Saturday, April 07, 2007

From big to small antenna, Europe's Aurora program and ‘Origins’

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 Life - Remains from a 95-million-year-old marine creature with nubs for legs is clarifying how some lizards shed their limbs as they crept through evolutionary time and morphed into slinky snakes. See
g Message - The next generation of big radio telescopes won't look anything like today's massive dishes. Instead of giant steel constructions towering into the sky, the future will belong to more economical arrays of many small antennas hugging the ground. And, in a historic role reversal, searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence are blazing a trail for conventional radio astronomy to follow. See
g Cosmicus - Scientists in Europe are preparing for an ambitious program of exploration that includes the Moon and Mars. Europe's Aurora Programme endeavors to explore the solar system with numerous robotic missions, and to ultimately land humans on Mars in the 2030s. See
g Learning - Popularizing science has become a personal passion for astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium and a monthly essayist for “Natural History “ magazine, Tyson has also served on presidential commissions on the aerospace industry and the future of space exploration. His latest book, “Origins,” is a pocket history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the appearance of life on Earth. See
g Imagining - Book alert: A complaint that I see again and again of science fiction aliens — and I’ve made it myself — is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look similar (not identical) to human beings? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in "The Science of Aliens." See
g Aftermath - If we find other civilizations, what will we say to them? Crafting a message that represents Earth and humanity and can be understood by another life form is no minor endeavor. SETI Institute psychologist Douglas Vakoch has been charged with this formidable task, and has enlisted the help of mathematicians, artists, astronomers and anthropologists. Hear the messages he helped compose and learn about the thinking behind them at