Thursday, February 15, 2007

Searching the sky for alien signals, meaningful conversation with ET and powdered DNA

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 - The universe contains one and a half times more calcium than previously assumed. This conclusion was drawn by astronomers of the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, after observations with ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. See
g Abodes - A seismologist at Washington University in St. Louis has made the first 3-D model of seismic wave damping — diminishing — deep in the Earth's mantle and has revealed the existence of an underground water reservoir at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean. See
g Life - It's the look of love—when female green swordtail fish see attractive adult males, they mature faster sexually, researchers now find. See
g Intelligence - You gotta move it to lose it, but how much depends on the sedentary activity of thinking as well as the actual calories burned, a new study finds. It's how much you think you worked out, not just the vigor of you workouts, that is key, according to the research published in the February issue of the journal Psychological Science. See
g Message - Visiting another civilization on a distant world would be fascinating, but at present such a trip is beyond our capabilities. However, it is perfectly within our capabilities to develop a communications system using a powerful transmitter and a sensitive receiver, and using it to search the sky for alien worlds whose citizens have a similar inclination. See article.
g Cosmicus - The second test flight of a Falcon 1 rocket built by the private spaceflight firm Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has shifted to early March due to range safety demands at the company’s island launch site. See
g Learning - Three vials tucked into a corner of the American Museum of Natural History in New York might be small, but their contents are remarkable: The white powder suspended in clear liquid within is human, chimp and extremely rare Neanderthal DNA. See
g Imagining - Browse the local used bookstores for this volume, which examined the scientific plausibility of many alien creatures in “Star Trek”: “To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek.” Published about four years ago, Athena Andreadis' book makes a good read, boosted by her background as a molecular biologist and neurosurgeon. There’s a review of the book at
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? See http://web.archive

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