Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Black holes as givers of life, help SETI discover aliens and seeing beneath planetary surfaces

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 - Black holes are often portrayed as the ultimate destroyers, but warm gas escaping the clutches of black holes could be one source of chemical elements important for life. See
g Abodes - Scientists using NASA satellite data have found strong evidence that a major earthquake can lead to a nearly immediate increase in regional volcanic activity. See
g Intelligence - A distinguishing feature of human intelligence is our ability to understand the goals and intentions of others. This ability develops gradually during infancy, and the extent to which it is present in other animals is an intriguing question. See
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. See for the program.
g Cosmicus - University of Arkansas researchers will develop a probe for future planetary rovers that will help scientists study the history of the solar system by examining the properties of layers of material beneath the surface of the moon, Mars, comets and other planetary bodies. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of “Extraterrestrials.” In the activity, a digital radio message, intended to alert any intelligent life in space to the existence of intelligent life on Earth, has been electronically transmitted into space by the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. Students must ensure the message is effective by showing that the senders (humans from Earth) are capable of advanced thinking — but it must not depend on the ability of extraterrestrials to understand any Earth language. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story "Loophole," appearing in the April 1946 issue of Astounding.
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.