Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chimp rights, sophisticated encoding schemes and development of the Moon

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 - Far beyond signaling the day's weather, clouds play a key role in regulating and understanding climate. A team of researchers recently completed a project to confirm what NASA satellites are telling us about how changes in clouds can affect climate in the coldest regions on Earth. See
g Life - A new study found that male monkeys will give up their juice rewards in order to ogle pictures of a female monkey's bottom. The way the experiment was set up, the act is akin to paying for the images, researchers say. See
g Intelligence - In some ways, Hiasl is like any other Viennese: He indulges a weakness for pastry, likes to paint and enjoys chilling out watching TV. But he doesn't care for coffee, and he isn't actually a person — at least not yet. In a case that could set a global legal precedent for granting basic rights to apes, animal rights advocates are seeking to get the 26-year-old male chimpanzee legally declared a “person.'' See
g Message - Is it more likely for an advanced civilization to resort to some sophisticated encoding scheme than we would? See
g Cosmicus - We need to broaden our approach in the new Vision for Space Exploration to include the development of the Moon and its resources. In the end, commerce is not NASA’s job. However, NASA and the government as a whole must take into account the development imperative and its importance to humanity’s collective future. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting Web site about alien depictions in science fiction: “Life on Other Worlds” at
g Aftermath - Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, “Advocating an Immediate Response.” Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See Note: This report is from 1996.