Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Infant stars, what we’ve learned about Titan and symposium on alien creation

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 image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope depicts bright, blue, newly formed stars that are blowing a cavity in the center of a star-forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud. See http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0701/16infantstars/.
g Abodes - Two years ago, scientists accomplished an amazing feat when the Huygens probe descended through the thick atmosphere of Titan to reveal the moon's unique surface. Today the mission continues to teach us many fascinating things about a world that may, in some ways, resemble the early Earth. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=modload&name=
g Message - If some day we decide to transmit intentional messages to the stars, rather than solely listen as current SETI programs do, what would we say? What sort of first impression would we want to give our celestial correspondents? See http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_code_vakoch_030116.html.
g Cosmicus - The knowledge gained from the exploration of space fuels science and discovery, creates innovative technology, stimulates education, spurs medical advancements, supports a robust economy, improves our quality of life and contributes to a safer environment. More than 1,500 documented products have been derived from space technology, including fire-resistant materials, enhanced weather-forecasting tools and miniaturized medical devices such as an insulin pump and the DeBakey Heart Pump. See http://www.spacecoalition.com/benefits2.cfm.
g Learning - NASA’s free Astrobiology Education Poster illustrates in words and pictures the fundamental questions addressed by astrobiology: What is life? Where is it? How do you find it? Three activities have been developed to explore these themes. It’s great for teachers — or parents looking to spend some quality time with their children. See http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/poster/index.cfm.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Harlan Ellison’s (ed.) “Medea: Harlan's World” (1985), a symposium on alien creation.
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465004199/002398377007