Sunday, May 13, 2007

Born at the dawn of time, seismic data on Sun-like star and ‘Faint Echoes, Distant Stars’

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 - How old are the oldest stars? Using ESO's VLT, astronomers recently measured the age of a star located in our galaxy. The star, a real fossil, is found to be 13.2 billion years old, not very far from the 13.7 billion years age of the Universe. The star, HE 1523-0901, was clearly born at the dawn of time. See article.
g Abodes - COROT has provided its first image of a giant planet orbiting another star and the first bit of 'seismic' information on a far away, Sun-like star, with unexpected accuracy. See
g Life - Bats generate a measurably distinct aerodynamic footprint to achieve lift and maneuverability, quite unlike birds and contrary to many of the assumptions that aerodynamicists have used to model animal flight. See
g Intelligence - In order to comprehend the continuous stream of cacophonies and visual stimulation that battle for our attention, humans will breakdown activities into smaller, more digestible chunks, a phenomenon that psychologists describe as "event structure perception." See
g Message - Visiting another civilization on a distant world would be fascinating, but at present such a trip is beyond our capabilities. However, it is perfectly within our capabilities to develop a communications system using a powerful transmitter and a sensitive receiver, and using it to search the sky for alien worlds whose citizens have a similar inclination. See
g Cosmicus - Ben Bova writes in his book, "Faint Echoes, Distant Stars" about the science and politics of finding life beyond Earth. See
. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Learning - Although exobiology is of widespread interest to high school science students, it is not generally dealt with comprehensively in most textbooks. In addition, teachers often have inadequate resources available to prepare classroom presentations on how life may have begun on Earth and whether these processes might take place elsewhere in the solar system and the universe. Here’s a classroom teaching module suitable for use in both general and advanced high school biology courses: See
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to read A.E. VanVogt’s “Voyage of the Space Beagle” (1939;1950), which include classic encounters with BEMs. See
g Aftermath - The scientific discussion of the evolution of life in the universe raises some key philosophical and theological issues: Will life and intelligence be found throughout the universe, or will it turn out to be exceedingly rare? Will intelligent life be capable of both rationality and moral agency? Will evolutionary biology determine its moral content or will it merely bequeath intelligent life with moral capacity, leaving moral content to be determined independently of biology? If moral agency evolves, will these species inevitably exhibit moral failure, or is our generic human experience of moral failure strictly the result of our particular evolution, leaving us to expect there to be other civilizations that are entirely benign? The discussion of these issues, though largely hypothetical, can offer insight into the theological and cultural implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence as well into a better understanding of the human condition. See

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