - People may not perform selfless acts just for an emotional reward, a new brain study suggests. Instead, they may do good because they're acutely tuned into the needs and actions of others. See http://www.livescience.com/healthday/601147.html.
g Message - Should we be looking for extraterrestrial civilizations, rather than just listening for them, as we do in the SETI project? That is the suggestion of a French astronomer, Luc Arnold, in his paper “Transit Lightcurve Signatures of Artificial Objects.” He believes that the transit of large artificial objects in front of a sun could be a used for the emission of attention-getting signals. See http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/technovel
g Cosmicus - How do you benefit from space exploration? See http://www.spacecoalition.com/files/PDF%20Files/WhitePaper-WhyExplore.PDF.
g Learning - Here’s a great educational tool for teaching astrobiology and various principles of science: COTI. COTI is an educational experiment in creation — students design an integrated world, alien life form and culture, and simulate contact with a future human society. One team constructs a solar system, a world and its ecology, an alien life form and its culture, basing each step on the previous one and utilizing the principles of science as a guide to imagination. The other team designs a future human colony, planetary or spacefaring, "creating and evolving" its culture as an exercise in cultural structure, dynamics and adaptation. Through a structured system of progressive revelation, the teams then simulate — and experience — contact between the two cultures in real time, exploring the problems and possibilities involved in inter-cultural encounters. See http://www.contact-conference.com/archive/educoti.html.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Stephen Leigh’s novel “Alien Tongue,” published by Bantam Spectra in 1991.
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” (http://www.setileague.org/askdr/whatnext.htm) shows how little we’ve thought about this question.