Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bright disc surrounding our solar system, earliest events of the solar system and moons of Jupiter and

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 - The European Space Agency’s Markus Landgraf and his colleagues have found the first direct evidence that a bright disc of dust surrounds our Solar System, starting beyond the orbit of Saturn. Remarkably, their discovery gives astronomers a way to determine which other stars in the galaxy are most likely to harbor planets and allows mission planners to draw up a 'short-list' of stars to be observed by future planet-search missions, such as Eddington and Darwin. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Abodes - A University of Toronto scientist has found unexpectedly young material in meteorites — a discovery that breaks open current theory on the earliest events of the solar system. See
. Note: This story is from 2005.
g Life - A reconstruction of the skeleton of the first four-legged land animal suggests that it didn’t move too nimbly on land – it either shuffled along or crept like an inchworm. See Note: This story is from 2005.
g Intelligence - When first we meet those aliens in outer space, will we and they be able to converse? Yes, we will–provided they are motivated to cooperate–because we'll both think similar ways. Though arguments for this are very weak, let's pretend, for brevity, that things are clearer than they are. There then are two reasons why aliens will think like us, in spite of different origins. All problem-solvers, intelligent or not, are subject to the same ultimate constraints–limitations on space, time, and materials. In order for animals to evolve powerful ways to deal with such constraints, they must have ways to represent the situations they face, and they must have processes for manipulating those representations. See
g Message - The search for extraterrestrial intelligence could be taking the wrong approach. Instead of listening for alien radio broadcasts, a better strategy may be to look for giant structures placed in orbit around nearby stars by alien civilizations. See
g Cosmicus - If you could salvage all of the material that human beings have left on the moon, you could open a fairly substantial junkyard. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Moons of Jupiter.” In this lesson plan, students build model rovers to learn about engineering and evidence of alien life. See http://www.adlerplanet/
g Imagining - What will an alien look like? If you follow the viewpoint of most television sci-fi, then all aliens will be men in rubber alien suits. The producers of “Star Trek” seem to think aliens are just like humans with little latex ridges on the noses or foreheads. The reason for this anthropomorphism on TV is that it’s cheap. The alien in the movie “Alien” was gross and ugly, and we surely would never be able to discuss our New Age feelings with such a creature. It cost the movie producers much more than a little latex on the bridge of an actors nose. The truth is that we are much more likely to meet Sigourney Weavers’s alien than a Bajorran. See
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See

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