Thursday, April 12, 2007

Warm snowball Earth, alien encoding schemes and communicating with ET

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 Abodes - New evidence shows that periods of warmth may have occurred during a time in Earth's history when scientists had thought the entire globe was frozen over. The new findings have implications in our understanding of how life interacted with the changing planetary environment of Earth. See
g Life - Starting to breed late in life is a bad idea if you want to maximize the number of offspring that you produce - or so the theory goes. See
g Intelligence - Children who have at least one depressed parent are more likely to use costly health-care services, such as visits to the emergency room and to specialists. See
g Message - Is it more likely for an advanced civilization to resort to some sophisticated encoding scheme than we would? See
g Learning - Here is a very thorough list of astrobiology-related journals, magazines and newsletters:
g Imagining - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Michael Bishop’s “Transfigurations” (1979), in which ET converses by changing colors.
g Aftermath - The issue of stability of conditions prevailing on (at least potentially) habitable planets throughout the Galaxy is the central question of the nascent science of astrobiology. We are lucky enough to live in an epoch of great astronomical discoveries, the most distinguished probably being the discovery of dozens of planets orbiting nearby stars. This particular discovery brings about a profound change in our thinking about the universe, and prompts further questions on thefrequency of Earth-like habitats elsewhere in the galaxy. In a sense, it answers a question posed since antiquity: are there other, potentially inhabited or inhabitable, worlds in the vastness of space? In asking that question, obviously, we take into account our properties as intelligent observers, as well as physical, chemical, and other pre-conditions necessary for our existence. The latter are the topic of the so-called anthropic principle(s), the subject of much debate and controversy in cosmology, fundamental physics, and philosophy of science. See