Thursday, January 04, 2007

How Earth might recover from a mass extinction, meaningful dialogue with an alien species and astrobiology in our schools

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 - New instrumentation and observing techniques, being developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are helping scientists better understand and predict space weather. See article.
g Life - How the Earth might recover from a mass extinction is as important as what might have caused the catastrophe in the first place. Penn State astrobiologists are looking at species immigration as one way for the Earth to recover its biodiversity. See http://
g Message - We humans are familiar with the back-and-forth of face-to-face contact — something we likely will not have in an interstellar conversation. The timescale of a human life may well not be enough for a meaningful dialogue with another species. Interstellar dialogue may make sense only across generations. See
g Learning - What are SETI scientists doing to foment the study and understanding of astrobiology in our schools? See
g Imagining - Many science fiction story lines involve alien life forms. From a literary prospective, aliens often serve as metaphors for something more familiar. From a practical prospective, they make stories more interesting and TV more eye-catching. But what of scientific accuracy? A professor offers his advice about “How to Build an Alien” at
g Aftermath - Book alert: “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications, by Steven J. Dick (editor), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. See

No comments: