Sunday, April 01, 2007

3-D views of astronomical bodies, talking with intelligent cephalopods and how humanity should attempt to communicate with an alien civilization

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 - A unique collaboration created by Harvard's Initiative for Innovative Computing has brought together astronomers, medical imaging specialists, and software engineers to adapt medical imaging software to create 3-D views of astronomical bodies. See
g Abodes - Roping together observations from the world's largest telescopes as well as the small instrument of a local backyard amateur, astronomers have assembled the most complete picture yet of a pair of asteroids whirling around one another in a perpetual pas de deux. See
g Life - An ancient arboreal lizard coasted through the air using a wing-like membrane stretched across elongated ribs, a new fossil reveals. See
g Intelligence - Adult minds are so keen at spotting race, gender and age that we can correctly guess those features from nothing more than a black-and-white silhouette, new experiments show. See
g Message - What are the chances that an alien signal has been sent our way just at the right moment to splash upon our antennas during that brief interval? If the extraterrestrials beam their broadcasts to the whole galaxy (or at least a big chunk of it), the chances are 100 percent. See
g Cosmicus - Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has declared its Falcon 1 rocket ready to begin launching satellites in September despite a premature engine shut down that prevented the booster from reaching orbit during a second demonstration flight last week. See
g Learning - Here’s a great resource for middle school science teachers; “Life on Other Planets in the Solar System.” See
g Imagining - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Then be sure to read Jack Vance’s "The Gift of Gab" (1955), which involves "talking" with intelligent cephalopods. See http://www.jackvance.
g Aftermath - If SETI is successful in detecting an extraterrestrial civilization, it will raise the question of whether and how humanity should attempt to communicate with the other civilization. How should that decision be made? What should be the content of such a message? Who should decide? The same questions would apply to proposals that signals be sent in the absence of detection, in the hope that they might be detected by an extraterrestrial civilization. See Note: This paper was presented in October 1995.

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