Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day, purple life forms and SETI Declaration protocols

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 - Astronomers have found the lowest mass white dwarf known in our galaxy: a Saturn-sized ball of helium containing only about one-fifth the mass of the Sun. In addition, they have spotted the source of the white dwarf's radical weight-loss plan. An unseen companion, likely another white dwarf, has sucked away much of the tiny white dwarf's material, leaving it a shadow of its former self. See
g Abodes - Our planet's prospects for environmental stability are bleaker than ever with this year’s Earth Day. Global warming is widely accepted as a reality by scientists and even by previously doubtful government and industrial leaders. And according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a 90 percent likelihood that humans are contributing to the change. See
g Life - The earliest life on Earth might have been just as purple as it is green today, a scientist claims. See
g Intelligence - Auditory and visual information in the brain can conspire to trick us into seeing things that are not there, according to new research that suggests our senses are more intimately linked than previously suspected. See
g Message - The spectral approach is a universal tool of both astronomical observations and SETI. Furthermore, it has a clear physical meaning – a spectrometer finds the energy distribution of photons, in human sensing it is color and pitch. Under the hypothesis on identity of physical laws in our part of universe, it may be proposed that spectrometry also are using by those aliens, who know radio and lead theirs own SETI, too. See
g Learning - In field of exobiology entails many different disciplines. Physicists, biologists, and chemists are just a few of the types of occupations that have a place in exobiology. Indeed, exobiology is one of the most inter-disciplinary fields in the realm of science. With so many different types of jobs, exobiology is a fascinating field to work in, and because it is relatively new, it will be thriving for a long time to come. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Octavia Butler’s novel “Dawn,” published by Warner in 1987.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. In “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation - all of it grounded in real science - is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. See